Vigorously collecting grapes, the twelve workers on Frank-N-Wine Vineyard Tuesday morning, Aug. 27, must work quickly. How many grapes they collect determines how much money they will make when they take them to the winery.
The workers keep a fast pace because nobody wants to be the slow picker, they’re all sharing the same amount of money, said Cheo Serrano, owner of D-Vine Farm Management.
D-Vine Farm Management is responsible for the maintenance of the vineyard; which also includes breeding the grapes to harvesting. Once the grapes are harvested, they are sold to Lorimar Winery.
“They work hard,” Serrano said, commenting about his workers.
For example, if 20 bins are filled, they divide the money by how many workers were working that day.
“Watch how fast they go, it’s crazy,” said Frank Griswold, owner of Frank-N-Wine Vineyard, watching the workers collect grapes and then putting them into large buckets. It’s best to pick the grapes at night or early in the morning before it gets too hot, he said.
The grapes grown on the vineyard aren’t like your average table grapes; these are much smaller and are filled with seeds. Grapes that are dried out aren’t chosen for picking. However, once they are thrown on the dirt, they are tilled with a tractor, which keeps it furrowed. Tilling helps reseed the crop.
The vineyard is in a constant battle with birds, squirrels, and bees. Last year it had a lot of trouble with gophers.
Bees will take the juice out of grapes and this causes the grapes to become hollow, but not much can be done about it. Squirrels and gophers are trapped, and to prevent birds from picking at the grapes, netting is used.
Griswold moved from Orange County three years ago to Temecula and he hired Serrano to manage the vineyard because it was “fun and a tax write-off.”
“He was wound up tighter than a piano wire,” said Jim Miller, a local real estate broker, who was invited to watch the grapes being harvested. “He’s mellowed out…I’m glad to see him successful.”
Three years ago the grapes on the vineyard were Cabernet. There’s already a lot of Cabernet grapes in the Valley, said Serrano.
To do something different, Serrano and Griswold decided to grow Roussanne grapes. The more sugar the grape has, the more alcohol it contains. This is known in the wine industry as “brix.”
The elevation where grapes grow is important – the higher the elevation, the cooler the air. This is better than lower elevation, according to Serrano.
Temecula is a good environment to grow wine simply because of the weather, it’s similar to the upper regions of France and Italy, he said.
“I think we have a pretty good comparison to the environment they have over there,” Serrano said. “Everything grows here.”
The only grape that doesn’t grow well in Temecula is Pinot Noir, because of the elevation. It needs a high elevation; a cooler environment.
Vines are also grafted. Grafting could be considered an art, but there is also a reason for it. In grafting, news buds are wrapped around the vine. It’s used to the change the varieties of the grapes. For example, you can go from white to red or red to white. In a couple years, there will be a new crop, instead of replanting, said Serrano.
Changing the variety of the grapes is expensive, according to a report from UC Davis. The reasons for change can also include eliminating a variety for which there is little market demand.
According to Tony Kaa, a host at Lorimar Winery, when it comes to creating a great wine it is based on soil-to-bottle, and investment and care.