Page The Joys of Hand Labour

To me, a day spent grunting your way through hard, manual labour offers the ultimate in satisfaction.  Granted, there is the physical pain, the mental fatigue and the dragging hours – but at the end of that day you can look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, however big or small.

I am truly at peace when working in the vineyard.  It’s a time of introspection and reflection blended with intense focus on the job at hand.  This is where the “feel” aspect of viticulture comes into play.  I don’t know if I actually think about what I’m doing anymore, it just sort of comes naturally.   Years of suckering, thinning, shoot positioning and leaf removal have transformed me into a grape-trellising robot of sorts.

There are many levels of satisfaction involved with vineyard hand labour.  First is the feeling that you are helping the vine by removing excess growth.  There is also the visual appeal of a clean and vertically positioned vine versus a chaotic canopy.  As a neat freak I have an extremely low tolerance for chaos, so bringing order to the vineyard gives me a special joy.  Finding a proper spot for each shoot and grape bunch within the canopy is an important job that I am currently undertaking.   Large amounts of rain have made that canopy extremely crowded, and the job gets exponentially  harder each day as the vine starts growing laterally at a rapid pace.  I tend to perceive each vine as a puzzle that needs to be solved, which really gets my creative juices flowing.  The pictures below give you a good “before and after” look at our Sauvignon Blanc.

The advent of the iPod has added yet another enjoyment level to this work.  I find that the right song at the right time can elicit crazy emotions ranging from pride to the depths of sadness.  Ultimately, it helps break the monotony and makes the job go by quicker.  Working alone allows me to sing as loud as I want and even throw in the odd dance move if the mood strikes.

Finally, there is a weird spiritual vibe you get while working on a farm that dates back many generations.  You can’t help but feel many indelible ties to the past.  I must admit that there are days when I feel a definite presence alongside me while working among the vines.  It can be in the damp chill of an early morning fog, the flight of a majestic hawk and sometimes in the faint smell of pipe tobacco.  Hard to explain, but usually very vivid and strangely calming.

I feel lucky to be able to spend my summer days in the vineyard.  Being able to positively effect our 2009 vintage on a daily basis via my method of choice is a luxury that few winemakers are afforded.  It’s one of the things that makes Five Rows unique among wineries.



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