this first appeared back in february of 08. i’d forgotten i’d written it. though with yet another election looming soon over the approaching horizon it seems like a good idea to do a summer re-run. it’s been ten years since i wrote this and we’re not any closer to it happening than we were 10 plus years ago. a sad thing.
lots of wishful thinking on my part over the years on lots of different stuff. anything from the chance meeting of say, heidi klum, where we immediately fall into to bed and live happily ever after. or perhaps, the twice weekly i’m going to be the next california super lottery winner. wishful thinking. i think the odds on either of those things happening are probably both in the same ballpark. a ballpark with very long odds and over 400 feet down each line to the foul pole.
i’m not the first person to wishful think either of the two i mentioned. not by a long shot. male or female. for either. yeah, heidi’s that hot. drifting here. no, it’s the political season of the witch, no, not necessarily, lady machill. it’s just this season of endless political weirdness that over the years has become just annoying and nauseating and finally culminating with my withdrawing from all elections. my official absentee ballot usually ends up in the shredder.
i have some wishful thinking that might drag me back into the fray. the problem being is that’s just what it is because the humps in charge of both major parties and probably the fringe groups as well, wouldn’t like it. oh, maybe some of the fringe guys might but the big sex and money boys and girls would probably have a collective massive coronary if it came to pass. which might not be a bad idea. then we could just start over from scratch. more drifting. perhaps.
i’m not the only person to come up with this wishful thought as it’s been tossed around every now and again over the years but it never goes anywhere. sadly. big money wants nothing to do with it. i think it scares them. good. they scare me. daily.
i think the time has come to scare the bejesus out of them for a change. this sad slate of presidential candidates would seem like the perfect time for my wishful thought to maybe make it past the blossom stage and give fruition to something that should have happened years ago.
oh, i’m sure all the candidates are probably sorta nice folks. i mean maybe you could probably invite them all over to the house for some grub, massive amounts of dago red, and mah jong. though they would all have to promise no politics. the only problem is they all, would at some point, renege and start campaigning. worse yet, while working the room glad handing anyone in sight, they would be spilling heirloom cabernet all over the living room furniture and in general just being boorish dinner guests. the whole sad deal would probably end up being worse than letting the local canvassing scientology crew in for a chat and a brew. god, the horror. i don’t know if they do that but just the thought of it scares me on lots of levels.
the point of this madness? for those of you that have stuck it out here it is…none of the above. yep. that’s it. none of the above needs to be added to every ballot in the country. it’s time is way the hell over due. it’s simple in it’s purity and gives those of us something to vote for other than the ever ubiquitous ‘lesser of two evils’. cause that’s what it generally comes down to in any election. in particular a presidential election. regardless who is running. or statewide elections. or city countywide elections for any matter.
sadly, it’s not going to happen. although i think it needs to be brought up and hammered home to our elected elitist that they serve us and not their pocketbook or summer home where ever the hell it is. it’s time we that have made ourselves the disenfranchised get our vote back. sure we quit voting on our own accord. however, they were the ones that pissed us off so much we just up and said, fuck this, i ain’t voting anymore every again for any of you witless bunch of money grubbing oily sanctimonious swine.
problem is they have all forgotten just who the hell it is they serve. they all think they are there just to serve themselves up their own personal money tree. yes, they are the folks that actually have that tree. the tree that your dad asked your mom if she thought money grew on trees tree. well, it does exist. you just have to get elected to any public office in the land. it also comes with the keys to the new tony soprano model caddy escalade AND your very own 23 year old smokin’ hot mistress. boy, howdy. makes a man want to run for office, don’t it?
imagine the chagrin some november after the votes have been tallied and candidate A gets 12%. candidate B gets 12%. the fringe guys and gals get their usual 1% and lo and behold, none of the above, wins with a whopping 75%. you snicker. though it could happen. no, by god, it should happen. it’s time we the fed up disenfranchised take our vote back. take our vote back and vote for none of the above in any damn election we feel like. we need to badger our elected swine into letting us vote for none of the above. why not? what’s the problem with that? why is it just wishful thinking?
what? what the hell? who the fuck are you anyway? why no way, sonny boy, we can’t do that. why that would be un-american. say, just what kind of commie pinko nazi muslim are you any the ways? by all that’s holy, you gotta be one of em or all of em for even suggesting such a vile idea. why, why, i think i’ll let my bodyguards shoot you for bringing that sick deviant idea up in my very own official officially sanctioned official office. ed, jack. take this commie nazi muslim scum out back and do what needs to be done.
so like here’s the deal. call your congressperson and senator. be polite. ya hear? yeah, well, hopefully they have no clue you don’t vote. then tell whoever answers the phone we need the none of the above clause added to All ballots in this once great nation. simple easy. sure they will laugh and hang up. come on, the caddy and smokin’ hot mistress need a good hot wax. so call again. give them the same rap. if enough of you supposed americans do this. we will get the none of the above clause on all ballots across america for every election. it’s time has come.
there’s a gentle rain this morning and it’s very quiet around here. the cat is on her perch, curled up in a tight little ball and gently snoring. the brown eyed girl has finally fallen asleep after a tough night of whatever it is she is ailing from. this post first appeared here on the front page almost a year ago. for any number of reasons, i think it’s time once again.
the other day i finally got around to making a trip back to my childhood. specifically, i had been wanting to take some photos of the old padre winery just down the road in rancho cucamonga, ca. i’ve mentioned the winery in a few blogs and a fiction piece here but there were no photos in any of them. so, what i thought i’d do was take some photos and stick them up here then sorta run the deal down one more time.
padre winery has been around since the late 1800’s. and it was the first winery in california bonded by the feds, allowing them to sell wine and brandy. the original building is still standing. amazingly enough even after all the semi sorta large earthquakes that have rumbled through the area. i guess it gives testament to some thing or another. over the years the winery has been owned and operated by a few different folks. it has had a few other names as well. but to us long time cucmongaites it was and always shall be, padre winery. sadly, it no longer produces wine. those days are long gone.
my mother’s parents lived in a house a few hundred yards west of the winery. that old wonderful house with the root cellar, in which my grandfather made wine and vinegar, no longer stands. my grandfather worked at padre winery up until the time he retired. he’d been there for many years. i spent a lot of time with my grandparents when i was a kid. soaking up old world italy and wineries. that is up until the time my folks thought i was old enough to manage on my own during the summer. though soaking up stuff never ended.
when my grandfather worked at padre it was owned by the vai brothers. i loved walking over to the winery and wandering around looking at stuff. perhaps more importantly smelling the wonderful smells that can only come from a winery.
these days the winery is owned by a local family that has long roots in the area. wine roots. they gave it a go trying to make it a producing winery over the years but money being what it is things never panned out. padre winery is for sale. there are a few businesses where the old redwood wine vats used to be and it’s kind of sad. especially to me. i worked at padre winery myself for a year or so back in the early to mid 70’s. i’ve recounted that tale as here as well.
i’d been by the winery a number of times over the years. once even stopping with the brown eyed girl so she could see the place. old padre winery. at any rate, i was alone the other day as i wandered about taking these photos. alone with my thoughts and my youth.
as you will see there is still a beauty to the winery. an elegance and charm not seen these days in much of any kind of architecture. there was something else present as i walked around. something mystical and wonderful. or maybe it was just the fact that padre winery has been around for years and years and saw a huge amount of wine in various stages pass through the grounds. it was a smell. the smell. that wine smell. a sour tart vinegary musty smell now. but still a wine smell. the old girl still has it. a complete package other than the fact the wine itself is long gone. the elegance and the smell have stuck to her and she wears them well.
i hope the old lady remains standing. standing as a monument to old california and old cucamonga. not swept into some re-development black hole and razed. re-development. the good old boy deal where the pols and hucksters make money hand over fist and we the people lose our history and magic that comes with the old things. old wonderful places like padre winery.
padre winery and the old tasting room.
the old cellars.
the still where the lees and muck were processed into 180 proof alcohol.
the old girl is still looking good.
last week the brown eyed girl and i celebrated our first wedding anniversary. time flies when you’re having fun right? exactly. so, in celebration of that monumental event another couple joined us for a couple days of wine tasting and wonderful food in temecula, ca.
we had a great time and on the wine tasting day got pretty much hammered on our six hour tasting run of six wineries. driving on our own that day would have been stupid and criminal at best. we hired a limo for the day which covered the criminal part of that equation. stupid is another story. just kidding.
all and all a wonderful trip. we plan on doing it again in a couple of months.
yours truly and the limo.
Temecula, CA grape country.
some old hammered italian guy.
what happens when the old italian guy doesn’t care for the vino.
yes, boys and girls, it’s almost that time again. time for another fear and loathing road trip up into the true heart of darkness. it begins very soon. a nine or ten day trip to the central valley and the insanity that awaits. lurking like some fiend from the bowels of hell. i say, bring it. it’s time to rock ‘n’ roll, once again. the addled oldsters banging back old tom barleycorn, vino vertas, plus beer for breakfast and lunch like there’s no tomorrow. and perhaps there isn’t.
three nights of supreme depravity and debauchery steep like a sleeping succubus while the cabin in the sierra foothills sits getting even colder as more snow silently falls. great mounds of the white stuff sit and wait to be used as a refrigerator for the beer, white wine, and vodka. sweet, jesus, life is good.
the imagination races and roils at the thought. let the weekend begin. let madness reign. rock ‘n’ roll.
i’ve been on a so cal winery binge, as it were, the past few days. i’ve been on it been before. the last two were old stuff from the vault. this blog is new stuff and will soon be in that same vault. i’ve been wanting to do this blog for a long time. what made it happen was i finally got serious about finding a few more photos to make the blog more complete. plus, when we drove by the winery, or what used to be the winery, on christmas day my 93 year old dad told me a story i hadn’t heard before or more than likely had forgotten.
virginia dare winery was one of the staples in the winery making history of so cal and cucamonga to be specific. it was owned and operated by the garrett and co out of new york city. they were the folks who bought secundo guasti’s winery in guasti as well. garrett and co owned them both for a number of years. they eventually sold out to united fruit co. who sold out to…yeah, the wine business never was a big money maker. not like it is today. well, for a few wineries.
back in the day virgina dare winery was one of those lovely pieces of old california architecture. you can see that from the photos i found. the primary eye catcher was the semi sorta almost church like steeple. today, the old winery is long gone. it was razed back in the late 70’s and/or in the early 80’s to become a shopping center. thankfully, the local pols of cuca had enough sense to incorporate the old steeple in the new design. i wonder if any of the current bunch would have that much sense? but that’s a veer.
before i forget i need to tell my dad’s story about the place. after he got out of the army in 1946 he went to work for garrett and co as a carpenter. he worked in guasti and at the virginia dare winery up in cucamonga. the winery stood on the northwest corner of route 66 and haven ave. in those days the area was nothing but vineyards. it was still nothing but vineyards when i was going to chaffey college back in the late 60’s. more drifting.
my dad had put a new roof on one of the buildings in guasti. the bosses thought he had done a bang up job so they wanted him to put a new roof on the virginia dare steeple. he figured he would have use a ladder to get to the upper windows and then crawl outside one of them somehow and toss a rope over the roof which would have to be anchored to the other side. then he would have to climb the rope to get up on the roof. plus how was he going to get the materials up there safely? he told them he wouldn’t do it. it was to dangerous. he stood his ground and he didn’t do the roof or get fired for not doing it. at any rate, by the middle of the 1950’s virginia dare winery was closed.
the winery’s next claim to fame or at least around these parts occurred in late 1963(?). the old great tv show ‘combat!’ filmed an episode there. one of my all time favorite shows and one of my favorite episodes as well, ‘the hunter’. the episode aired in the second season on 2/25/64. though on another site they claim it aired in the third season. the thing about it is, if it was indeed the second season none of my friends or myself would not have been old enough to drive there and visit the filming. which we did. in the grand scheme of things i guess it really doesn’t matter.
what does matter is one of the sites says the winery was ‘the mission winery’ in cucamonga not virginia dare. they also claim the winery is still in business. like i said, the winery is long gone and the only business going on there now is a small shopping center. the original place is long gone.
at any rate, it was fun going up to the winery after school to stand outside the chain link fence and watch them film that episode of ‘combat!’. one evening after the days filming was done a few of my mates followed vic morrow back to the motel he was staying at here in upland. they just wanted his autograph. he wasn’t very happy or friendly about being tailed and told them all to fuck off. oh, well. as a side light, at one point in time i worked with an ex hollywood stuntman who also did location casting for tv and movie companies. he found the old virginia dare winery for the ‘combat!’ folks. i remember an old b/w photo he showed me of him sitting in a lincoln convertible in the courtyard of the old virgina dare winery.
the other virginia dare winery claim to video/tv fame came in 1967 when the tv show ‘the rat patrol’ used the winery and the area around it for an episode. i’m not sure but i think the episode in question is ‘the fire and brimstone raid’, season 1 episode 31. i can’t find any photos or any info on the net about it other than what’s here. i want to thank my friend, dfr, for reminding me ‘the rat patrol’ filmed an episode at the winery.
by the time “combat!” and ‘the rat patrol’ filmed there the winery was about to fall apart. it was the perfect setting for a winery that had seen better days before living through a world war 2 ravaged europe. in it’s last days virginia dare winery became a place for kids to go and smoke dope and other wise party. which is probably why the city razed the old hauntingly beautiful place. i miss the winery and all of it’s splendor and history of my youth.
an old virginia dare print ad.
virginia dare winery and the steeple.
an aerial photo of the winery. route 66 is the road at the bottom of the picture.
more or less what the place looked like during the tv filming.
a nice shot apparently taken not long after it got it’s new life as a shopping center. the grapes in the foreground are long gone.
virginia dare winery as it is today.
the brown eyed girl popped her cooking cherry at my place last night. yeah, it was her first time cooking here. she made a really good pizza for us. pizza on indo naan bread. yep. don’t knock it less you tried it. olive oil, roasted tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, mushrooms, mozzarella, and fresh basil. just outstanding. i cooked up some organic squash as a side dish. yellow squash, zucchini, shallots, olive oil, thyme, and sage. sounds good, huh? well, believe me it was.
i wanted to score a nice bottle of vino for the occasion. we’d been out and about and on the way home we stopped a local vino institution known for carrying high quality stuff. i wandered around a bit and picked up a bottle of really really good ruby red california port. for those that are interested it’s, ficklin vineyard’s 10 year old tawny port. probably the best port this side of spain and portugal. the bottle of vino i picked up was another story.
i decided on a local winery’s zinfandel. another of the last standing and producing wineries here in socal. not the one in the painting blog or the recent tasting place. supposedly local grapes. zin grapes. still searching for the holy zin grail. at any rate, it was a 2001 galleano winery, zinfandel. it wasn’t cheap either. we were both excited about tasting it.
of course, it turned out to be another in a long line of expensive vino that turns out to be crapola. the stuff was not good. way to sweet and oxidized. we couldn’t finish it. i actually tossed out a bit less than half a bottle along with what was left in our glasses. it was that bad. plus it’s something i rarely if ever do.
my point? once again. find inexpensive wine you like and stick with it. pure and simple. going outside that vino realm is a crap shoot at best. plus those are words to live by. trust me.
for those that missed it here’s one of john budicin’s lovely oils once again.
‘are they zn?’
there’s times then there’s times when i’m more italian than chinese or asian. yeah, my olden friends realize this. this euro rooted boy has got some serous asian roots from some damn place or another. but that ain’t why i’m here.
i venture back to those days of my youth and my maternal grandfather, luigi. he never became a us citizen. nope. my grandmother did back in the late 50’s. luigi never did. not sure just why but it was what it was.
nono or grandpa, had lots of stuff happening. tonight, after dinner, i went back to my youth and one of his semi sorta rituals.
he couldn’t eat a biscotti or any cookie, for that matter, unless it was dunked in a glass of dago red. yeah, don’t knock unless you’ve tried it. any damn cookie. chocolate chip. one of those peanut butter deals. or maybe some wafer thingy. perhaps strawberry. macaroon? damn straight.
it doesn’t matter. cookies and vino. dago red is best for some reason. sure i’ve tried cookies and white vino and it doesn’t work. ok, it works on some sorta level but it doesn’t sing. cookies and dago red sing. big time.
sure there’s cookies and milk. a wonderful invention if there ever was one. count on it. dunk and soak what the hell ever kind of cookie in the milk. soak it up then eat it. sweet. childhood lives forever. yep.
same deal. cookies and vino. i have or had some sort of cookie with macadamia nuts and white chocolate. yeah. nice. i dunked em up in some dago red. same deal as milk. ah. nice. one of life’s small pleasures.
perhaps not for the kiddies but i was once one and i was allowed at times to dunk biscotti in some dago red. a kid’s dessert turned adult. one of those italian deals turned immortal.
i suppose, in the long run, this might only be of interest to just a few of my friends. which is fine. it isn’t a problem. but if you like nice black and white photos of old stuff stick around.
the other day my friend, dfr, found a great place for old socalif photos. he heard about it on a local pbs tv show. he turned me on to it. the place? the los angeles public library’s on line web site. http://www.lapl.org/catalog/photo_collection_overview.html some really good stuff if you are interested use the search feature. at any rate, that’s where the photos that are here came from. i’m very grateful to them as i think they are wonderful shots.
when i think of the dreaded inland empire. i always think of it from the perspective of my youth. the vistas in these pure simple black and white photos are of a time when socalif was still an open uncluttered place. the dreaded inland empire the home of grapes, oranges, lemons, and cows. well, other stuff too. miles of walnut orchards, peaches and apricots. along with some of the best sweet corn this side of iowa. plus acres of potatoes and onions. yeah, it was an atom heart mother place. the place of my youth and once vivid youthful dreams. i hope you enjoy the photos.
the photo below was taken in guasti, ca back in the day. you are looking north to the san gabriel mountains.
the next photo was taken a bit further north but still in guasti, ca. in this photo you can see the sand in where the grapes grew. the same sand the santa anas blew everywhere and the same sand that filled the walls of the homes in guasti.
the last photo was taken further north in cucamonga, ca. you are looking south in this photo. just to the north and behind you are the oranges and lemon groves.
just like the blog of yesterday this is another re-work of an older blog. the old one this time around is, ‘crappy jobs part 3’. there’s new stuff added to this one as well. hopefully, you will find it interesting.
before i worked at the winery i wrote about yesterday i had another winery job. it was at the winery my grandfather worked for many many years. when the italian half of the family moved from the central valley to socal in 1929 they settled in guasti. there they started working for secondo guasti. in later years my grandparents moved from guasti to cucamonga. my grandfather then got a job with padre winery. he worked there until he retired.
padre winery was a very old california winery. it was the first winery in california to be ‘bonded’ by the feds. that meant the winery was legally able to sell it’s wine to the public. california’s first bonded winery a rather heady advertising device. there might be lots of other wineries making better or more expensive stuff but they weren’t california’s first bonded winery.
as a drift, at one point there used to be some really nice old photos of padre winery on the net. the place where they used to be has changed and i haven’t a clue as to where the photos have gone.
padre winery still exists. i doubt anyone would be stupid enough to tear it down. but there’s plenty of stupid folks out there. i newed to get some photos of it before anyone does get that stupid.
my grandparents lived in a small home not far from the winery. at the time the home was surrounded by grape vineyards and peach trees. i spent lots of time there as a kid. my grandparents took care of me during the day while the folks were at work.
one of my favorite things to do was walk the several hundred yards from their place to the winery. in the back of the winery there was the lees pit. the pit where everything went after everything that could be extracted from the grapes was extracted. a fairly large pit a few hundred feet across with a dirt berm for sides. i used to like to climb to the top and walk the edge. or sit there looking at the san gabriels and surrounding vineyards that stretched for miles. sitting there imagining all sorts of kid stuff while breathing the in the sour smell from the pit. i guess i was lucky i didn’t fall in the pit. all wineries used to have a pit for the lees.
padre winery is also the setting for a few of the scenes in my, john zen, pi story here in the blog.
i did various jobs at padre. the main job was running an antique wine bottle labeling machine. the thing was ancient but it worked. you had to constantly tinker with the fucker to get it working just right but it ran ok. the major problem were the ladies at the end of the bottling line. always complaining about something or another. usually that the labels were crooked. they rarely were but it gave them a break because i had to go find my boss and get him to tell them the labels were ok. i was just the chump who ran the machine.
that old bottling line was an amazing piece of antique winery machinery at work. from the filling machine at the beginning to the other end where the wine went into the cases after it was labeled. actually it wasn’t wine on that line but champagne. not very good champagne but the bubbly anyways. or it could either be cold duck or muscat. equally not one of my favorites.
on a side bar drift. when the line was humming along with the clinking of the bottles and the clink clank of the machines there was a rhythm to the whole affair that was very nice. a bit loud but musical in it’s own way. having been in and out of many a wine bottling area since i was a child i guess the noise/music grew on me. the closest i can come to it musically would be frank zappa and the mothers tune ‘weasels ripped my flesh’. most folks hate that tune and the entire lp of the same name. that would include most zappa heads like myself. not me though. ‘weasels ripped my flesh’ is one of my favorites. the uncanny drone of the tune is the rhythm of a bottling assembly line or probably any other assembly line humming along.
the winery did make some really good champagne. the bottle fermented stuff. really good. not cheap either. i dreaded bottling the stuff. it had to be corked with another antique machine. a machine that was powered by me. an odd use of feet, hands and eye co-ordination. another rhythm deal. kinda like being a drummer. only trouble was if you missed a beat you might break the bottle. it happened a few times every time the stuff got bottled. once requiring a trip to the emergency room due to glass shards bouncing off my eye ball. yeah, all this before osha and any sort of safety shit.
the winery’s other claim to fame was some of the best zinfandel ever put into a bottle. just amazing stuff. dago red at it’s all time finest. superb vino. this got bottled on another line which was a bit newer and easier to operate. the filling and labeling all done by one machine. pretty simple but a nasty hand and finger grabbing piece of equipment. another trip to the emergency room for some stitches on my hand.
when things got slow i’d drive a small panel truck all over socal delivering champagne to hotels and restaurants from downtown los angeles to palm springs. a piece of shit truck that was so unstable with a load of vino in the back it would almost flip just driving straight down the freeway. on rain slick streets it was a fight just to keep it on the road and right side up. especially considering i’d go pick up a friend to keep me company on the driving days and we’d light up the whole time. yes, i know. not a sane thing to do but it was a long time ago in a job far far away.
music provided by, the mothers of invention, ‘weasels ripped my flesh’.
this is a re-working of my old ‘crappy jobs, part 2’. in it’s new form there are new added bits plus the old stuff. it veers around a bit but i think you’ll find it amusing if not interesting. it is more or less the next chapter to follow yesterday’s blog. sorta.
i grew up here in southern california. east of los angeles in the heavily dreaded inland empire. yeah, the butt of many jokes. though it wasn’t so bad back when i was a kid. still pretty much farm land and dairy farms as well. the farms and grapes are gone. the dairies are damn near gone. new tract homes being worth way to much money to leave things bucolic. however, on an overcast morning you can still smell the cow shit in the air. breathe deep. atom heart mother. i still love the smell of cow shit in the morning. it smells of youth and long ago dead dreams.
beginning in the early 1900’s grape vineyards made their arrival to southern california. the italian half of my family worked in the vineyards and wineries here starting in the 1920’s and earlier. this would be in guasti. everyone in the family worked at a winery for years or just off and on over the years. including myself. my norwegian father even got into the italian winery action for many years starting right after ww2. most of the family were working there when secondo guasti was around.
i got into the winery work much later in life. after my time in nam and a few half ass stabs at doing whatever other work didn’t work out. it may have been the drugs but i don’t know. plus golf always seemed to be calling me out to hit some balls around. or the beach beckoned. or…yeah, a wasted life for sure. but that’s for another time. today is for shitty winery jobs. damn, i had a few.
i grew up going into wineries. back in the day when they were for the most part still redwood fermenting tanks and storage tanks. another atom heart mother smell from a long ago time. you could tell just from the smell of the cellars if the wine was any good or not. sure you could taste it but the oozing wine from the old redwood tanks had a smell. that smell told you what the wine would taste like. that taste of smell that hung in the air like a rain sodden cloud. um, yeah, nothing like it.
more to the point. like anything else there are really crappy jobs involved with producing anything. producing wine has a large number of those shitty jobs. i think the worst job i had was washing down the floors in the fermenting tank area of this one old grape crushing plant where i worked for one crushing season. we had to do it 2 or 3 times a day. at least. in the crushing stage making wine is not a clean job. we had tons of granulated chlorine which we had to sprinkle liberally on the the wet floor and then we had to brush the shit around. wafting chlorine gas is not an atom heart mother smell. no. more like the trenches of world war one. after the brushing we hosed the floors down with water.
any the ways this nasty job was for brookside winery. their main office was in guasti. they had purchased the property from the last company that couldn’t make a go of it. brookside eventually folded as well. the other nasty jobs in the blog are from my time at brookside as well.
more world war one trench warfare was the addition of sulfur gas to the fermenting wines. dragging a small tank of the stuff up to the top of a tank and sending the gas down a tube to do it’s job. of course, at some point you couldn’t help but get a very unhealthy hit of the stuff. guess i’m lucky to still be alive in more ways than one.
then there’s the clarifying of some white wines with powdered carbon during the fermentation process or just after. or maybe it was to help clear up a red wine at times. i forget. maybe either one. what i haven’t forgotten was dumping bag after bag of powdered carbon into a mixing machine that pumped it into a huge wine tank. a dirty nasty job for sure. a photo of a coal miner after a day in the mines would give you a similar picture of what i looked like after doing that job.
you can’t have a winery without doing the job that cleans out a fermentation tank after everything has been pumped out and sent off to the next tank in the process. the crushing plant had huge stainless steel tanks for fermentation and in the building where the floors had to be kept spotless there were concrete settling tanks. kinda like bunkers. the size of large enclosed swimming pools. they were occasionally used for fermentation as well. once they were properly aired out and the co2 was gone. hopefully. you went inside with a hose and washed the damn thing down in order to get it ready for the next batch. it was endless. washing the floors washing the tanks. over and over.
the fermentation tanks were scary. they could be very deadly as well. back when my dad was working in the olden winery the tanks were redwood and wide open like a swimming pool. there were narrow redwood catwalks going over them. he watched a fellow worker fall into one of the tanks while it was doing it’s thing. nothing could be done. with temperatures well over 200 degrees and enough co2 in the air to kill an elephant the man was pretty much asphyxiated and boiled to the death. very quickly.
fast forward to my time doing similar work. the cement bunkers when used for small batches of grape fermentation had to be well ventilated with fans before we went in them with a hose to wash them down. one of my fellow workers said the tank was ok and started down a ladder into the tank. he only made it about 3 or 4 rungs down. then he started to pass out from the co2 still in the air. lucky for him another guy and myself were watching. we both managed to grab his belt and we hauled him up and out of the tank. he was shaken up but ok. you never went into a fermentation tank unless someone was watching you the first few minutes. very dangerous.
the pure physical labor of dragging pumps and hoses everywhere to pump wine in various stages from one tank to the next. a rats nest of hoses and pumps. all of these activities at a break neck pace because it was the time of the crush. the window when the grapes are at their peak and the time of year where, even here in socal, a rain would ruin everything. mind and body numbing work. i’m sure lung ruining work as well.
i love the smell of the wineries. i love a good glass of vino or 3. hell, even a sorta good glass of vino or 4. i love it all so much i would probably still be doing winery work of some sort to this day, had something not happened late one afternoon long ago. something that i’m sure, got me added to the lil old winemakers, black book. the book where if you are in the fucker, you are forever more screwed, winery wise.
the big boys, the winery owners, had some special grapes coming in. white ones. not many, just enough for a special pressing. a few thousand gallons of vino or less. for some reason the usual workers weren’t available for overtime or something or the swing shift guys were going to be busy doing something else. any the ways, i was asked if i would run the crushing machine for that special load. sure, no problem. i’d done it a few times and it was just pushing a button to start it and stop it. plus keeping an eye on things. yeah, no problem. sure. uh, ha.
things were going well. just fine. i left my post and wandered to the back of the machine where the other guys were loading the grapes. this was a sorta usual trip as the machine was so loud you really couldn’t hear anything and if there was problem at the other end you needed to know about it. perhaps i dawdled a bit longer than i should have. yeah, when i got back to where i belonged a good portion of the special load of now crushed grapes was all over the concrete outside the machine. this would also include a good portion of the grape juice. yes, indeed, a major fuck up. i really don’t know what happened to the special stuff or even if it was still usable. we shoveled it back into the machine and it went on it’s way.
however, the boys were not happy campers. i’m not sure how i avoided instant death. or a ride out to someplace very private. i made it through the rest of the crush season and even got some side work later in the warehouse in guasti. over the years when i’d occasionally apply for other winery work someplace here in california, it was always the same. not even a no thanks or we’ll get back to you or the usual mumblings of some h r person. just silence. dead silence.
music provided by, the art farmer quintet, ‘blame it on my youth’.