Kia Ora, New Zealand Crush
We pulled the slightly dirtier-than-when-we-left Falcon into the dirt lot by our double wide. The winemaker and our new boss, Stefan, was probably slightly surprised to see us return (alive), although we looked a bit battered, bitten by sand flies, unshowered, and slightly hungover. Your interns are back!!
We started the next day, 60 TONS of Gewurztraminer was coming in.
Excuse me? Sixteen tons? No, six-zero. Toto, we were not in California, Germany or most of the winemaking world anymore. The huge mechanical Power Rangers looking machine on wheels outside our double wide was a harvester. It pulled ten tons an hour.
The thing about a wine (or probably any other fruit) harvest, is that there are several machines that are used only for those six weeks or three months out of the year. The harvester was the machine of the year to have mechanical problems. We started the day at 8 am, preparing for the first several tons. 21 hours later we had crushed and pressed 60 tons of Gewürz.
Harvest continued at a less intense pace, as we brought in: Pinot Gris, Chardonnay, a little Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, more, and more Sauvignon Blanc, and finally, Pinot Noir. After two harvests each on California, we were used to much more handling of the fruit and must from hand harvesting and much more red wine production.
The winery was actually a conversion over from an apple processing station. The family had been on the property for several generations, and at the same time as the wine harvest, still farmed lots of apples on the orchard, very conveniently located next to our double wide. Therefore, our money went to box wine, not so much fruit, at the grocery store.
Honestly the whole six weeks…or was it four…were a blur. We worked, ate, and slept, seven days a week for that time. Everyone in the area said it was an unusually fast and furious harvest, but looking good so far. It had been a longer growing season and a later harvest. The fruit looked really healthy, no botrytis, bird or wasp damage. It was turning out to be a great vintage!
Then, in our fourth week, we had the first rain. And did it come down! The rain pounded on the warehouse roof, right above head, while measuring the fermentations on the catwalk. It was almost May, but in New Zealand, winter was approaching. The temperature was dropping and soon, harvest would be ending and it would be time to move on again. The fruit came in in increasing amounts until the winemaker announced ‘Everything’s in; let’s have a beer!’
Bob Marley on the radio, we sat inside listening reggae and the rain, planning the next steps to complete our trip around the world.