Cold Springs Crush 2013 JPP Version from Jaded Palate on Vimeo.
Twelve men. Five hours. Fourteen tons. Oh, and let’s not forget the four dusty cameras. It’s crush time in the Napa Valley and we were fortunate enough to shoot the picking of Clif Family Winery’s estate grapes for their Cold Springs Cabernet Sauvignon on Howell Mountain. We had been on call for two weeks, waiting for the winemaker, Bruce Regalia, to give us 48-hour notice of the scheduled harvest. The vineyard consists of two separate blocks with the lower block being 2.8 acres, the upper block 1.2 acres. It doesn’t sound like a huge vineyard, but it sure does grow a bounty of voluptuous grapes. I even nibbled on a few and they were deliciously sweet and rich.
The 12 brawny men arrived at 5pm and they immediately got to work on the upper plot, like Captain Hook and his pirates going after the weathered vines with power and perseverance. Generally, they like to pick the grapes after it gets dark, usually starting around midnight and working until dawn. It’s cooler, less taxing on the body and leaving the grapes at the constant sugar and acid levels that the winemaker wants. Tonight was cooler than usual and they wanted to start early. It was amazing to see how briskly they worked. By the time I set up our cameras, they were already done with six rows. Using their curved harvest knives, they cut the grapes at the top of the bunch, loaded up their individual bins and kept up a pace that was difficult to keep up. By the time a shot was in focus, they were already moving on to the next vine. Slow down, boys! But not tonight… two hours later, the upper plot was done. It felt like a swarm of locusts invaded and took the whole place down. Truly amazing. The guys worked like a well-oiled machine – filling the tractor-pulled bins that were in constant rotation, running up and down the rows, passing their bins down the line like a human conveyor belt. Grape juice squirted all over the lenses and turned the gloves of the workers purple– almost blood-red– like those of a surgeon in an operating room.
Then, the darkness came. No overhead lights, just headlamps and the headlights of the tractor to spare them light. Did it slow them down? Nope, not in the least. They didn’t miss a bunch. They just kept tearing up and down the vineyard as those locusts feeding on the juicy morsels. Not a meal break, just a quick slug of caffeine to keep up the pace. Three hours later, most of the lower plot was picked. Phew! They all packed up and left even before the cameras were taken away: it was essential to hurry to get some sleep– a mere three hours before they had to pick yet another vineyard. Pickers get paid by the ton, so time is of the essence. Fourteen tons in five hours, not a bad shift at all. Kudos, boys!
The one thing that I kept thinking about while watching such back-breaking work, was how throughout the year, the vineyard owners, managers and winemakers take such gentle care of their vineyards. Then, in one sweeping and harrowing evening, these guys come and rob the precious fruit that had been nursed like babies since seed. Such a dichotomy of actions.
We can’t wait to follow these grapes as they get turned into the most deliciousness of elixirs, and, of course, follow our friends at Cold Springs Vineyards to create a piece from start to finish. Here’s a tease for now.
Time to clean the cameras.