Thursday was a half-day for us temporary types at Goldeneye, and I spent the morning grape sampling the Narrows Vineyard with Danny. The fruit in these recently sulfur sprayed blocks in the deep end was variable, since this is the latest ripening site in the Duckhorn quartet. On my initiation tour of this vineyard with the ever-serious Vineyard Manager Nathan Miller, I was told that block 13 was specially planted for Bernie Madoff with cuttings that Dick Cheney flew back from La Tâche in Burgundy. This “Bush” clone of Pinot Noir produced the backbone of these $80 bottles of wine.
Danny and I stopped and eyeballed the militant frost protection machines that the Turkey Vulture from the AVA had been spewing about, so far as to ask for money from Duckhorn for the nightly noise pollution, or at the very least some cases of wine. Danny is a riot and probably the prettiest male on the planet, but he knows it. The sexual byproduct of a 1980’s-era actor in Hollywood and a blonde bombshell of a ski bunny, he’s been spending summers on a farm in Anderson Valley, experimenting in alternative agriculture and lifestyles. This was going to be his first wine harvest.
I played tennis with Rebecca after work at the Anderson Valley High School. I drank a couple bottles of Racer 5 while she crushed three cans of Bud Light. She played well for it being her first time. Danny had been complimenting the hell out of her at work, and praising her athletic body. While swinging rackets in the dry heat of a Boonville afternoon we talked about her boyfriend a bit and how he needs to propose to her ASAP. She said she was embarrassed that he hadn’t already and that this remote harvest job was somewhat in response to his procrastination.
It was then that I told her our intern Jacob has a six-foot-three black girlfriend from Oakland and she's blinged out. Rebecca looked at me in disbelief. “What? Jacob?”
“Weren't you at that tasting? At Navarro?” I asked her.
She shook her pretty face no.
“Oh no, you weren't. That’s right. Well she came up for it. I was surprised. All iced up and everything.”
To put this in perspective, Jacob's a very white, conservative, Bartlett pear-shaped, good natured kid who has a voice and Americana dialect from the 1950's who wouldn't hurt a fruit fly, even if one died in his glass of Duckhorn Three Palms. In his free time, you'd have a better chance finding him reading a newspaper and listening to A Prairie Home Companion than bobbing his head to a Pitbull album and chugging energy drinks.
Still weary of my recent sexual availability, Rebecca wisely called it a day and left me to my own devices. I returned to the trailer and ate a gingerbread medible. The thing rocked the hell out of me. I had to physically lie down for four hours and pull the sheet over my head to get through the panic attacks. I felt okay around 10 pm, after a cup of Flying Goat coffee and a shower.
* * *
After an extended weekend with the sweet company of Molly from San Luis Obispo, I made my way to the crushpad in a nurtured state of mind for the official first day of harvest 2010. Foggy, crisp weather clung to the valley floor. On the drive in I ceremoniously played The Band's “King Harvest” and drank an El Salvador brew, thinking about the girl. Maybe the trailer really is a conceptual lair like its former tenant Paula in Goldeneye’s tasting room claimed it was.
We got in close to ten tons of Pinot Noir from Confluence Vineyard, mainly from the blocks on the backside that face the Navarro. There were about 20, white, half-ton macro bins stacked on the pavement at Gowan Creek when we pulled up. It'd been four, perfect days since I'd worked with this crew and we were still getting to know each other. At the stretch circle in the morning I must've been beaming from my weekend happenings because Zach zeroed right in and asked me how my days off were.
The crushpad operations started off smoothly and everyone was in good spirits on the conveyor-sorting table. We were pulling out any overripe or under-ripe clusters, and there weren’t many. Zach and Bo were working across from me, and Zach, after a silence, said, “Okay, so come clean on this Delmás! Did you tell Rebecca that Jacob has a six-foot-three black girlfriend from Oakland?”
Between eating that loaded gingerbread cake on Thursday afternoon and making love for three days straight, I'd completely forgotten about that one, and suddenly erupted in laughter. I’d spaced on telling Rebecca that I was kidding that day, and in my absence on Friday she relayed the hot info to the rest of the crew. Zach translated the joke to Pancho who thought I was serious too. “A grande negra?” he asked Zach.
“Can I submit a group challenge?” Zach announced to Danny and I. “That someone find a picture of Jacob's girlfriend online and Photoshop them together in a photo.”
At lunchtime Jacob himself turned up with his Sonoma grape samples for the Migration label. There was a funny tension in the air over all of this. The absurd idea of him dating a fictitious Missy Elliot was on the minds of everyone at the duck all weekend long. We shared the long table in the breakroom and Jacob sat at my right. Rebecca was across from me next to Zach. I suddenly couldn't look at anybody in light of this. Jacob was telling us about how he spent his weekend with a 73-year old man and mistakenly called our Vineyard relations manager Karla “Sasha”. We laughed harder than we should have as he apologized profusely over the mix up.
“Jacob,” Zach gave me a glance and started, “do you know a Sasha?”
Karla said something about the actor Sasha Baron Cohen and thankfully changed the subject until tastes in music came up.
“So Jacob, do you like hip-hop?” Zach asked, far more straight faced than I ever could manage. I looked away as best as I could. Rebecca stared at Jacob intensely, awaiting an answer.
“No, no, not me,” he replied so innocently with a big, shy smile, just thinking this was a getting-to-know-you session.
“Wait, really?” Rebecca asked, totally baffled.
“Oh no, no, no. I don’t like hip-hop.”
Once the table had all cleaned out I told Zach, “Man, you are killing me!”
Bo walked up around 3 pm as José Tapia was giving Danny and I some back-story on the La Independencía de Mexico celebration. He pulled me aside and let me know that Zach had felt Jacob out about his tolerance of practical jokes after lunch, and whether he was a fan of them or not. He had quickly said he was not and doesn't care for them at all.
“Well shit,” I said to Bo, “I guess I'm going to have to be mature about this. I'll tell Rebecca I was joking.” Danny was sad about the limp reality of me having to come clean on this. He wanted the fun to continue. Feeling paternal to the guy already, I told him of the fine line between humor and cruelty. Now Rebecca will fall into the doesn't-believe–a-word-Isay crowd, which happens to me from time to time.
The rest of the workday was hilarious. I was learning that Pancho definitely holds the operations down and is a great leader. At the end of the afternoon break I asked Rebecca to come into the breakroom and I quietly confessed to her. “I have to come clean on something. Jacob Mauney does not have a six-foot-three blinged out black girlfriend in Oakland. I'm sorry. It was a joke. I'd forgotten I'd said it.”
She made a play of slapping me and was shocked. “Oh! You!”
And here I was, making one small step toward a greater, yet distant maturity.