My first experience in the wine business was as a cellar ratindustry lingo for the lowest-guy-on-the-totem-pole workers who haul barrels, pump juice and generally do the grunt work around wineries. I went into it like almost everyone who ventures into the wine business, with a romantic idea of what making wine entailed. I came out of it having run over my own foot with a forklift, among other mishaps; like many fine romances, mine had run aground on the rocky shoals of reality. I limped for a week.
So it was with a much more jaded worldview, and a pair of steel-toed work boots, that I arrived at BV winery last October to work for a week as a cellar rat, intern level, once again. I was going to be embedded (I've always wanted to be an embedded journalist, albeit without the guns-and-land-mines part) in the brand new winery-within-a-winery that BV had put together specifically for the production of its top wine, Georges de Latour Private Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. BV's ambition was to bring Georges de Latour back to the pinnacle of Napa Valley Cabernet, a place from which it had slipped quite some time ago. My ambition was to see how they planned to do that.
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A Few Things to Relearn
Jeffrey Stambor. Photo © Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines.
The first task waiting for me at BV, I was told by Jeffrey Stambor, the head winemaker, would be helping out with some barrel fermentations. "Great!" I said, having learned long ago that this is the only appropriate answer when given a task at a new job. Besides, what the heck: I was there to work, plus I'd barrel-fermented plenty of Chardonnay back in those long-ago, man-versus-forklift days of my first winery gig.