In Spanish you can get away with saying “the cup fell midst my presence” instead of “I dropped the cup” (because I am a doofus).
While it is lovely to think that disasters happen despite us, the truth is, people are imperfect. Crush crews and winemakers are really imperfect.
Now that winter solstice has hit and we can all look back at the season as a “past vintage,” the impressive harvest disaster stories from 2014 have risen to the top. I will stay away from many fresh ones in honor of some still open wounds…
Red wine tanks are pumped into white wine tanks to make surprise rosés in large operations where the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. Fermentation bins are overfilled at destemming amid optimistic hopes that the fermentation will not take too quickly or rise too high, only to find 400 lbs of premium grapes dirtying up your cement floor the next morning. The wrong yeast is used for inoculation or the wrong bin is inoculated, or in the case of a very tired friend of mine, an empty barrel is inoculated. The stories have the common trajectory of getting more outlandish as the season progresses and as people get more exhausted.
A friend of mine- a big, young, athletic guy- had a crew member take the valve off of a 3,000 gallon tank. He had to let it gush while he found a new and clean valve and clamp, open the valve, clamp the open valve onto the tank and as it shot him in the chest, and close it. Having this kind of ingenuity makes you a very, very desired presence on the crush pad because while these occurrences don’t happen every year, when they do, it’s a lot of money down the drain, literally.
I know of guys who’ve dropped full barrels off of a forklift 15 ft high. The crash and splash are impressive. Fruit freshly loaded onto a truck bed gets freshly off loaded when you push it off from the other side because you’re loading another bin and can’t see what you are doing. I won’t divulge who or when, but there have been some “gravel-sorting-parties” in the past.
Forklifts are nothing to scoff at. I myself, in one of my finer moments, long ago, ran a 2 ton bin of merlot into a wall- yes, a wall, and created a very very large hole in that wall. Luckily for me and the merlot, the way the lip of the bin was formed, no drywall got into the bin. Really.
The gravity of the disaster seems to have little to do with the escalation of a winemaker’s reputation. I know of some very famous winemakers who’ve opened 20,000 gallon tanks only to have the entirety go down the drain. Some flip trucks fully loaded with fruit while others get caught in presses and land with broken ribs, hips and arms to boot.
There is of course, “that guy.” There is the guy who just doesn’t get it. He falls in bins while punching them down or names fermenter bins with the wrong wine. He fills a pump with cleaning fluid and wine, simultaneously. He fills a tank with no valve on it. To say “he” is unfair, it could be anyone. But you can spot these guys after about 5 days and they have to go. Every harvest, someone out there, gets “that guy.”
Luckily for us, it wasn’t Flying Trout, TERO Estates or Waters.
Happy Holidays. Ashley