A Lesson in Wine and Weddings
One of my favorite loves is wine, especially wedding and engagement sessions at wineries. I am incredibly lucky to live in the middle of Northern California wine country where grassy hillsides and the smell of grape vines in the sun are familiar and nostalgic.
The wineries nestled in the rolling Sierra foothills and the famous Napa Valley are both easy drives. One of my all time favorite locations to find amazing wine is Apple Hill, a sprawling community of farms and wineries tucked into the hills just east of Placerville, California. Summer means we can pack our family in the car, drive out to Apple Hill, eat a delicious organic lunch and sip wine on the patio of our favorite winery.
It is not hard to see why so many of my clients want to do their romantic engagement session in the green of the vineyards, surrounded by the soft purples and greens of budding grapes. Wine and photography are not really as different as they seem. When wedding photographers are buried under album designs, releasing galleries, and back-to-back wedding weekends, the wineries of the world are dipping their toes into harvest. Crush season in northern California happens between August and October, right in the middle of wedding season. Balmy days and blue skies mean both photographers and winery staff are working overtime.
Some tips for shooting in a vineyard:
- Sunrise or sunset is always the best time to shoot to have the softest and prettiest light. For a winery session I usually choose to shoot in the early evening, that way my clients can enjoy a glass of wine in the middle of the shoot before heading back out at sunset.
- Use those vines to your advantage when shooting at a winery! The long rows of grape vines provide beautiful framing around your subject, and create an intimate space to shoot in.
- Don’t be afraid to use the vines themselves to add depth and layers in your images. By shooting from the next row over you can hide parts of their bodies behind the vines, bringing attention to their faces or embrace, and adding beautiful color in the process.
- Go crazy on the grounds! Don’t be afraid to explore the wineries and venture out of the vineyards themselves. Most wineries have lovely architecture and their own charming personalities that can be used to balance out a session.
- Ask if you can get a tour of the barrel room! A lot of wineries would love to let you take a peek in the barrel rooms, which provide awesome opportunities for photographs in the dim light. You can bring your off camera flash or raise your ISO and embrace the grain in your images.
- Have your clients bring a change of clothes to their engagement session. After spending time in the tasting room, have the couple change before heading back out for more photos! This will give your session a change of pace.
- Wineries are romantic, and I like to pose using intimacy and romance in mind. Have the couple wrap their arms around each other and dance, softly snuggle and kiss in the vines, or hold hands as they sip a glass of wine on the patio, and you will be able to show off their loving relationship.
- Don’t be afraid of color! Encourage your clients to bring clothes that will compliment the vivid greens and purples of the grape vines.
Let’s take a peek into the Boeger Winery harvest season.
According to Greg Boeger, owner of Boeger Winery, 40 years ago there were no wineries in Apple Hill. He was the original, the first, and now can rest at night knowing his innovation has created the Apple Hill Growers Association, which is filled with 60 wineries and 2500 acres of vineyard. Gary also notes that all of these wineries are small and family owned.
Fall comes and harvest begins, usually lasting between 6-8 weeks. Boeger Winery uses no machinery for picking, as it is 100% man-power. The grapes are picked and loaded into giant grape bins. The bins weigh an astounding 800 to 1000 pounds. After being stomped and pressed and squeezed, the grapes go through a fermentation process, and depending on the type of wine (red or white) grapes are then transferred into stainless steel tanks, varying from 100 to 5000 gallons. White wines relax in the stainless steel tanks for one to three months, then are bottled for consumption. Red wines are left in the stainless tanks for two weeks to three months, and are moved to barrels where they continue aging until they are bottled. Boeger Winery gets 55 gallons from a single barrel, or 23 cases of wine.
If I can get a couple to relax in front of my camera and enjoy their session, I have done my job. At the end of a long day of work, there is nothing better than coming home to a big glass of wine, a plate of dry cheese, and my family sitting around my patio. Thanks to Boeger.
Boeger Winery Harvest Facts, 2012
Boeger, Greg, “40 Years”, 2012
1709 Carson Road
Placerville, CA 95667