A Harvest Newbie
It’s my first Harvest here at Talley and I could not be more excited! I started as a part-time Tasting Associate in late November of 2012 and was just recently promoted to Tasting Room Assistant Manager and Event Coordinator. To say it’s been a whirlwind year for me adjusting to a new career and life here on the Central California Coast is an understatement. By now I’ve experienced every season and worked at every party and event here at Talley, waiting all the while with great anticipation for the biggest one of them all; Harvest. The exhilarating buzz of both the copious amounts of bees and staff activity around the winery and cellar right now is palpable. As I come and go from the Tasting Room each day, I find myself coming in a little early just to see what the production crew is up to as they fly past in forklifts to and from the crush pad, the fermenters and the many barrels being filled. It’s endlessly fascinating and the education I’m receiving just walking past the winery each day is priceless.
Working here at Talley also means I was lucky enough to be able to spend a day with our winemaker Eric Johnson, the Production Staff and Harvest Interns who were kind enough to show me the ins and outs of the Burgundian winemaking techniques that are practiced here at Talley. That means up and at ‘em at 4am to be here by 5am when the grapes arrive after being hand-harvested in the wee morning hours by our vineyard crews. I was then put to work in the very sticky business of grape sorting, the back-breaking task of punch downs and the clean-up process of all the equipment. I also learned about the relentless lab work of monitoring the fruit. Although I’d heard plenty of stories of what the harvest season entails from the production staff throughout the past year, it’s not until you spend a day in their rubber boots do you fully understand the truly exhaustive nature of Harvest. Sunburned faces, calloused hands and grape-splattered clothes are practically de rigueur. I was utmost impressed by the crew’s ability to complete these grueling, repetitive tasks while somehow maintaining their cool and sense of humor amidst the constant cyclone of yellow jackets surrounding their every move. Bee stings are an unfortunate part of the job and the staff think nothing of working right through the pain of the red, swollen stings, as well as a fuzzy Benadryl induced haze. Punch downs are their own form of a CrossFit workout and should be considered nothing less. That said, as arduous as breaking through some of the thick grape skin caps can be, once you do and the magenta foam comes burbling up as it releases the carbon dioxide, it’s also incredibly gratifying work. Not to mention you feel a part of the history and time-honored tradition of participating in the process of making handcrafted wine. Which is - to put it in layman’s terms - as legit as it gets. Then again I’ve only done one punch down and it took me about two hours to get through all the fermenters. Punch downs happen three times a day here. You do the math.
The next day, as I slept in until the luxurious hour of 8am with every muscle aching, I couldn’t help thinking that I’m pretty sure I don’t have what it takes to actually work a harvest. Our vineyard and harvest staff does this toil seven days a week for up to two months straight. Uff da! (as my Minnesota grandparents would say). The next time I’m sweating in the hot sun while setting up a couple of dozen tables and chairs for an event, I’ll count my blessings I have it so easy.
As Harvest continues throughout October, I find myself already looking forward to the future release of these 2013 Pinot Noir’s that I helped in some tiny aspect on their way to the bottle. It goes without saying that I’m already a big fan of Talley wines, but from now when I take a sip I’ll be thinking about how much I admire the effort and talent of the Talley staff who make it possible.