From Cubicle to Crush Pad

by Chuck Hayward

If you read enough catalogs from wine retailers and journalists, it’s likely you’ve seen articles about their visits to wineries as they explore wine regions across the globe. And while certainly an industry perk, these visits really are to the advantage of both the participant and the consumer. It’s important for the trade to get a better understanding of the wines they sell and it’s always good for the reader to enjoy a visit, even if it is only vicariously.

But it’s one thing to visit and taste. It’s altogether a different thing to take time off to actually make wine. And that’s what a few members of JJ Buckley’s wine staff are planning to do in the upcoming weeks. Not for the faint of heart, this means long days of physical labor, dragging hoses and picking at grapes. Early mornings, groggy and tired from hard work, combined with the after-effects of long nights spent tasting wine and unwinding with co-workers. Any romance about making wine disappears as bees and snakes lurk in picking bins in a cellar that reeks of smelly yeast and fermenting grapes.

But trust me – I can’t think of any place I’d rather be.

The honest, hard work and friendly atmosphere that surrounds harvest time is one of the lesser known aspects of the wine industry, something that many folks rarely get a chance to witness. During my few stints in Napa, I was impressed by the collegial atmosphere and hard work. It seemed to me that the job was more akin to plumbing and sanitation work than anything romantic or spiritual. It was also amazing to see how many small decisions are made during the course of a day, each one of which will make subtle and nuanced changes in the wine’s final outcome.

As I look about a slightly quieter work room, it seems as if almost every JJ Buckley wine specialist has worked a crush or two in the past. This year, three of our staff are off to various locations to spend two weeks doing the hard yards. Alex Fondren will be spending her time at Larkmead Vineyards in Napa while Devon Magee and Deborah Adeyanju are making the long hall to Burgundy, with Devon working in Corton at Chandon de Briailles while Deborah meets up with Ray Walker at Maison Ilan. They’ll all be checking in with stories from the harvest and some pictures of the action.

If you haven’t already, like JJ Buckley on Facebook and keep up with our worker bees as they make the wines we love to drink.