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seasons_mag_autumn_2017

We are a weekly newspaper serving the communities of Exeter, Lindsay, and Woodlake California.

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we also have grapes that are selectively used in high- er value bottles." Nearly all of the wine grape crop in California is harvested between the end of July and Halloween, a narrow window that is made easier through the use of mechanical harvesting. Shannon said nearly all of his family's grape wines are harvested and pruned mechanically as the farm labor situation in California continues to be unpredictable and unreliable. Grapes, in general, are somewhat pest and disease resistant as well. A decade before the Asian citrus psyl- lid began spreading the fatal citrus disease Huanlong- bing in California, farmers in Tulare County and the state were consumed with the glassy winged sharp- shooter. e miniscule pest carried and infected grape vines with Pierce's disease, which clogs the plant's water conductive tissue, choking off the movement of water and nutrients from the roots and leaves. Today, Shannon said grape growers are more concerned with staying on top of another pest, the vine mealybug, which excretes a substance that causes mold and other issues, as well as red blotch, a fungal disease that can reduce sugar level and sweetness of the grape. "e sharpshooter is not as big of a concern as it once was thanks to spray programs designed to eradicate the pest," Shannon said. "e wine grape industry has been very proactive in identifying and preventing these threats." But wine grape growing is not all glass toasts and bottle tilts. Shannon said all wine grape acreage is under contract with a winery. He said most contracts last between 13 to 15 years and growers usually have a goal of getting about 25 to 30 years of highly produc- tive years out of a vineyard. e issue is each vineyard's capacity for making wine. Most wineries can only produce a certain amount of bottles at a time, which means they can only accept a certain volume of grapes on any given day. is puts pressure on the growers to only harvest what is requested each day, instead of har- vesting all of their acreage in a few weeks. Most grape harvesting is also done in the evening when sugar con- tent is higher in the still warm but milder fall days. "We rely on varieties with a high yield so that we can make money on the volume, or total tonnage," he said. e highest yielding wine grapes for the Shan- nons are the muscat and French colombard. "But we have to harvest when and how much the winery wants on a given night." JR still farms with his grandfather, father and brothers and is grooming one, if not all, of his four children — twins Cash and Kingston, 6; Shiloh, 4; and Kherington, 2 — to follow in the family footsteps of grapes made to crush. So next time you pop the cork on a Napa wine, you might just get a little taste of home. Left: Grapes are harvested between the end of July and October in the evenings when the sugar content is higher, a requirement of the wineries. Above: e Shannon family's SK Ranch farms 5,000 acres of grapes in Tulare County including the cabernet sauvignon, muscat, pinot grigio and French Colombard varieties. Below: JR Shannon is a fourth generation farmer in Visalia and hopes that at least two of his children, 6-year-old twins Cash and Kingston, will follow in his footsteps through the vineyards. A U T U M N 2 017 S E A S O N S M A G A Z I N E 15

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