Growing grapes/making wine - when to harvest?

Lynda Radke (USDA 9b, Sunset 23)


We have lots of grape clusters on our 20 year old Golden Muscat vines. We are in coastal California about 1/4 mile from the pacific. Last year was our first attempt at making wine and we harvested on August 11th & 12th. We produced 40 bottles of wine. The wine was good but not great - it was crystal clear but a little too dry for my taste and with a bit of a strange flavor. Our sense is that we harvested too soon. It is now two weeks later and the grapes seem ready. We are also noticing that the area near our vines smells like wine, presumably because the grapes are dropping and fermenting. Do we harvest now or let them go? I worry we are making the same mistake, but then again what if we wait too long and end up with nothing. We would appreciate any advice.

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Lynda Radke (USDA 9b, Sunset 23)


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sushipup1

Googe "measure sugar in wine grapes" for instructions. You'll need a refractometer,

https://www.google.com/search?q=how+to+measure+sugar+content+in+wine+grapes&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&client=firefox-b-1

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sushipup1

Where are you located? You might be able to take a sample of your grapes to a local winery and ask them to measure the sugar, or look for a local wine-making club and someone may be able to help. We lived for 35 years in Monterey County, and in the summer I miss the coast and the cool fog now that we're in hot humid Pennsylvania.

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Lynda Radke (USDA 9b, Sunset 23)

Update - We waited about 10 more days after this post and then harvested. The result was totally different than the year before. In year 1, the wine was crisp and light, similar in body to Savingnon Blanc, but really, really dry. In year two, when we harvested three weeks later, it was full bodied, darker yellow in color and with a lovely and complex flavor. We definitely prefer year 2, but the trade off was that we only had enough to make 29 bottles (versus 40 the year before). This year we have had a lot of rain (we are in Santa Barbara), so it will be interesting to see what impact that has.

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