Good afternoon! I just finished a lovely long stroll around Havelock North, and now I’m pumped up on endorphins.
I really didn’t think I’d be practicing my Spanish over in New Zealand, but thanks to my Spanish cellar master Jordi (he is from Priorat – coooool!), I’ve been able to exercise those Spanish-speaking muscles a bit. He presented me with what has now become my theme phrase for harvest: mas vale prevenir que curar. It’s a Spanish proverb that means that it’s better to prevent something than to have to fix (or cure) it later. He spoke these wise words while taking a scouring pad to the inside of a tank – better to avoid any gunk getting in the wine than to have to fix it later.
This week was the craziest for me so far, which isn’t really saying anything, especially compared to Cody and the housemates, who are still going strong on 12-15 hour days, 6 or 7 days a week – but I got to begin my cellar training.
I was supercalifragilisticexpialidociously nervous, but I think my first task on Tuesday went pretty smoothly: digging out grape skins and other questionable substances from a drain.
I couldn’t help but laugh at myself, flailing around with a shovel that weighs almost as much as I do, trying to scrape every last pesky grape skin from the hidden corners of the drain. After the drain, Brian taught me how to do additions. Brian (on the left below) is another Sonoman over here for harvest, and it helped a TON to have someone who speaks American.
He and Luke (on the right above) have been overseeing my training and doing a great job teaching me how to do stuff while only slightly mocking my fear of grape-dwelling spiders and weakling muscles.
My co-workers have all been fantastic – I’ve also been bonding with a group of French self-proclaimed gypsies, who are living in their van on the winery property. Another language-practicing opportunity, but this one mostly involves significant (good-natured) laughing at my super American accent and inability to trill my r’s.
On Wednesday and Friday I got to help with the grape reception process. After picking, the grapes come on a truck to the winery. Every winery does things a little differently, but for our reds, the winemaker forklifed the bins directly into a destemming machine called the hopper. (At some wineries, the grapes will go onto a sorting table first, but at the winery I’m working at, we sort out all the leaves and any rot in the vineyard while the picking is happening.) The grapes are tipped in to the hopper, while someone rakes them in to control the speed and avoid clogging the machine.
The grapes get destemmed through this cool spiraly mechanism in the destemmer, shooting the stems out the side into a big basket and dropping the grapes into a tray beneath. Then, someone turns on a pump that brings the grapes to their next destination; in this case, a tank.
On Wednesday I was the jefe (boss 🙂 of the pump, and on Friday I did the raking. Talk about an upper bicep workout!
Even though the winery has potential for long hours (which, again, I haven’t exactly experienced yet except for one 11-hour day), working at a winery – especially one with a restaurant – has definite perks.
(I think the horse wanted to get in on the fries.)