Harvest is a marthon, not a sprint. Getting to the finish line requires countless hours of hard work and a team—indeed an entire community—of supporting players. Discover the unsung heroes behind Napa Valley wine.
Harvest is the culmination of months of diligent work for vineyard crews. The long days start in spring, when each pruned vine is carefully cultivated, trained and thinned. When crush arrives, there is a burst of activity to pick each vineyard block at optimal ripeness. “You’ve never seen anyone work so hard and so fast as vineyard men and women during harvest,” remarks Frank Leeds, vice president of vineyards at Frog’s Leap. “They think with their hands.”
— Joseph Phelps Wines (@josephphelps) August 21, 2013
— Cornerstone Cellars (@CornerstoneNapa) October 14, 2013
If you love wine, manual labor and clean like a rock star, you may have the makings of a harvest intern. Each year hundreds of people from around the U.S. and the world descend on the Napa Valley to experience the making of a vintage. “Without the help of interns, the crew couldn’t tackle the 24/7 nature of crush,” shares Matt Sunseri, assistant winemaker at Cuvaison. From wielding power washers to scrubbing tanks, interns bring to harvest an unbridled energy and desire to learn from the best.
Making world-class wine takes a lot of science. This is where enologists come in. “My time during crush is spent running tests in the lab, sampling in the vineyard and tracking wines throughout fermentation,” shares Andy Haley, enologist at Bouchaine Vineyards. “The hours during harvest are long, but during this time the winemaking team becomes a family.”
— Franciscan Estate (@FranciscanWines) September 17, 2014
— Silver Oak (@SilverOak) September 23, 2014
During the busy days of harvest, there is often little time to eat—let alone eat a healthy diet. Enter chefs, who cook balanced meals to keep winery and vineyard crews in top form. John McConnell, executive chef at Clif Family Winery, puts it best: “Harvest is an annual sacrifice that tests our crew members’ spirits. What makes my day is knowing I helped liberate their focused minds—if only for thirty minutes—by putting good food in their bellies.”
“My cousin has been known to bake a cake for the crew, just to have an excuse to visit and make sure I’m upright,” chuckles Tamra Lotz, assistant winemaker at Mumm Napa. “Without the support of our families during harvest, it would be hard for many of us to survive.” From cousins to in-laws to harvest widows – a tongue and cheek term for winemakers’ spouses – loved ones take on the running of everyday life from August to November, allowing those in the wine industry to surrender to the all-consuming nature of crush.