Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

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Brandon R
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Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#1 Post by Brandon R » July 18th, 2019, 12:44 pm

For those of us not in the business of wine production or viticulture, it's often a dream to one day make wine. I've heard more that a handful of wine enthusiasts hope aloud that, someday, they'll have enough money to "retire" from their day jobs and open a boutique winery and make and sell wine. I think it's partially the idea of turning a passion into a career that is the most fanciful part of this dream for many. Many would love to live and work amidst the beautiful vineyards, marvel at the beautiful fruit as it comes in, take in the aromas of the crushed grapes and the barrel room...etc. etc.

In contrast, I've also heard from winemakers that one should only do so if one has a LOT of money they want to throw away and if one wants to work long and hard hours for very little thanks.

My questions to winemakers (and, sure, growers and winery employees alike), what is the least sexy part of what you do? What do those dreamers not realize is part of the life of a winemaker? With what scenario would you end the following statement, "Yeah, sure, making wine is all fine and dandy right up until you have to _________..."
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#2 Post by Paul Luckin » July 18th, 2019, 12:52 pm

Cleaning.
\m/ >_< \m/

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#3 Post by Robert.A.Jr. » July 18th, 2019, 1:34 pm

“Dealing with those rich and entitled Berserkers who all bitch and demand an allocation on my closed list, and then flip half of it when I let them on.”

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#4 Post by Ken Zinns » July 18th, 2019, 2:04 pm

Paul Luckin wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 12:52 pm
Cleaning.
[winner.gif]

Except it should be
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#5 Post by William Kelley » July 18th, 2019, 2:18 pm

Paul Luckin wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 12:52 pm
Cleaning.
As someone who makes a bit of wine as well as writing about it, I warmly second this.

Though probably the least glamorous situation I ever saw in the wine world was a winery in Burgundy where the winery and neighboring house were plumbed into the same sewerage system, and that system backed up into the cellar.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#6 Post by Nola Palomar » July 18th, 2019, 2:20 pm

Ken Zinns wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:04 pm
Paul Luckin wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 12:52 pm
Cleaning.
[winner.gif]

Except it should be
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
Cleaning
And when that’s done...
More cleaning!!
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#7 Post by Matthew Brown » July 18th, 2019, 2:24 pm

William Kelley wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:18 pm
Paul Luckin wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 12:52 pm
Cleaning.
As someone who makes a bit of wine as well as writing about it, I warmly second this.

Though probably the least glamorous situation I ever saw in the wine world was a winery in Burgundy where the winery and neighboring house were plumbed into the same sewerage system, and that system backed up into the cellar.
Hardly noticed if that happened in Chinon.... [stirthepothal.gif]
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#8 Post by Ron Slye » July 18th, 2019, 2:29 pm

I have loved my wine journey for close to four decades now, and I have never had the desire to make wine. Making wine is farming -- my mom grew up on a farm. I know what that life is like. I have enormous respect for people who do it. I realized early on that liking wine does not mean that I would like to make wine. I like going out to eat at nice restaurants, but I would never want to own or work in one. I like traveling but I would not want to be a travel agent, or a tour guide. The closest I have come to any of this was working in a few retail wine/liquor places when I was younger. A great opportunity to learn about wine, taste some nice wine, and to see what the service side of life is like (both good and bad). So my hat is off to those of you who do it. No need to fear any competition from me. :-)

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#9 Post by John Peacock » July 18th, 2019, 2:34 pm

Agreed with the above comments, cleaning is least glamorous part of winemaking. You have to clean everything before you use it, use it, and then clean it when you're done. Cleaning sometimes takes as long (or longer) as the actual task your doing.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#10 Post by Mark Y » July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm

Might be a dumb question, but the OP asked the wineMAKERs..

So.... Couldn't cleaning be oursourced to minimum wage workers? or is there some highly skilled cleaning that requires a wine MAKER to do?
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#11 Post by Kris Patten » July 18th, 2019, 2:47 pm

I hated trying to punch down cap in macrobins before it has separated.....its equivalent of trying to dig a hole in cement with a shovel with your arms only.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#12 Post by Paul Luckin » July 18th, 2019, 2:48 pm

Mark Y wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm
Question.. the OP asked wineMAKERs...

Couldn't cleaning be oursourced to minimum wage workers? or is there some highly skilled cleaning that requires a wine MAKER to do?
Of the four wineMAKERS I’ve had the privilege to work with and for, each and every one of them does the “dirty work” and doesn’t pawn it off to the interns and/or cellar staff.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#13 Post by Kris Patten » July 18th, 2019, 3:05 pm

Paul Luckin wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:48 pm
Mark Y wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm
Question.. the OP asked wineMAKERs...

Couldn't cleaning be oursourced to minimum wage workers? or is there some highly skilled cleaning that requires a wine MAKER to do?
Of the four wineMAKERS I’ve had the privilege to work with and for, each and every one of them does the “dirty work” and doesn’t pawn it off to the interns and/or cellar staff.
......no one can get to your expectation of clean like you can.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#14 Post by Wes Barton » July 18th, 2019, 3:07 pm

John Peacock wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:34 pm
Cleaning sometimes takes as long (or longer) as the actual task your doing.
Where I got my first years of experience we field sorted. One guy who helped us pick for the first time went off to the restroom when we got back with the grapes. A few minutes later, he came over to help with crush, but it was done. Doh! Two hour pick, 5 minute crush, one hour cleanup.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#15 Post by Wes Barton » July 18th, 2019, 3:09 pm

Sales. Nothing can wash the stank off from having to do sales.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#16 Post by mbeckman » July 18th, 2019, 3:15 pm

Going crazy attempting to trap rodents smarter than yourself in isolated facilities. It can be a constant war. This includes gophers as well.
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#17 Post by CJ Beazley » July 18th, 2019, 3:18 pm

I thought for sure it was going to be sending out all those surveys
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#18 Post by Ian Brand » July 18th, 2019, 3:37 pm

The first three years of sales were the most demeaning experience of my life. Way worse than peeing my pants in fourth grade (I really had to go). Now the worst part is chasing down money -- not that it has a lot to do with winemaking, except you need to get paid for your boxes if you're going to make more boxes.

Cleaning is the easiest part of the process to outsource. It's not tough to teach someone to clean well, and, given my workload, our employees do it with more attention to detail than I ever could.

So I'm going with Wes on this one.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#19 Post by William Segui » July 18th, 2019, 3:54 pm

The cleaning is never ending but there can be some zen like moments. There is nothing but awful in compliance.

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#20 Post by Casey Hartlip » July 18th, 2019, 4:19 pm

Dealing with water rights reporting? When I made wine commercially and would pour at events, I really hated that last hour when the crowd got ripped and acted rude.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#21 Post by Jeremy Holmes » July 18th, 2019, 4:24 pm

As a good mate of mine likes to say 'it's the non-sexy shit that makes you money'.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#22 Post by Andy Steinman » July 18th, 2019, 4:32 pm

On Ken Pahlow's behalf: "moving stuff" (our winery is small) rivals cleaning as the least sexy part of winemaking.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#23 Post by Nola Palomar » July 18th, 2019, 4:34 pm

Paying the bills.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#24 Post by Todd Hamina » July 18th, 2019, 5:20 pm

You're only as clean as your dirtiest guy. I like cleaning, and I like moving stuff. I also enjoy a nice sales trip.
However, because we have our own old bottling line (which is awesome), we don't label at the same time. And I hate labeling.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#25 Post by Mark Y » July 18th, 2019, 7:10 pm

Paul Luckin wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:48 pm
Mark Y wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm
Question.. the OP asked wineMAKERs...

Couldn't cleaning be oursourced to minimum wage workers? or is there some highly skilled cleaning that requires a wine MAKER to do?
Of the four wineMAKERS I’ve had the privilege to work with and for, each and every one of them does the “dirty work” and doesn’t pawn it off to the interns and/or cellar staff.
Lol. MAKERS! ;)

Anyhow, my question was why not pawn it off if it’s your most hated activity?
If financially it’s not too bad to hire minimum wage help. And if they hate it.. why not do more value added work with their valuable time?
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#26 Post by Nathan Smyth » July 18th, 2019, 7:29 pm

Mark Y wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm
Couldn't cleaning be outsourced to minimum wage workers?
About 30 years ago, that's what hospital management believed - that it was cheaper to hire minimum wage employees to clean the equipment, because you could always cover up their blunders by administering antibiotics to the affected patients.

I.e. (antibiotics == inexpensive) && (skilled labor == beaucoup $$$s)

Personally I always thought they should task the med students with sterilizing the equipment, because the labor would be free and there would be an outside chance that the equipment might actually get sterilized.

Anyway, fast forward a few decades, and every surface in every hospital in the USA will, when swabbed, test positive for MRSA & VRSA & Carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae & Super-Gonorrhea & every manner of lethal creep-crawly micro-parasite which even the most talented science fiction authors are incapable of imagining.

The moral of the story being that, if you want something done right, then you gotta do it yourself.

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#27 Post by Mark Y » July 18th, 2019, 8:06 pm

Nathan Smyth wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 7:29 pm
Mark Y wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm
Couldn't cleaning be outsourced to minimum wage workers?
The moral of the story being that, if you want something done right, then you gotta do it yourself.
Then shouldn’t the Winemakers be out there harvesting all the grapes themselves? That theory just doesn’t fly.
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#28 Post by Poppy Davis » July 18th, 2019, 8:24 pm

Pulling the green jacks out of the bins as the wine is being crushed while earwigs are crawling all over you was definitely one of the least sexy jobs I've had.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#29 Post by R Roberts » July 19th, 2019, 7:58 am

Adam Lee back posted a photo a few years back when he was checking grapes for Siduri. It was something like a gas station microwaved burrito stuffed in the center console of his car at 4am, with a caption like "this is the winemaker's life". Keeping it real!

I'm not ITB, so never had to deal with the financial aspects luckily, but have made wine on/off for about 10 years. To be frank, its almost all unsexy drudgery or hard labor, paired with a few critical and potentially stressful decisions thrown in for good measure. But its also thrilling and nothing quite compares. Kinda like when you ask someone why they run a marathon or climb a mountain, you do it because you enjoy it, or you soon stop.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#30 Post by John Peacock » July 19th, 2019, 8:33 am

You can't outsource cleaning when you're so small you don't have any employees (or budget for employees).

One of the least sexy things I've had to do was rake the stems from one end of a dumpster to the other. After destemming, we would dump the stems into a dumpster, but only had access to one end of it. After a few days of this, the stems get piled up on that end, and so someone needs to jump in and rake the stems to the other end so we can dump more in. That dumpster becomes a buffet for fruit flies and yellow jackets, so after a week or two of harvest, you just hope for a breeze to clear the air a little while you're in there, and you need to hose yourself off when you get out.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#31 Post by Brandon R » July 19th, 2019, 8:35 am

Great responses so far...thanks. My parents are fruit growers in the Yakima Valley, so my job growing up was always on the farm. While I know this isn't winemaking, but it's agriculture. The least sexy part of the job was smudging. We'd have to get out of bed in the wee hours in the Spring when frost alarms started going off and head out into the bitter cold to lug around a propane tank lighting smudge pots. You had to hustle, too, because temperatures often dropped very quickly. Why did temperatures always seem to bottom out at 3:30 a.m.? The exciting times where when there was a little propane leak and, upon ignition of a pot, you were standing in a quick "pool" of ignited propane. It really put a skip into your step! That was certainly NOT a sexy part of agriculture, and it's something I'm sure many winemakers have also had to do.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#32 Post by Brandon R » July 19th, 2019, 8:36 am

Winery-specific, I also always thought cleaning the inside of fermentation tanks would be both nasty AND claustrophobic. No thanks!
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#33 Post by Brian Gilp » July 19th, 2019, 8:38 am

Maybe not the worst thing, but I am not looking forward to putting on netting in the 100 degree heat this weekend.

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#34 Post by Markus S » July 19th, 2019, 10:42 am

Mark Y wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm
So.... Couldn't cleaning be oursourced to minimum wage workers? or is there some highly skilled cleaning that requires a wine MAKER to do?
This is the whole problem of our economy: all the pencil pushers think tasks should be dumbed down to increase profits. Where is the dignity of labor?
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#35 Post by N Weis » July 19th, 2019, 11:40 am

I make everything look sexy. It's my cross to bear. ;-)

[Humility, of course, being another critical trait in winemaking]
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#36 Post by Jim Anderson » July 19th, 2019, 11:47 am

Paying bills, 401k plan set up, figuring out health insurance, filling out anything to do with OSHA and anything with the word “audit” in it.

I’ve climbed into yellow jacket swarmed dumpsters to fish out dropped pomace bins. That’s not super sexy. Cleaning out the catches in drains after lots of barrel cleaning and/or the end of harvest. Plenty of things that deal with foul smelling and/or dead varmits that are decidedly not bringing sexy back.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#37 Post by H Wallace Jr » July 20th, 2019, 7:22 am

Echoing some from Ian, Nola, and Jim--

The business side. Cleaning usually has a start and end- what is dirty becomes clean- but the business side is a never-ending, ever changing, maze of pure unsexy.
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#38 Post by Todd Hamina » July 20th, 2019, 8:03 am

I used to work at a trust company moving qualified retirement plans. The ppwk for the TTB and OLCC is much easier.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#39 Post by Vincent Fritzsche » July 20th, 2019, 9:51 am

For me it’s the compliance. We make what’s considered contraband and we need to count the bullets a lot. And then figure out how to express that in gallons.

Cleaning is great! Music on, cellar door open, views across the valley. Give me winery work anytime. You can take you “how much wine did you ship into IL this month?” The thing with compliance is - you tell them everything and then they’re pretty much always saying, fine, approved. It’s like getting your car searched, they say all looks good, and you go on your way but you’re like, really, is that necessary?
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#40 Post by Al Osterheld » July 20th, 2019, 10:05 am

Cleaning is fine. As someone said, need to turn it into a zen thing.

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#41 Post by Andrew Morris » July 20th, 2019, 11:33 pm

William Segui wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 3:54 pm
The cleaning is never ending but there can be some zen like moments. There is nothing but awful in compliance.
[winner.gif]

The reporting, tax filing etc. makes cleaning seem like a day off.

I’d put collections as #2. I kind of like the sales part, but that’s me....
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#42 Post by Todd Hamina » July 21st, 2019, 7:39 am

+1 on collections. For the first time in 20+ years I had to take two people to court in 2018. So much glamour...
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#43 Post by BenjaminL » July 22nd, 2019, 7:26 am

A load of machine harvest cabernet came in from Monterrey one harvest. As Enologist, 2 years into my career, I had to check the load. I wanted to reject it when I found a family of mice drownd in the juicy mess, but I was over-ruled. I spent every second I could pulling out dead mice before the valley bins were dumped onto the auger (and I'm absolutely positive I fished them ALL out.)
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#44 Post by David Cohen » July 22nd, 2019, 7:50 am

Ron Slye wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:29 pm
I have loved my wine journey for close to four decades now, and I have never had the desire to make wine. Making wine is farming -- my mom grew up on a farm. I know what that life is like. I have enormous respect for people who do it. I realized early on that liking wine does not mean that I would like to make wine. I like going out to eat at nice restaurants, but I would never want to own or work in one. I like traveling but I would not want to be a travel agent, or a tour guide. The closest I have come to any of this was working in a few retail wine/liquor places when I was younger. A great opportunity to learn about wine, taste some nice wine, and to see what the service side of life is like (both good and bad). So my hat is off to those of you who do it. No need to fear any competition from me. :-)
I feel the same. Love wine and love beer no need to make either. As a loose reference/analogy I used to to use the following anecdote on job interviews:

Interviewer: How did you get into computers?
Me: When I was 13 I asked my parents for catchers equipment (glove, padding, helmet) for little league baseball. I got a commodore 64 computer instead. A few days/weeks later I asked my parents for games for my new computer. They got me 2 books, 1 on how to program basic and 1 with dozens of programs written out in basic code. I learned at a very early age I wanted to work with computer but yet never do programming.
Interviewer: inevitably laughs

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#45 Post by Nola Palomar » July 22nd, 2019, 8:23 am

Todd Hamina wrote:
July 21st, 2019, 7:39 am
+1 on collections. For the first time in 20+ years I had to take two people to court in 2018. So much glamour...
Court def not sexy!

X 3 in the US for collections w negative results (filed bankruptcy).

X 1 in Spain because former farm manager both attempted raping several female workers but none had ever come forward until we fired him for smacking our enologist at the time on her ars. He protested 3 times in the tribunals lastly at the level of the autonomous government of Andalucía (think of State Supreme Court). We prevailed all three times. Never want to have to go through that again.....
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#46 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » July 22nd, 2019, 10:05 pm

Mark Y wrote:
July 18th, 2019, 2:46 pm
Might be a dumb question, but the OP asked the wineMAKERs..

So.... Couldn't cleaning be oursourced to minimum wage workers? or is there some highly skilled cleaning that requires a wine MAKER to do?
No, there isn’t anything about the cleaning that requires highly skilled labor, but when I am getting ready to use the press at harvest, I have the potential for 100% of quality in the fruit(and about $15000 in fruit cost) per load going in to press, pump, and tank.
When I am racking barrels to tank for bottling, I have worked for nearly two years on the wine. Keeping it as close to 100% of quality as I possibly could have, sweating every detail and steadfastly doing everything I can to keep a spoilable product from going south. And 10 barrels(250 cases) of a vineyard designate is $108,000 in the tank.

I am just not going to leave that to some low wage temp making $14/hour. (A temp because I don’t need that body otherwise) I may not enjoy cleaning, but I am definitely not hiring it out.
Last edited by Marcus Goodfellow on July 22nd, 2019, 10:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#47 Post by Marcus Goodfellow » July 22nd, 2019, 10:15 pm

Jim Anderson wrote:
July 19th, 2019, 11:47 am
Paying bills, 401k plan set up, figuring out health insurance, filling out anything to do with OSHA and anything with the word “audit” in it.

I’ve climbed into yellow jacket swarmed dumpsters to fish out dropped pomace bins. That’s not super sexy. Cleaning out the catches in drains after lots of barrel cleaning and/or the end of harvest. Plenty of things that deal with foul smelling and/or dead varmits that are decidedly not bringing sexy back.
Stopped up drains are high on the list, and I don’t love the paperwork but after 18 years tech sheets are also not sexy.

There’s also the reality of flying into town to do a wine dinner for 40 people in a restaurant, and finding out the Chef really couldn’t care less and handed the menu and dinner off to his 22yr old chef de cuisine who knows zero about food pairing(or that the wines are from Oregon...).
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#48 Post by Vincent Fritzsche » July 22nd, 2019, 10:42 pm

Stopped up drains is a good one. Those suck.
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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#49 Post by Jason T » July 23rd, 2019, 2:41 am

Marcus Goodfellow wrote:
July 22nd, 2019, 10:15 pm

There’s also the reality of flying into town to do a wine dinner for 40 people in a restaurant, and finding out the Chef really couldn’t care less and handed the menu and dinner off to his 22yr old chef de cuisine who knows zero about food pairing(or that the wines are from Oregon...).
That’s a thing? Depressing.
J@son Tr@ughber

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Re: Winemakers: what's the least "sexy" part of what you do?

#50 Post by Nola Palomar » July 23rd, 2019, 5:19 am

Jason T wrote:
July 23rd, 2019, 2:41 am
Marcus Goodfellow wrote:
July 22nd, 2019, 10:15 pm

There’s also the reality of flying into town to do a wine dinner for 40 people in a restaurant, and finding out the Chef really couldn’t care less and handed the menu and dinner off to his 22yr old chef de cuisine who knows zero about food pairing(or that the wines are from Oregon...).
That’s a thing? Depressing.
Yeah, this past Dec. I had a machista chef that did the most bizarre tasting, starting the evening off with my Nolados with no pairing because he was being a D.O. snob and did not want to recognise the DO Granada (told me I could not talk about my wine until the very end). Ha he didn't know me very well [swearing.gif] I talked as much as I wanted... After my wine he went on to whites, then younger Rioja's, then Cava's, the older Rioja's...bizarre. The group was completely lost and complained to the owners of which a couple of weeks later they fired him.
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