Sunday, October 23, 2011

October at Birdland Vineyards - Harvest Time!

By guest blogger John

It's harvest time - finally!!

The grapes were ripening nicely to start the month but then we had heavy rain on October 3rd. This was followed with breezy sunshine so the grapes dried out quite well and we breathed a sigh of relief. It had been a tricky year with late spring sunshine and now we needed to see the sugar levels increase.

There was another blow on October 10th with a day of rain followed by damp humid weather for a few days which is not good as these are perfect conditions for bunch rot to develop. Bunch rot causes the grapes to lose their elasticity and fall from the bunch leaving a sticky mess. It's not dangerous to us and in fact the French infect some white grapes with it when they produce sauternes as it creates a very sweet wine. It's not, however, good for Merlot!

Everything looked OK for about 10 days and then I noticed that we had bunch rot in some clusters, and we knew this spreads very fast. The guy from the winery arrived to inspect the vineyard on Friday Oct. 21st and said lets harvest as soon as possible. Our vineyard manager said he could do it the next day on Sat., so with only a few hours notice and no chance to enlist the help of friends and family (apart from Dennis who helped all morning) to pull leaves from the bins, Ruth and I spent all day yesterday bending over the bins pulling out leaves and damaged fruit, while trying not to fall off the moving tractor.

In the end, after about 8 hours of work, the pickers had finished and we took 42 half ton bins to the winery to be crushed.

It was a satisfying but exhausting day and we still have aches and pains today.

So that's the end of any real activity in the vineyard for some time. The leaves will turn yellow and red and then drop off but no more work until pruning next spring.

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