Harvest Begins at Spring Mountain

A crew of a dozen men, all full-time employees at St. Helena’s Spring Mountain Vineyards, began picking the winery’s first sauvignon blanc grapes at 6:30 a.m. Friday morning and by mid-morning had finished harvesting four tons of grapes.

Ron Rosenbrand, vineyard manager, commented that he had a “bunch of athletes” on the crew and added, “It’s hard to keep up with them.” Some of the dozen people have been with Spring Mountain Vineyard for as long as 20 years, others as short as a year. As full-time employees, they are paid by the ton when they are picking grapes and by the hour for the rest of their duties.

The others in the crew include Abel Enrique Raya, Salvador Sanchez Raya, Paulino Lopez Gayton, Jesus Lopez Gayton, Bernabe Gonzaga Juarez, Mizael Garcia Beltran, Roman Herrera Benitez, Abraham Monroy, Jacinto Rodriguez Gomez, Fernando Martinez. The tractor drivers were Julian Raya and Rafael Betancourt and the leafers were Jesus Betancourt and Aurelio Ruiz.

Rosenbrand said the beginning of this year’s harvest on Sept. 18 was the latest start by two days since 2003, when he began working for SMV. He said both 2005 and 2006 were late and added that 2004 was early.

The grapes from one of the sauvignon blanc vineyard blocks was harvested for the first time as it was replanted four years ago. On one of its sides were massive oak trees, which means Rosenbrand and his crew are hand fertilizing the vines to get them to grow and catch up with the others.

Winemaker Jac Cole said the vines were planted on 376 and 317 clones, which he said will add more dimensions and flavors to the sauvignon blanc wines. He said the grapes from the 376 clone will add melon flavors, while grapes from the 317 clone will add stone fruit.

Neither Cole nor Rosenbrand were looking forward to this week’s expected heat spell. “If I had my druthers, it would be 80 degrees until November,” Rosenbrand said. Cole added that the heat spell won’t help the red grapes ripen, instead it will be like turning up the heat on a barbecue… you’ll have meat that’s burned on the outside and raw on the inside.

Spring Mountain Vineyard

David Stoneberg photo Jose Perez Torres, left, and Diego Gamas Hernandez ran through the vines at Spring Mountain Vineyard Friday morning as they picked the winery’s first sauvignon blanc grapes of the harvest.