The 2021 wine grape harvest officially began early Wednesday morning in Livermore Valley with the first grape picking ahead of a centuries-old ceremony to bless the harvest.
Las Positas Vineyards was the site where those first grapes were plucked from the vine, and local clergy members would later be at Cuda Ridge Wines for the annual blessing. The ceremony honors the vineyards and the people who make the annual harvest a reality.
Many Livermore Valley winemakers and growers attended the 5 a.m. first pick and planned to be at the 11:30 a.m. blessing to discuss this year's harvest.
Those winemakers are hoping to avoid the smoke damage that affected several grape varietals last year, though they are grateful just to be open for business despite mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions.
During last year's harvest, the SCU Complex Fire had sent smoke through the valley for weeks, and one winemaker, Steven Mirrasou of Steven Kent Winery said if enough smoke gets on the grapes and permeates the skin, the wine can end up with an acrid, lick-the-bottom-of-the-ashtray flavor.
"It's kind of like making a cake for the Queen of England, and you bake the cake and you don't know until you take that first slice whether it was salt or sugar you put into that cake," Mirrasou said last year. "That's kind of what we're dealing with. We really won't know until the product is finished."