Hiyu Wine Farm
Hiyu Wine Farm The Understory

On Grape Harvesting

by Nate Ready

Reflections on and moments from the
fields and cellar, where we aim to do
as little as possible.

What’s really usual about us is that we pick grapes all day long. We typically start really early and go until about three to four in the afternoon. I think the largest amount we ever picked in a day was about three and a half tons — wineries our size can typically process about 10 to 13 tons a day. Partially that’s what we can pick, because we don’t hire contract labor, and it’s also because we have so many different little parcels and they all ripen at different times, so a lot of time is spent tasting grapes and trying to figure out when on earth to pick them. 

Most wineries pick in the morning and at night, but we pick the day through into small yellow bins by hand, then the grapes sit overnight — maybe into the second day. From there, there are three trajectories: one for wines that are directly pressed, one for wines that are pre-fermentation maceration, and one for wines that are finished fermentation on the skins. The more delicate, thinner skin reds are handled differently from the reds that have really thick skins. Our goal is to do as little as possible. We don’t destem because destemming is an extra stage of mechanization, but also because we’re able to keep the panicle — that little radii coming off the stem that attach to the berry — so the berry remains completely closed and intact, which is what allows it to ferment inside itself. When you destem, you’re starting to expose a lot more of the skin’s juice, so you start extracting flavors on this really steep curve: The more you extract the more you build more texture, but you lose aromatic resolution. The whole cluster allows you to minimize the rate of extraction, to really spread it out or prevent it from happening, which creates more delicate wines. It’s all creating gentleness.

Hiyu Wine Farm