I had the privilege and opportunity of joining the Sangiacomo Family Vineyards team for an early morning in their vineyards during the recent 2020 harvest. Sangiacomo Family Vineyards is a third-generation owned and operated vineyard management company and winery. It was an honor to observe a family tradition that they’ve been passing down for years with a large team of employee’s harvesting year after year. As someone who adores wine and works in the wine industry, it was so informative to watch a morning harvest seeing how the grapes are picked (all handpicked by the way), and all the magic that happens in the vineyards in the early morning (they start picking around midnight) and are done by 7am. I arrived around 5:15am or so to catch the last 2 hours of action.
See more about this fabulous harvest experience with Sangiacomo Family Vineyards below!
Arriving at the Sangiacomo Vineyards around 5:15 am. The team was already very hard at work (almost 75% of the way done with picking for the day). Shown is one of the many buckets of the handpicked Chardonnay grapes.
Sangiacomo Vineyards was one of the first vineyards to add this lighting system to their tractors to help light the dark vineyards. After arriving in the dark I can see how essential these lights are for the vineyard workers to see and be able to pick the grapes effectively and efficiently.
The Harvest Process
The Sangiacomo Family Vineyards team start harvesting very early in the morning (as most do), around midnight! This is done because harvesting the grapes during the cooler hours of the day keeps their sugar levels stable. This gives the Sangiacomo team more control over the fermentation process and higher quality grapes vs. harvesting during the daylight hours where the skins aren’t as cold and firm and the flavors of the grapes can be impacted negatively.
They use a crane to light the vineyards while the sun is still low. This crane provided light to about 2-3 rows where there were groups picking each row. The groups are split up so one row may be done being picked a few minutes ahead of another row based on the speed of each row group.
Harvesting mechanically can be more economically efficient, but there is no comparison to the quality of wine after hand-harvesting. After years of training, these workers are able to identify ripened grapes in order to make the sorting and fermentation process run more smoothly.
Check out the gorgeous golden sunrise we saw as we wrapped up the harvest at Sangiacomo Family Vineyards!
Nothing but smiles (behind our masks) this was COVID after all, as we see the fruits of the team’s labor
Finally, they drive the grapes out to turn them into Sangiacomo Family Vineyard’s fabulous wines or take the grapes to one of the 76 other wineries in California they source grapes for. You can purchase Sangiacomo Family Wines on their website here.
I’d like to thank Sangiacomo Family Vineyards for having me be a part of such a special tradition. If you would like to read about another harvest I got to witness, see my First Harvest at Napa Valley’s St. Supery Vineyards & Estate blog post here and my Harvest at Opus One Winery here.