Harvest Happens


In my quest to photograph a vineyard through its many phases, I found myself early one morning this week standing among rows of ripe chardonnay grapes on a hilltop in Linden, Virginia. Camera slung across my shoulders and clippers in hand, I watched the experts begin the harvest. I was encouraged to start as well, and in between photographing the hands of the pickers and the light slanting through the green-gold grapes, I crouched down and started snipping. Holding a bunch gingerly, feeling its weight settle in my palm, I searched for the stem and snipped. Then I placed the bunch delicately into a plastic lug and moved on to the next bunch. Watching the harvest veterans, I was stunned by the gentleness and efficiency of their movements and the speed with which they filled their lugs. But getting as many grapes harvested as possible was the goal of the day. Predicting the right moment to harvest is a tricky business that involves testing the grapes for acidity and sugar and tasting the grapes for just that fleeting flavor that indicates everything is in balance. This requires patience and attention, but in the moist and unpredictable climate of Virginia, weather is often the deciding factor. On this day we were hustling to get the grapes picked before hurricane Irma hit the East Coast on one of its possible trajectories. Apparently no matter how well a wine grower plans, there’s a point when choices run out—harvest happens!