Friends who visit often volunteer. “If you ever need any help when it’s time to pick the grapes, just let us know,” they say. The same people often continue, “It could be like an ‘I Love Lucy’ episode and we can drink wine and have fun.” Little do they know that picking grapes is not for the faint-hearted. Sometimes I have to actually try something over and over again to refresh my memory about how much I don’t like something. Eating foie gras is one of those activities. It is an acquired taste that I have just not managed to acquire no matter how many times I try. Something in foie gras triggers my gag mechanism. Picking grapes is an activity in the category of “some things are best left to others.” This year I was once again reminded of that fact. For the uninitiated, the reasons why grape picking should be left to the experts are legion. The tool that is used is something out of a grisly “Game of Thrones” scene. The blade is razor sharp and in the shape of a crescent moon. Cutting the grapes is done with the repeated flick of a wrist and it is all done very fast. It is easy to visualize a finger in the grape bucket instead of a cluster of cabernet grapes, and that’s only the beginning. Rookies to picking grapes imagine beautiful clusters hanging at eye level screaming, “Pick Me!! Pick Me!!” It’s not that way. The grapes are all tangled up with the vines and the wires and each other. A few are at eye level but the grapes are more likely to be tangled up in the wires or down at the knees or hiding behind all the leaves. Some clusters boast a thousand grapes while others have 10. Yet others are clusters of something that used to be grapes and now look and taste more like raisins. All need to be picked fast and bending down is a big part of the exercise. Teamwork is key to efficient grape picking but to be alert to your teammates, you need to speak the language of grape picking. The co-pickers in the vineyard may or may not want you there. If everyone else is moving really fast because this is their livelihood and you are in the middle holding them up, you have created a hostile work environment. That is, everyone else will be hostile toward you. If everyone else in the vineyard picks and acts like you that could make for a fun environment but the grapes may never get picked. Timing and climate are important too. The time of day (or night) when the grapes will be picked may not be convenient for someone who is accustomed to a soy latte at 9 a.m. Six in the mooring is early to be peeking through the vines for the clusters. Picking at 3 in the morning is always best left to the experts who have big lights and tractors and worker’s comp. Did I mention the heat and bugs and snakes and dust and large dangerous machines? All of these are a special part of grape picking, too, and add adventure and potential emergency room visits to the experience. You will probably need to drive yourself to the ER since everyone else is too busy. Other than all that, grape picking is easy and fun and is an activity not to be missed. So if you ever get the chance to pick grapes, get out those new work boots, khaki shorts and the wine country hat and give it a try. Have the camera poised and be ready to get out of the way after a few clusters are in the bucket.

Friends who visit often volunteer. “If you ever need any help when it’s time to pick the grapes, just let us know,” they say. The same people often continue, “It could be like an ‘I Love Lucy’ episode and we can drink wine and have fun.”

Little do they know that picking grapes is not for the faint-hearted. Sometimes I have to actually try something over and over again to refresh my memory about how much I don’t like something. Eating foie gras is one of those activities. It is an acquired taste that I have just not managed to acquire no matter how many times I try. Something in foie gras triggers my gag mechanism. Picking grapes is an activity in the category of “some things are best left to others.” This year I was once again reminded of that fact.

For the uninitiated, the reasons why grape picking should be left to the experts are legion. The tool that is used is something out of a grisly “Game of Thrones” scene. The blade is razor sharp and in the shape of a crescent moon. Cutting the grapes is done with the repeated flick of a wrist and it is all done very fast. It is easy to visualize a finger in the grape bucket instead of a cluster of cabernet grapes, and that’s only the beginning.

Rookies to picking grapes imagine beautiful clusters hanging at eye level screaming, “Pick Me!! Pick Me!!” It’s not that way. The grapes are all tangled up with the vines and the wires and each other. A few are at eye level but the grapes are more likely to be tangled up in the wires or down at the knees or hiding behind all the leaves. Some clusters boast a thousand grapes while others have 10. Yet others are clusters of something that used to be grapes and now look and taste more like raisins. All need to be picked fast and bending down is a big part of the exercise.

Teamwork is key to efficient grape picking but to be alert to your teammates, you need to speak the language of grape picking. The co-pickers in the vineyard may or may not want you there. If everyone else is moving really fast because this is their livelihood and you are in the middle holding them up, you have created a hostile work environment. That is, everyone else will be hostile toward you. If everyone else in the vineyard picks and acts like you that could make for a fun environment but the grapes may never get picked.

Timing and climate are important too. The time of day (or night) when the grapes will be picked may not be convenient for someone who is accustomed to a soy latte at 9 a.m. Six in the mooring is early to be peeking through the vines for the clusters. Picking at 3 in the morning is always best left to the experts who have big lights and tractors and worker’s comp.

Did I mention the heat and bugs and snakes and dust and large dangerous machines? All of these are a special part of grape picking, too, and add adventure and potential emergency room visits to the experience. You will probably need to drive yourself to the ER since everyone else is too busy.

Other than all that, grape picking is easy and fun and is an activity not to be missed. So if you ever get the chance to pick grapes, get out those new work boots, khaki shorts and the wine country hat and give it a try. Have the camera poised and be ready to get out of the way after a few clusters are in the bucket.

Rich Moran spends time in wine country marveling at the skills of others and the tools that are used for productive purposes.

Rich Moran spends time in wine country marveling at the skills of others and the tools that are used for productive purposes.

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