Saturday and Sunday were two of the busiest days I've ever spent working anywhere, which is ironic, because I spent them at the winery where we normally go to hang out, kick back and spend a lazy afternoon under the oak trees, glass in hand.
It was good work however, with great company, found in the tasting room staff I helped and those I poured wine for. And isn't that what work is all about -- keeping busy, doing something meaningful to you, with people you enjoy being around? So I count these last two days a success, and can't wait to go back and work there again.
And did I mention that for my two days worth of labor I received 7 bottles of fantastic wine? Ya, there's that.
Wineries are interesting places because they run on making people happy. If you work there, whatever you do, this is an integral part of your job. If you're making the wine, bottling it or serving it, the pleasure of those who drink your product is always your goal. That's a nice goal to have, I think. Make people happy. Simple, huh?
Well, not quite as simple as you might think, if you, like me, had no more acquaintance with the wine business than having spent so many happy hours with a glass of something red in my hand. Wine tasting rooms exist to 1) sell wine, and 2) promote that particular brand of wine through providing for a memorable and unique tasting experience -- but those things only happen when some extremely hard work goes on behind the scenes.
This weekend, I did pour wine for folks, but along with that fun task comes the responsibility of remembering exactly where each customer is on that six-wine tasting list. Did they already have the red grenache´or were they up to the cabernet already? Did they order a cheese plate, so they could taste a little course with each pour? If so, where is it?
And what happens on the front lines of the tasting room is nothing compared with what happens underneath that smooth veneer of lovely people walking around with a bottle in hand, dispensing liquid happiness with each 1.5 ounce taste. The sweaty, difficult work is all done behind the scenes, out of sight of everyone else. There's making sure everyone doesn't run out of glassware, plates and silverware by getting dirties inside and into the dishwasher pronto (while still serving a half dozen people or so wine, remembering what they get next, and making it all look laid back and easy). There's the sweat and hard work in the kitchen, fixing up lunches for customers who order them -- which most customers do. (The food is to die for at this winery, BTW. It's absolutely delicious, and is therefore very popular.)
And lastly, there's your feet, which are barking like a pair of dogs after six hours of standing and walking. And while I found that, after one day, I truly craved a nice glass of wine when I came home, on the second day, what I really wanted was ... a cold beer. I'd been around wine all day. Busman's holiday and all that.
I did a little bit of everything this weekend. I poured wine. I chatted with visitors. I washed plates. I folded napkins. I polished glasses in the cool, softly lit wine library. And as with most work, each task held within itself a certain pleasure. There was, truly, nothing I did which I could say I didn't like. Even spraying dirty dishes before they go into the dishwasher is kind of fun (as long as you're only doing it for 15 minutes or so).
But you know, my working weekend at the winery was worth it, just to meet so many interesting people and get to walk around with a bottle in my hand, chatting with fellow wine-lovers. Wine has been about many things throughout the centuries, but mostly, it really has been about enjoyment, and it felt good to help so many people have a wonderful long weekend in our area.
And it gave me a new appreciation for those who work on the front lines of the wine business, who spend all day on their feet yet still manage to make it seem like they are kicking back and rolling with things so easily, but who are actually working their tails off, never letting it show.
I don't know if I'd want to do it full time, but once in awhile, I'm glad I'm going to get the opportunity to join those folks and help out behind the scenes as well as out front. Will work for wine. Yup, that's me.