SANTA MARIA, Calif. - Under the veil of moonlight, farm workers at Riverbench Vineyard and Winery harvest Pinot Noir grapes for Foxen Winery.
Bill Wathen is the founder and co-owner of Foxen Vineyard and Winery. He says they grow only about 1/3 of the grapes for the wine they produce, the rest is leased out to other vineyards.
"[Riverbench] had some property to plant grapes and invited us on board and planted 10 acres for us," Wathen explains.
That 10 acres translates to 11 tons of grapes - one ton makes 50 to 60 bottles of wine
Once the grapes arrive at Foxen Winery, they go through a machine that removes all the stems from the grapes. Then employees remove any pieces of leaves or stems that are left behind and the grapes are put into a fermenting tank to begin the wine making process.
Wathen says with all of the rain this year, the vines are happy again, telling us: "We haven't had a lot of rain - we had 23 inches which isn't like they had up north but it's been enough to refresh the roots and happy roots make happy vines and happy vines make great wine."
While there isn't necessarily an increase in the amount of grapes they're yielding, Wathen says they'll see the effects of the rain on the vines and soil through next year.
"I think it'll continue on to next year - certainly a two year cycle," he explains.
The grapes processed on Thursday are expected to be ready for drinking and buying in a place like the Old Town Market in Orcutt, Fall of 2018.