What’s interesting about winemaker Zach Rasmusen’s protocol of running a crew is that the first 20 to 30 minutes of every morning is spent stretching together. He received press for this in Out Magazine’s profile on him shortly after leaving Husch winery and taking the job at the mighty duck. It’s something progressive you would expect employees at Google’s headquarters doing, not a cellar team in foggy Anderson Valley. The rewards run deep. Not only does Zach have an eight pack on his Bostonian abdomen, but there’s no way a crew member can hide a bad mood. It’s as social as it is physical.
In the chill of the seven o’ clock hour, our crew received individual assignments for the work day, and since I play the role of Vineyard Sampler, I walked with Zach back into the office to find out which sections of the estate vineyards he wanted me to sample. This entails making multiple passes through a block of vines and snipping off random cluster samples to bring back for analysis and weights. It’s an interesting way to calculate not only how much fruit to expect per acre, but to see where the acid and sugar levels are. I loaded up eight empty buckets, Sharpie pens, and Post-Its into the back of the company GMC truck out back and hopped in. As I warmed it up and defrosted the windows, I fired a text off to S.S.: the aspiring esthetician and SSU girl who had not only plucked my eyebrows on Sunday but drained my masculine soul all weekend. I had a feeling this drama-prone girl was up to something. I could tell by sunset on Monday when there wasn’t a single text message from her, as opposed to the usual dozen. I’ve learned in my relationship with her that she’s the kinda girl that will pick unnecessary fights via text message or email but never on the phone. The Verizon vendetta of the day started off innocently enough with my opening compliment of “My eyebrows look good, thanks”. This was followed by her chilly response of “Are we dating?” In light of a combination of heavy work days coming on soon, last night’s news of a forthcoming weekend visit by a girl named Molly who I’d fully flinged with during my last week in San Luis Obispo, and perhaps the absurdity of me and S.S. as an actual couple, I wrote “Come up Monday and Tuesday and we can decide”. She replied, “No. I don’t want to feel pressured or that you’re trying buy me.”
“Excuse me? Buy you?”
That was all it took for me to end it. “You don’t have to feel pressured or that you’re being bought anymore S.S.,” I typed, “I don’t want to see you anymore.” That unleashed a texted frenzy of attacks, including her take on why my ex-wife had every right to sleep around on me and how I don’t listen and that I’m negative. A lot of this stemmed from a moment in her bedroom two days beforehand regarding her OCD dry-erase monthly planner board on the wall. I noticed she’d scribbled “T Back” on this coming Thursday’s square (she refers to me as D on that board i.e. “D here”). “T” of course is her on-again-off-again boyfriend, fellow SSU student, and the reason she spiraled into a pill induced suicide attempt that got her 5150’d and sent to a mental unit in San Rafael in July. All over this guy confessing that he’d slept with someone at Burning Man and got her pregnant which resulted in an abortion. Yeah. You have every right to say I sure can pick ‘em.
“Who’s T?” I asked her in her bedroom that morning. She stammered and got up and erased it immediately.
“I don’t even know what that means,” she said, then came up with a lie that it meant she was gonna take the train back from a central coast trip that fell through, and that “T back” meant “train back”. It shone a light upon the fact that these past couple months with me were merely a rebound retaliation against him. When this emo smoke clears I’m sure I’ll see that these two deserve each other.
And thus, I have a new saying about relationships: “All relationships that start electronically can end electronically”.
Afterward, as I trudged through the Split Rail Vineyard with my buckets in hand, I started feeling down about it. How could I have let my iron guard down over this girl and actually cared? There was no way it was going to be a functional long term relationship. Maybe my real fear was the fact that there weren’t any available women in Mendocino County. The only attractive ones appeared to be the trophies of ganja growers or wives of vacation home owning types. The intern Rebecca was hot but taken by an Alaskan who feverishly awaited her return in Colorado. It was going to be a dry harvest so to speak, and that was my real fear.
As I rounded a row of vines a white dog nearly attacked me. It belonged to one of the vineyard guys who were working on leaf thinning out there. My heart raced for a good ten minutes afterward like I’d had a triple espresso.
Rebecca asked me all about S.S. when I got back and was confused by the recent newsflash. “Yeah we broke up.” I almost think this Colorado girl was flirtier when she thought I had a girlfriend. One of those types. Now that I’m so recently free, she suddenly passed on coming up to use my laundry facilities and drink wine tonight. She confessed that she was surprised that S.S. and I were together, since my personality was a lot different than hers from what she could tell. And that’s all based on the Goldeneye winery social last Thursday night that I brought her too. S.S. wore a high-on-the flank silky dress to that event that night and heels. It was easily the sexiest I’d ever seen her.
“How old is she?” Rebecca asked.
“Twenty-one,” I replied.
Her eyes widened. “Oh really?”
Once she and I weighed the clusters and crushed them into juice, she took the samples into the lab to run the analysis, and I jumped in with Cellar Foreman Pancho Ibarra and the other two interns Danny and José Luis. A truck had just dropped off 90 used oak barrels. The full time cellar hands Bo and José were in Napa getting harvest supplies, so Zach asked me if I was comfortable manning the forklift, cleaning the empty used barrels on the Tom Beard barrel washer, and stamping their numerals on the front. I got a system going and it was the first fun workday at Goldeneye so far. It took my mind off of her for the most part. At lunch Zach asked me about my weekend in Rohnert Park and how S.S. was doing. I said “Aww man, we broke up.”
“Shut up!” he said with a concerned expression.
“We did. It wasn’t going to work. Kinda sucks though.”
“What’s worse is that we never got to find out about the myth about Rohnert Park,” he complained.
“That Rohnert Park is the gay pornography capitol of California.”
Later on in the afternoon, Zach introduced me to a cork salesman who was a former winemaker. The guy asked Zach about Mike Lucia’s departure as assistant winemaker, and Zach said he’s not looking to replace him just yet because he’s “got Delmore right here”. It felt good. Could timing finally be in my favor? Or has it mostly been and I’m too pessimistic to notice it?
During the last break of the day I hopped onto the lab computer and checked S.S.’s Facebook page (even though I told myself not to). She deleted me already of course, and some Mexican dude from Santa Barbara was already hitting her wall up about her coming down, her looking hot and she responded that she’s into it. Good for them. Driving down 128 on the hot way home, I calculated who won out the most in our short relationship. She got wine, weed, unlimited flattery and reassurance and all meals paid for, and I got sex. It was like a form of legal prostitution in the end. I think I made out ahead.
Once home in the trailer I popped a 2008 Lucia Susan’s Hill Syrah for the evening’s lamb shanks. I wanted to hang out outside but the landlord here warned me about the massive mosquito problem on this property because of nearby irrigation ponds. As the sky turned to copper the little buggers were already out in full force.
A tasting note on the Susan’s Hill: I bought this cool climate Santa Lucia Highland Syrah through my family’s restaurant. Black purple core and fragrance of coffee, white pepper, raw beef, flowers, and Tart N’ Tiny candies. Coated with French oak sweetness before clamping down with weight, body, dark fruits and tannin with plenty of acid. The weight of the wine is obvious when you swirl it around.
I strummed my guitar inside after feasting, and three black glasses of wine in I’d forgotten all about the girl.
Cold air blew into the trailer around five A.M. I tried to sleep a bit more and failed. Three hours later, while out in the Confluence vineyard doing grape sampling, I received a “Good morning sunshine” text from Molly. Nothing from S.S. of course, but Molly’s message was attached with a photo of the sun. I pondered just how hypocritical I could be, how I’d attacked S.S. for catching her in the act of planning on seeing her ex boyfriend again, and here all along I had another girl making the six-hour trek to spend some time with me. When one door closes another one opens…