which has been
since 1989, there's a lot to do. I've purposefully sought out and done
most of the jobs which producing
requires. Not as a career move. No, simply as an experience to be had,
to be immersed in, and to learn from (and about) the process. I've
worked so-called bottling lines which start with barreled
and empty bottles, and end with
in labeled, sealed bottles, all in labeled, sealed cases. Bottling
lines require a lot of (no, endless) heavy-weight
repetitive lifting motions which won't be suitable for everyone, and
which if you're not careful, will stress your body. I've done a course
a creative process which blends varietals to produce a desired taste -
in the same way as an
to produce a desired visual patina. I've served
in tasting rooms, pouring
and locals to sip and savor. There's a certain conversation that
may have said). I've learned to be in it. I'm now
a wine expert
- based on I know what
I like (that's all it takes to be
a wine expert).
I've dropped in on the fabled
wine auction in time to hear a guy offer
$450,000.00 for a 750ml bottle of Screaming
Eagle (it wasn't even the winning bid).
tours. If you come here, it's pointless choosing your itinerary based
on whether the
at each place is considered to be any good or not. Listen: here, it's
allthe good stuff.
Given what's at stake, if a
is open for business, it means it's
making good wine
ie it means it's
that people like enough to buy enough to keep the doors open. If you
want to give
tour guides an impossible task, tell them to take you to places where
wineisn't any good (I say it can't be done). I've produced and
hosted dinners where
showcase their premium products complemented by haute cuisine.
I've assembled packages to be distributed quarterly to
club" members. I've worked the phones taking reservations from people
requesting private cave tours.
There's still one thing I haven't done here: I've never worked a
harvest. I did once ask a friend of mine who owns a
and a vineyard if I could work the harvest with her (I told her she
didn't have to pay me - to the contrary, I would pay her
just for the experience) so I could add harvest to the feathers already
in my cap. She said
you can join us if you really want to. But I suggest you don't. If you
don't already have the muscles for it, it can kill you.". And I don't.
So I didn't.
Which brings me to the people who do work the harvest, the
ones who do have the muscles for it, the proud, the dignified
hard-working migrants who may show up for work with slightly dirty
clothes, yet whose hands (at least at the start of the day) are clean.
That's my metaphor for how they occur for me as people who have
how they occur for me as real people, how they occur for
me as people who epitomize "working for a living"
(what a concept ...), how they occur for me as courageous
and brave and willing to travel many, many miles in search of work to
support themselves and their families. I'm speaking about both women
and men who have worked the harvest for years starting at the break of
day, working through dusk and even later (in which case the vineyards
are lit by artificial lighting which accompanies them through the rows
of vine trellises, towed by tractors) after which they must still
allocate time to being
and home-makers. You try it!
I've never heard them complain - not once. I've always been taken with
their warm, beaming smiles whenever I've greeted them.
"¿Cómo está, señora?". "Muy bien,
¿y tú?". ("How are you, ma'am?". "Very good, and
you?"). Listen: there are very, very few resident non-migrants who
would be willing to do what they do (no, who have the guts, the
stamina, and the physical strength to do what they do) at the wages for
which they're willing to do it. It's a political hot potato in these
parts. One side says "Deport them! They take up affordable housing,
schools, and emergency room services", to which I say "Are you
kidding me? Let's be very clear about this: if it weren't
for them being here, you and I wouldn't have
the Napa Valley
as we know it, nor it's
for our enjoyment.". And that is the truth.