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Harvest Season Check List & Prep

For those us of in the northern hemisphere it is time we start getting ready for harvest season!

WineMaker Magazine has a great Harvest Check List in their most recent edition, written by Bob Peak. It is wonderfully detailed and a must read for all our customers. It is an all encompassing check list whereas ours will just scratch the surface. Our checklist reflects only what we do here at our own winery. What you do during your own harvest is up to you.

We always use a checklist to prepare and to ensure we have everything we need for a successful harvest. Our winery, Little Oaks Winery, is a small operation with a limited about of employees and we have found that preparing for harvest is essential for producing award-winning, memorable wines. Our winery is about four to five weeks away from harvest time. It’s time to start preparing.

If you want to view our available wines, please visit our website by clicking HERE.

To Do:

1. Clean up/Re-organize our warehouse: Let’s face it… we follow the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality when it comes to our harvest equipment. We store some of our equipment against our back wall or up on one of our mezzanines and it sits there for nearly a year before we take a look at it again. First step is a quick reorganization and clean of the warehouse (Vinmetrica shares its warehouse space with the winery!) before pulling everything out.

2. Then it’s time to get down our picking bins, tarps, and flex tanks. We then play a bit of musical chairs with some pallets and get our crusher/de-stemmer and bladder press out and moved to a convenient location. We hook these up and test out their functionality so were not caught off guard come harvest day. One thing we used to always forget was making sure we had enough lids for our flex tanks (some of ours have holes drilled in them for our chill plates) so we make sure we have enough fully enclosed lids for all our tanks and then we match up our lids with holes to their respective chill plates and assemble them. We also make sure we have enough gaskets and hose clamps, plus enough fermentation locks and bungs for all our carboys too.

3. We buy all our grapes locally which means we will pick them all by hand. We get out all our picking equipment and see what needs to be replenished or replaced. We found these wonderful shears that do not require you to “clip” the vines so we will replace the blades as necessary. (We are having difficulty finding them online these days… if I do, we’ll be sure to let you all know where to get them.) We make sure to have our refractometer, gloves, sunscreen and buckets prepped.

4. Now it’s time to buy the things we need for fermentation and order according to the tonnage we are going to be picking. Remember to always choose yeast strains that work with your varietals and any nutrients you might need. Make sure your hydrometer isn’t broken and that you have a tall jar to measure with. You will need to measure your Brix soon after harvest. Purchase malolactic bacteria if you will be using it.

5. And lastly, make sure your testing equipment is working properly and that you have enough chemicals to get through all the tests you will be doing. You will need to test for pH and TA. Double check that your reagents are not expired. (Don’t forget your SO2 reagents too!)

Tuning Up your Vinmetrica Equipment:

This is the perfect time to give your Vinmetrica equipment a tune up and then test it to make sure everything is working properly. There is nothing worse than having several tons of grapes picked and a pH meter that doesn’t work, an SO2 electrode that isn’t functioning, or expired chemicals.

Things you can do at home: calibrate your pH electrode. Make sure your electrode has been in proper storage solution. If it has not, or if it has dried out, get some new storage solution and allow the probe to soak in the solution for at least 24 hours before testing it. Calibrate your pH electrode and ensure it holds it calibration (+/- 0.02 units), ensure your TA Titrant is not expired. This solution should be replaced every two years. Check the use by date listed on the label.

While you have the equipment out we recommend also checking the SO2 function by doing the Reagent Liquid Test (found on our Troubleshooting Guide) This will test the electrode and your reagents to make sure they are all working properly. Update your reagents if yours are expired. Clean your SO2 electrode, if necessary.

Did you know that your instrument can be sent in to our offices for all maintenance and testing? We can diagnose any issues that your equipment might have and offer suggestions for how to get everything working again. Of course, a firmware upgrade is always recommended if you have an older instrument, and pH electrodes typically only last about 3 years before they become sluggish and have difficulty holding calibration. A basic test and maintenance for your unit and electrode(s) starts at $40. Other repairs and updates are charged on an as needed basis. This can be ordered through our website or by calling our Tech Support line.

You can walk through the Troubleshooting Guide on our website to ensure all your equipment is working properly. If you encounter any issue simply give us a call.

**Adapted from our July Newsletter. Make sure to sign up if you haven’t 🙂

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