We jumped the gun this year and went ahead and picked the late-harvest before the families arrived. The problem? Birds.
We now have swarms of hundreds (maybe even thousands) of black birds and starlings scouring the valley, looking for anything to eat. Even with our efforts to keep them out (including dogs and four wheeler rides into the vineyard), they ate about 1/3 of our late-harvest Sauvignon Blanc in a matter of a few days. It reminded me of those old videos of locust plagues - they just ate in from the end of the rows until they were chased out. All that's left on those vines are stems hanging sadly from the vine. So, we picked.
Bill, Nancy, Joe and I went out with our bins and took down all the SB and the clusters left on the Gewurztraminer vines. The birds kept flying overhead while we were doing this, hoping for another meal. It only took us about an hour and a half to harvest it ourselves, as so much was eaten.
After picking, we then pressed the grapes in our basket press and put the 10 gallons into better bottles (food-safe plastic carboys) to ferment. (We're trying not to use the glass carboys as much as possible because of all the horror stories surrounding them - winemakers carrying them and they break, cutting their hands, wrists, etc. - yuck.) We're letting the wine go wild yeast, per usual. It's already bubbling away happily, and it looks gorgeous this year - a beautiful amber color in the fermenter.
After picking, the birds came right back. Now we have thousands of them eating whatever we left, plus the second-crop Pinot. Along with the birds came the hawks, and there are several now trying to poach birds from the sky. It's loud, noisy, and really cool-looking. Well, cool now that the grapes are officially all in.
Today both Joe and I's family arrives for the holidays. So, to that end, have a great Thanksgiving and enjoy your days off! I know we all deserve them.