Monday, September 17, 2012

10 things I've learned from working at the winery

As of this week, I will have worked at Hendry Winery for one full year, which I find hard to believe. I thought I'd mark the occasion by sharing some things I've learned from working there, some wine-related and many not.

Pinot Gris grapes can change from white to red!
1. Wine grapes are intensely sweet. Much sweeter than table grapes. I hadn't realized that, but it makes sense when you realize that the sugar in the grapes is what turns into alcohol.

2. Visa cards always start with a 4. And Master Cards always start with a 5. And AmEx always starts with a 3. I don't know what Discover always starts with because no one ever tries to use a Discover card.

3. Leave your phone number twice. I can't tell you how helpful it is when you're picking up messages to have the phone number twice. It helps you catch up with the numbers on the message. You can also double-check that you got the phone number right.

4. If someone doesn't call you back, it is likely they couldn't hear your phone number. I can't tell you how frustrating it is to not be able to call back a potential visitor because I couldn't hear the friggin' number! We want you to visit, really! We're not blowing you off!

5. Sometimes it's worth ignoring the "by appointment only" sign. As much as it pains me to admit this, because it's very disruptive to go out and deal with people who drop in, there is sometimes a chance that you'll get what you want. This goes along with the "just because someone doesn't call you back doesn't mean they're not interested." Persistence has its virtues.

6. No still means no. At the same time, if you show up without an appointment to a place that's "by appointment only" and the person says, "I'm sorry, there's no more room today," you know what? That means there's no more room today. We are not in the habit of turning people away for fun. We actually like having customers, you know. I really don't care that it's "just two people;" the tour is full.

7. Bottlecaps really are better. For many wines, anyway. Bottlecaps are actually going to be better because air won't get into the bottle. Oxidation can allow wine to be "corked," which I will explain below.

8. "Corked" wine has a wet newspaper taste. Or so I'm told. A "corked" wine, or "cork taint," is a wine affected by TCA or tricholoroanisole. (I looked that up.) At the winery, when a "corked" wine gets opened in the tasting room, it's added to the tasting as a way to help people understand what that tastes like so they don't drink bad wines. Folks keep trying to help me taste it too, so far with limited success. "It has a musty, dank smell, like old newspapers," they tell me. I haven't been able to sense it yet. Angela very kindly told me it took her a while too.

9. People taste different wines differently. Because people have different taste receptors. Some are particularly sensitive to bitter tastes so wines with high tannins (aka red wines) will be unpleasant. Not liking a highly rated wine is not a sign of moral failing. If you like it, drink it.

10. Wow, is making wine a complicated business! It's expensive, time-consuming, complex, weather-dependent, market-dependent, and just plain hard work. Enjoy that glass of wine. A lot more went into it than you know.

OK, I'm off to work!


it's margaret said...

We had 20 acres of merlot grapes on West Side Road west of Healdsburg. (I graduated from Healdsburg High.)

Growing/picking wine grapes ain't easy either!

Just sayin'.

LKT said...

That would be the "hard work" part.