Harvest has Arrived!
Fall is the season for hard work and harvest celebrations in Santa Barbara’s wine country. This year, the long days of grape picking and processing got under way unusually early, thanks to hot dry conditions that had the grapes ripening even before summer had faded.
Some winemakers in the Santa Ynez Valley were harvesting white grapes like Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay—the first to ripen—at the beginning of August. That’s at least two weeks earlier than last year. Pinot Noir also ripens early in the season, then other red grapes such as Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah mature later, taking the harvest into October.
Local winemakers expect this season’s bounty to be almost as big as last year’s. In 2013, nearly 90,000 tons of wine grapes, worth $160 million, were harvested in Santa Barbara County; grapes are one of the most valuable crops grown in the area.
After the early mornings and late nights spent picking and getting the grapes started on their journey to the glass, winemakers welcome the chance to relax and invite visitors to join them in toasting another harvest, with the biggest bash—the Santa Barbara Vintners 24th Annual Celebration of Harvest—happening over Columbus Day weekend.
Here’s a sampling of the seasonal celebrations happening around the valley.
Andrew Murrary Vineyards First Annual Grape Stomp – October 4th
Play winemaker for the day as the experts from Andrew Murray guide you through the harvest process, beginning in the vineyard with a rundown on assessing ripeness, selecting the best grapes and then hand-picking, then it’s on to stomping and destemming to get the grapes ready for fermentation. There will be a chance to taste wine at different stages of fermentation, then finish up with lunch and wine and take home a souvenir T-shirt. www.andrewmurrayvineyards.com
Kalyra Winery: The Great Grape Stomp – October 4 & 5
Stomp some grapes, taste some wine, take a hayride and enjoy scrumptious Italian food and live music. Wear a toga to really get in the mood— you won’t be the only one. www.kalyrawinery.com
Santa Barbara Vintners 24th Annual Celebration of Harvest – October 10-13
A weekend of events that includes the Festival Grand Tasting October 11 at the Old Mission Santa Inés in Solvang, featuring samplings from more than 100 wineries along with fine local food, live music and a silent auction. Other happenings include a wine seminar and special events such as open houses and vineyard walks at local wineries. Also on offer is a Vintners Visa that includes tastings at a dozen different wineries from Friday to Monday of the Columbus Day weekend celebration. www.celebrationofharvest.com
– Written by Anna Davison