Elkhorn Peak Cellars
The 2022 Cabernet Sauvignon Harvest
On September 29, 2022 we assembled a crew at dusk to pick. As the sun dropped below the horizon, the sky faded to black and the temperatures dropped to the mid-60s. We always harvest at night when the fruit is cool.
Harvest is led by the orange 1978 Fiat crawler, the crown jewel in Ken’s vintage tractor fleet. The crawler drives on tracks, not wheels, and is designed to climb steep slopes with ease. It’s the safe tractor choice for harvesting the narrow, sloped vineyard rows that define our Cabernet vineyard. The Fiat Crawler pulls a trailer carrying two half-ton harvest bins with Elise on the standing platform. Elise is the designated “leafer” for this pick; she pulls leaves and sticks from the grape bins as they fill with fruit. But more importantly, the leafer is the liaison between the tractor driver and the picking crew, tasked with having eyes on the ground, in the macro bin, and ahead too.
Communication between the leafer, tractor driver and picking crew is mostly done in hand gestures and whistles, because it’s too loud to speak over the Fiat’s idling 70 horsepower diesel motor and the sounds of its steel tracks screeching as they rotate around the drive sprocket.
Twelve people make up the picking crew this year, each person is equipped with a head lamp, a lug (a rectangular picking bucket), and a u-shaped harvesting knife. With the night sky as a backdrop, the crew splits up on either side of the grape trailer and starts harvesting Cabernet clusters. Each cluster is hand picked into the lug. When the lug is full, the pickers empty it into the macro bin by launching a full bucket of fruit over their head (often clearing 60 inch vineyard wires). The lugs weigh at least 60 pounds when full. This cycle continues over and over for several hours until all the fruit is picked.
We harvested 14 total tons of Cabernet Sauvignon this year, 2 tons more than we anticipated we’d bring in! It took a crew of 12 eight hours and we finished up around 2 am.
Celebratory Coronas and Modelos went around after the grape harvest; we all sat together out in the field, sticky with grape juice and covered in dirt, and had a beer together.
Our good friend and photographer, Evan Roscoe, Owner, Beneath the Vines Imaging, was with us at this year's Cabernet Sauvignon pick and captured the night pick perfectly with his photos.