Depending on the topography and winds of change, wine harvest season in the Northern Hemisphere can start as early as August and last through October.
But harvest wouldn’t be possible without countless laborers who often work very hard for very little. In California, Latinos make up the bulk of this group: a combination of multigenerational U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and migrant workers. Although often overlooked or ignored, their story is being told in Harvest Season, a new documentary from two-time Emmy nominated documentary director and producer Bernardo Ruiz.
Harvesting any kind of produce has long been a thankless, grueling job, but that has only been made more difficult thanks to climate change, which has pushed numerous wineries around the world to push up their harvest seasons to salvage grapes sooner.
California’s wine country is no different in this regard—although it has taken more direct hits as of late as wildfires have wreaked havoc up and down the Golden State over the last few years. Napa and Sonoma counties, in particular, have suffered from back-to-back years of wildfires. Some wineries have made it through relatively unscathed, perhaps skipping a year of harvest, which is a significant loss—but nothing compared to other estates that were wiped out.
It is through this lens that Harvest Season shines a light on Latinx winemakers and migrant workers alike, illustrating how the wildfires have threatened the livelihoods of both small farmers and winemakers, who are also grappling with a growing labor shortage and tumultuous immigration policies.
Harvest Season debuts on PBS on Monday, May 13, both online and via local public broadcast stations. The 83-minute documentary will also be screened at a number of film festivals over the coming months.
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