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We have chosen an occupation that requires attending to 32,000 grape vines. Over the course of nine months, we touch each vine between 10 and 15 times.
Do the math. That is between 320,000 and 480,000 individual operations that affect the quality of the grapes we harvest in October.
We have machines that manage some of these operations. But some of them can only be done by hand.
Boundary Breaks Vineyard Manager Kees Stapel says that "timing" is the key to growing clean, ripe fruit. And it is only clean, ripe fruit that makes great wine.
This is where we turn to trained contract workers for help.
Harvesting grapes when they are fully ripe need to be done quickly and at the right time. If it is likely to rain, you would like to see it done even more quickly.
We have the same pressures at other times of the season. In the spring after we prune, we need to tie each new cane down to the fruiting wire. We do this by twisting the cane once or twice around the wire and then attaching the end of the cane to the wire with a twist tie.
We need to complete this task before the new shoots form on the canes, because wrapping the cane around the wire can break new, fragile shoots off the cane. If the shoot is gone, then no grapes can grow from that node on the cane.
The reality is that the work is demanding. It is physically demanding, but also psychologicially demanding. The pay is higher than minimum wage, but the work is still difficult.
We rely on our contract workers, because we wouldn't make good wine without them. Period.