The Wandering Wino Blog

Vineyard Tractor

If you are in wine country now, keep all of your senses alert. Harvest is now. If you visit most California wine regions, you can tell there is a lot happening. I've been to something like 11+ California wine appelations in the month of October and the same thing is happening everywhere. You can see it with the tractors driving on the main roads, and in some cases, loaded up with bins of grpaes, just harvested. It can be heard from the back of wineries, as barrels were filled, and fork lifts brought in grapes. It could be smelled inside some of the tasting rooms, that harvest was here. I could see, and hear from a winemaker walking by, with a disheveled, tired look of determination. 

Fork lift Grapes

Stryker Sononma Barrels

Speaking with a few winemakers and others in the know, there were a handful amongst them, that were slightly nervous about the recent rains impact, and others concerned about the lack of tonage from this harvest. I began to appeciate all the more through a tiny window. I could sense what winemakers go through, I could see tiredness from the late nights and early mornings, and undoubted pressure of so much; including what weather is coming, what's the brix, the ph, will I get the grapes I need, wood bores, frost, and what will the rain do, will there be some type of rot or mold, and the million dollar question, when to pick? Oh, and I didn't even mention finances if it's their own winery. 


I wish I could show you pictures of these winemakers to show you, and give you just a tiny sense of what they go through this time of year. They all seem to love what they do, and seem to be generally happy people to do it all. I think so many of us, when we think of winemakers, we think of wine dinners, glamourous restaruants bringing a bottle over, pouring at a wine event, or drinking with friends and family. In those cases, everyone looks pretty, clean, happy smiling rested faces, and the romantic side of wine that we like to see. I think most of us forget that this is all farming and some artisanship. Now when I think of a farmer, it's different perspective. My guess is, most of us do, or have at some point in the past. 

Chard Pour

When I think of a farmer, I tend to think of much less glamorous. I think of a dirt field, hard working, long difficult days, stresses by the weather and the impact to their entire years income.....or losses. Why do we think so differently of winemakers? Is it the big glossy pictures we see in major publication, where they are hold a glass of wine in some beautiful wine cave? Is it the well dressed sommelier approaching the table with an elegant bottle? What is it that gives us such different perspective?

Wine Pour

Since visiting so many wineries over the past eight months, I've been given tiny windows to gain greater insights on multiple levels. The viticulturists is a very pretty name for grape farmer. Now this brings in the unsung hero's that are rarely ever recognized......the vineyard manager. Smaller operations might be, vineyard manager, winemaker, tasting room manager, and CEO of mom and pop winery. I've heard many winemakers say, I have an opportunity to make good wine from good grapes, but no chance to make good wine from bad grapes. Why doesn't the vineyard manager go to a winemaker dinner? Why don't we hear much about these hero's in major media? Is it because it is less glamorous? Have you ever seen a vineyard manager sign a bottle of wine?

Vineyard Manager

Let's take a deeper dive for a moment. What about the many hard working ,migrant field workers, that are picking grapes at 4 AM? Covered in spiders, juice, dirt, yellow jackets, under the hot afternooon sun, and in the early morning cold. They carry different aspects from both winemakers and vineyard managers, and should be credited. 

Field Hands

Field hands

The idea here is not to be a joy robber of wine, but to show a little different perspective and appreciation, for just a small window, of what goes into that bottle we bring to the table. Glad to say that I can share, many I spoke with are happy with the 20111 harvest, and some , extreamly pleased. I can't wait to get 2011 in my glass with a new found, and greater appreciation. I'd like to say a toast, a thank you, to all that put their heart and soul into the wine in my glass, and yours. Cheers! 


  • Xochitl
    Posted Friday 25 November 2011 21:27
    Great post! I agree completely - we should be so thankful for all the people that put their talents and hard work into bringing us the wines we so love to enjoy. Cheers to all!
  • Wandering Wino
    Posted Friday 25 November 2011 21:47
    Thanks so much Xochitl! I bet you get some of these similar tiny portals or windows to see what some winemakers go through too. Cheers of appreciation Xochitl!
  • Julie F.
    Posted Monday 09 January 2012 21:32
    Beautiful photography Shawn...truly a magical time of year in the life of a winemaker.
  • Wandering WIno
    Posted Monday 09 January 2012 23:10
    Thanks so much Julie! I'm sure you've seen many of these windows yourself Julie.
  • Matt Mauldin
    Posted Thursday 11 October 2012 04:22
    I did a couple of short harvest sessions at Clop Pepe this year- and definitely gained a sense of appreciation for the hard work of those who bring in the grapes. It's definitely interesting to see first hand all the work that goes in.
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