Pacific Rim
December 6, 2022 | wine | Pacific Rim

When Does Grape Harvest Season End in Washington?

In North America, the agriculture industry, including vineyards, is very busy from spring to late fall each year. When does grape harvest season end in Washington? The harvest can last for up to two months, depending on the varietals, usually between August and October in the Northern Hemisphere.  Once the grapes have been picked and prepared by mid-October, what do winemakers do during the long winters? After the hard work all summer and fall, you would think vintners might take a vacation. But not so! There is still much work to be done. 

grape harvest season in washington


Winemaking is a very hard business that is demanding and time-consuming. Hence, most winemakers remain busy for most of the winter months. What do they do when the ground is frozen, and there is snow everywhere for most of winter?


What winemakers do in the off-season is … prepare the land for next year’s harvest. They are workaholics!  They have to perfect their craft.  The first step is to prune the vines, and this is major-league work. It involves separating the damaged branches and dead wood from the healthy wood by cutting the stems. At the same time, the winemaker must remove the lateral shoots but leave the strongest shoots on the vine to channel their energy into. This is manual labor that requires time and effort. There are some wineries that utilize the dead branches for composting; this permits the natural materials to be put back into the earth’s soil. Others simply dispose of the dead branches.


No stubs should be left when pruning, as this allows bugs and pests to enter the vine, resulting in permanent damage. This is a critical step that requires care because if the plant is damaged, there will be no grapes the following season.

In areas of the country where there is a high risk of snowfall or frost (such as the Pacific Northwest), the vines need to be protected from the harsh weather by using covers made of straw or soil.  This maneuver also helps arrest soil erosion that may occur due to storms and cold weather.

Wondering what winemakers do in the off season? Pruning usually starts soon after Thanksgiving and lasts until the end of March. It is vital to prune as it keeps the vines healthy and free of disease.


When does grape harvest season end in Washington? Once the work outside is done, there is more work to do in the cellar. Here the winemaker is busy with filtering, racking, and bottling red and white wines. Racking is defined as the process of moving wine from one vessel to another (e.g., barrel to barrel or barrel to tank). This allows the stabilization of the wine and, at the same time, allows the softening of tannins. The wines then undergo the process of fining and filtration. These two processes remove sediment and other obvious visible substances from the eventual beverage. Finning usually involves the addition of a fining agent to create chemical bonds in the wine, which will ultimately reduce undesirable qualities and improve the haziness. Filtering removes all the old particles, like lactic acid bacteria and dead yeast cells. 


The next step is to bottle the wines and box them for shipment or further aging. Overall, red wines tend to require more time to age compared to roses and whites.  Once the wine is boxed, it has to be marketed. For most of the winter, winemakers receive many orders from retailers and wholesalers. Some run an online store that sells wine directly to consumers. And soon, it is March again, and time for the planting of new vines.

When does grape harvest season end in Washington? The life of a winemaker is not easy. The hours are long, the work is hard, and it is an all-year-round profession, but the payoff is immense. Winemakers get immense satisfaction when consumers enjoy their wines.

The next time you visit a vineyard and admire the beauty of the land, remember that, while things may look pristine and quiet, there is a lot of work that goes on inside and outside the vineyard to make it successful. Visit our wine page to explore some of the products of our labors.

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