What rituals of harvest capture the season for you?

Vintners rushing head-on through two-plus sleep-deprived months of the grape harvest are bound to come up with some traditions and even superstitions. So we asked four of them:

Ondine Chattan
Ondine Chattan

Ondine Chattan, director of winemaking for Geyser Peak Winery in Healdsburg, believes that fermenting grapes need some loving care. “Somewhere along the way I took to ‘petting’ the tanks to help coax them through the challenging days,” she said. “Generally this is just a few seconds of a circular ‘pet,’ with a pat at the end, but it has become a subconscious reflex and one that others on my team have adopted as well.”

 

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Honore Comfort
Honore Comfort

Honore Comfort, executive director of the Sonoma County Vintners Association, said there are a lot of dusty cars and trucks during harvest. Chalk it up to superstition. “Winemakers won’t wash them because of the superstition that if they wash their car, then it will rain,” she said. “I’m not sure anyone actually believes this, but at the same time, no one really wants to risk finding out.”

 

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Michael Browne
Michael Browne

Michael Browne, co-founder and executive winemaker of Sebastopol’s Kosta Browne Winery, said sometimes the staff wagers which intern will be the first to lose it. “One time one of our interns started eating bugs on the sorting line,” he said. “I assume he was just trying to get a reaction to break up the mundane activity. He did, however, have a strange look in his eyes when he started consumption.”

 

 

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James Hall
James Hall

James Hall isn’t the superstitious sort, except on the first day of crush. “It’s a moment of high anxiety for me,” said the winemaker and co-owner of Patz & Hall winery in Sonoma. “I worry the press won’t run properly, the grapes will arrive late. … I’m on pins and needles. Many wineries toast the first day of harvest with sparkling wine; I can’t do it until the second day, when I know everything works.”

 

 

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Test Your Mettle

The Rutherford winery’s “A Day in the Life” experience is a pampered version of a shift during harvest.

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