Two very different kinds of tastings

One recent afternoon the head of winemaking operations took myself and the two other interns at Starmont winery for a tasting of this harvest’s juice. It was a pleasant and informative experience as we walked through the cellar sampling various Chardonnay lots from different barrels. The best part was tasting the differences flavors imparted by the different cooperages, or barrel manufacturers. One barrel would give the same juice a heavier mouth feel and impart more “toasted” or “smoky” flavors, while another would enhance the aromatics of the juice. We completed the tasting by sampling some finished Chardonnay from older barrels. This wine will likely be bottled sometime in January.

After the tasting, it was time to get back to work. I helped out on the crush pad for a bit until we processed the last of the grapes for the day. I then had to help clean the press hoses that run from the press to fermentation tanks. After being pressed, the juice is taken via these hoses to the tanks where they will ferment. My job was to fill a “sump” or small tank near the presses with hot water and then push the water through the hoses with an air pump. The water forces out any remaining juice and cleans the line at the same time.

Once the water had passed through the line, I then had to decouple all the various lengths of hose and stack them back up on the rack. I was walking through the cellar stepping over hoses when I came to the next connection. As I bent down and undid the clamp holding the lines together I noticed some liquid started spraying out of the connection. No biggie, I thought, it’s just some water that got left in the line. I undid the clamp and was met with an explosion of white wine juice that covered my face, chest and my legs. I jumped back, bewildered by this sudden flood of juice, I tried to push the hoses back together but the force of the juice flowing out only resulted in myself receiving another deluge of juice.

“Shit,” I thought, realizing I had disconnected a hose carrying juice from one tank to another, as some of my colleagues had to run to shut down the pump, close the valves and fix my mistake. Covered in juice, I just had to hang my head in frustration. My coworkers took in stride as there was no serious loss of juice and their main concern seemed to be if I was OK.

I was, but I was still embarrassed and aware of the irony in that I was now covered in the same juice that I had been tasting earlier in the day. I savored those same “aromatics” for the rest of the afternoon as they wafted from my clothes and hair.

It was a long day, and came at the end of the week. Once I was done with work, I stopped by the store to pick up some beer and smokes. The checker, noticing that I my clothes were covered in red splotches (from red wine splashing on me earlier in the day. The white wine didn’t stain, it just left my smelly funky and sticky.) asked if I was a painter.

I said, “No I work at a winery.”

“So are you a winemaker?,” she asked.

“No, I work in the cellar.”

“Ah, that would explain the beer and cigarettes.”

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