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Prepping for Crush

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Posted: Tuesday, August 17, 2010 2:59 pm | Updated: 8:57 am, Wed Aug 18, 2010.

With August feeling more like September, it's been oddly quiet in Lodi wineries.

About all that's happening now is the prep work before the real action starts up, any week now.

Wineries are beginning to draft extra temporary help to do the heavy lifting of crushing winegrapes. A bunch of able bodies are waiting with anticipation for phone calls that will relieve perhaps months of unemployment.

The big equipment is being rolled out from behind tanks or sheds and untarpped. This is when we would discover black widows, so it was always prudent to have a can of Raid nearby, or at least wear black rubber boots good for spider squishing.

Stemmer-crushers used only one season a year are cautiously turned on to make sure they are working in time for the first load of grapes. Often just a quick lube job was all that was required, but sometimes we needed to rush-order an obscure old part from someone in France who barely spoke English.

The annoyingly loud pressure washer became the most-used machine, giving a final power-scrubbing to city-like towers of half-ton white Macrobins that serve as the common currency of grape delivery for small wineries.

And the last step signaling that crush was imminent is when we'd fetch the heavy steel scale with the forklift, set it down, and gingerly balance it with bits of shingles so we wouldn't see error messages. If I saw 190 (or so) when I jumped on, I knew we were all set for another vintage.

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