Ever since I was little, harvest has been one of my favorite times to live in the Napa Valley. The leaves on the vines begin to look like a sunset, the deep colors of red, orange and yellow expand across the valley floor. I can remember breathing in the aroma of the crush while playing soccer on Saturday mornings. I loved the crunch of the leaves as I ran up and down the field and the feeling of the crisp autumn air against my face.
As an adult, harvest is also the announcement of transition in my daily life. I, like so many others, become a harvest widow. It is a time where my significant other buckles down and prepares for two to three months of working long hours every day. During these months I do my best to be there for him and support him while he faces challenges day in and day out. I take on more responsibility around the house so he can get a few more hours of sleep, or I shift my schedule so I can spend time with him in the moments before he heads off for the day.
The amount of work that needs to be completed during the season requires most wineries to hire extra hands. Interns come from all over the world to be a part of the harvest experience and are expected to learn the ropes of the facility and get a feel for the procedures in a short period of time. Decisions have to be made in the moment and there is little room for error. Working in highly stressful conditions, while not having time to reboot can lead to feeling exhausted and burned out. It is an intense period for all who are involved in the wine industry, whether it be the employee or the family members of one.
We don’t have children, but I recently heard of a group of families who have come together to share household responsibilities while their significant others are in the thick of harvest. They help with carpools, watching each other’s children and making meals together. I love the community vibe that emanates from that idea. For me, since he has been on the night shift, I have used it as an opportunity to enjoy quality time alone, to hang out with friends, and to infuse more energy into working on personal projects.
The absence of my industry friends is noticeable in all aspects of my life. I moonlight a few days a week as a bartender at The Oxbow Cheese and Wine Merchant and every year I am reminded of how the demands of harvest keeps some of the people I love from coming in. Sometimes they sneak in for a quick pint before heading home, but for the most part I can go months without seeing their faces. When they do reemerge from the fog of the season, it is always a joy to see them again.
Kate Messmer is the owner of Peace of Kate. To learn more about her services go to www.peaceofkate.com or you may contact her at (916) 233-9038. NVL