Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Self-imposed Obligatory New Year Post

So I haven't updated this for almost two months, which is a pretty good length of time in my opinion. There are several reasons (or excuses for) why I haven't been writing, but the fact of the matter is I just haven't taken the time to do so. I started this blog to document about my foray into the wine industry and ended up using it both for that and to help myself process my internal state (and lessons learned) while working. I've felt at a bit of a loss in some ways with what to write about since I'm not staying in that industry and feel as though my life has gotten much more... normal. That's a separate topic, as usual, but I figured I'd start with this.

Anyways, self-imposed obligatory new year post. I don't really know what I'm writing about since I feel like a lot has already been said. Resolutions are made, well wishes given, fireworks blown up, alcoholic beverages consumed, and hopes sent forth to the Universe Internet. The transition has always been something I've marked internally, usually through resolutions or something of the sort, and I enjoy having an event by which I can organize my life. I mean, what's more obvious than a change in the calendar?

This New Year's feels a little different to me though, my goals aren't so abstract or grandiose. In fact, I don't even feel like I need to write resolutions in order to organize my life and priorities in the upcoming year. It's not good or bad, but I have taken note of the change in my attitude. It's not for lack of excitement, anxiety about the future, or being "over" making resolutions about not picking at my nails (the struggle is real). Rather, I think it's because so much has changed over the past 12 months that I need to pause and look at where I came from in order to get an idea of where I am now.

 "2013 better be good because 2+0+1=3," was my Facebook status ushering in the year, an attempt to be clever on the curated online editorial of my life known as Timeline. Or something. In my "year in review" on Facebook my biggest moments included "moving cross-country to chase a dream" and realizing that, as an adult, no one can tell me not to buy a cow, so thank you Facebook for showing me what really mattered this year.

All jokes aside, it was a good year, quite amazing really, but also very challenging and trying. One of the biggest lessons I've learned is that growth and change require sacrifice, you must give up the old to grow into the new. For me in many ways it was quite literal, I was engaged to a good man that I cared deeply about and ended the relationship, gave up a monetarily stable job for a seasonal position, and moved cross-country to pursue a dream, leaving behind friends, family, and a known life. I gave up my old self. I had to sacrifice my hopes, dreams, pride, intellect, who I thought I was, who I thought I wanted to be, pretty much everything "known" about myself. I stepped into a space where the only clear thing about the future was that it was unclear.

To sum it up with Pinterest wisdom, first you feel like dying, then you feel reborn. All the pain, fear, anxiety, tears, frustration, and discomfort I've experienced through this year has brought me to a place where I genuinely like myself and am excited for the future, and that is worth everything I went through.

So happy New Year everyone, welcome to 2014. I wish you all a _____ New Year! (Don't fill that blank in with "good" unless you're open to everything being topsy turvy. Just my advice.)

Oh, and I have a resolution too, to not write essays bi-monthly. Instead I'll go for shorter things written more often. I mean, I'm unemployed for the time being, so I'll have lots of spare time on my hands.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Changes, Changes Everywhere!

Hello beautiful people. This blog will be quick because my life is getting a little topsy-turvy now, but I wanted to write something regardless.

Harvest ended last Wednesday (10/30) when we got the last of the fruit in, as seen below. Overall, 730 tons of grapes came through the facility, which is a lot for Walla Walla. I may have helped sort approximately 12 of those tons, but no matter. I avoided the sorting table like nothing else due to its being repetitious, mundane, and unfriendly to my back. I was quite successful too, I might add.

The last 5 bins of grapes to be sorted for this year.

Things are definitely winding down at work and half the cellar interns are now gone. It's much quieter, less frantic, cold (temperature-wise), and kind of sad. Harvest took over my life (well, everyone's), especially since it's what I moved here to do, and it's jarring for it to suddenly be empty. There's still work to be done though, particularly pressing, barrel downs, all the cleaning you could imagine, and pump overs. There's also topping, filling kegs, racking, and more cleaning.

This infernal creature is known as the Waukesha. I don't care what its actual name is (Waukesha is the brand), but this beast weighs 680 lbs and usually has a long pump over list. We have a hate/hate/like/hate/love relationship. It's complicated.

 I etched a Waukesha into a pumpkin. Marissa, one of my coworkers, etched the #sumpkin to go along with the #sumplife we live.

The big question with work ending is, what next? I couldn't think about it until recently as my entire existence revolved around harvest (a state of being I've learned I find overwhelming and entirely unpleasant) and it's anxiety-producing to say the least. Needless to say, I've decided I'm moving to Seattle! I'm excited to spend time in the Emerald City and Pacific Northwest as it really is beautiful out here. What am I going to do in Seattle? Be awesome. Really. To steal words of wisdom from a kindergartner my mom recently met, one, I'm feisty, and two, I've got nothin'.

Really, it's a leap of faith. But then again, wasn't this whole experience? I'll elaborate in later posts (I've got a backlog of things I want to write about!), but I'm becoming more flexible with myself. I'll always be an adventurer, though it will hopefully not always be as literal (and wild) as this particular shot-in-the-dark was. I don't want to make wine, that dream is no longer mine, but I chased it. I've grown and learned so much, made new friends, and have an amazing story to tell about the time I ran away to work a harvest. It's been an honor and a privilege not only to have this experience, but to be able to share parts of it with you all.

The job isn't over for a couple more weeks, and I'll still be seeing my friends here, but in my current transitional state, it felt like a good time to begin saying goodbye. Change is difficult for me, so I've already started preparing. Or bracing myself for the transition that's barreling towards me, both are accurate. I'll continue this blog, of course, and there will be more updates about wine, but for now, here's where I'm at. Onwards and upwards.

sorting - when grapes come in to be processed they are sometimes sorted to pick out bad grapes, unwanted clusters, leaves, bugs, dead mice, sandwiches, and anything that doesn't belong in a bin of grapes.

Check out that hot body tutu I wore to work on Halloween. 

Finally had the experience of climbing inside a tank to dig out the grapes. These are Nebbiolo and Barbera, two Italian grapes.

 The view from a client's tasting room. When I first arrived I thought the area was brown and ugly, but it's grown on me and really is beautiful.

I went poking around the rest of the warehouse and successfully found how to get on the roof. I also stumbled across this surreal and creepy scene. It honestly felt like I was in The Matrix or something.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Running Girl

I hope everyone reading this has been enjoying the fabulous month of October. The leaves here in Washington have changed and are gorgeous, it's chilly, and harvest has kicked my ass. I'm enjoying the overtime, don't get me wrong, but I don't like when things take over my life, whether it's work, school, a significant other, a sport, whatever. I don't have a good track record with all-encompassing things. Anyways, there isn't much new to report about my job. I learned how to top barrels and have decided it's my new favorite thing to do at work because I work alone, work where it's not loud, and get some alone time. As much as I love being around people, I reach a point where I really need some space. This results in me hiding from other people at work by cleaning, finding tasks in secluded places, or hiding at the top of the tanks during pump overs. I work best when there's a mix of working with others and independently, though I'm exhausted now and erring towards the side of working solo when I can so I have some space.

So yes, work took over my life more than it already had, and I'm kind of done with it. It's bittersweet though when I stop and think because it'll be over before I know it. There's a strong possibility I'll never see most, if not all, of these people again, and I really enjoy most of my coworkers. They're a hilarious, spirited, goofy group of individuals, and I'm glad to be part of the crew. Usually.

On to things I find more interesting, at least in my biased opinion, the title of this entry. One of my nicknames as a kid was Running Girl, courtesy of my father. It was quite literal as I was always running, whether it was around the outside of the house before getting in the car to go anywhere (this also brought about another of my his nickname's for me, Sydney One-More-Time Kranz), at the playground, or while in motion from Point A to Point B. The running stopped eventually due to societal expectations, puberty's effects on my body, and developing exercise-induced asthma, but I am fond of the name.

Anyways, I had written an entry last week but decided against posting it because my frame of reference changed as I wrote it, and by the time I would have had it finished, my mind was in a different place. The impending and unknown end of harvest really has brought a lot of anxiety into my life. I am super particular with my schedule and really don't like surprises. I tend to be more spontaneous, enjoy variety, and avoid boredom like it's the plague, but I don't enjoy having my schedule or routine toyed with when it's outside my control. I've always been this way, and I'm accepting it as a quirk of mine, but I am pretty stressed out by all the uncertainty, even though it's probably not a big deal in the grand scheme of my life. Part of what I don't like about it is what I mentioned above, I will miss a lot of the people I work with, people I spend most of my waking hours with, people I've gotten to know, people I really enjoy. I do seek solitude at work because the noise gets overwhelming and I need space to breath, think, and exist, but I've caught myself trying to detach, to cut off relationships, to run.

I was always running as a child, but I also know I have a tendency to withdraw and try to cut my losses when I know something will end, when I know I'll miss something. It's not often my primary motivation, just as my seeking quiet at work is not primarily to avoid people, but it is a tendency of mine I've become aware of, acquainted with if you will. There are so many places it could have gotten started, whether it's a coping mechanism from moving, a result of my attaching to people too much, or just what normal people do when they're with other people they like. I'm not concerned about why it happens, where it came from, because that is a question that may never be answered and, quite frankly, may be pointless to explore, but it's still worth writing about.

The self-identified issue is fairly straightforward, potentially obvious, but is nonetheless interesting to see where it intersects with other paradigms of mine. I do withdraw to try an minimize the impact things have on me, especially when I can see them coming, and part of that is because I'm trying to minimize the discomfort, the disappointment, loss, change. There's a fundamental level at which I hate, hate, hate change. Hate it. But I always seek it out anyways. Change is the only constant, right?

I took a walk today at Whitman College to see the leaves and was reminded of how much I love the fall, the change, the leaves, the nip in the air, the pause, the slowing down, the tilt towards reflection. I had to laugh today when I realized, yet again, this season I adore is essentially nature dying, going into hibernation, being dormant, whatever. It's an end, just like I'll experience with harvest sometime within the next six weeks. What I can see externally that isn't as clear internally is that it's cyclical; autumn comes and moves into winter, winter moves into spring and life is new, reborn. Just like what will happen in my internal world. There is loss, there are things to be mourned, but it won't be a perpetual state of winter, of dormancy. This isn't to diminish that there are people I'll miss, things I'll miss, but more a reminder that things truly aren't permanent. Much like the change in seasons, there's an ebb and flow, and stagnancy kills quickly. Change is most terrifying when you're on the precipice looking forward, when you're about to jump (or be pushed) into it, when it's a leap to something you can't anticipate, control, or know.

Editor's note: I had the entire thing written and the end was awesome, but my computer I effed up, and I lost all of what I'd written from this point below. Change. Ha. Life has a terrible sense of humor. I reach a state of flow when I'm writing, and with this interruption I lost not only the flow state, but I also can't remember what I wrote. What is below is me rolling with this hiccup. I did throw my laptop on the floor though after cussing a lot.

Thing with change is that I approach it with rigidity. It's either/or, it's black and white, it's all or nothing. That's really not life, at least not what I want mine to be. Like fall, it's an ending, but perpetual winter won't follow. When I try to control life, run from change, detach from the present, I let fear, insecurity, and doubt control me. I relinquish a part of my soul in an attempt at perceived safety, imagined stability. When I withdraw in self-protection I gain a false security, and this idol I serve has done nothing for me.

As a child I always disliked change and transitions. Some of it is innate, some of it is a reaction. The coping mechanisms I developed were fine for when I was a sensitive child with transitions that were completely out of my control. The coping mechanisms I developed were fine when I was an adolescent just trying to keep my head above water. They coping mechanisms I developed were even fine until recently because I was afraid, fearful of the unknown, paralyzed in a shell of inaction and waiting. But this is no longer what I want. I have the soul of a wanderer and, to steal a friend's quote, "worship the bitch-goddess called Adventure." Change is the constant companion of adventure, of seeking, of looking, of thinking. Change is a constant in this world, this life, your life, my life.

As I move into a place where I am not controlled as much by fear and doubt, the precipice I stand on becomes less intimidating. It's not as high, the bottom isn't as far, the water isn't as deep. Life is ephemeral, beautiful, painful, and always in motion. We're along for the ride, and it's up to us to figure out what that looks like and what we want.

I'll always be Running Girl, but instead of Running from, I hope to run toward. There's a lot of change out there, a whole lot of life to live, and I want to be there for the party.

topping barrels - topping off barrels with more wine. Wine evaporates while it ages in barrels, so you add more periodically. The evaporated portion is known as the angel's share, and I think this explains why so many people's guardian angels seem to be drunk sometimes.

The inside of a tank before it's dug out. The grapes are dug out and then pressed to extract more juice.

Another barrel down. I waited over two hours for an air pump and got really frustrated. The cups on the barrels contain yeast hulls, which I believe are to feed the yeast that's already in the wine. As you can see, I am super interested in the process. Not really, I'd rather think about brains.

A sump and screen. When I say sump life I'm referring to these cantankerous contraptions. Well, really it's the tank that causes issues, and I seriously question whose idea it was to make tanks without screens.

I walked around Whitman College and it was quite lovely to be out in the sun with the rest of humanity. Also, it's a treat at this point for me to dress in my usual clothes, wear jewelry, and feel like a normal female. My work clothes pretty much say that I've given up on how I look.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hope is for Fools

I would like to take this moment to let everyone know that I'm still alive. That being said, the past couple days were really rough, and I was pretty much a zombie for a good chunk of the day. A crying, exhausted, angry zombie. I was given two PM shifts instead of AM shifts, and let me tell you that my internal clock was not down with that. Mentally I was cognizant, but physically I couldn't keep my eyes open. My body is still not happy, but it's my day off. Hallelujah. Other than that, work has been pretty much the same. I learned how to program Merlin, the Willmes press, which was interesting, and I've started climbing around on the tops of the tanks.

Brief tangent before I write about anything useful, can I just tell you all how much I love climbing things? Seriously, I think climbing around on things is one of my all-time favorite activities. I don't know if I'm necessarily good at it, but I really love it. There's something about having to coordinate your movement, weight distribution, senses, and place in space that I just find amazing. Supposedly I have (or had) some issues with proprioception (sense of where your body is in space), which is probably true since I walk into things often enough, but my equilibrioception (sense of balance) is pretty good. It's so easy to get into a flow state when I'm jumping around, balancing, and just moving that way. Oh, and although I love climbing things, I haven't done much climbing on the socioeconomic or social ladders. Ha.

Okay, nerdy moment aside, the past couple days were really rough. My body was disrupted to the point that my mind was also a mess, and I had a slight breakdown. Surprisingly, I'm not thrilled, but I will say it is good to be off autopilot, at least for the time being. And by good I don't mean fun, let's make that distinction now.

I moved here to work in the wine industry. It was a dream of mine to try it, and I thought that it could very well be a direction my life would take. I would learn the trade, live in or near the mountains, get a dog, and be a catalyst in the transformation of grapes into the liquid of the gods. Well, something like that. I considered other jobs in the industry but pretty much set my heart on going and making wine. I was going to test out to see if this was the path for me, but internally I was already banking on it being that way. I would have a path laid out for me, more or less, I would have more control over my life, a plan, a structure, something concrete to orient towards.

Something I learned earlier this year is that it's dangerous to hope. Hope sounds cute and fluffy, kind of like a wish, but in reality I've found it to be a risky gamble. You put yourself on the line, quite literally, and when you lose, you could lose big. It's kind of like with the phoenix, you die but then are reborn. The process ranges from mildly irritating to soul-tearing painful, at least for me, but it's always cyclical, never linear. You learn to live in a liminal space where you have hope in one hand and despair in the other, a perfect storm if you will. With the destruction though comes a chance to rebuild, reassemble, and create. Sometimes I think that this is like a maelstrom where creativity is born, a place of duality, paradoxes, and just enough madness to keep things interesting.

There may not be a point to this post, and I'm okay with that. Essentially, I've had to come to the realization that I may not pursue winemaking as a career. In the grand scheme of things it's a blip on my radar, really, but in this micromoment I'm upset that, once again, something I hoped for isn't as expected.

Or is it? Maybe I'm using hope as an end in and of itself, rather than a means to an end. I relied heavily on hope to get me through a severe depression, and while it kept me going, it may be that it's been more of a coping mechanism than an extension of myself. Maybe hope isn't meant to be something concrete, something nicely packaged in mental patterns and paradigms, fuel to be used. Maybe it's meant to be something wild, untamed, unfettered, powerful. It's a force in and of itself, and perhaps I need to change my relationship with it. Instead of using hope, whatever the reason, is there is the possibility that I could allow hope to be a natural extension of myself, allow hope to be and try to jump on board?

I guess, at the end of the day, I want to learn to be alive in the space where hope lives, where it thrives, and learn to let hope sustain me on its own rather than use it for my own purposes. I don't want to keep looking for concrete things, stability, certainty, control, whatever my whims or human flaws lead me to. I don't want to keep being disappointed, to keep running into brick walls and having to relearn the same lessons time and time again. I don't want to hope only to redefine my dreams constantly.

Perhaps I'll try something new. I'll hope to be as human as I can be, to be here in the present, to live fully. Oh, and to stop trying to define and categorize everything. Maybe.

So, no new definitions for anything. I do have a correction though, last entry I said punch downs help aid with fermentation. That's not necessarily the case, sometimes you will do punch downs on fermenting grapes, but its actual purpose is to keep the cap/skins/grapes in contact with the wine. Pump-overs serve the same purpose but in a different format. You keep the cap in contact with the wine for several reasons including color extraction, tannin extraction, and to reduce the chance of bacterial growth on the cap.

Cleaning inside a portable tank. I was happy about jumping inside a large metal box, not the cleaning (even though I'm a woman).

Punch down in a barrel.

This is why I love the fall.

A hike from two weeks ago. I was tired of being in the valley, so I just went up the side of the mountain. I do what I want.

I left my pants at work on Sunday night and am exceedingly amused by this.

Monday, October 7, 2013

My Inner Five Year Old

First things first, I don't really enjoy writing sitting very much, so while I will attempt to update this more frequently, I promise nothing. That being said, I have a lot of ideas for what to put in here, so it's just a matter of drinking enough caffeine to be able to concentrate. Doable, right?

A little about my job before writing about fun stuff, work has picked up. I hold down the 6am shift without coffee (Sidenote: There's this abundant energy source I tap into, sort of like the Fountain of Youth; sometimes society calls it ADHD.) and am becoming a master of pump overs with sumps, barrel downs, punch downs, and cleaning. Some days are pretty routine and it does get boring, but there are plenty of opportunities to create some fun or learn something new. Also, Tetris. Winemaking is pretty much sanitizing and playing Tetris (or Rush Hour) with the barrels/hoses/bins/tanks/people/everything. It can be entertaining, confusing, and/or frustrating depending on where I am in the equation, but for the most part it's not an issue.

The title of this entry harkens to my spirit guide and inner badass: Sydney in Kindergarten and First Grade. There are many stories, but my personal favorite is one my teacher told my mom about my first day of kindergarten. Apparently before class began I grabbed my backpack, walked up to my teacher, and said, "This is not for me." After dropping the mic I strolled over to the door and tried to leave school. There are other stories, but essentially they all point in a similar direction: awesome feisty, vivacious, witty, and courageous. I had the honey badger as my spirit animal (note: there is a lot of cursing in the video) and was ready to take on the world.

Or so I thought.

Funny thing about life is that your greatest strengths and joys can easily become your worst enemies, the aspects of yourself that you loathe and struggle with for years to come. For me, my spirit was my shame. I was too loud, too obnoxious, too crazy, too much. It's a story about how I got there, but I will say the school system (and many people in it) were not kind to the rambunctious girl who came in ready to take on the world. I tried to be "good" according to others' standards, to fit in, to be just a little more "feminine," more socially acceptable. Spoiler alert: I wasn't very good at it. But I tried, oh did I try. I hated myself, and in the funny way life works, the more I hated myself, the more out-of-control I felt and behaved. It wasn't really me, but a caricature of my spirit that, although never dead, was warped. I was always ambivalent, never trusting myself, and tried hard to straddle the line between being myself and doing what was "right." It worked for awhile, of course, but these things always seem to have a way of falling apart.

While the larger-scale changes were set in motion earlier this year, my work environment is conducive to stretching out my ego-bubble and trying on this new old hat. The fit is a bit small and needs to be adjusted to fit my current place in life (it's not socially acceptable to kick people, for example), but I'm thankful to have the chance to find a new way to be the way I was. I'm in situations where I can run shit lead and enjoy it, practice saying "no" and creating boundaries for my work and interests (also known as being territorial), and be feisty. Part of it is due to working in a male-dominated workplace for sure, it's a dynamic that I've not experienced yet, but part of it is also due to there being enough space for me to carve out my niche. It's bumpy for sure, and I often find myself wondering if I'm being true to myself or if it's just situation or a coping mechanism. For the record, from what I've deduced so far, there is definitely some compensation due to working with a bunch of men where I have to be a bit more aggressive or assertive than preferred in order to deal with some of the people there.

Overall, however, the change seems to be better. I try to keep in mind that my goal isn't to be fiery or a fighter, but rather to be spirited and full of life. It's not an easy line to walk, and I hope I find equilibrium soon (or figure out how to be spirited without being snarky, bossy, or controlling), but I'll take it. I'll also figure out how to write in a more organized fashion... or not. I'm too busy trying to impose my reality on everyone around me. :)

sump - It's essentially a metal box that you fill with juice/wine that flows through a screen. It's used for pump overs where there isn't a screen inside the tank since the pumps can't handle grapes. My coworker, Marissa, and I are pretty much obsessed with sumps. #sumplife

barrel down - Filling barrels with wine, usually from a tank. I did my first barrels by myself a couple days ago and am very attached to them. They're like my babies.

punch down - Pretty much what it sounds like, you use a metal tool to punch down the cap of grapes in barrels, bins, and tanks. This gets the cap wet and helps keep fermentation going.

Sparging - Circulating gas (nitrogen in this case) to stir up the lees (yeast cells) and aid fermentation. The egg shape is conducive to fermentation; inside is a Pinot Noir rose.

The Willmes presses

I got to squish Syrah grapes with my feet!

My first individual barrel down! There's Merlot inside, some new oak barrels, some aged oak.

Pump over in action

Perk of the job, tasting at work.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Problems with Perfectionism

Crush (harvest) has started picking up speed, which means the hours, learning curve, and responsibility have all increased. I'm adjusting to being a functional human in the early morning (hint: it involves waking up with my alarm, setting a five minute timer, and then lying in bed angrily for those five minutes), and am enjoying my job.

Overall it's a blast, but there are always bumps in the road. This week while doing pump overs I didn't fully seal a hose and proceeded to spill wine on the floor. It was super embarrassing and felt my already shaky confidence follow the wine down the drain. I've always been very sensitive about how competent I appear to others and often become extremely frustrated when I can't do something well perfect on the first try. Fortunately, life has a way of providing opportunities that shape us.

A friend of mine posted an article on Facebook this week about how differences in gender socialization, especially in bright children, leads to differences in how males and females perceive difficult and challenging material. Females tend to give up easily and view ability as innate, while males tend to perceive the challenge as that and view ability as something learned. The full article is worth a read and can be found here. I've always thought of my abilities as innate, and I've defined myself by the ease with which I learn. The consequences of this thought pattern became more obvious to me this week, and the article made it easier to understand some of how it not only came about, but how it can be changed.

Because of this, I'm rewiring my thought process and approach to learning. It's a balance of confidence and humility, knowing that I will learn, but that I'm not entitled to it. I am fully capable of becoming competent, but it's not due to some magical gifting that makes me special. Funny thing is, what sounds like I'm ignoring my gifts is actually resulting in greater freedom to use them. I am free to learn, make mistakes, and not live with the pressure to be perfect or exceptional. I can use the gifts I have when things are challenging, and I can look at my weak spots as areas to grow in.

Challenges are just challenges. Really.

Pump over - Process by which juice (must) from the bottom of the tank is pumped to the top of the tank and sprayed over the grapes floating at the top (the cap). This takes place during maceration, which is when the grapes are left to sit in the tank with the juice; the color seeps from the skins, which is how red wine gets its color.

 Not only did I spill juice on the floor, I sprayed myself in the face while disconnecting the hose afterwards.

Glamor shot of some tanks.

 Sometimes you have to get a bit creative with the process.

This is the cap that is being sprayed with juice/must during a pump over.

An ever-present air pump.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

I live where?

 "The Town So Nice, They Named It Twice." This is the slogan of my new town of residence. In case you've missed something, I now live in Walla Walla, which is probably the most interestingly named place I've lived yet. The name comes from a Native American tribe that made their home in this valley and means "many waters." Some of the descendents of the Walla Walla people live on the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, which is about thirty-five miles away.

Anyways, a little about Walla Walla. It's the smallest place I've ever lived by far (approximately 45,000 people in the valley) and is in the country.Very much in the country. When I looked at the "For Sale" boards on Craigslist and Facebook I found people giving away or selling chickens, ponies, goats, zucchini, and farm equipment and hardware. I'm 58 miles from the closest Target, can easily find at least four country music stations, and am able to drive though 20+ miles of wheat fields before finding a town (see picture below).

Also, this town-so-nice-it-was-named-twice houses the state penitentiary and its violent offenders. Apparently Walla Walla had the option of having either a Washington State University satellite campus or "the pen." They chose the the latter. Wild, wild West indeed.

 The Walla Walla County Courthouse

Quintessential small town America

Miles and miles and miles of fields

Lots of old Victorian style homes

My first experience with a dust storm

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Is this my life?

This blog is my attempt to document my escape from Florida move to Washington to work the wine harvest. It may not be exciting, but hopefully those of you reading enjoy what anecdotes I'm able to provide.

This move was set in motion about a year and a half ago when I took a course in college entitled Wines of the World. We learned a little bit about winemaking basics (viticulture and enology), major growing regions, and the most widely known grape varietals. We also had a tasting every week in class, which didn't hurt. Something about the subject grabbed me, and I quickly became a little obsessed with learning about wine, specifically winemaking. I joked about running away to frolic with grapes, but at the time it felt more like a cute idea rather than an actuality. I wasn't talented/intelligent/motivated/knowledgeable/magical enough to do something like that. The dream was shelved for the time being and filed away under "Fanciful and Preposterous."

After a tumultuous year, I found myself staring down June 2013. I was miserable at my job, bored, and feeling stagnant in my life. I had made my peace with Florida after hating it for years and was ready for an adventure. I looked into moving back to the Washington, DC area or going to the Bay Area; there was opportunity and potential surrounding both cities, but it didn't feel right.

Waiting around can be pretty boring. While waiting for my imagined green light from the Universe I began researching the wine industry and spoke with a couple people who are familiar with it. My first applications were sent more to prove to myself that I was capable and willing, that my spirit wasn't dead yet and my fear of failure and rejection was just that, a fear. It was overwhelming at first, but I quickly fell into a routine of applying for jobs every couple days.

In mid-July I got a call from a woman in California asking me where I lived as they were looking to interview local applicants only. I didn't make the cut as far as that's concerned (still confused about why, Florida is practically next door), but I did get confirmation that people were seeing my resume and taking it seriously. I guess I was just desperate enough in the cover letter to warrant attention. My dream was becoming slightly more real, and I had a fighting chance.

Several interviews, cubicle dances, and resumes later, I received an offer from a crush facility in Washington state to work the harvest as a cellar intern. I finalized my plans on August 7 and left for Washington on August 21. I didn't intend on leaving Florida in such a madcap fashion, but the grapes don't wait for anyone. I packed up my car and drove across the country with my mom.


Harvest - When the grapes are harvested, usually occurring in the fall.

Viticulture - Science and study of grapes; this covers all aspects of grapes while they're in the vineyard

Enology - Science and study of wine and wine making minus the vineyard aspects (growing and harvesting)

Crush facility - A facility where the use of equipment and labor can be rented out by different wineries when they make their wine. The facility I'm working at provides everything  except the grapes, winemakers and/or consultants, and barrels.

Cellar - Where the wine is made. This is different than the vineyard (where the grapes are grown) and the lab (where the science-oriented tasks occur, much more enology-focused). The cellar does not need to be underground or in a cave, but it does need to be kept at cooler temperatures.