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USA TODAY SPECIAL EDITION

A Bounty Beckons

Harvest season is the perfect time to visit wine country By Robin Roenker

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HERE’S JUST SOMETHING MAGICAL about harvest season in

wine country. Sometime between August and October, depending on the year’s weather and the specific grape variety, the hanging clusters reach peak ripeness, and West Coast wineries begin the arduous — but exciting — task of gathering the literal fruits of months of labor. In California alone, where more than 80 percent of the country’s wine is produced, vineyards harvest around 4 million tons of grapes each year. And, if you’re lucky enough to visit in early fall, you can witness the process firsthand. “There’s an artistry that goes into harvest and a lot of pride behind it,” says Hunt Bailie, owner and founder of Sonoma

Adventures (sonoma-adventures.com), which offers bicycle tours of Sonoma wine country. “I can’t tell you the number of times we’ve shown up for a tour at one of the smaller vineyards, and the winemaker has turned to us and said, ‘I am still crushing grapes. I’d be happy to have your help.’ And my group has gotten to join in and feel the intensity of the process.” As grapes ripen, many wineries widen their welcome — through harvest festivals and community crush events — so visitors can bask in the beauty of the season and anticipation of the wines the harvest will eventually yield. “Harvesting time is definitely the most beautiful time to come visit,” says Kendall Blakely, assistant manager at Hawaii’s Volcano Winery. “The weather is beautiful. The grapes are ripe on the vine, and it’s just very scenic.”

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GO ESCAPE CALIFORNIA/PACIFIC Winter 2019  

GO ESCAPE CALIFORNIA/PACIFIC Winter 2019  

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