In a few months, harvest, aka “crush” begins in the northern hemisphere. The exact date depends on where a vineyard is, what the weather has been like, and what kind of elements they’re trying to coax out of the grapes (acid, tannin, sugars).
As a student, it has been impressed upon me that working several crushes is essential to becoming a professional winemaker. So in January I started contacting all manner of wineries, from hyper-local 1200 case producers to some of the mega corporate outfits who somehow churn out several million cases a year. Mostly, I was looking for places that weren’t asking for a previous harvest in their description. For some of the more attractive local opportunities, I went ahead and applied even if they did require it. Fortune favoring the bold, or so I hope.
I’ve interviewed with a few wineries, all of which have me in a holding pattern after at least moderately promising conversations with the folks in charge. My suspicion is they’re hoping someone with more experience shows up, or perhaps someone younger. I keep considering what an important choice this is for them: to winemakers, this is not just a professional gamble, but also a personal risk. Many of them are farming land that has been in the family for over 100 years- one vineyard here in Maryland has been in the proprietor’s family since before the Revolutionary War. Nearly all small and medium sized producers employ mainly relatives and in-laws and a few highly skilled vineyard workers who are, for all intents and purposes, also family. Inviting some career climbing interloper with a semester of Davis under her belt into the inner sanctum to share in this labor of love is not done lightly.
It is something I appreciate, even though it causes a little bit of heartburn in the meantime. For now, it’s lots of tasting, a few cello students, a bit of tinkering with the homebrew Chardonnay, and being seriously in the weeds in my chemistry course. And of course, waiting.