The final push

As I walked out of the cellar on a warm afternoon last week, I noticed the crush pad was quiet. It struck me as odd, because the grape crew had been working well into early evening lately. I figured it had just been a light day for grapes coming in to the winery.

Another intern who worked the shaker table was making his back to the cellar when he stopped by me and a few other colleagues.

“We’re done,” he said.

“Done with grapes for today?,” I replied.

“No, harvest is done.”

I was shocked, I had heard at least a couple more weeks of processing grapes and the rush of harvest. Instead, without any ceremony, our harvest had come to an end.

The past two weeks had been a blur. We had reached the fever pitch of harvest. Every day it was 12 hours or longer of processing grapes, pumpovers, filling barrels and dozens of other tasks. My knees and back ached every day, I was sleeping seven to eight hours a night and still felt fatigued. To suddenly see the end so close — I felt like a GI crawling out of his foxhole to hear that the allies had crossed the Rhine. I haven’t been able to keep up the journal simply because there just wasn’t enough time in the day to write. Most nights my sleepy eyes would begin to close as I finished dinner.

There’s still plenty of work left to do at the winery. Several tanks are still fermenting, and so require pumpovers twice a day. Once it’s done fermenting the red wine has to be pressed and then put down into barrels. White and red wine barrels need to be topped off and there’s lots of other small jobs as well.

But already, coworkers are asking each other what they’re going to be doing after the end of this year’s harvest. One of my fellow interns at the winery has plans to travel to the southern hemisphere — perhaps Argentina or New Zealand — and work harvest there. Our French intern is heading off to Canada and from there South America. Myself? I’m reviewing a few options but will be staying at the home base here in Napa.

It seems like just yesterday I was writing the post about reaching the midpoint of harvest. Now that the end is in sight, I’m still a little overwhelmed at the intense and variety of experiences I have enjoyed.

And there will still be plenty more uncorked moments left to come.

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