As I mentioned in my last post, it’s harvest time around here. And for us Willamette Valleyans, October means grapes. Yes, the Willamette Valley is a mecca for Pinot Noir, a finicky grape that grows well here, due to a long, gentle growing season. My last job was managing a tasting room, slinging this delicious juice. I worked right in the winery so in the fall, I got to see the grueling yet exciting labor of harvest and what is known in the wine industry as “crush.” But I merely observed and I always regret that I didn’t get more involved in all the activity. Since I am no longer working, this fall, I took the opportunity to get my hands dirty in a little harvest action myself.
I found a little gig at Lemelson Vineyards. I wasn’t employed as a full time “harvest intern,” a label that is usually taken by young aspiring, winemakers who travel the world to chase harvests around the hemispheres and spend long grueling days on end, up to their elbows and hips in sticky, sweet grapes. The men have beards which they won’t shave till harvest is over and their hair follows suit. They risk getting their flesh blown off by power washers, which are always running, and can go weeks without getting a day off. No, I didn’t submit myself to all this, I just spent a couple weeks helping with the sorting.
As the grapes come in from the vineyards, before they are tossed into giant stainless steel tanks to ferment, the bad stuff needs to be sorted out. The bad stuff includes moldy or unripe grapes, leaves, and stinky bugs. Nate and I plan on planting a very small vineyard on our property, so sorting was a good way for me to learn more about these grapes. Standing alongside the winemakers, I was able to ask questions and learn to recognize the good grapes from the bad.
Lemelson has an amazing, custom built facility with several levels and caverns that appear like a setting from a Batman movie. And this, below is what they call The Enterprise. Grapes are loaded up with a forklift and then proceed down a conveyer belt to be sorted through by several quick human hands, de-stemmed by machine and then fall into their tank. The Enterprise moves up and down the room to visit the different tanks and this platform is where I spent my time at Lemelson Vineyards.
And this was my view from The Enterprise looking in the opposite view as the picture above.
The picture is a little dark but I was trying to get the view out the massive wooden doors.
I had a great time, was able to throw some factuals in my noggin, and met some great people as well. I look forward to visiting Lemelson again but next time, I think I’ll be visiting the tasting room instead.