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Welcome Fall with Wine Harvest Season at JM Cellars

In celebration of Washington’s wine harvest season, we sat down with the wonderful winemaker and owner of JM Cellars, John Bigelow, to learn about wine harvest season and his venture into winemaking. Just as the story of wine is deeply intertwined with the story of all human history, the story behind each winemaker and vintage is deeply intertwined with a story of community, earth, and passion — one that ends up in your glass for you to enjoy.


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It’s wine harvest season — a period when the winemaking team picks fruit and processes it into wine. The 2-month period lasts from early September to mid-October and it’s the most important time of the year for winemakers, as it dictates the season's vintage. It’s an equally exciting time for wine lovers to visit when the weather is cool, the grapes are perfectly ripe and the winery is bustling with activity.


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JM Cellars' wine making facility is located in Snohomish, but during harvest season, John gets comfortable with his truck, traveling about 850 miles total to and from to monitor the ripening of the fruit and determine the optimal time for picking. Once the grapes are ready and picked, large insulated trucks pick up the grapes from the vineyard and haul them to the winemaking facility for destemming, fermentation, and racking.

Because JM Cellars is a smaller operation that makes about 7,000 cases of wine a year, John is able to deploy old-world winemaking techniques like hand-sourcing and handpicking. Once the grapes arrive at the winemaking facility in Snohomish, interns inspect them to make sure they have the perfect clusters. The grapes are then destemmed with an old machine built in Italy, which is slow but accurate, that pulls the grape off the clusters and picks the stems away to provide beautiful, whole berries. Once destemmed, the whole berries land on sorting tables where two people stand and pick out individual grapes that are overripe or underripe. Afterward, John does the honor of personally foot stomping all of the red wines. He says, “it connects me with what I’m making and it allows me to know the density of the fruit, the smell, and [it] helps me to determine how I’m going to treat that particular fermentation.”

As you can tell from his winemaking process, John is incredibly methodical, hands-on, and authentic. For him, it’s more than just making wine — it’s about the details, the process, and the community that forms as a result.

“If I can leave you with one thing, this is about community. I didn’t really think about it when I started this, but it’s become one of the best things about winemaking...all of the other people associated with this, the other winemakers we’re all friends, we all help each other, all the customers, all the workers in the vineyards, we’re just so tight as a community in Washington state. It’s a really special place to do this and I’m living what they say, love what you do, and you never work a day in your life, and that’s how I feel.”


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John recently picked his first harvest of Sauvignon Blanc and he’s excited for this year’s vintage. In a month and a half, there will be 42 separate picks — all ready for you to enjoy. Come witness the lively harvest season at JM Cellars and sip on the fruits of their labor.

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