I’ll come right out and say it: Of the many wine industry professions one could pursue, falconer is arguably the coolest. The name alone seems reserved for some fantastic all-knowing superhero. It’s not a character type you’re likely to run into very often, but they play an important role, especially in vineyards come late summer and early fall. In a recent Wine Industry Advisor article, Mark Stock writes: “Harvest time is a glorious stretch of fresh and vibrant wines, and agricultural camaraderie. It’s also a pensive, tension-filled time involving serious decisions about when to pick fruit and how best to ferment it. And as the grapes ripen and sugar levels rise, flying pests begin scheming up ways of feasting on your favorite vineyard block. Enter the falconer. The hero arrives in style, sporting a beautiful bird of prey on their shoulder or thickly gloved hand. The bird, often a kestrel, peregrine falcon, or some species of hawk, is highly trained. It’s released in the vineyard and it begins patrolling as it spirals above the ripening fruit, scaring away hungry birds like finches and starlings. It’s mostly a scare tactic, but the predatory birds will pick off a smaller flying snack now and again.” But with harvest on the line, some estates simply need a little extra protection from grape thieves. There are other means, such as propane cannons, reflective tape, netting, recorded bird sounds, or parading through the vineyard with a shotgun — but none is more romantic than falconry. “It’s so effective and silent,” says Nadine Lew of Soter Vineyards. “And there are no demands on my team to mess with nets or deterrents when I need everyone focused on harvest.” She adds that it’s fun for guests to witness and doesn’t come with the issues that other methods bring.
“We do love having the falconer and his falcons here,” she continues. “He knows where the birds like to hang out, knows where there might be some damage, and is really effective at flushing them off of the property.” In addition to vineyard and agricultural work, falconers also find gigs in sprawling metropolitan areas. They’re called in to scare off everything from pigeons in town squares, to gulls in dumps and recycling centers. Airports are also known to dial up their local falconer, looking to clear the runways of unwanted and potentially disastrous bird encounters. But it’s before a backdrop of vines where the birds seem most at home, chasing away harvest headaches for grateful winemakers. Here at Skolnik Industries, winemakers are grateful for our selection of stainless steel wine barrels. Note that our stainless steel wine barrels are reusable, easy to clean, and recyclable at the end of their service life. Check out the full line of our Stainless Steel Wine Drums.