Two years ago we picked our grapes on November 6th- this year it was September 26th. It's not just when the grapes are ready - unlike the old days making wine (and I'm talking thirty years ago) you don't just measure the sugar - you measure the seeds to see if they are ripe. You measure the acid. And lots of other stuff I won't bore you with here. These grapes get more tests than a cardiac pre-op patient.
When everyone agreed they were ready, we bundled up (it's cold in the morning!) to pick.
Up at dawn, finished by the time we were craving that second cup of coffee. With all of us picking it goes fast.
It's a small vineyard, only one kind of grape, and that on a special root stock. Finally getting good fruit set (that's winemaker talk for lots of grapes).
We were talking with our neighbor Tim about all the testing. He has the best advice. "Taste the grapes. Taste the seeds. All this measuring of sugars and acids and phenolics...you have the best tester right inside your mouth."
He has a lab. He has an incredible palate, and a great sense of perspective. His wines are wonderful - full and round and rich. Next year I'm going with the Tim method.