Fall in the Vineyards

If you’re lucky enough to be out wine tasting in Paso Robles during Harvest Weekend, it’s hard not to notice the vineyards are awash in color as the leaves turn those magnificent colors of fall—deep burgundy, burnished gold and rust. Eventually, as the season wanes, the stark vines will announce the arrival of winter.

It may be pretty evident that the seasons are changing, but if you’re like many of our Paso Robles Wine Club members you’ve probably wondered what really goes on in the vineyard during fall. If so, then read on:

The Ripening: Depending on the climate, the direction the vineyard and the vines face and the varietal, grapes can ripen anywhere from August through September, but when they’re picked depends on many things, including the type of wine that’s being made.

As the grapes ripen, their skins change in color, (a process known as verasion) with hues varying from greenish yellow to red, purple and even black. The grapes also soften and their sugar content increases while their acidity levels decrease. The increased sweetness imparts the grapes with more fruit flavors while lessening any vegetable characteristics.

The Picking: There’s no one way to pick grapes. Some vineyards use machines to pick, starting at one end of the vineyard and moving lot by lot unit all the fruit is picked, while others utilize the skill of human grape pickers—these pickers are usually people who are so adept at picking that they can assess the ripeness of the grapes with the tips of their fingers without ever losing speed.

The picking method affects the final product since the machines pull everything—leaves and stems—along with the fruit. The leaves and the stems can impart a harshness to the finished product.

The Crush: Once the grapes have been picked, the speed and intensity of Harvest kicks into full gear. Behind the scenes is a cadre of individuals who do everything from sorting and processing the grapes to crushing them and getting them into tanks.

Finally, it’s important to remember that behind every label, wine is an agricultural product and the wine making process is all about controlled fermentation. Without the necessary speed and intensity, the grapes would spoil—and that would be a waste of money and time.

So, why not see it for yourself and spend Harvest Weekend wine tasting throughout the Paso Robles AVA?

Touring with The Wine Wrangler will put you in the middle of the festivities, where you can take part in over 140 activities and events put on by local wineries, including: wine maker dinners, tours, food and wine pairings—even a chance to stomp the grapes. And, while you’re enjoying the fun, don’t forget to keep your eyes open so you can see for yourself the vineyard crews hard at work so they can bring their wines to you.