When you’ve got 12 hours to move 40,000 plus gallons of Chardonnay juice those five words could never be said soon enough. You see Jill and I became the ‘racking team’. This involved pumping (racking) Chardonnay juice off its sediment (lees) from one tank to another. The juice, pressed about 24 hours before, needed to be moved for yeasting and barreling. It all seems like a pretty straightforward process, but those are usually the most complicated. Besides extensive set up and sanitation there was the wait. Waiting for the tanks we filled the day before to be emptied into barrels so they could be filled back up again. Oh and those tanks, they were in another building at the end of about a quarter mile of hoses. “Juice is on the way!” Uttering those words through the radio to Jill was like that sweet call and response between a climber and belayer before the start of a very long route.
When we started harvest we didn’t really know how to rack. Sure we knew the principles and reasons behind what we were doing, but we had to learn how to actually hook up and execute this winery job. Not a problem, we’re climbers.
What in the world does wine making have to do with rock climbing? Sure, climbers like to drink, and they love gear, but most importantly climbers’ know how to relay the right information to each other while keeping things moving. Maybe its climbing to beat weather or racking to beat the clock either way you better be tuned in to each other.
Checking connections, double checking knots and gear.
Getting juice to the right tank, staying on route.
Move the juice, pull a move.
What hose was going to what tank, climbing on double ropes.
Switching between tanks, change over at the belay.
“Juice caught!”, “On belay!”.
OK, maybe it was because we were four hours from Yosemite and we were spending beautiful fall days inside cool dark cellars. Or maybe all those years spent together on the rocks readied us for further adventures. Whatever the case, we came into this harvest to learn new skills and do more around the winery. That we did. Maybe more importantly, we walked away reminded how a partnership from rock climbing transcends.