BEHIND THE BOTTLE: NIGHT HARVEST

A photo essay by winemaker
Alex Krause captures the pre-dawn
beauty of the grape harvest


Dawn breaks at the Antle vineyard in the Chalone AVA not far from Pinnacles National Park

When the days get shorter and the fog permanently parks itself offshore, it’s harvest season in the vineyards of the Central Coast. Fall is often the hottest part of the year around here and that’s one reason most of the grape harvests take place in the middle of the night.

After just a few hours of sleep, picking crews and winemakers arrive at the vineyards around 2 am, working quickly to fill their bins by dawn. It’s chilly, especially in the vineyards at higher elevations, and that’s just the way the winemaker wants it.

“You want the fruit to come into the winery cold,” says Alex Krause, who with partner John Locke owns Birichino wine in Santa Cruz. “The chemistry is better and the acidity is a little higher. It stands a better chance of having a healthy start to the winemaking process.”

It’s atmospheric—with harvest lights illuminating the rows and everyone wearing headlamps—and year after year those fall scenes have inspired Krause, who is also an accomplished photographer. He shoots with a Nikon D800, and sometimes an IPhone, More of his prints can be viewed in the Birichino tasting room. —Deborah Luhman


Inspecting and finishing up the harvest of Chenin Blanc grapes (this page and upper left) and Antle vineyard just before sunrise (left)

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