October is quite a month in the Finger Lakes.
The weather is spectacularly crisp and dry, and the clarity of the atmosphere puts a spotlight on the blue sky, transparent lakes, oranges, reds, and yellows of deciduous trees, plus the air smells like grapes.
Tourists also love the region in October--it is the busiest time of the year, and of course while the swarms of tourists attack tasting rooms, the proprietors of wineries work almost all day to take in their crops, ferment their wines, and deal with the tourists trade. It’s enough to make a rather curmudgeonly fellow into someone who plans murders.
Nick was not a curmudgeon when he started, but he certainly was growing into one as he sank his soul deeper and deeper into selling wine at his tasting room. He was overwhelmed to find that many tourists are rather boorish. Besides that, many people in general seemed to revel in their ignorance, and no matter how many winery tasting rooms they visited, they asked the same tired questions, never seeming able to learn a thing concerning a subject about which they claim to express love. Finally, the strain of anti-intellectualism that runs through the American culture was, well, it was getting on his nerves.
One busy day at the tasting room, after he had answered a few questions over and over, after he had endured the “dump bucket joke” at least a dozen times, after he had to deal with cheap, drunken visitors, he began to hate the fact that some cretins got to enjoy October while he got to serve them.
Nick wanted a day off, but it would have to wait until the following week, when Theresa could work in the tasting room. She was on a big project in San Francisco and would be away for about a week.
He got through the harrowing day, made himself some soup, and prepared to settle into an evening of wine and bookkeeping when the phone rang.
“Tomorrow morning? Oh boy. See you then.”
Chardonnay was ready to pick.
Nick phoned Fred.
“So Fred, you’ve missed another grape harvest. I have to pick up the Chardonnay tomorrow. When are you coming up?”
“It looks like I can make it next weekend. Is that ok?”
Fred’s schedule was perfect. Theresa would be back and she could handle the tasting room while Nick entertained Fred. The thought of it made Nick relax. He slept well that night.
The alarm went off at 5:30. Nick ate some oatmeal, drank some coffee, and hustled out the door to the truck—the one that had a flat tire!
He ran back into the house to call Jim and tell him he was going to be late. Jim assured him that he would press and hold the juice for him.
It took him more than an hour to jack the truck and replace the tire with the spare. Most of the time was spent unloading and reloading the tanks from the truck bed to lighten the load and to prevent them from sliding down the bed and possibly breaking something.
In those days, spare tires that came with vehicles were real tires, not those toy tires that automakers shamefully provide theses days with a new vehicle. If he had been stuck with one of those things, Nick would have had no choice but to drive to the shop, unload the truck, have the flat tire fixed and replace it for the spare, and reload the truck. But he did not have to do that. He did, however, have to get the spare from under the truck where it was housed, and the fixtures were of course rusted.
Watching the clock, he raced to Jim’s place. He already would be in a bind to get the tasting room opened on time. This coming beautiful October day that started with a good night's sleep was promising to be stressful, a fact that was underlined when he got to Jim’s place.
“Oh shit!” Jim screamed.
“What’s the matter, Jim?”
“Nick, I gave your Chardonnay juice to the guy who was here a few minutes ago.”
Nick’s stomach sank, his head hurt, and he began to have those thoughts of murder that he thought were reserved only for tourists.
“How could you do that? That was 300 gallons of juice. How many of your home winemaker customers buy 300 gallons of juice?”
“Well, I do have two other small winery customers. Frank, over at Keuka Pass Winery was here to pick up Seyval juice. I gave him yours by mistake. Do you want the Seyval?”
That’s how Nick made his first wine--unhappily--from French American hybrid grapes, and he decided he would do with the Seyval everything that he had planned for the Chardonnay.
If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
September 2010. All rights reserved.