The rows of vines that once were covered in leaves of brilliant shades of green are now spotted with orange, red or dusty brown. Mornings are much colder and foggier and the coolness persists through the weaker sunshine of the autumnal afternoons.
I have reached the mid-point of harvest and as I reflect back on the last few months, I’m amazed at the wealth of experiences I have earned in such a relatively short time.
Yes it’s been quite an adjustment from my former career in journalism to the wine industry. Do I miss newspapers? Of course. Just as I love the excitement of the long and busy days in the cellar during harvest, I loved the rush and excitement of putting out a newspaper on deadline during a crazy day. I also miss my talented and fearless colleagues in the newsroom as well as seeing the paper in print on my front porch.
However, I find some of the same satisfaction in helping to make wine as I did in putting out a paper. I have enjoyed the physical challenges of the job. Hauling hoses, digging out tanks, cleaning barrels, etc. which are all hard, demanding jobs, but it feels good to do something with your hands. On this blog I may have focused a bit on my pratfalls and miscues during this new experience, but those are the type of moments that have made me chuckle and I hope they’ve made you laugh too. This job was never anything I thought I couldn’t do, and it’s been hard, but not impossible. I’ve learned a great deal about wine and winemaking, and have had some memorable experiences.
One day in the cellar I was managing a pumpover at a tank and was just watching the wine flow from the racking valve into a bucket in a sump before getting pumped back up to the top of the tank. The wine was swirling out of the bucket in a steady flow releasing fresh aromas of fruit and spice. The cellar master Jeff happened to be walking by and said “It’s a hypnotic sight isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I said. “A fountain of wine.”
“You know, Napa during harvest is beautiful. The hot air balloons in front of the mountains in the morning.” he said. “My first harvests here I was at the crush pad in the morning and there at night. I saw some beautiful sunrises and some beautiful sunsets. You have to appreciate that.”
And there have been those signature harvest moments that have made my time at the winery such a real experience even if it may just be temporary. Sticking my hands into the warm and yielding flesh of grapes as they passed by on the conveyor or filling new oak barrels with wine and savoring the mix of wood and wine as they meet for the first time. I’m still not yet sure what the future my hold, but I do know that my life has already been enriched by just taking a moment to experience something in depth.