My first Harvest … and so it begins

Harvest, 2008! Finally, it’s here. Up to this point, I have been a bit of an intern journeyman going place to place trying to figure out where I could make sense of my transition. I began working with Ed Kurtzman at August West in San Francisco in around May helping with bottling the 2007 Graham and Rosella’s Pinot Noirs. And, the work was great. Besides thinking that my arm was broke from the repetitive motion of lifting cases and packing bottles. Ed was really helpful in answering a bunch of pedestrian questions I had, always taking time out for me. Shortly after that, I met up with Eric Buffington at Freeman Winery, where I’d be completing my internship this harvest. Eric is a funny guy, and a pleasure to work with. Totally humble, just like Ed. And, after working bottling at August West, I was ready for more work.

The day before I turned up at Freeman, I was told to dress in clothes I wasn’t worried about getting wet. Hmm, ‘just how wet can he be talking about’? I showed up in sandals and shorts thinking I’m going to do some light spraying of barrels. Nope! We have these stainless steel tanks with closed tops on them that are outside the barn with really one way in, and one way out – a two foot diameter opening at the lowest front of the roughly 8 foot high tank. Not too long after asking how someone cleans it, I’m shoving my skinny 6’5″ frame through this opening, freezing my arse in 60*, 7am weather. Sprayhose -check, TSP for cleaning – check, Citric Acid for sterilization – check, balls – scraped on the way in. Here’s some advice, don’t go in stomach side down guys, just don’t. Thing is, though, once in, it was fine. Intimate. Once you get that hot water going in there, it’s really sauna like and comfy. Different kind of work than I’d done professionally before. I knew my role coming in would be cleaning, helping, whatever was asked of me. Cool. But, getting in there, alone, it just felt like I really just started on something I have been dreaming about for so long. Much of the day went that way. Just happy to be there, feeling a part of making something that I Love. I came home, tired, and had the best sleep I’d had in quite some time.

As the weeks went by, I spent much of my time doing the same. Cleaning mainly. Dumping lees from barrels, gammajetting (powerwashing with a device that oscilates to spray the nooks and other bits), ozoning barrels (spraying water combined with O3 to prevent growths and further clean/protect), scrubbing tanks, sweeping, wiping racks, you name it. It’s really not a glamorous job. It’s good work, wet work, and honest work at it’s best. Each day, I learn something new, or practice something that others might not need to think twice about, while being seriouly necessary to making clean, sound wine.

Bottling came around at Freeman..a few times at that. We bottled 2007 Russian River, Sonoma Coast, Keefer Ranch, Akiko’s Cuvee pinot noirs, along with some Ryo-Fu Chardonnay 750ml before moving onto magnums and pinot noir rose a week later. The crews that help during these bottlings bust their backs to make the line run smooth. Men, women, both, lifting cases, checking labels. I truly respect the work ethic of these guys. Akiko Freeman was a big help as well, lifting as much as anyone, making sure bottling quality was up to par. While doing our wines, we also bottled Keefer Ranch Estate with Craig Strehlow and O’Conner Estate pinot noirs. Once you’re past the heat of the sun, and the speed of the line, it all just flat out works well. What a cool experience to do so many times in such a small period of time.

Just this last week, we began to get fruit in from some local vineyards. We pulled 3 tons for Keefer Ranch Estate with Craig, 5 tons of Thorn along with a few others. Pics are on the way! This next week, we’re due to have a lot more fruit coming in. I’ll keep everyone updated. Until then, thanks for reading.

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4 thoughts on “My first Harvest … and so it begins

  1. Sounds like a lot of hard fun. Looking forward to hearing details of the harvest. How are the yields and quality looking?

  2. Hey Dave, thanks for viewing. Been a while since we’ve shared a glass. Yields are down mostly. But, the quality is excellent! Lovely fruit this year. So far, I’ve been really into the Swan clones this year from a few different vineyards. But, each t-bin of pinot that comes in, I start falling for. Thanks again for stoppin by Dave.

  3. Ray,
    This is a fantastic story and I’m really glad you are documenting it. I’ll make sure I look you up next time I make it out west…great things happen to great people. Best of luck w/ the ’08 vintage, and many more to come.

    PS- Put your name and project title in the sub-heading of the blog so google searches pick you up!

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