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Grape Harvesting: A Community Affair

It's time for wineries to start harvesting their grapes and volunteers are needed to help pick.

Each fall, numerous wineries across Ramona harvest their grapes to make delicious bottles of chardonnay, zinfandel, petit syrah, merlots and more. But the large vineyards need help picking all of those bunches of fruit.

That's where you come in.

Vineyards across Ramona ask for volunteers each year to help harvest the fruits of their labor and one vineyard owner, Elaine Lyttleton, sat down with Patch to give the scoop on this community affair.

Lyttleton said that wineries send out calls to volunteers each year for help with the harvest, but the timing is tricky.

"Harvest is always last minute," she said.

Wineries help each other out and on Lyttleton's vineyard, Hatfield Creek, about 30 volunteers will take to the fields this weekend and pick the grapes.

"You don't necessarily pick your field in one go," Lyttleton said. "It's a lot of hard work... but a great deal of fun."

Lyttleton's vineyard will gather up about 30 pickers this weekend to harvest her petit syrah and zinfandel grapes, which will then be sold to some nearby wineries and some will be kept to make wine at Hatfield, which is not yet open to the public.

"We kind of swarm on each other's vineyards," Lyttleton said of the harvest. "The locust of the vineyards!"

The volunteers get started early in the morning, around 6 a.m., to avoid the heat. Afterward, helping hands are treated to a feast and, of course, plenty of wine.

"When we're done, there is always a lot of food," Lyttleton said.

She also gave first-time harvesters some tips for the picking:

  • Wear sunscreen
  • Wear a hat and close-toed shoes
  • If you're picking one type of grape, pick them all.
  • When grapes are ready to harvest, they look "terrible." "The amateurs pick the pretty ones and that can mess with the sugar content of the wine. Pick them all."
  • Bring your reusable water bottle. There will be cold water to refill.
  • Bring your own gloves and clippers if you have them
  • No perfume, clogone or aftershave. "It'll attract bees," Lyttleton said.

Interested in helping harvest the grapes of Hatfield on Aug. 8 and 9? Call up Lyttleton at 760-787-1102. If she's got more than enough volunteers, she'll send you to a neighboring field to help them out!

Happy harvesting, Ramona!

Ada Wildberger September 11, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Such an incredible demonstration of cooperation, humor, spirit and downright old fashioned neighborliness! I so enjoyed working with Elaine and her other volunteers picking grapes this past Saturday--would do it again anytime! This novice picker had a lot of questions--it's just so much fun, how can you not get excited and want to learn more?? After the picking, Elaine treated us to a wonderful brunch spread that included a simply delicious keishe, muffins (oh my!) fruit, juice, coffee and a nice choice of wines to try! I just want to say "Thanks!" for giving me the opportunity to have such a fun day with a great group of wonderful folks--the spirit of Ramona just doesn't shine any brighter!! Happy Harvest!!!!

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