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It seems like the holiday season. No, not that one, although that one will be here in a matter of hours. It’s the season for harvest parties. So many parties, so little time. For the uninitiated, a harvest party celebrates the picking of the grapes. Although a real vineyard manager would disagree, a harvest party marks the day when there is not too much to do in the vineyard until it is time once again to prune. In short, it is a joyous occasion for those who work, for those who watch the work and for those who like to be part of the wine world.

Attending a harvest party is just like what you would see in a movie. The party is in the afternoon with the light just right and almost always set close to the vineyard from whence the grapes were just picked. You can smell the grapes in the air. The vines look tired but relieved because they have just been unburdened from all that weight. The vines gave birth and now it is up to the magician winemaker to nurture those babies.

Food is served at a harvest party and it always tastes better than if we had it in a dark restaurant. The food tastes like it too was part of the joy of the pick. Whether it’s Mexican food or pressed pheasant under glass, the food is key to the celebration and will be good because it will be served on long harvest tables, just like in the movies. What can be better than a table that is 40 feet long with people on both sides laughing and toasting to the newly picked harvest?

Then there is the wine. Don’t attend a harvest party if they are serving wine that was made from the grapes that were just picked. The wine served at harvest parties are from past vintages and almost always the good stuff. Extra special wines from past vintages might sneak in. The wine snobs roam around and talk about “the essence of huckleberry and pink rocks.” The winemaker and field workers say, “I just like the way this makes me feel.” I am more aligned with the winemaker than the snobs. Sometimes it is hard to believe that the magic I am drinking came, just a few years ago, from the very vines that are right there, in front of me. And now it’s time to wonder what the vintage just harvested will be like.

A harvest party can be a scene with beautiful people who think they are part of the harvest just by showing up. Don’t let that discourage you from attending because above all, there is a sense of accomplishment and a sense of closure at a harvest party. As in, we made it through another year. There is a sense of pride in all the work that was just completed. That sense of closure is a feeling rarely held today and it is a good feeling.

Maybe the best thing about a harvest party is the knowledge that the grapes are picked and I made it through another year without having to do the picking. Wait. Some harvest parties require attendees to actually harvest the grapes. To me, that is more of a work party with grapes as the feature. They can be fun too, just watch out for the rattlesnakes, the black widows and don’t cut your finger off with a razor-sharp grape knife.

If you are lucky enough to get invited to any kind of harvest party, go. It will be like a movie and you will be in the cast. The product and the people of the harvest are why we live here.

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Rich Moran spends his time in wine country hoping to get invited to more harvest parties.

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