Last week in my post about “tween grapes”, I mentioned as part of the process of maturing, the berry seeds start to harden- and I have a picture of it for you this week!
But to get back to THIS week, when the seeds start harden, we start to get busy in the vineyard and it involves as little- for the squeamish, I’m about to use a dirty, four-letter word- M A T H. I know, shocking- I just kind of made myself sick. We must use math (cringing) as we go through the vineyard doing crop estimates- specifically, statistics (which was actually, my best math class.. relatively speaking). The process is long, tedious, and usually done during the heat of the day- in fact, Derek made that point numerous times, specifically stating it’s done in 90-96 degree heat (I think he had a bad day today). So, do you want to learn what a long, hot, tedious job entails? (Psst, the answer is Yes).
Like all good adventures, this one starts off with a map. This particular map is a hand-drawn map done by Mike Naggiar . Yes, hand-drawn-we’re old-school that way. We identify the blocks and then at random, choose 40 sentinel vines from each block. Once at these vines, we count each and every cluster on that vine, making sure not to count the clusters from the next vine. That one seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes the ends of two vines are only separated by a half inch or so. Once this is done, we make sure that we are actually counting individual clusters. Some clusters have twins, two “clusters” are actually one, sharing the same stem though it appears to look like two (I guess that makes them Siamese twins). So, we need to make sure we count the actual cluster stem. Lastly, we need to make sure we’re not counting second crop clusters. Once this is done, we double check the count- getting bored yet? Once the count is confirmed, we move on to vine #2 all the way to 40. Finally, we finish the block…ah, not so fast. Now, we need to take their weights- those numbers keep piling up. Pulling 10-20 clusters at random, we weigh each one, write the weights down and, here’s where it really gets dirty, come up with a median and mean (middle number and average- yeah, needed Derek to refresh my memory on those). Then, repeat, repeat and repeat. Once we have all the numbers in, we plug them into our acreage spreadsheet which multiplies the seed-hardend fruit by a specific multiplier (different for each varietal) and through the dark magic of statistics, gives us block harvest tonnage expectations. Whew- all of that for one block- and we have over 30 blocks. No wonder he is so grumpy.
The million dollar question, why do we put ourselves through all of this torture- it’s got to pay off, right? We do it for many reasons, the most obvious one to know how much fruit to expect at harvest and how much fruit we have to sell to our multiple buyers. Until we perform this, we can only use historical averages, so this gives us a closer estimate. We also use these numbers to fine-tune our cooperage and yeast order. And, we get to show off some mad math skills.
My hats off to all of the workers, including my husband, who perform this task- math and labor intensive. Statistically speaking, if I had this job, the probability of my stabbing my eyes out with a pair of sharp secateurs is 99.9%.