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Harvest at Gordon Estate

Syrah Harvest 4 October 2012

Photo: Syrah clusters, ripe and ready for picking.

Yesterday morning, I visited Gordon Estate to photograph harvest in the vineyard. They were picking Syrah. Winemaker Tim Henley was not sure when they would start harvest, so he told me to wait for his text. At 10:30 am he texted that they had begun.

Photo: Mechanical harvester.

When I arrived at the vineyard, I saw the mechanical harvester 3/4 of the way down the row. I parked my car and hoofed it to grab some photos of the harvester in action. The Syrah clusters looked good to me.

Photo: Vineyard manager Ramon riding the harvester.

The tractor pulling the harvester was not moving too fast, so I was able to reach the harvester, grab some shots and then walk back to where I started. Looking at the clouds of dust, I noticed that the soil in the vineyard is fine and powdery. After walking down the rows, my boots looked like they were covered in talcum powder.

Photo: End of the row.

The vineyard foreman, Ramon, was riding the harvester. He invited me to ride the harvester to get some "better" shots. How could I refuse? After my ride, I asked Ramon if they also pick grapes by hand. He said that some years yes, they do, but not this year.

Photo: View of my driver from top of the harvester.
Photo: View behind the harvester, looking south.
Photo: Removing leaves before they drop in the bin.
Photo: Free falling Syrah grapes.
Photo: It's raining grapes!
Video clip of Harvester Ride
view of Snake River
Photo: I had a great view of the Snake River from the harvester.
Photo: At the end of my ride, Ramon waiting.

bin full
Photo: Just picked Syrah, very tasty.
Completing one row of Syrah took about 15 minutes and filled a bin, total trip down and back took about 30 minutes. Lunch time. As the crew headed off to lunch, I drove over to the winery to visit with Tim Henley.

Photo: Detail, squeezing grape juice onto a *digital refractometer.
Photo: Winemaker Tim Henley checking sugar levels of the Syrah.

Tim said that of the estimated total harvest of 300+ tons of grapes, as of yesterday morning, they had harvested 120 tons. We also took time to sample the freshly harvested Syrah grapes. They tasted good to me. Tim took out his *digital refractometer to check the sugar level, he got an initial reading of 22.7 brix.

We also looked over Syrah and Merlot fermenting inside the winery. The winery smelled of wonderful grape juice. We also checked on the Chardonnay recently placed in barrels. It was all lovely. Made me sorry I did not pay more attention to chemistry in high school.

I will be returning to the winery above the Snake River this Monday. Monday, October 8th, Gordon Estate is having a Harvest Blessing at 11 am. You're invited too, RSVP with the winery if you are going to attend.

Directions to winery: 
from Pasco, take I-182/Hwy 12 east toward Walla Walla. Take the Kahlotus exit and head out the Pasco-Kahlotus highway 10.2 miles. Turn Right on Levey road and the winery is about a mile ahead on your left.


*On Refractometers and Brix
  • Growers use refractometers to measure the amount of sugar in juice, technically they calculate how quickly light travels through liquid, compared to water.
  • Readings in the field often differ by a few degrees Brix from those of must samples taken from vats.
"Opinions about sampling methods differ somewhat--from random berry samples around a vineyard, to strict numeric berry sampling, to choosing and pressing whole clusters at various locations. Certainly, full readings should be performed on the crushpad to correlate with field readings. This is especially true if you're using uncompensated analog instruments, which provide only an estimate of the sugar level in most cases." 
Source: Shopping for Refractometers, August 2009 Issue of Wines & Vines
  • Brix: Austrian Adolph Brix developed the Brix scale for measuring sugar concentration between 1850 and 1870. Brix has become the defacto standard in the U.S. and most the world.

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