What does harvest look like? » BALLOONS ABOVE THE VALLEY

It’s harvest season in beautiful Napa Valley once again. And there is no more fascinating perspective to view this burst of activity than from a Napa balloon ride guided by a professional Balloons Above the Valley expert pilot.

From that unique vantage point, guests aboard a safe and comfortable hot air balloon flight above the Napa Valley floor witness a truly amazing view of the vineyards and crews below and along the slopes of the mountains that provide a dramatic backdrop.

Each vineyard’s management team decides whether a Napa Valley grape harvest will be performed by humans or machines based on several factors.

Man vs. Machine: Grape Harvest in Napa Valley

Harvest time in each vineyard depends on the grape varietal, location, and prevailing weather conditions. Generally, in Napa Valley, the harvest will begin as early as late July or early August for sparkling wine varieties, followed by white varieties and, finally, the reds. Full-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon grapes may be on the vine until late October and even early November.

As with most endeavors in our lives, the advent of mechanical options has also facilitated grape harvesting. Today, some vineyards employ highly specialized machinery to navigate each vineyard row to “release” the newly ripened grapes quicker and more efficiently than a typical group of human pickers.

There are, however, advantages and disadvantages to each method. Here is a comparison:

Hand Picking

With the traditional hand-picking, workers move through the vineyard rows harvesting each bunch with cutting tools and dropping them into a container to be toted to a collection point.

One advantage is that skilled workers selectively pick only the best grapes and leave the sunburned or vine-rotted grapes. And, harvesting by hand eliminates the “non-grape” material at the source, which mechanical harvesters do not do.

Hand harvesting is the only reasonable option in areas where treacherous slopes and uneven topography make mechanical harvesting impossible.

Because of the human pickers’ ability to differentiate, many wineries prefer hand-picking over machinery when quality is more important than quantity.

Machine Harvesting

The equipment developed for harvesting grapes is becoming more sophisticated and capable each year. Like other areas of agriculture, the cost and inefficiencies of manual labor are becoming more prohibitive, and more growers are relying on mechanical means to profit and survive.

The equipment passes through the vineyard, straddling the rows and shaking the grape bunches loose from the vines. Because the speed is superior to the traditional hand-picking process, the raw product reaches the winery chiller and presses far sooner.

Machine harvesting also facilitates night-picking without needing multiple generators and spotlights, and workers experience less fatigue at the end of each shift.

 View the Progress of the Harvest Space with Balloons Above the Valley

Enjoy a unique perspective to track the annual grape harvest from above from a Napa Valley hot air balloon with Balloons Above the Valley.

You may visit the Balloons Above the Valley website to learn more about this safe and memorable adventure.

From your elevated and unique perspective, you can witness the various stages of the harvest and see how some AVAs in Napa Valley are progressing with their harvest while others are continuing the ripening process.

While visiting the Balloons Above the Valley website, you can easily reserve a place for you and your partner or group for an upcoming hot air Napa balloon ride.

Or you can phone one of the Balloons Above the Valley reservationists at 1-800-464-6824.