I get the question “Ooo do you like working at a winery, and what’s it like?” Well of course I love my job but when people ask what it is like I think people more often than not get this romantic notion that we all just sit around drinking wine from the barrel as we gaze intensely over the vineyards at sunset. Let me be the first to tell you, it is not that. While we do end up drinking wine it takes a lot of work to get to that point and trust me there is a lot of dirty work involved, literal dirt haha.
For this post I’d thought I’d share all the dirty and hard parts of winemaking, the parts you definitely do not visualize when talking about wine. While it is hard and a bit back-breaking I do not want to scare anyone away from this. If you still think this sounds like fun or the job you’ve been missing out on you should contact us cause we want you!
All kinds of lifting goes on in the winery, all cases of wine weigh 40lb! For the fun of it I will be talking about the lifting around harvest time. Each person fills 5 gallon buckets full of whole cluster grapes, each of these buckets weigh between 20-25 lb. For this example we will say one person will fill 50 buckets, that's 1,000 lb you just picked, dropped, carried, and picked up over your head into the picking bin. Even if it was 500 lb it would be a lot for most people to move in one day. Talk about getting a great workout in! And that’s just getting the grapes into the picking bin. We then have to move all the grapes out of the picking bin basically the same way. So for some of us that's a double workout day!
Bugs, Spiders, Bees Oh my!
My number one professional recommendation for harvest and winemaking: wear gloves.
When part of your job is outside you are forced to work with all aspects of nature, that includes all the little critters. For a vineyard, that means bees and lots of them! At least once a harvest I find myself giving up on a group of clusters cause the bees got there first. While they have generally been docile, they don't like being grabbed while you are handling a grape cluster and you will end up on the receiving end of an unfriendly sting right on the finger! Bees aren’t the only little buggers making their way of life off the vineyard. The vineyard is home to all sorts of spiders including black widows, pincher bugs, ants, oh and more spiders. Also watch out for the rattlesnakes. While bugs are not the most pleasurable thing to deal with they have not stopped us yet! So do the bugs get into the wine?? Well kind of. Some are definitely still in the grape clusters when they are destemmed/crushed and do end up fermenting with grape skins. However the plus side to this is the dead bugs provide much needed nitrogen that the yeast need to have a favorable fermentation. Don't worry though, we make sure no bugs ever get into the wine itself.
Hot Hot Heat
Basically almost all grape growing regions get hot. In southern California some of our hottest days can actually happen during September and early October making for a hot harvest. Just how hot, several days will be well over 100. Phew! Dress appropriately cause you will get warm and work up a sweat. There have been so super hot days where it has just been brutal but as long as we stay hydrated we get the job done. I told you this wasn’t easy.
So extreme physical effort, lots of bugs, and all in the heat? What is the upside? The wine and beer of course.
Wine and Lots of Beer
Well after all that heavy lifting, sweating, dirt, and dust it calls for a refreshment! While wine is always acceptable sometimes a chilled beer is just what you need! “It takes a lot of beer to make great wine!” So after all that hard work there are definitely rewards afterward. For harvest its beer or wine with a hearty filling lunch! And cold beer!
If you find yourself loving a hard day's work with a rewarding ending, love the taste of your refreshing drink at the end of day, or love that shower after the dirt and grapes has been plastered to your skin, and if you love seeing your hard work literally turn into wine then this job is for you! Or just drink the wine cause that’s always fun too.