Sunday, 13 February 2011

Vintage 2011 - Tales of Incompetence

Lisa was in charge of the Shiraz harvest and things went very smoothly.

The whites on the other hand were under my purview. Here is the full story...

The day we picked was really hot - it reached 40C by midday. We had about 20 pickers and a few adventures along the way. Picking started at 5:30am and finished at 3pm. I slept in the shed the night before and it must have been about 30C most of the night - I was dripping in sweat and couldn't open the windows because of the mosquito's. The shed was also full of spiders (mostly red backs) because we hadn't been there for a while and this didn't help me sleep either. A large frog has taken up residence in the toilet and jumped on me in the middle of the night. I'm sure you can imagine my reaction.

So with hardly any sleep I got up at 5am to load our 4 empty grape bins on the ute. The wine maker was supposed to have dropped them off the prior week but they weren't there. In retrospect this wasn't a bad thing as there was no way I could have got 4 bins loaded by myself - they are heavy. With picking due to start and no bins to fill, I'm a trifle worried. I eventually get on to the winemaker and find out that the bins are still at Wandin Valley, I was worried they may have been pinched. We don't think that we are going to get enough Semillon to make up a batch so I have arranged to purchase 2.5 tonnes off a friends vineyard. Luckily I arranged the picking to start at his place and he had some bins to get things started.

At 6am I get to Wandin Valley and they load up the ute with 4 empty bins using a forklift. My job is to transport the grapes from the vineyard to the winery, which is only 5 minutes from our place but a half hour each way to my friends place. Worried that I might be holding up things, I take a shortcut down a dirt road and perhaps are going a little quick for the conditions. There is a big wash out in the road ahead and even slamming on the breaks doesn't slow the car enough. I bounce over the wash and one of the bins goes tumbling off the back, fortunately missing the car behind. This is when I discover that there is no way I can lift a bin single handed on top of another bin. Lucky this is the country and I don't have to wait long before a bloke stops and watching my pathetic attempts, asks if I need a hand?

Loaded up again, I decide it may be a good idea to actually tie down the load this time.

Eventually arriving at the vineyard, the first bin is almost full. Our bins (the white ones) are supposed to carry around 500kg, but when weighing them at the vineyard most ended up closer to 600kg. My friend uses the blue bins which weigh about 800kg's full. Loading one of the blue bins on the ute using his tractor (which has forks), I head back to the winery. The ute handles like a pig with this much weight in the back and the clutch makes a funny smell when I go from a standing start. We used about 14 bins in total that day.

On one trip carrying two of our white bins, I took a corner a bit too quick (which is not very quick at all), and both bins slid to one side. It felt like the car was driving on two wheels. Having a degree in physics I worked out that if I turned in the opposite direction at just the right speed I could slide the bins back into the centre of the truck. Quickly working out the vectors, I decided to give it a go.

Of course I over corrected and almost spun the ute as the load shifted. The whole car slid sideways as the load moved. Obviously having a degree in physics doesn't help if you are an idiot! From then on I took it very slowly around the corners.

Apart from losing a few pickers to heat stroke, the rest of the day was tiring but uneventful. As we don't have a tractor, in our vineyard we pick straight into the bins on the back of the ute. I'm driving the ute, and let me tell you conditions are almost unbearable in the air-conditioned cab, CD playing and a cold drink to hand.

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