The 10 Strangest Harvest Superstitions
On California’s Central Coast, September means two things: One, the wine grape harvest is in full swing from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz, and two, winemakers are doing some wacky things to produce a great vintage.
No, we’re not talking about experimentation with esoteric varieties or a new kind of cork. We’re talking about odd superstitions, from growing a frightening amount of facial hair (Equinox Winemaker Barry Jackson grows his goatee into “shaggy goat hair” that he twists into various artistic formations) to drinking a shot of Tequila each morning.
The result? According to the winemakers, the proof is in the bottle. Here, they share their wackiest harvest habits.
1. “The break table must always have a five-pound jar of Red Vines [candy] on it if fruit is being harvested. Last year, we went through 35 pounds.” —Mike Sinor, winemaker/proprietor, Sinor-La Vallee; director of winemaking, Ancient Peaks
2. “I name my harvest clippers. Last year, I had Gayle and Opal. It makes them work faster if they have names.” —Stephanie Terrizzi, winemaker/co-owner, Giornata Wines; vineyard manager, Luna Matta Vineyard
3. “While I am quite athletic and health-oriented the rest of the year, each year, when the first fruit comes in, I start smoking cigarettes—one at each break and one after each meal. When the last fruit comes in, I stop. Any unsmoked cigarettes go into the trash on the final day of harvest.” —Larry Brooks, vintner, Tolosa Estate Wines
4. “We take a Tequila shot to anoint the first grapes that come in each morning. The one time I didn’t do it, we had a fermentation problem with a portion of that lot.” —John Benedetti, owner/winemaker, Sante Arcangeli
5. “I am not a huge sports guy, but I do like me some playoffs, and I love the idea of not messing with whatever is working. If you are winning, don’t shave. If you lose, maybe a little trim to mix it up.” —Dave Potter, owner, Municipal Winemakers
6. “I have an affection for my favorite pencil that I use to write up my cellar instructions. There is nothing special about the pencil, but I find that I am truly a head case if I misplace it, and I find myself distracted and unable to focus until I get it back in my hand.” —Steve Peck, red winemaker, J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines
7. “We never wash our vehicles during harvest. It just brings on rain!” —Kelly McFarland, whose family was the first to plant the Santa Lucia Highlands and runs Legacy Vineyard Management
8. “I don’t change my underwear from the first grape picked of the year until the last grape picked of the year. That may be why Mary Kay [his wife] travels during the harvest.” —Richard Alfaro, owner/winemaker, Alfaro Family Vineyards & Winery
9. “I purposely sting myself with a bee for good luck at the beginning of harvest.” —Ernst Storm, winemaker/owner, Storm Wines; co-owner, Notary Public
10. “I wear the same hat from a previous vintage that was well above average into the new vintage. It’s really never seemed to help the new vintage in a consistent way, but it does consistently seem to gross out the people around me.” —Ken Brown, winemaker, Ken Brown Wines