Today I got to visit Cody at work and try my hand at winemaking.
And by “winemaking,” I mean hand-sorting.
(P.S. I’m so sorry I don’t have grape pictures. Those will come later – at the time when I was diving into the grapes, my hands were too sticky to take photos. Working hard, of course!) 🙂
It’s funny – I almost just phrased it as “we sorted a TON of grapes,” but in reality, we sorted like 20 tons. Cool, eh?
I tried to learn from my co-sorters what the process is. I know how the wine gets from the winery through the distributer (sometimes) through the retailer to the wine-drinker’s glass, but everything before that is all a cloud of post-workday husband and wife conversations.
“What did you do today, honey?”
“Well, I barreled down 2 million dollars worth of Chardonnay, racked a couple tanks, helped the guys do punch-downs, and blended a few reds.”
But my line in the winemaking process started at the sorting table. This is a picture of a *clean* sorting table (which, during the heat of the day, is a rare thing, indeed):
We stand up on the elevated platforms while a forklift master dumps a bin of grapes onto the table. The table’s conveyer belt moves, and we sorters undergo a fascinating sort of contest that involves removing all the yuckies from the grapes. This includes leaves (unless you want a particularly greeny earthiness to the wines), moldy grapes [ew], spiders (the others handled those particular cases – we encountered a black widow today. I shall never speak of it again), underripe grapes, and any other debris or gross-lookingness that gets into the fruit.
I had such a blast. I also learned how to wash out a picking bin with a power washer (after almost spraying myself in the abdomen, pointing the hose the wrong way), and learned how to do a pump-over, which lets the juice/wine move through its skins for extra extract, color, and complexity.
At the end of the day, I got to explore a little bit and take pictures, essentially stalking my husband while he and his lovely co-worker Lisa cleaned out a tank. I was so captivated; it was just the most beautiful color and it pretty much looked like we were in Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory instead of a winery:
I also explored the cat walks. Scary!
Being a harvest intern-in-law is so cool. It is just seriously SO fascinating to see what happens between the vineyards and the bottle – for a while, before we move out here, I thought Cody was going to be picking grapes. I seriously did. But in reality, it’s a sort of factory-meets-epic-adventure sort of job. With lots of wine enjoyment when the day comes to an end 🙂