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Up and early for harvest for some, but others still wait

  • Vineyard worker Rafael Agular dumps a box of Pinot Noir grapes that he picked into a collection bin at Hunter Farms on Monday, August 23, 2010, in Sonoma, California. (BETH SCHLANKER/ The Press Democrat)

The 2010 wine grape harvest got underway at 3 a.m. in pre-dawn darkness at Hunter Farms, making the Glen Ellen vineyard the first of the pack for three years running.

Chris Bowen, vineyard manager of Hunter Farms, said the reason the grapes in this vineyard are the quickest to ripen on the North Coast is because of the warm climate coupled with the specific type of the pinot noir grapes.

This year's harvest is running approximately two to three weeks behind due to weeks of cooler temperatures and an unusually persistent layer of heavy, wet fog.

Grape Harvest in Glen Ellen

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But there was no sign of fog today, a first in several weeks, and the forecast calls for temperatures in the 90s for the next several days.

Victor Pureco, on the picking crew, was wearing what resembled a miner's hat with the flashlight guiding him as he cut the fruit from the vine. He said it was "grueling" to get up at 2:30 a.m. to start picking at 3 a.m.

Pureco's 78-year-old father worked beside him, with both clipping fruit with a sharp, metal hook. They worked quickly because they are paid by the ton. Each hopes to earn $200 for their day of picking.

"Light crop" Pureco said, "because cold weather."

In the vineyard you could hear broken English, Spanish, and by sunrise, the crow of a rooster nearby.

The five acres of pinot noir picked will be routed to Gloria Ferrer and eventually bottled as sparkling wine.

Mumm Napa in Rutherford will begin selective picking Tuesday and Stetson-Greene Vineyards in Healdsburg will follow suit on Wednesday.


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