Preferred Pickers Update

After a summer of intense heat and almost no rain, the ripening 2015 crop was almost 3 weeks ahead of any previous year we had experienced. There was also no mildew, botrytis (bunch rot) or hail damage to speak of. The small row of Pinot Noir we have adjacent to the road was the first to go. Unlike the Riesling which is governed by all sorts of biodynamic considerations, we decided to pick the pinot when we had visitors to help. The visitors were Helen and Alex Derry as well as Hayley Owens and Conor Mckenna.IMG_2585


IMG_0856The pinot picking took all of about 5 minutes and was dumped into a grape press we had rented for the occasion. Alex took command of the press, but it wasn’t long before it completely seized up and we had to resort to the old fashioned method of feet. If you are ever going to drink this Pinot, you will be pleased to know that I insisted on our principal stompers Hayley and Ann washing their feet thoroughly beforehand. Alex was still trying to operate the press (without success) and Conor was disqualified due to the inordinate amount of hair on his toes. Helen, a veteran flower-child of the 60’s was much more interested in spreading rose petals on her adopted row 21 to provide as she put it “a rose nose” for the grapes. As of now, the pinot is fermenting away in a plastic bucket from Home Hardware and is likely not to taste much better than feet. This seems to be the way all the wine I make ends up.

As for the Riesling, our wine-maker extraordinaire Alan Dickinson of Synchromesh sneaks into the vineyard without us noticing, and tastes the grapes. When the sugars and acids were balanced nicely when we got the call (actually a text, which is the modern day equivalent) from that we would be picking on Labor Day. The decision of when to pick is always a last minute one made by the wine-maker, and the fact that it was Labor Day meant that we were scrambling more than usual to assemble a team.

This was not helped by the departure of guests Anne and Stuart Chalmers who took off with indecent haste when they heard there was work to be done on Monday. To be fair to Anne, this was a unilateral decision of Stuart’s who was last seen lying on his back in the vineyard while the rest of us were hard at it. It is a great pity we do not have a photo, but perhaps the following will do instead:IMG_0788

IMG_2598While on the subject of the Preferred Pickers Rogues Gallery, Simon Russell deserves mention for calling me up the day before and offering to help, but giving such a small window of availability that I doubt he could even get over the Lions Gate bridge in time. Unlike Stuart and Simon, the core-team consisting of Alan, John and Kirsty Dickinson “The Synchromesh Team” can always be relied on to roll up their sleeves but “reciprocal pickers” Wilbert and Yoka Borren were out of town and we had given Pierre and Cathy Levesque a bye this year because they helped us last year and we thoughtlessly left town when they were picking their own vineyard. So, we were forced to exercise a “full court press” (a basketball term, but I don’t really know what it means) on John and Morag Goldie who we knew were anxious to erase the stigma of two years ago when they arrived after the battle to bayonette the wounded (and mostly to drink tea). Well I have to say that this year they arrived the day before and acquitted themselves admirably entertaining the troops and picking at the same time:

But 7 is far from enough. Enter the “Dragon Boat Cavalry”. Coerced into participating by Regimental Sergeant Major(ess) Penny Hill, they again saved our bacon this year. The ladies, consisting of Penny, Jennifer, Dolores, Moe and Ann were supplemented by Emily Hunn and Mark Prescott, subbing for Gill & Steve Hunn who were vets from last year, but couldn’t make it this year. The Dragon Boat Ladies are a competitive lot, eah seeming to want to outdo the next and jealously guarding their supply of em
pIMG_2610ty tubs to ensure they kept going. The only blemish on their performance was crowding around the last two full tubs for a team photo at the end of the day obscuring them from Rob and Alan who were moving the full tubs to the loading zone. They were still sitting there until the next morning.IMG_0876


Backstopping this gang of reprobates was Mark Goozee, an experienced picker who can be seen only at this time of year in vineyards around the Naramata Bench just before flying south for the winter. IMG_0879Last but by no means least, and winner of our Rookie picker of the year award was Rob Hill, Penny’s husband. Despite wonky knees from excessive mountain biking Rob tirelessly drove the tractor all day hopping off to pick up tubs, carting them up to the loading zone, hopping off again and tipping the grapes into the waiting bins. Not content to stop there, Rob set a new record for the number of tubs that could be fitted on the trailer. This was sort of similar to trying to break the record of the number of students you can fit in a phone booth. He is now working on modifications to the trailer so he can break his record next year. Rob was last seen hosing down the tubs while everyone else collapsed in exhaustion at the end of the day.

And, you may ask, what were Ann and I doing all this time? Well I know Ann was putting together the lunch, teaching the Rookies how to pick, acting as official photographer and generally providing moral support! For my part, I don’t know what I was doing – it was all a blur. All I do know is that I woke up in the middle of the night with excruciating cramps in both legs, so I must have been doing something. Ann will attest to all of the screaming that went on and all I got for waking her up was “Don’t be such a baby!” All you are probably interested in are the final stats for thIMG_0878e day: 3 tonnes picked into 13 bins representing somewhere around 200 30-pound tubs (and excluding the two left behind). This was a bit less than we had hoped, but was improved significantly by the discovery of a calculator malfunction the next day which made it up to 3.7 tons. With 22 short rows to go, we stand a good chance of beating last year’s total of 5.4 tons.
Thanks to all for helping out, and apologies to those who escaped the eagle-eye of our camera person. Hopefully at least some of you will have recovered by the time we do the second pick in a couple of weeks after Alana and Michael’s (our son) wedding. The star attraction you won’t want to miss is Alana (Hornby-Smith as she will be by then) picking in her wedding dress. Hopefully it will be just as much of a social occasion.