A Day In The Life of a Harvest Intern

by Daniel Frigeri

Happy harvest season everyone! The job of a harvest intern involves many aspects of wine industry production including the not-so-pretty parts like being covered in grape juice at the end of a shift or getting chased by bees on the crush pad. Coming from a culinary background I’ve always been surrounded by people who’ve dedicated their lives to the curiosities of fermented grape juice; how to grow, cultivate, and transform grapes into an expression of the terroir and technique. The market for wine is exponentially growing, proving its capitalist potential for a supply and demand industry with some wineries, like Chateau St. Michelle based in Washington State, pumping out nearly 8 million cases of Riesling annually (just Riesling!).

On the other side of the spectrum, you have smaller, more boutique wineries, like Barnstormer Winery in New York (where I currently work), which produces about 8 thousand cases of wine annually, across the board. Less wine means fewer interns, and that one intern is me! So, let’s take a closer look at what wine production typically looks like on a smaller scale from harvesting, processing, fermentation, chemistry, and the very necessary ice-cold beer at the end of the day.

Related: Craft Wine vs Mass Market Wine

6:00-7:00 am: Farm hands and harvest workers are up and at em in the vineyards to ensure each winery gets the grapes they need for the day ahead. A lot of wineries don’t have space to grow their own vines so it’s common for wineries to buy grapes from different vineyards around the area under a specific dollar-to-ton contract. Winemakers closely monitor the grapes throughout the season, taking samples back to the lab to collect data on the sugar (Brix), pH, and acid levels to better determine when to pick.

7:00-8:00 am: Winery employees, including the interns, start their day in the cellar with a myriad of tasks that differ depending on the grape’s schedule. There is rarely a set schedule during harvest because the grapes, and the machinery used throughout the day, do things on their own time…. expect the unexpected! Some morning chores include:

  1.       Setting up the crusher/de-stemmer, press, or other machines for processing
  2.       Racking juice off its solids or “lees” to get it ready for primary fermentation or inoculation. This involves big pumps and valves to transfer the juice into clean tanks.
  3.       Punch Downs! A thick and heavy cap forms on top of fermenting red grapes that must be punched down 1 to 3 times a day. No gym membership is needed!
  4.       Ferm Check – taking samples of each fermentation in the cellar to make sure the yeasts are happy and hungry.

1:00 pm: Fruit arrival! Anywhere from 1-10 tons of grapes arrive on our crush pad at any given time. A forklift helps us transfer the grapes that come in these giant wooden vineyard bins. The grapes get poured into a crusher/de-stemmer machine while someone guides them in using a long rake. Working bin to bin, ton by ton, we finally have our crushed red grapes and now it’s time to store the bins, re-organize the cellar, and start cleaning the machines.

4:00 pm – More punch downs, more cleaning, and a little more cleaning. Remember those wines we racked off and transferred earlier? Time to clean those tanks and make sure there are no titrates left behind.

6:00 pm – By now you are cold and soaking wet, no doubt ready for a nice cold beer. The crush pad is cleaned, floors are squeegeed, tanks and machines are ready for tomorrow, and the reds have had their last punch-down of the day. Time to head home and do it all again tomorrow!



FEATURED EVENTS

Crush Wine Experiences

October 23, 2021

A once-in-a-lifetime experience

Piedmont Italy: Barolo and Barbaresco tour

Oct 23 – 30, 2021
6 nights, 7 days
Milan, Barolo, Alba, and Turin

RESERVE NOW
Crush Wine Experiences

September 23, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Kotti Berliner – Food & Wine Pairing

Join us for a Virtual Food & Wine Pairing with Brooklyn’s Kotti Berliner. Explore delicious döner kebabs paired with wine. Meet Kotti founder, Erkan Emre.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

September 16, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Broadbent Selections – Portugal

Join us for a Virtual Tasting with one of America’s leading importers of high-quality Portuguese wines.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

September 2, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Cusumano Winery – Sicily, Italy

Join us for a Virtual Tasting with the maker of the #1 selling Sicilian wine in the U.S.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

August 26, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Kunde Family Winery

Join us for a Virtual Tasting. The Kunde family has farmed an 1,850-acre estate in Sonoma Valley for 100 years.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

August 19, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

LangeTwins Family Winery and Vineyards

Join us for a Virtual Tasting. Great wine starts in the vineyard.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

August 12, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Dutcher Crossing Winery

Join us for a Virtual Tasting. Distinctive and hand-crafted wines produced from award-winning vineyards.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

June 12, 2020

At Your Home

RGNY At-Home Blending Session

Be your own winemaker for a day — guided by a professional on Zoom video!

PURCHASE KIT & ZOOM TICKET
Crush Wine Experiences

May 29, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Virtual Wine & Pizza Tasting with Jamesport Vineyards

What’s better than great wine and artisanal pizza?

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 28, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Foxen Winery & Vineyard Virtual Tasting

Experience the magic of Santa Barbara wine.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 28, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Foxen Winery & Vineyard Virtual Tasting

Experience the magic of Santa Barbara wine.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 21, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Chateau Montelena Winery Virtual Tasting

This tasting will be epic.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 19, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Ridge Vineyards Virtual Tasting – Monte Bello winery

The New York Times described Ridge Monte Bello as “America’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon.”

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 18, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Tenuta di Lilliano Virtual Tasting

Very special tasting. Don’t miss it!

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 15, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Pedroncelli Winery Virtual Tasting

Four Generations of Family Pride at Pedroncelli Winery, since 1927

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 14, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Provence Rosé Group Virtual Tasting

The best rosé in the world comes from Provence.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 13, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

St. Francis Winery Virtual Tasting

Voted “#1 in America” in 2013 and 2015 by Open Table customers.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 12, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Ridge Vineyards Virtual Tasting – Lytton Springs

The New York Times described Ridge’s Cabernet Sauvignon as America’s greatest.

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 11, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Oak Farm Vineyards Virtual Tasting

Visit the famous wine-growing region of Lodi County, California – virtually!

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

May 8, 2020

Live Online Zoom Broadcast

Goldschmidt Vineyards Virtual Tasting

Visit Sonoma County – virtually!

RSVP FOR FREE
Crush Wine Experiences

April 18, 2020

Marlboro, NY

Wines & Bites!

Hudson Valley’s yummiest wine and food tasting event

GET TICKETS
Crush Wine Experiences

March 7, 2020

New York’s Premier Winter Wine Event

NYC Winter Wine and Food Festival

Enjoy a winter getaway without even leaving the city.

GET TICKETS
Crush Wine Experiences

January 19, 2020

Riverhead, NY

RG|NY Blending Session

Join RG|NY winemaker Lilia Perez, for a unique tasting and blending session.

PURCHASE TICKETS
Crush Wine Experiences

December 14, 2019

Ulster & Orange Counties, NY

Wreath Fineries at the Wineries

Don’t miss the ultimate holiday wine tasting event in the Hudson Valley. Sales end Thursday, Dec 12 at 11:59pm!

PURCHASE TICKETS
Crush Wine Experiences

November 14, 2019

New York, NY

Around The World In 10 Wines

Experience a global tasting in 2 hours with award-winning artisan cheese and charcuterie

PURCHASE TICKETS

RELATED WINE BLOGS

Thursday, November 24th, 2022

5 Thanksgiving Wines from 5 Countries
Lighter-bodied wines with less oak are great holiday choices Beaujolais Nouveau is released on the third Thursday of November every year Rioja is great with cranberry sauce or any baked pies Thanksgiving usually involves multiple dishes scattered throughout the table to be shared by loved ones on this special day of feasting. So, to make - Read More
Read more...
harvest

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2022

A Day In The Life of a Harvest Intern
Happy harvest season everyone! The job of a harvest intern involves many aspects of wine industry production including the not-so-pretty parts like being covered in grape juice at the end of a shift or getting chased by bees on the crush pad. Coming from a culinary background I’ve always been surrounded by people who’ve dedicated - Read More
Read more...
syrah

Monday, November 14th, 2022

Syrah 101: So Nice They Named it Twice
While it’s called Syrah through most of the world, this native of the Rhône Valley goes by Shiraz in Australia. And though they’re both the same grape, this name distinction is used to indicate the different styles of Syrah (or Shiraz!).  Keep reading to explore the dry, full-bodied, and food-friendly Syrah – where it grows, - Read More
Read more...
LOAD MORE