There is always a stack of chairs in front of the employee bathroom. It has a shower too, just, with the sort of nozzle used to power wash large pots. There is an ancient cat or ancient dog but never both. The cushion on the swiveling office chair in front of the computer will be held together with duct tape. There will be a crucifix and framed pictures of dead loved ones and a fire extinguisher. The owner’s spouse will be the only person present not wearing steel-toed shoes. And there is something that always, always needs doing.
This is every small winery in the world. I’ve visited so many of them that I could close my eyes and navigate them, first visit.
And each one is a little like visiting heaven to me.
For many small business owners, the COVID paradox is that what the virus has taken away in earning it’s repaid in lots and lots of time without customers and I’ve spent most of mine this year in muddy fields, between stainless silos and petting the ancient dogs, if only to see if they are still breathing. I’ve learned a lot, just not all of it what I had expected to learn. Being a worker- not even that, really- an apprentice worker- I’ve started to see wine, not through the eyes of a finicky, ivory-towered sommelier or as an impassioned teacher dusted in chalk, but from the industrial side of things, from pipes and rumbling machines and giant gaskets that would easily take an arm.
I’ve spent days on bottling lines, when my own fingers and arms have become brainless cogs, working seamlessly with machines until there is no difference between stainless steel and human flesh. I’ve aggravated muscles that I didn’t even know that I had, be repeating the same seemingly innocent maneuver over and over. I have perfectly parallel lines of angry red lines of cardboard cuts, but just on one finger. And ruptured blisters that never hurt more than when putting on my boots at 4:30 am.
The biggest surprise has been the conversations that I haven’t had while working. No sports, breasts or cars, the things that I had embarrassingly assumed that factory men would use to fill nervous energy with one another. Someone had a sick daughter up all night. Bills. Car problems. And countless variations on a theme, men seeking answers on why their wives have so many problems with female co-workers.
It’s not likely to surprise you then, that our first ‘on location’, cooking/wine class is actually in a winery, the one chosen for the final episode of the series that I’ve been working, episode one (the series runs in reverse order). We’re cooking right in the winery, a first for all involved.
Join us on Saturday. We’d love to show you what’s so special about this part of the world. And why its wine deserves more of your attention.