Monday, 14 October 2013 | 8 comments


Last week, the sunsets beggared description. The daylight always dwindles just as Ben’s workdays become long. They picked, sorted, crushed, and pitched 16 tons of grapes last week, which is a lot for a 5,000-cases-per-year operation, but a pittance for someone more Napa-ish. The difference, of course, is that Ben, the winemaker, and the small crew put their hands on all of it.

I see the sunsets from the car, when I’ll head over and jump in at the sorting table. The Oaxacan crew puts up with me because my Spanish is decent. There’s no shortage of romantic commentary about the wine harvest, but being surrounded by the Mexican crew—whose faces are not usually associated with winemaking—reminds you that it’s real work, long hours of manual labor, on your feet with your hands stuck in chilly, sticky crushed grapes. For me, it’s a change of pace, but they’re going on two weeks with no day off yet.

But still, there’s something about the team effort of harvest–showing up at dawn, staying until late, a round of beers after clean-up—that just feels really good. I guess you’d call it esprit de corps. Ben and I have such very different day jobs that it’s impossible not to compare: this is what’s missing for those of us in an office. An orienting point; the cycle of a year all geared toward the same big push before a quiet winter. I get something similar to this from the garden and from cooking, but it’s not the same.

The creases of Ben’s palms are stained red-violet. I have three plane tickets in my name before the year ends and the holidays are looming. But for now, all I need to do is pick up his hand for a reminder of how grounded we can be in what we reap today.

P.S. Tell me you didn’t read the title of this post and think of this song. It’s been in my head the entire time I’ve been writing it. HELP. 1998, you must have had something good about you, but that song was not it.


§ 8 responses to Crush

  • Two interesting perspectives on this work, Sarah. It would be good if it were less often the case that it had to be one or the other. (Thinking about the crew, I’m reminded of people of my and Octavian’s parents’ generation, who lived under regimes with various ideas about agrarian utopia and land reform. Picking apples, working in the fields, will never have any charm for them now, since it was just what they had to do. This saddens me, but you can hardly blame them.)

  • I was so happy to see this post. A lot of the other blogs I read haven’t mentioned the grape season yet, it seems a lot of people skipped onto apple season already. I grew up near grape valleys (Concord Grape Pie mmm) and now that I live deeply entrenched in a food desert city, I miss the satisfaction from group effort harvesting in orchards. Beautifully written and visioned, this post brought back lots of nostalgia for me. Thanks.

  • Anything to cause people to reflect on their glass, some distant evening from a previous vintage, is really important. All of the hands that touch and encourage wine into it’s being, from planting, pruning, managing all of the variants that make or break a year’s worth of nature-plus-people working it out together to raise the collective awareness of that magical communion is important. What you have written here is important.

  • Margot Van Schaick

    There’s a wonderful connectedness to the cycle of the growing season, culminating in the immediacy of the moment of harvest. And, what can be more satisfying than creating wine? I love your description of the violet-red creases in Ben’s palms– that’s a poignant recognition of how much he becomes an integral part of the whole process. And I think it is that which makes this kind of work so truly meaningful. Yes, gardening is perhaps the closest we can get–food gardening, especially if our own food security is involved. I love the entire process, from dreaming and planning to all the work of planting, nurturing, harvesting, enjoying preparing nourishing meals and preserving food for the Winter. I would think that your field work, often involving travel to diverse cultures, has some similar attributes. Sarah, I hope so.

  • Its just, a little crush, da da da da , every time we touch…..!

    Come on on that’s some classic tuneidge!

  • annie

    Here’s a different (better) version of that song by The Dismemberment Plan


  • That song never does anyone any wrong!
    Love your blog, instant follower

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