Category Archives: sonoma valley

Helping Winemaker B and Kram Harvest Their Grapes

I have a little story about going to work with my son.  You’re like what; you can go to work with your son?  Yes, we can, we did, and we had a blast. 

It all began last Saturday, ah…I remember it well, like it was just three days ago.☺  This is how my story goes…we woke up at Brandon and Kim’s house and Brandon, who is the assistant winemaker at Dutton Goldfield winery had  already gone to work at the winery before we awoke.  So Larry, Kim and I had a light snack of fresh fruit knowing that where we were heading off to was going to serve us breakfast.  We left the house around 9:00 and by 9:30 we were at our destination in Glen Ellen, Sonoma Valley.  We were at Dave Kram’s father and stepmother’s (Jerry and Lily) house.  They have a small weekend ranch home that was originally built around 1900, on 18 acres of land.  The house has two bedrooms, one bathroom, a living room, dining room, kitchen and an enclosed front porch.  A perfect size house for two or four not the eight that were staying over.  The property has about 1/4 acre of grape vines, mostly Syrah with some Viognier, that they planted nearly 4 years ago.  Brandon is the winemaker for the Kramatage wine and Dave is the vineyard manager.  The goal for the day was to harvest the Syrah, as they already harvested the Viognier Labor Day weekend.


               Larry and Jerry after Breakfast                                      View from Kram’s vineyards

We got introduced to the whole mishbucha (Yiddish for group) and preceded to eat banana pancakes, bacon and fruit.  We sat outside on their patio while we ate and got to know each other.  The dogs Truman, a Rhodesian Ridgeback, that weighs 115 pounds and Dotty, a 14 year old Dalmatian, were trying their hardest to beg some pancakes off of us.  A little background on Dave Kram.  He and Brandon are friends from their teenage youth group days.  They were paired up as buddies when they went to Israel with a large group from the Bay Area.  They both ended up going to U C Davis together and Dave ended up joining Brandon and graduated in Fermentation Science as well.  However, as Brandon works in the wine industry Dave currently doesn’t so winemaking is a passion and hobby of his.


              Brandon and Dave

After a bit we got together and started picking the grapes.  Unfortunately by the time we went out to the vineyard to pick the grapes it was 90 plus degrees outside!  So we melted very quickly.  We were out there for about 45 minutes and got her done.  I love the feel of a bunch of grapes in my hand.  They are delicate yet substantial at the same time.  Then we cooled off under the big oak tree, I had water in one hand and beer in the other.  There were some snacks of guacamole, salsa, chips, cheese and crackers.

          Lori harvesting grapes                             Lori and others de-stemming these grapes

After rejuvenating a bit we got to work on part two of the days task.  We had to de-stem all the grapes.  We used a piece of equipment that Brandon had rented.  You put the grapes in from the top, turn the crank and the skins and juice come out the bottom into a bin and the stems come out the side.  Very cool.  It took a number of people to get this done though.  Fortunately, as the day went on we acquired more invited guests that we roped into helpers.  We needed four or five people to hold the de-stemmer down, one cranking the wheel and two to three adding in the grapes from the picked bins and one or two to lift the machine every couple minutes to remove the stems that didn’t come out on their own.  This was a good hour of work.  Once that was all done it was clean up time as this was a very sticky proposition.  Luckily the water pressure that died earlier was back working again.

Brandon labeled the barrels, put them in his truck to take home cool down and let sit, before crushing and letting the grape juice start to ferment and turn into wine.

We sat and hung around as more and more people arrived.  Then supper was served.  The Kram’s had made a feast!  There was bbq chicken breast with a Habanero sauce, pork ribs and lamb chops.  Besides that there was a fantastic cold Chinese noodle salad with a choice of a spicy or soy dressing.  There was a green and a fruit salad as well.  No one left there hungry.  There were nearly 30 people there to celebrate in the harvest.

                      Supper ala Kram style                                                          Beautiful grapes

Larry and I had never harvested any grapes other than our own in our backyard.  We have two vines; they had over 180.  It was fun getting the little kids involved, the sister, cousins etc.  

The only disappointing thing about all of this is that we will be missing the pressing of these grapes next weekend.  That would pretty much complete the harvest cycle for me.  But I did have a chance to crush my grapes this summer.  We did it the “Lucy” way.  That is another story to tell at a later date.