That time of year is fast approaching. For those of us on the operations-side of the wine business, our lives revolve around this blackout period—a three-month long hiatus from the real world—as we live, breathe, detest, and love the mania of yet another harvest season. It is an obsession. An addiction that is impossible to shake.
Social lives come to a screeching halt. Marriages become strained. No one gets adequate sleep. It’s like giving birth. Nutrition suffers, as we eat too much fast food (if we eat at all) and drink too much black coffee. You’re left trying to explain to friends and family with “normal” jobs that you can’t attend weddings, birthdays, or funerals because grapes are coming in. All in the pursuit of making great wines (or, rather, supporting our significant others in said pursuit). It is the agricultural lifestyle not necessarily unique to the wine industry, but critical to it.
Picking decisions are made at the last minute. Trucking logistics can be an unpredictable variable. Received tonnage and quality are not always in line with expectations. This time of the year demands flexibility, and creative decision making on the fly. It is both the beauty and the bane of harvest.
I consider myself lucky, because I get to work alongside my husband at the weigh station and in the cellar, instead of just writing him off for months at a time as in years past, not-so-patiently waiting for Thanksgiving to arrive so that I can re-learn his face.
We will wake at ungodly hours to check on the night picks. We will sweat alongside our colleagues. Get too much sun on our faces at times. And, at others, develop square-eye syndrome from endless data entry in the windowless cellar office. We will excite our senses through the exhaustion. Tasting the grapes, first press, and fermenting juice. I will develop a revived appreciation for my partner. His strapping arms. His untrimmed beard. His staunch commitment to the process, and not just the end product.
With every harvest I learn patience. My technical understanding improves. The visceral excitement is hard to shake. It is both anxiety-ridden and adrenaline-driven. Come Thanksgiving, when our time typically starts to become ours again, I have a restored appreciation for my relationships and my hobbies. It is an annual reminder of my values and my joys, which I actively harness the other nine months of the year—before the cycle starts again—all the while, sipping on the fruits of our labor.