Category Archives: Harvest 2013

A day in the (harvest) life

5:00 AM wake up suddenly to grotesque pop song blaring from alarm radio. Both arms are fast asleep making it impossible to turn off radio alarm. Finally manage to swing one dead limb around to strike the radio while also knocking over full glass of water. Stub toe on ironing board on the way to shower.

5:02 AM stand half asleep under hot water in shower mindlessly whistling grotesque pop song that woke me up which now will serve as my ear-worm of the day. Cracked hands sting under falling water.

5:04 AM turn water off and realize that I may not have shampooed or used soap. Can’t remember…. too tired.

5:05 AM stare groggily at soap bar to distinguish if lather on it is from today or yesterday.

5:07 AM turn water back on and use soap and shampoo all the while whistling stupid pop song.

5:20 AM ingest first cup of coffee, feed trustworthy vineyard dog and flick light switch which illuminates pathetic gas fireplace. Spend 5 minutes watching coffee brew and making plans to install real fire place while remembering summers cutting wood with my dad. Look in the mirror and wonder why I am still growing this harvest beard…. I look like a guinea pig.

5:40 AM ingest second cup of coffee and now feeling blood coming back to dead arms. Apply lotion to cracked hands blackened by grape juice and new wine. Swat at fruit flies circling fruit bowl in kitchen, but there are actually more on me than on my fruit bowl. So give up and grab my to go cup of coffee.

5:45 AM smoking hot wife hands me home baked pastry to share with harvest crew on my way out the door. Kiss my sleeping children goodbye. Won’t see them again for 3 days.

5:46 AM sit in cold car that smells like delicious baked goods and curse myself for not having bought gasoline the day before.

5:48 AM coast into local gas station on gas fumes to fill up the winery truck. Check e-mails and call multiple vineyard managers about fruit being picked today.

6:00-6:45 AM commute to work pausing briefly on the top of Bell Road on the Chehalem Mountain to watch the sun rise behind Mt. Hood. Reflect on fun winemaker dinners I have done at Timberline Lodge and Silcox Hut and wonder what my friend Chef Jason is up to way up there on the top of the world.

6:45 AM get to work and open all of the doors of the winery to vent the building of the Carbon Dioxide gas that has built up over night because of the 50 fermenting wine tanks inside. Cough and gag a couple of times and then stand outside in the cold wishing I had another cup of coffee or at least that I was still back in bed near my family. Take one minute to breathe in and relish the smell of fermentation like a Willy Wonka candy that only comes out to the marketplace once a year, or once in a lifetime.

7:30 AM devoted harvest crew shows up and devours smoking hot wife’s home baked pastry like a pack of wolves…. but respectfully. Two large pots of coffee are brewed and punchdowns commence. Good group of guys.

7:45-8:30 AM all Pinot Noir tanks are punched down by hand or pumped over. Destemmer, grape press and sorting table are sanitized and readied for the busy day of receiving Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Get on forklift and make it down to the bottom of the driveway to unload first fruit truck and forklift dies because it is empty. Spend the next 45 seconds cursing in both English and French and potentially another demonic tongue in front of harvest crew. Then walk up hill with empty propane tank wondering why this always happens to me. Is it Monday? What day is it anyways? Go back to winery and taste first new wines and juices of the day and marvel at the potential this vintage has regardless of two large rain events.

8:45 AM spend 30 minutes furiously untangling water hoses, glycol hoses, electrical wires, air compressor hoses and eventually tangle up my brain and feel a stroke coming on from the frustration of this god forsaken act of making wine.

9:15 AM walked through the vineyard and calmed down a bit just in time to begin weighing fruit coming in from the vineyard. Answered phone calls from two other vineyards who are ready for fruit to be picked up. Took a brief moment to realize the beauty of the morning. I really do live in paradise. There is a rainbow over my good friend and neighbor Doug’s vineyard.

9:45 AM loaded first press load of Chardonnay which will take three and a half hours. Didn’t quite think today out and scheduled to pick 9 tons of Chardonnay. That will only take 20 hours of straight pressing. Damn it.

9:46 AM open refrigerator and look at vast array of cold beers that cork and oak sales friends have brought by. Contemplate the pros and cons of a cold frosty alcoholic beverage this early in the morning. What time is it anyway? Isn’t there a football game on today? Close the refrigerator and eat some banana bread instead with another cup of coffee.

10 AM begin to stack barrels onto stainless steel racks and sanitize pumps and hoses to start racking finished wines to the barrels where they will spend one year. rip open two fingers with random nails sticking out of barrels and puncture palm with frayed piece of metal sticking off of another barrel’s metal hoop. Hands will sting each time I sink them in sulfur and citric wash throughout the day. Yay oak barrels!

10:15 AM it is sunny and beautiful outside but I am wearing two fleece jackets and a wool hat because it is 48 degrees in the cellar where I am filling barrels. Each time I walk outside to monitor the fruit coming in I sweat and have to peel off two layers, then freeze when I walk back inside. Spend 2 minutes teasing trustworthy vineyard dog with flashlight. She ecstatically chases the light around the cellar floor like a butterfly.

10:30 AM introduced to distributor and his sales staff who have scheduled a visit for today but I forgot to look at my calendar. Spend next hour and a half talking and tasting and touring and teaching while chaos ensues around us. Fruit trucks are stacked up in the driveway, the garbage man is here to collect our mountain of cardboard from bottling last week and the septic company has decided this would be the ideal day on the lunar calendar to pump out our reservoir in front of 50 tasters on the tasting room patio…. It’s going to be a great day. Grotesque pop song ear-worm pops into my head again and I start to whistle.

Fruit is being picked, fruit is being sorted and fruit is being destemmed, tanks are being filled, barrels are being filled, interns are interning, calculations are being made, laboratory samples are being taken, laboratory analysis is being completed, picking dates are being scheduled, trucking is being coordinated, three different to do lists are being created and items are getting checked off one by one. Chefs are preparing lunch and dinner menus and pots are simmering, tasters are tasting, wine is selling, bees are buzzing and trustworthy vineyard dog is lying on her back in the sunshine with her tail wagging eating them out of the air as they fly by. Life is good when you’re a black lab. Hell, life is good period.

Noon. Harvest team steps off of sorting table. The roar of the machinery comes to a stop and the rock and roll that has been blaring is quieted. Ears are ringing. We walk down the hill for lunch at the house at the bottom of our property. A fruit truck arrives with 30 bins of Pinot Noir wanting to be unloaded. And re-loaded with empty bins. Argh! Like clockwork, every single day. Don’t people eat lunch?

1:00 Lunch at last. Peace and quiet and sitting down and some joking around. Turkey and mashed potatoes and gravy and root vegetables. Looks like late summer, feels like Thanksgiving. Puligny Montrachet, Morgon, Chambolle Musigny, Cornas……Harvest meals are the best!

1:45 PM Much more of the same logistical nightmare: create a huge to do list and then start checking off the tasks one by one: Rack juice, keep best lees, throw out the worst lees, now clean the drain that those worst lees clogged, rinse out tank for next press-load, oops; press is full of Pinot Noir, need to sanitize that. Sort fruit, fill tanks, connect tanks to glycol, did that tank get homogenized and labeled? Lab report came back on the 2012 wines in tank, they need a small bump of free SO2, try to do that without fruit flies getting into the wine. Who is on coffee duty? What day is it again? What do you mean there is another fruit truck in the driveway? Time to weigh and label more bins. Are the barrels being washed to take the new wines into? What do you mean the pickers walked off the job because we were sorting too much in the field? random sales person shows up trying to pitch some new line of barrels or oak alternative. The office calls wanting projections for production numbers in 2012. The bank calls wanting projection numbers for 2014. Robert Parker calls wanting a case of the 2016 futures…. just kidding… Mom calls to say she loves me but does not love my harvest beard. Whew….. take one minute to breathe and drink a big glass of water.

6:00 PM Call the crew down from the sorting table, clean up, turn off the press, pump the last bit of Chardonnay into the settling tank, grab two bottles of wine and head down to dinner. Witness a double rainbow and remember a sixth grade Biology lesson on the colors of the rainbow: ROY G. BIV (Red, Orange, Yellow, Green, Blue, Indigo, Violet.) Eat a tremendous meal.

7:00 PM begin sorting agin after another cup of coffee and potentially too much dessert. Move heavy tanks around by pallet jack, untangle more hoses, fill more barrels, unclog drains filled with grapes and seeds and stems again, swat at more fruit flies, double check lab work, turn chilling on some tanks, turn heaters on other tanks, punchdowns, pump overs, clean, clean, clean, taste juice samples from the day. Smile.

10:00 PM finish processing fruit. Begin clean up process. Pressure wash the sorting line, then pressure wash the press. put late-picked fruit into cold room, write tomorrow’s to -do list…. what day is tomorrow? Thank goodness for smart phones, tomorrow is Monday. Damn, missed the football game this weekend. Maybe I’ll see the one tomorrow. Dreamer.

11:00 PM say goodnight to harvest crew, trustworthy vineyard dog jumps into car, fill up large water bottle for long ride home, contemplate one more cup of coffee but decline in the interest of getting some sleep. Turn off lights, turn off heaters, make sure chiller is working, turn on cooling fans, untangle hoses, dump all grape skins, seeds, stems into compost pile in field, double check lids are on all tanks so fruit flies do not have spring break in a tank, turn off lights and get into winery truck. Unwillingly bring along 30+ fruit flies for the ride home Hands, hair, clothes sticky with grape juice. Tired. Very tired.

11:20 PM slap face several times and blast grotesque pop music on radio and turn air conditioning on full blast right around the town of Tigard so that I make it home to Portland awake and in one piece.

11:45 PM arrive home safely. Kiss sleeping children and sleeping beautiful wife goodnight.

12:15 AM pass out stone cold unbathed on the bed and dream restlessly about fruit flies and moving tanks around in endless circles and untangling wine hoses for four short hours and forty five minutes.

Repeat.

Posted in Harvest 2013, Josh