There are things you just don’t want in your wine! Leaves, for example… or mold… or dried up fruit…or under-ripe fruit. A winemaker only wants the best fruit in her wine, and a final selection must be made before the grapes go into the darkness of the fermentation process.
The grapes that have been harvested in the coolness of the night are trucked to the winery for processing. Each bin that comes off the truck is stacked together with the other bins from the same vineyard and meticulous care is taken to label the bins and record pertinent information that is useful for the process of making superb wine. Once the winemaker decides which bin to start with, she loads it on a front loader and spills the contents, whole bunches of grapes, into a trough that slowly and gently feeds the grapes through the end with a large screw, dropping them in small batches onto a conveyor belt.
The conveyor belt takes the bunches to the de-stemmer at the top where the stems are separated from the fruit. The fruit drops into the bin below, and the stems are spit out the other side like magic!
The whole process is quite amazing, but today we will focus on the conveyor belt.
As the grapes drop onto the conveyor belt and slowly make their way to the de-stemmer at the top, the grapes are sorted by hand. This is the last chance to get rid of anything that shouldn’t be in the wine. Each batch has unique things to cull out. Some batches that have been exposed to more sun, have more dried fruit that needs to be pulled out. (Raisin wine, anyone?) Others, have too much red fruit that hasn’t matured and will affect the depth and complexity of the flavor. My hands and eyes work together to feel and see the unwanted bits. I pick up a red cluster, and hesitate. It looks so good and juicy! With determination and encouragement from those who have done this before, I drop the whole bunch into the bucket destined for the compost. The leaves are easy…who wants to identify “leaf” as a flavor in their red wine? The dried fruit is a little trickier. I can see and feel the fruit is dry, but I must inspect to see if the stems are brown or green. Green is okay, brown is not okay. Into the compost they go!
I begin to get a little dizzy with the movement of the conveyor and the constant visual vigilance and tactile perception that is needed. I look up for a few seconds to regain my balance and realize I’ve let some dried fruit go that probably shouldn’t be in there, but the conveyor inexorably moves on. I talk my perfectionist self into not climbing up the conveyor belt to retrieve the offending bits. Breathe… More grapes keep coming and I must attend to them! (Cue I Love Lucy Candy Factory!) Good thing there are other people also looking at the grapes who can catch things I miss. They are more experienced and assure me all will be well. The group of three is quiet for a while, all of us zoning out in our own way. Then, we start talking about our life while our hands and eyes work the grapes. The movement of the conveyor continues until the batch is done.
During the quiet moments, here’s something that occurred to me. In life and leadership, we make decisions every day. We must perceive the best fruit…the best energies…the best programs…protocols…distribution efforts…development strategies…people…values…etc…and cull those that will give our “wine”… our goals… an unfortunate flavor. So, we dig in, we look around and we make decisions based on our perceptions. Fortunately, along the way, we have others on our team that see things we don’t see and can identify what we miss.
How do we know what to keep and what to eliminate? Obviously, we keep "the best fruit," but what do we drop? Perhaps the three categories of things to perceive and cull are helpful:
Under-ripe – those things that still need to mature maybe don’t make the cut for this project, this season. They become fodder for the next iteration.
Over-ripe – too many old ideas that no longer have any “juice” may give the overall project a moldy “twist”, why not recycle them in the compost to give life to another project?
Extraneous – What activities or ideas are truly out of place? No leaves in our wine!
Practically speaking, sometimes, a little dried fruit or a little red fruit makes its way to the de-stemmer because there simply isn’t enough time to catch everything… and the conveyor just never stops moving. It’s okay… let it go... the wine will still be great!
Thanks to Mauritson Winery (especially Emma!) for letting me hang out with them yesterday. A special shout out to Jackie and Kaeleigh and the other "lunch buddies".