Today was my first official day of Harvest; the reason I came to California all those weeks ago. To say that the days leading up to this new beginning have been nothing short of joyous, rapturous occasions would be… dishonest – an injustice to my psyche and to the psyches of those around me.
I made facetious remarks about coming out here to dig for gold and tonight, burdened by the simplicity of life: on the verge of utter ruin! living a seemingly luxurious lifestyle! I find myself living out some absurdo-spectacle partly my own making but largely the manifestations of forces pushing and pulling me in many directions. What is it I am looking for? I was hoping to find it in the bottom of a barrel of wine and today… what I found was this:
Residual lees, yeasts, grapes, skins, sediment, etc. The fruits of labor, strewn about a cold and stainless steel-clad battle field. These are the suds of life. These are the bubbles of my hopes and dreams. I can see myself in them; a child’s bubbles, a suds-laden afternoon of carefree happenstance.
Here we are: Harvest.
There were no bells or whistles. I showed up to work at 8:00am. Everyone speaks Spanish. I speak English and I tell people I used to speak Italian and have been trying to speak French for years. Who cares. Remember Larry Harbison? “Who Gives a Flying F##k.” God save Larry Harbison. God save the King.
I worked hard and the reality is that the work is gratifying. I’m not just saying that because it’s one of those phrases people like to use… the temperature was 96 degrees outside, but the comforts of a cool cellar are to be reckoned with. I used to hay farm. When you farm hay, you live and breathe 96 degree days for 18 hours straight and just before you collapse from utter exhaustion, you have to drive yourself home.
I’m on the Harvest team at Alpha Omega Winery. The winemaker is Jean Hoefliger and the Assistant winemaker is Henrik Poulsen.
We sulfured some wine today. You ever pour liquid sulfur into barrels of aging Chardonnay? Me either, until today. I was climbing up barrels stacked eight high (about 35 feet in the air) galloping (it seemed) from barrel to barrel.
“Don’t worry, they won’t go anywhere,” shouted Issac, one of the other cellar workers. “They better not,” was all I could think of in reply.
My job was to stir the sulfur into the wine by using a metal cleaver-looking tool to stir, stir, stir. 100 barrels later, it was time to wash crates; the kind of crates the grape-pickers use to bring in the grapes from the fields. They look like this:
After that we made a yeast bath and poured that bath into a tank full of SB (Sauvignon Blanc) for a private client. We fed the yeasts yeast food a.k.a. “Fermaid-K” a mixture of diammonium phosphate, potassium, ammonia, carbon, etc… goodies to help the yeast go forth, prosper and be merry.
Fermaid-K looks like this:
Just kidding! But don’t you wish it did. It looks like this, really:
And finally, just when my Mexican friends and co-workers thought I was one young pup from somewhere they’ve never heard of, they tried to pull a fast one on me.
“Try one of Lalo’s candies,” said Isac.
“Yeah,” said Lalo in Spanish, “have a candy you silly girlie boy-man,” again in Spanish. (I was able to translate by recalling all my middle-school Latin. Sure did come in handy).
“I’m no dummy, gents. I wasn’t borne yesterday. I was borne the day before,” I said. I didn’t try Lalo’s candy. I had heard already from someone who warned me that these alleged “candies” have landed people in the hospital and have rendered grown men completely immobile for a 24 hour period. I’m looking forward to more. Day two, here I come…