Losing my Winemaking Virginity…Episode 1

Pizza and Wine Break with Domnique and Isabelle!

It’s 11:30 PM, 14.5 hours into the work day. I am kneeling in a pool of water as a barrage of Chardonnay skins, seed and stems rains down upon me from the pneumatic press above. I make a feeble attempt to keep up as I use my hands to shovel the glut of discarded grape parts into several bins. My hands are bleeding, I am soaking wet and my feet are raw and blistered. I am exhausted,  filthy, sticky and most likely smelly. Welcome to harvest…it’s going to be a wild ride.

 I’m not sure what I was expecting when I stepped off the plane at Portland International Airport, fresh-faced and eager to volunteer for my first crush. Wine is often viewed from within a pleasant bubble, wrapped in pretty packaging. consumed in the company of good friends and great food. Although I had an idea of the truth, there still lingered this idea of a winery as a magical place…like Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with booze, where fermentation fairies and grape gnomes danced and sang with monkey butlers serving Grey Goose martini’s to workers clad in tuxedos. The truth is this…to make great wine requires patience, precision, sacrifice and most of all a heap of hard work.

Despite the long hours and hard work that lay ahead of me, I was more excited than Mel Gibson at an open bar. Not only was I given an amazing opportunity to get a behind-the-scenes look at a working winery during harvest, but the winery that provided this experience just happens to be one of the top up and coming boutique wineries in Oregon…Evening Land Vineyards. Evening Land’s Oregon project (they also produce wines from California and Burgundy) crafts outstanding Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Gamay from the amazing Seven Springs vineyard. These were the first wines to really get me excited about the potential for Oregon to produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, so I was stoked for the opportunity to say the least.

As I donned my work boots and stepped through the unassuming door of the winery (it is essentially a warehouse, with only a small sign reading “Suite 101”) on a beautiful Sunday morning I was totally unprepared for what the next five days would bring…

Stay tuned for episode two to hear how I lost my winery virginity…

-Jesse

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