Have you seen those vines burdened with a heavy load of grapes? Yep, their nearly ready to harvest and despite the 2-year-long drought it appears like another good year for California wine. Typically the harvest starts around Labor Day in Oakley, however; the hot and dry, until recently, summer may have pushed the start of the harvest ahead a few weeks. Growers and winemakers are checking sugar content weekly, if not daily.
Starting the harvest is determined in large part by the sugar level in the grape. The wine industry uses the term “brix” to designate sugar level. A small piece of testing equipment called a “refractometer” allows a winemaker to assess the ripeness of the grape. A grape is placed in the device and the percentage of brix is displayed on a scale seen through the eye piece. A brix level of 25- 26 is good for picking red grapes. Other varieties will have less or more. White wine and rosés require a brix level around 22 – 23. The winemaker will also use flavor as a determining factor of when to pick grapes.
The harvest will continue through the first of October so be wary of slow moving farm equipment on the roads. Oakley’s vineyards are dispersed throughout the community making the movement of vehicles including tractors, forklifts and trucks essential to a timely harvest and this means your friendly farmers will be sharing the road with you more frequently as they drive their “implements of husbandry.”
The California vehicle code defines implements of husbandry as a vehicles used exclusively in the conduct of agricultural operations. For a complete list of implements of husbandry, see Vehicle Code section 36005. They are generally identifiable by the a slow-moving vehicle emblem, a large orange triangle on the back of the equipment, and are exempt from registration, brakes, lights, size limitations (within specific guidelines and with the exception of weight) and identification plates when operated or moved over a highway.
When approaching one of these “implements of husbandry” do so with caution, they probably can’t hear or see you. Follow at a safe distance and pass only where appropriate and remember, that driver has the same legal rights as you do in your car.