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Harvest 2020 Wrap Up – The One We Will Never Forget

October 11. 2020

Writing this, if feels like harvest was 6 months ago - it’s hard to believe our last pick was only one month ago. We had our challenges to start including our Cellarmaster Julia moving east to go back to school, an extended heat wave, and, of course, Covid 19.

We kicked off on Sunday Aug 16th, with a 2 AM pick of Trousseau Gris and a new (to Two Shepherds) crew of 4 harvest assistants. On Tuesday, the Walbridge fire started.  Between the heat wave and smoke, we raced to bring in 23 tons, half of our entire harvest, in the mind-boggling span of 5 days. We worked split shifts, with the second crew often working until 4 in the morning, every inch of the winery stuffed with grapes.

William raced back and forth to Yolo County in the flatbed truck, driving by Vacaville and other areas on fire.  Meanwhile the Walbridge fire was intensifying, prompting numerous evacuations close to the farm and winery. Karen and our friend Fahara took the donkeys and goats south to a farm in Petaluma, so that if we did have to evacuate the farm, that would already be done.

By Saturday, the fire evacuations were all over north-west Sonoma. As the harvest team was processing grapes, they were constantly rattled by phones going off with Nixle and emergency alerts. By mid-afternoon every quadrant surrounding the winery was on standby evac. Normally bustling on a Saturday afternoon, all of Artisan Alley was eerily empty and quiet, save for the Two Shepherds crew, who valiantly rose to the occasion.

Fearing the evacs would turn to mandatory, Karen brought William supplies to live in the winery should that occur. The police no longer allowed winery personal into evacuation zones, and with the winery full of fermentations, being locked out for days or more would have been ruinous, as has happened to other wineries the previous years. Fortunately, that did not come to pass.

Things returned to “normal” later the following week. Labor Day weekend, yet another record breaking extended heat wave struck, with temperatures at the farm hitting an astonishing 113 degrees (hotter than in Scottsdale, AZ!). That prompted another race to get everything picked, and over 6 days, we brought in another 30% of our grapes.

On Sept 10th, a month early, we made our last pick. The season lasted less than 4 weeks, instead of the usual 8. A few weeks later, well before the latest Glass fire, we had pressed everything and all the wine was safely resting in barrel.

While many wineries cut back due to concerns about Covid, and then risk of smoke taint, we slightly grew production this year, even with some of our vineyards having low yields. Too many large wineries were hurting their growers by reneging on agreements,  in some cases without smoke taint verification.  Like us, our growers are small family operations and our symbiotic partners, so we kept our word, even expanding in some cases. Sometimes fortune favors the bold. And the honorable.

Despite all the challenges, William is very pleased with the end result, and we have some exciting new projects (more sparklers  in cans and skin contact wines!) which we look forward to sharing in 2021. Until then, let's get through Bucking 2020!