What do Winemakers Like Scott Harvey do When There is no Power?
Updated: Sep 22
Scott Harvey Wines produces award winning wine at three wineries located in Amador County, Clarksburg, and Sonoma. While in the apex of harvest, PG&E elected to cut power to several counties in Northern California, including Amador County. The outages were due to potential high winds, here in Amador County there was no wind event. These outages could cost the Northern California wine industry millions of dollars in revenue and potential wine quality.
The point of sale systems at the tasting rooms need power to operate and there are no tasters or tourists to showcase beautiful wine too. This combination forced tasting rooms to close for at least two perfect Autumn days.
Tourism in wine country came to halt during the outages, but what is happening behind the scenes that Scott Harvey, and other winemakers, are working against to make sure you still drink a delicious glass of wine every time you open a bottle?
Fermentation- In the middle of harvest many wines have begun the fermentation process, the conversion of grape sugar via yeast to carbon dioxide and finally to alcohol. This reaction creates heat; so to keep the grapes cool wineries use large cooling jackets on the tanks to dissipate the heat and keep the fermentation temperature down, the cooling jackets system runs on electricity. Without the cooling system the fermentation could get too hot, creating bitter tasting components (phenolics) to come out of the skins and seeds of the grapes. Scott Harvey is thankful Amador County has been cool enough that with winery doors open and temperatures dropping at night their tanks have stayed right where they want them.
Picking- Grapes are picked at their optimum ripeness, often times this means early morning or even middle of the night picking. When a winemaker determines that picking in the cool dark hours of a day is best, lights are needed and without power picking has been postponed.
As winemakers across California are working to make great wine, Scott has been checking his grapes, watching his tanks, and keeping the show running while PG&E worried about wind that no one in Amador County has seen. The many aspects to wine making are what make these outages so difficult and frustrating. Luckily, Scott always produces a wonderful bottle that is good whether the lights are on or off.