Sunday, September 24, 2017

The future is mechanical.

As I've said before, I am not a fan of the mechanical method of harvesting grapes; the vines get beat up, the rachis is left behind along with a lot of grapes/raisins (all of which could become inoculum for, e.g., Black Rot) and all that shaking gathers up anything else that may be hanging around in the canopy.  (I noticed that one of Napa County's pest-traps was a casualty of mechanical harvesting in my neighbour's vineyard - it was ripped into shreds.)  However, the local bird population is ecstatic. They probably cannot believe their good fortune in the discovery that someone prepared a giant fruit salad for their delectation.
Ultimately, with labour costs rising at a rate that is not sustainable, in the near-future the mechanical harvesting of grapes will be de rigueur in the vineyards of the Napa Valley. Rumour has it that, in one or two years from now, when TWWIAGE starts to replant certain blocks of their vineyard the vines will be trained harvester-friendly, i.e., bilateral cordons. Machines don't make demands.
On a happier note, I worked in the Cabernet Sauvignon vines for a little while this afternoon - checking for any second crop I may have missed, taming errant shoots and assessing the leaf-pulling situation.  And I took a grape sample to see how sugar accumulation is progressing.  Not bad, at 23 °Brix the fruit tastes lovely and sweet, the seeds are browning nicely and the crop seems to be of average size.  I'd better sharpen my picking knife.


New Hampshire Wineman said...

VG: Interesting post! I heard that Marijuana harvesting laborers were increasing vineyard's labor cost.
I have a prejudice for hand picked grapes.
Pinot Noir has thin skins; are they subject to machine damage?
Of the last several vintages of Napa Cabs, it seems they've been excellent, but do you have a favorite?
Like you're not busy enough!

Thud said...

Interesting point their Dennis, why are labour costs rising at such a rate? in yoorp studes still harvest for buttons just to get a hol in the sun.

Vinogirl said...

NHW: It is getting to be very, very expensive to live in Napa, housing etc. Wouldn't everyone love to be paid $100+ per hour for any unskilled job? I know I would. Automation began with the Industrial Revolution and shows no signs of slowing down. Again, machines don't make demands.
Most grapes, of any thickness of skin, will suffer damage.
I'd say 2008, but you said "several vintages" so I'll go with 2010.

Thud: New hires start at $16 per hour (so say my sources), that's 50% more than the California minimum wage - still, not a good wage to raise a family on. Simply needing more money does not make the picking of grapes, a job that is for the most part unskilled, worthy of a higher wage.