My backyard hobby vineyard occupies about 1/3 of an acre and contains 250 vines, half Chardonnay and half Pinot Noir. With a fairly normal yield of three tons per acre in my cool-climate Petaluma Gap location, I get about one ton of grapes every vintage. That makes plenty of wine for household drinking, but having only two kinds of wine (well, three if you count my saignée rosé of Pinot Noir) would be too boring. So just about every year I buy some grapes somewhere and make something else. Usually not the same thing two years in a row, though.
Over the decade-plus that I have been making wine, I have purchased grapes several different ways. Living here in Sonoma County allows good access to grapes for the home winemaker. Some purchases need planning and organization, while others may be spur of the moment deals. My first purchase, several years ago, was one with some planning. Bob Bennett, a local leader among home winemakers and past president of the Garage Enologists of North County (GENCO) grows grapes on several acres between Windsor and Healdsburg. He has a half dozen or so varieties growing there and sells home winemaker quantities of his ripe grapes by advance arrangement. I bought about 600 lbs. of his Sangiovese one year and made a delicious hectoliter-barrelfull of that wine.
At my store, The Beverage People, we also have a "store project" wine most years. We purchase some grapes from a commercial grower and share them among the staff. Everybody gets to try making wine from the same lot and we compare results the following year. We usually take between a half-ton and a full ton for those projects, so sometimes the grapes are delivered directly to the store in half-ton bins. That was the case with this year's project, a Pinot Gris grown by Balletto Vineyards. The driver pulled up in a flatbed truck and we used our little forklift to take off the two bins. We pitchforked grapes into our smaller personal bins and went home to crush and press.
Some years, the project is not so convenient. Several times, we have gone out to the Clarksburg district along the Sacramento River to source Chenin Blanc. One year, a picking crew was available and they picked directly into our 32-gallon bins. Most years, though, we show up with picking shears in hand and spend a day harvesting the grapes ourselves. The vineyards out there are mostly mechanically harvested, so they usually let us take our grapes the day before they plan a night harvest....