Death to the Harvest Party!
Dave Karraker / by Paul Rattay Photography
As the summer that never was begins to wane, just like Nicolas Cage’s hair and career, an age-old tradition begins to unfold at wineries across Sonoma Valley – the harvest. Dedicated men and women take to row after row of vines, meticulously plucking vibrant red and green globes that I will eventually imbibe in mass quantities in the form of fine pinot noirs, cabs and sauvignon blancs.
While fall heralds the annual harvest of grapes for the large wineries in the Valley, it also serves as a rallying cry for amateur vinologists, who stumble head first into the craft of wine making with the same vim and vigor as Mel Gibson at his court-ordered anger management class, yet with the same likelihood of success as Mel Gibson at his court-ordered anger management class. After all, winemaking isn’t easy. It requires knowledge, skill and labor … lots and lots of labor. And this is exactly the point at which I have a real problem with the harvest.
Anyone who knows me will tell you I am simply mad for a great party. Birthday party, Tupperware party, key party – you name it. So, when I was invited to my first neighborhood harvest party, I was very excited. What could be better than a morning spent with friends, frolicking in the sun, picking grapes, and eating a delightful garden-side brunch, replete with mimosas?
The colorful printed invitation (Yeah, printed. This was going to be classy!) touted this harvest party as the cultural event of the year; an event more relevant than the rubber charity bracelet currently donning your wrist (we are officially done with these, right?).
I arrived at my friend’s harvest party smartly dressed in what I thought was the perfect grape picking outfit: a linen shorts-with-matching-blazer combo and smart flip flops … remember, I said this was a classy event. I even purchased a ridiculous straw hat from McAdoos, or MackDaddyDoos or Macaroons, or whatever the name of that store is next to Whole Foods in Sonoma. I was ready to experience the fun and frivolity that was my very first harvest party!
Boy, was I disappointed. First of all, a message to all you aspiring brunch throwers out there: Costco muffins, a jug of Tropicana and tired bottle of Cook’s champagne does not constitute a brunch. That’s a wake. Second, when you attend a harvest party, you are actually expected to pick grapes … I mean lots of them.
You are handed this little thing that looks like a cheese knife, but you will find there is no cheese in sight (unless it also came from Costco). You grab a paint bucket(!) and walk row to row to row, snatching grapes from their sun-drenched perches, filling your Ace Hardware-sourced receptacle, then dumping it unceremoniously into a large milk crate, all the while marching pace to the horror that is the Glee soundtrack blaring in the background. Rinse and repeat. Over and over and over.
The “Under a Tuscan Sun” moment I had envisioned never materialized. It was more like an “Under a Really Hot Sun with Stale Muffins, Sore Fingers and Stains on my Linen” moment. No fun. No frivolity. Just hard, hard work. And for what? The promise of a bottle of wine made by my friends that will inevitably go bad before it ever reaches anyone’s lips? At least you know the label on the bottle of that corked wine you are given will surely be as outstanding as that harvest party invitation was.
My hat from McNuggetaloos goes off to the men and women who work the harvest. It isn’t easy. And to those of you who might soon be lured in by the apparent charms of what many call a neighborhood harvest party, beware! A harvest party is only a party in the same way the Donner party was a party.
The Accidental Vinophile is Dave Karraker, a comedian and writer who splits his time between Sonoma, San Francisco, his two Rhodesian ridgebacks and 61 Ford Thunderbirds. You can find more on Dave at www.davekarraker.com. Email email@example.com. Follow Dave on Twitter: @davekarraker