Our Wine Ambassador, Dave Lofstrom, has been out and about at our vineyards snapping pictures of the 2013 harvest. He has gained a new appreciation for a side of the wine business he had not thought about before.
Winemakers vinify grapes, coopers build barrels, distributors sell wine, and field hands, they pick the grapes so that all of these people have jobs. Every day during harvest in California there are hundreds of men and women in the fields hand-picking grapes, making it possible for winemakers to make wine. These guys work hard. And I mean really hard. Last Monday morning I saw twelve people pick well over 14 tons of grapes in less than five hours, every single cluster picked by hand. They started early in the morning, when it was still dark, and worked tirelessly through brutal heat, until every acre of fruit was picked and loaded on to a truck headed to the winery.
Picking grapes is hard work; standing, crouching, bending and clipping grapes off the vine, lifting buckets full to the brim and carrying them to larger bins. This goes on for hours. These men and women are true professionals, giving it everything they have. They work as a team, never letting one person carry too much of the burden. Each person commits himself or herself to a role that benefits the team the most. If someone is tall, he or she helps hands tubs or buckets of grapes over to the next row. If someone is strong, he or she lifts grapes into the large bins that will be sent to the winery. If someone isn’t as strong, he or she will only pick grapes or help sort out any leaves or lesser quality clusters that might have accidentally made their way into the large bins. Everyone is committed to the task until it’s done. Then they immediately move on to the next row of grapes or next acre of land. I was amazed how quickly and efficiently acres upon acres of grapes were picked.
I cannot express the respect that I have for anyone who is out there hand-picking grapes (or any produce for that matter). These men and women are crucial to the winemaking process; they help ensure that wineries get the best grapes possible, and in the best shape possible, so that winemakers can make the best wine they can. I give my endless appreciation and thanks to these men and women who help make our industry possible. Thank you for your commitment and hard work. Truly, thank you.
My perception of wine has changed now. Every time I open a bottle of wine I will think about these men and women I met in the fields. I won’t just think about the winemaker or the cooper who made the wine barrel or the sales people who sold the wine to a store. I will think about the men and women in the fields who picked the grapes and brought the fruit in to the winery so that the winemaker could vinify the grapes and age it in a barrel (that a cooper made) so that a sales person could sell it. I will, without question, appreciate every bottle of wine that I open in a new way.
Check out more of our harvest pictures here.