Prep for first harvest internship

Hello all,

I’m going to be working a harvest for the first time this year. As my background is all on the restaurant/service side of wine, I’m wondering if there are any books or other sources anyone could recommend to provide a base of knowledge for the work I’ll be doing.


This is the place to start:
50 Useful Tips for New Harvest Interns


Where will you be working? Mary’s list and the follow up is all excellent info, but if I had looked at that before my first cellar job, I might have given up before I started. So much to worry about! Every winery is different, just as every winemaker is different. Let us know where you’ll be and we might be able to create a more specific list for you.

Good point, Ed! And though Mary’s list does look a bit intimidating at first, there are a lot of good tips in there.

Brian -
Way ahead of you. My best friend is a collegiate strength coach and is working with me to be as prepared as I can be.

Ken -
Thanks for the link!

Ed -
I’ll be working at Martinelli.

Good choice, Jared. I don’t know their staff, so I can’t say specifically what an internship is like there. Like others have said, make sure you get yourself a good pair of waterproof boots that are comfortable to wear all day, not just the long rubber boots you think of as being winery boots. I don’t know how people wear those for more than an hour at a time and walk around on concrete. And the recommendation about bringing a change of dry clothes (especially socks!) in your car is great advice. Chances are, they’ll teach you everything you need to know, and they’re not going to have you pumping wine and driving the forklift if you’re not ready. They’ll know when you’re ready.

Since you’ve already worked in restaurants and service, you’re used to being on your feet for long periods of time. That’s probably the biggest change for people who haven’t done that type of work before. Being a harvest intern is in many ways much easier than restaurant work. No customers to deal with!

No book or class can teach you how to use clamps or pumps.

Don’t stress too hard, you’ll likely love the experience.

I like those long rubber boots! I actually find mine to be very comfortable, but I know many people prefer other types of waterproof boots. Just don’t try climbing barrel stacks while wearing rubber boots - not enough grip. I found out the hard way. And definitely have spare socks since it’s guaranteed that you’ll get water down those boots now and then.

Like Nolan said, don’t stress too hard. Just get ready to bust your butt, be tired, wet, sticky, tired, and strangely happy…

You aren’t scaling Everest, but you do want to be as comfortable as possible.

You have to take care of your feet and do not skimp on boots.
-Get Pull ons- Blundstone, Redback, Rossi etc… Condition them as soon as you buy them and also mid harvest. I don’t like steel toe for my normal boots, but I like them for my rubber boots.

-Once you get boots, pay another $40-70 and buy Superfeet insoles for your already expensive boots. They are worth it.

-Keep 3-4 pairs of dry wool socks (not cotton and pass on synthetic) in your car at all times. You probably need 7-8 pair total as you will may only be able to do laundry 1x a week.

-Keep flip flops / sandals in your car for driving home or going out afterwards

If you are going to focus on any sort of conditioning, I’d actually focus on your hands more than anything. -Get a grip strengthener / hand exerciser. You are going to have tons of night where you wake up with both hands asleep, aching, and pain in your forearms. You don’t realize how much you use your hands sorting, rolling barrels, cleaning etc.

-Gloves get 2-3 pair of synthetic work gloves for barrel work or working with kegs.

-Get a headlamp (doesn’t need to be super fancy)
-Get BIG A** Hat. A wide brimmed hat will be your best buddy when on the crush pad or in the vineyard all day–You can get a cheapy or something like this You will look goofy and you will be happy.

Other stuff:
-A good 32oz+ water bottle and also a thermos. You may or may not be able to make coffee mid-day and having a big thermos of coffee is magic. Iced green tea is good to have around
-Snacks (trail mix, beef jerky, dried fruit, bars- think 3 snacks a day on busy days. If you can save and buy some by the case now, go for it.
-Have a good, pocket sized mag light
-A knife or leatherman comes in handy
-Try to steer clear of cotton- synthetic shorts and shirts keep you much more comfortable.
-Keep a toothbrush, tooth paste, and deodorant in your car.

You have tougher feet than I do, Ken! I will admit, the comfortable boots I prefer, Redbacks, are way less waterproof than the tall, thin rubber boots.

For tall rubber boots, I’m happy with my Boggs. My feet are never close to sore in those on cement all day, which they can be in my hiking boots with Superfeet inserts. If it’s warm out, they can get warmer inside. They do keep your pant legs dry. As Ken mentioned, the middle third of the sole has no thread, so it can be dangerous climbing up on things. Which I wear depends on what we’re doing.

I wear driving shoes (or similar) for driving.

go to your nearest Target / Walmart / Costco and buy 60 pairs of socks, underwear, and t-shirts (not white).

You don’t have to worry about anything after that.

So sez the man that is so busy he has no time to do laundry [rofl.gif] [cheers.gif]

spending your first day off of harvest doing laundry is not the way to spend your first day off of harvest. :slight_smile:

It’s dated, but Knowing and Making Wine by Emile Peynaud is a really good winemaking primer. I don’t know if it’s still 100% accurate, but it’s close enough for a beginner, and more importantly it’s very accessible and readable.

One thing to be really aware of is personal safety - there are lots of edged surfaces, lots of really heavy mass getting moved around that won’t care if you’re in the way, and all sorts of other industrial hazards. Be really goddamn aware of them, and do your best to respect them, because there is plenty of shit in a winery that can flat-out kill you if you don’t respect it. Two really easy ones to follow are 1) safety glasses when you might accidentally blast yourself in the eye (especially pressure washing!) and 2) love your back. There are lots of great opportunities to really jack your back up in a winery, and once it’s done, it’s done.

You don’t need to know much about making wine to be an intern. I think some winemakers prefer new interns to be blank slates, because they want them to learn the protocols used in their winery.


Excellent advice - safety is always the #1 concern no matter what you’re doing at the winery. Be aware of where you are in relation to potential hazards and be aware of where other people are too. Don’t put yourself in a position to get hurt and don’t put others in that position either.

For wetwork tall/short waterproof wellies from Bogs are great. The are so comfortable you can wear them all day. They are part neoprene though, so do run on the warm side.

I like my steel toe Oliver’s (series 55) for everyday work and the protection they provide. They are also perfect as a wedge for tilting bins/small tanks etc. They take a long time to break in though.

Congratulations on you first step in your new career as a glorified janitor! Kidding aside. We’ll be neighbors, I work for a winery up the road from where you will be working.

Martinelli seems like it would be a good place for a first harvest as they work with half a dozen varieties from many locations in the county.

At all times I keep two changes of clothes at the winery. A fresh shirt and pair of socks after lunch or cleaning the press will make life that much bearable.

Martinelli’s crush pad is outdoors but covered. In Sonoma County that could mean wet/foggy 45F to 100F+ afternoons. Always have layers and rain gear in your car/locker.

As for boots, on Georgia Boot’s website the “sale” boots are an additional 30% off. I just bought a couple pair of leather, water proof, lace-up for $75(about half off of retail). . All Sale & Discount Boots | Georgia (No affiliation)
Also waterproof hiking/backpacking boots that REI sells work pretty well.

Just don’t pumpover the syrah into the pinot and you’ll be fine. Unless that’s written on the work order :wink:

Let me know when you’re out here, we should grab a beer.