Thursday, September 30, 2010

The Balancing Act: Vintage and Personal Life

N.B.  We'll now plan on having a blog post up at least every Monday (Peter Bell, Winemaker), Wednesday (Kelby Russell, Intern Winemaker), and Friday (Tricia Renshaw, Assistant Winemaker) - with guest posts when we can trick people into saying they will.  Appropriately, given the title and subject of this post, it is unfortunately coming a day later then intended.

For many visitors to our winery and wine regions around the world vintage is an exciting time to visit.  Even if they do not have the chance to come up and tour the winery, there is something that tells them the harvest is on and important work is at hand.  This excitement is absolutely shared by all of us in the winery, vintage is hands-down one of the most entertaining times of the year.  What tends not to get mentioned, however, is that vintage is also the most intense time of the year.

When I first showed up at Fox Run to learn about winemaking last year the biggest surprise was the sheer amount of work that gets done during our vintage.  Even with an appropriately sized staff on hand, six days a week (minimum) of work for 10 to 16 hours a day is almost a given for somewhere around two months.  Considering how strenuous the work can be, this also means that sleep is all we can think about as soon as work is over.  Throughout the vintage we'll try to post entries and videos about the sorts of work going on and why, but taking a step back from these details the biggest question we confront is how to maintain some semblance of normal life in all the work and chaos.

To an extent, there is no way to get around the hours being worked and you have to accept that your personal life will suffer temporarily for it.  My goal during vintage is simply to not lose ground; periodic phone calls and emails to (urban) friends that wonder if I dropped off the face of the (rural) earth.  Trying to catch one dinner a week with family, even if I'm not especially garrulous after a long day.  There is no way I can exercise daily anymore, but if I get in a few runs and lifts a week, then I will at least be conditioned enough to pick up where I left off come late November.  Yes we tend to get in shape and lose weight during the vintage, regardless of how much we eat, but it is a tough hill to climb to come out of vintage in time for Thanksgiving-Christmas and not be able to run anymore.

Besides maintaining, the other thing that is frequently done is bringing some aspects of personal life into work.  Vintage meals are a classic for us; sitting down for a communal meal from our cafe with wine from our cellar to take a dinner break during a tough day.  Music and radio, already ever-present at our winery, take on even more importance for giving us new things to listen to and discuss.  For someone of my generation, where all communication begins with the internet, the lab computer becomes somewhat crucial for at least one quick visit a day.

In the end, no one would ever say that vintage isn't a blast.  Come December, however, the prospect of normal work-hours make the evenings seem like a wonderful gift - even if it is getting dark at 5:00pm.

In Glee,

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