Picking Lytton West: The Movie!

My time experiencing #Harvest2011 up at Lytton Springs this past weekend concluded with an extraordinary opportunity; the chance to tag along with the vineyard teams as they picked at Lytton West!

My phone started ringing at about 5:30am. It was Will Thomas, viticulturist at Lytton, rousting me out. In 15 minutes, I was outside the hotel, shrouded in the damp morning mist, coffee cup in hand, awaiting the arrival of his truck. He pulled up, and I got in. In the dim light, he pointed out on his vineyard map the blocks getting picked that morning: Block 33 (Carignane) and Block 45 (Zinfandel).

We drove past the Lytton Springs winery, turned off the main road, and began to wind through the vineyards. We pulled up and stopped at what I can best describe as a compound of sorts; the epicenter of the vineyard crew’s lives during the harvest, where they eat and sleep, and the jumping-off point for a new morning’s picking.

When we got to the blocks to be picked, Will hit the ground at a quick pace, prowling the rows like a hungrily alert panther, eyes darting this way and that, seeing all.

Acutely aware of my interloper/outside status, I went off on my own as soon as possible, in hopes of both observing unawares, and staying out of everyone’s way. Picking began in the Carignane block.

It was a  fantastically beautiful morning, and dewdrops shivered in anticipation of the sun’s light beginning to seep into the vinerows.

If you’ve never seen a vineyard crew at work, it’s quite remarkable. You’d be utterly and completely astonished at how rapidly they work. I’ve experienced it countless times, and I am still flabbergasted every time. Almost before it started, it was over. Block 33 was picked.

And the sun had barely crested the hills.

I got back into the truck with Will, and we drove to the next block; zinfandel.

And suddenly again, with a rapidity impossible to describe, it was over. Block 45 had been harvested.

For the crew, their day was over, but for David Gates (Vice President, Vineyard Operations) and Will Thomas, the day was only just beginning. The math, science, and technology of harvest is a whole other game altogether, and it begins with entering vital information into our systems; varietal, block, tonnage, etc. Without this info coming in on time, the winery can’t be prepared for the arrival of the fruit. David and Will put their heads together, and did the math.

When Will finally dropped me off back at my hotel, I was tired. Not physically tired (after all, I hadn’t actually been picking!), not sleep-deprived tired (5:30am isn’t all that bad after all!), but brain-tired; exhausted by all I’d witnessed, and weighted down by all I’d learned. I felt wonderful!

My challenge then was to try and assemble all the raw photographic material I’d collected into something that would do justice to the experience, but as I sifted through it all, I found it nearly impossible to fully create anything that could accurately express my admiration for our team’s performance in the vineyards; they work so extraordinarily hard, pick so masterfully clean, and consistently deliver such outstanding fruit. I was at a loss. So I did very little. I simply strung together my series of mini-vids, and let them speak for themselves. I hope you enjoy this!

To drink a Ridge wine has always been, for me, an intensely experiential event; my future experience of our wines has been immeasurably enhanced by my time in the vineyards. I offer my sincere gratitude for having been granted the opportunity. To all on the crews, to Will, and to David Gates, I say thank you!

Categories: Carignane, Events, Lytton Springs, Varietals & Blends, Video, Vineyards, Winemaking, Zinfandel

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