One Shot a Year

Each autumn imparts harvest lessons

Photo by Cheryl Juetten


Oh, harvest time! I write this as wineries begin picking and processing fruit. By the time you read it, everyone will be in the middle of harvest. After nurturing grapes for months, it’s finally game on. Unlike beer or spirits’ brewers, winemakers have only shot a year to perfect their craft.

Harvest, though exhilarating, feels exhausting. Imagine making countless numbers of important choices each day… often while working long hours on little sleep. Upping the ante? Many decisions also dictate crucial future alternatives. Adrenaline (and coffee) power most winemakers through this period of orchestrated chaos.
Now is an exciting time to visit wine country. If possible, choose places with views into the winery– so you can witness the action. Depending on the day, you could see newly picked grapes arriving on delivery trucks; fruit as it is sorted, destemmed or pressed; fermentation bins teeming with grapes and juice. Meanwhile, watch forklifts perform a choreographed dance around winery staff and equipment.

If offered the chance to walk through a winery, take it. While the wet floor may be covered in a tangled obstacle course of hoses, observe how the wine you drink is made. There is no better reminder that most wine is truly hand-crafted, made by passionate people.

Can’t see the action in person? Choose to stay connected to your favorite wineries through social media during harvest. Many offer glimpses into their controlled pandemonium by posting photos and videos taken in the winery.

Occasionally, wineries will ask club members and guests for help. Picking fruit, working the sorting line, cleaning equipment and executing punchdowns supply vital assistance to your favorite small producers as well as a unique hands-on education. Plus, camaraderie among volunteers is assured. Who knows… perhaps you will even be bitten by the wine bug?

Regardless of how you spend harvest, remember to toast those working long hours for a once-a-year opportunity to craft wine. Cheers to an extraordinary 2023 vintage.

Michele Francisco spent her childhood reading and writing, eventually graduating from UCLA with an English degree. She attended graphic design school and began a career in design and marketing. After moving to Oregon in 2010, Michele studied wine at Chemeketa Community College and began Winerabble, a Northwest-focused wine blog. She has been a cheerleader for Oregon wine since her arrival.

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