It begins under the open sky, overnight or at first light, with crews snipping ripe grape clusters from grapevines. While the work is laborious, the workers are in a festive mood because, after all, it’s harvest.

This is the season of bounty, when the fruits of an entire season ripen and become ready to ferment or age into wine.

I live in northwestern Santa Barbara County, where the wine grape industry thrives, and this month, September, is one of my favorites. The annual grape harvest will be well underway by the time you read these words, and will continue through around mid-November.

The earliest grapes to ripen each year are typically those famed for their natural acidity — sauvignon blanc, a varietal that hails from the Bordeaux region of southwestern France.

Sauvignon blanc thrives in the Santa Ynez Valley’s interior, specifically in the appellation known as Happy Canyon of Santa Barbara, where daytime temperatures can soar into the high 90s, and nights frequently stay warm.

Every September, I urge fellow residents to shake hands with a local grape grower or winemaker, and share a toast to Santa Barbara County’s wine industry.

Returning Oct. 12 is the Santa Barbara County Vintners’ Association annual “Celebration of Harvest” festival, which takes place at Rancho Sisquoc Winery in the Santa Maria Valley.

The festival features wine samples from the more than 100 winery members of the SBCVA, as well as small bites from many of Santa Barbara County’s top-rated restaurants and caterers. Included in the ticket price is live music, all food and wine tasting and a chance to meet and chat with winemakers as they pour wines.

Regular tickets are now $75 in advance and will be $85 at the door if the event does not sell out — but, in my experience, the event routinely sells out.

Tickets for designated drivers are $25 per person, and allow holders a choice of all food and various non-alcoholic beverages.

The always-popular Vintners’ Visa, a four-day passport to 12 special tastings at various participating wineries, is $35 per person. Check http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/vintners-visa.html to determine which member wineries participate in the Vintners’ Visa program.

Those who purchase Vintners’ Visas are required to print out the voucher and exchange it for a ticket beginning Oct. 11, at one of the following winery or tasting room locations: Costa de Oro (Santa Maria); Dierberg (Highway 246 west of Buellton); Jaffurs (Santa Barbara); Refugio Ranch (Los Olivos); or Sanford (Santa Rosa Road east of Lompoc).

Plenty of area winemakers plan special events or dinners to coincide with the four-day Celebration of Harvest weekend. Click on http://www.celebrationofharvest.com/eventschedule.html for details.

For the first time, there’s a specific link for up-to-the-minute information about the entire weekend, or for ticket purchases: http://www.celebrationofharvest.com.

Freelance writer Laurie Jervis can be reached at winecountrywriter@gmail.com. Her blog is www.centralcoastwinepress.com.

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