What Happens When Harvest Season Is Over?

Harvest is a busy time at any winery. It’s orchestrated like movements of a symphony performed by the vineyard, cellar and winemaking teams. It incorporates brisk, energetic patterns with melodic moments, and to witness everything come together is an experience that allures visitors to our Napa Valley and Alexander Valley Wineries every year.

But what happens after the grapes are picked and processed? What happens to the vines after harvest?

We asked our Napa Valley vineyard manager, Dave Shein, and our Napa Valley production winemaker, Laura Oskwarek, to share what happens in the vineyards and in the cellar after we wrap harvest.

In the Vineyard

“We want the vines to recuperate from the stress of the season before they go dormant,” Dave says. First, the vineyard crew starts with a generous irrigation immediately after harvest. Then, they follow up with an irrigation combined with fertilizer. “We try to time this so the vine will store those carbohydrates and nutrients over the winter and use them for a strong start next spring.”

This is also when the crews look for dead and diseased vines and flag them for removal later. “It’s much easier to pull them out after significant rainfall,” Dave says. But timing is crucial—like most of our agricultural decisions—because the diseased vines must be identified before leaf-fall. Leaf color is one way the team assesses vine health and severity of symptoms.

Ever wonder why there’s straw spread or cover-crop planted in the vineyard rows? In anticipation of the rainy season ahead, vineyards use straw and/or cover-crop for erosion control. At our hillside properties, we also install seasonal water bars and straw waddles and service our permanent erosion control systems.

In the Cellar

“We refer to the end of harvest as the day when the last block of fruit rolls into the winery,” Laura says. So, the date is different year to year. For the 2019 harvest season, the last day of harvest was on Friday, October 19—but the work continues in the cellar. All tanks will be drained and pressed off their skins as primary fermentations are finishing up. Then, the wine will go through secondary fermentation.

It’s also important to remember that the winemaking team is constantly tasting through tanks. “This helps us evaluate and choose the perfect composition for the blend,” Laura says. After working on the blend, it’s then ready to be barreled and aged in American oak early next year.