Holiday,Vineyards,Viticulture,Wine,Wine Making

Cinco de Mayo in Wine Country

Bradford Mountain

You’ve never seen anything like harvest, until you’ve stood in the vineyards with a camera, brushed away the flying dust, and tried to capture the spirit of what goes on during this fast and furious time. When I was working at Belvedere Winery for Bill and Sally Hambrecht, they afforded me a time to learn so many aspects of the wine business, that I look back on it now, and thank God for those experiences.

At the time, their vineyard manager Hector Bedolla (who’s now working for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates) understood not only all aspects of viticulture, but he also understood the importance of opening up the vineyards to the marketing department. Hector knew that we needed to experience the story first-hand; that we’d be much better prepared to tell it. Hector also worked very closely with Jim Cuneo. Together, I got to see the Hambrecht’s Vineyards from the ground and from the air. I traveled through Russian River, Alexander, Dry Creek, and Anderson valleys, always having the science of how to grow winegrapes explained to me in minute detail.

Hector and Jim

Intensity at its Best

“See that red soil?” Hector asked. “It’s as good as gold. It’s filled with iron oxide, and that helps to make great wine.” He’d go on, “See those milk cartons over there? They’re called bunny boxes. If they weren’t around the base of the new plants, bunnies, wild boars, and deer would come in and eat the tiny shoots, because they taste so sweet and good.” Hector and Jim were my guides… my teachers back then. They’d drive me wherever I’d want to go, and I’d pinch myself in disbelief that I was actually working.

From a photographer’s perspective, a picture IS worth at least a thousand words. These images of harvest are my small tribute to Cinco de Mayo, my small way of celebrating the heritage that I’ve come to enjoy in California as a way of life. Without the sweat of the harvesters’ brows, their concerted and concentrated efforts, the wine business would not be what it is today. Wine wouldn’t be an affordable every day beverage. It would still be only for the Gods.

All hail to Cinco de Mayo, and to the people who work so hard to bring wine to our tables, who delight in their service to the wine industry, like so many other businesses. In these images, I couldn’t possibly capture the full intensity, the sheer determination, the speed with which our Hispanic colleagues deliver grapes that they’ve picked to the waiting wineries, but they do begin to tell the story.

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