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.