Just to catch you up on some of the small and large things I’ve learned or have finally committed to memory from having worked at Ed’s winery…

It was confirmed today that Ed definitely adds two SO2 tablets to each bin, be it a macro or a t-bin. Mystery solved!

It is becoming second nature for me to keep objects that would touch wine either upright in a gray trash bin with other tools that have been rinsed clean of their previous grape debris or to dip them in a white trash bin or white bucket filled with a Cleanskin and water solution. I am remembering to use the blue buckets for things that will see the compost bin or touch the floor.

I do not have as many pause moments as to the start/stop order of operations on the destemmer/hopper equipment.

Instead of trying to pop a resistant bin lid off in one or two pops, I’ve started working my way around the lid slowly un-popping it. It’s better on the lid anyway to do this as these are reused year after year and can crack when too much force is applied. I use the same technique for the lids when putting them back on, although the macro bin lids are easier to maneuver and can sometimes pop into place with a sharp shuffle.

If you park a pallet jack under a bin on a slight decline, be sure to cock the wheels to the side (sort of like turning your car wheels into a curb on a hill) to avoid runaways.

My abs are much stronger now from doing so many punchdowns, and as a result, it makes that job and the job of moving around piling fruit in a bin as the grapes rain out from under the destemmer so much easier.

Although I’m still not a fan of heights, I have gotten over the mental part of it and simply make sure to plant all 4 legs of the ladder directly onto the floor so that I’m not wobbling.

Learning techniques for small tasks can be a stress-reliever such as remembering to drain out the excess water in a hose and then walk it out to untwist it before slowly pulling it in to coil it up with greater ease. Or, tipping the giant ladder to one side to collapse its latches without getting your fingers pinched has been nice and making sure to carry it sideways with an equal amount of weight on each side has been the best way to handle it. Also things like taking the macro bin lids off before you grab your punchdown tool because the latter cannot touch anything but the wine, so there’s nowhere to set it until you get a bin open. (There will be more, I’m sure!)

Cleaning as I go has been the easiest thing for me to adapt to (given that I live in a studio apartment that basically works the same way). But it’s more than just cleaning, it’s remembering to do things like shutting off electrical sockets or coiling up hoses or cords, and of course, the ongoing sopping up of water/grape debris to keep the floor clean for safety issues and for the next wine-related task. Dave at the winery was right; there are a lot of wine tasks, but they are generally on auto-repeat, making it easier to learn them, and learn them Ed’s way.

We’re in our Indian summer in SF right now and the office on the top floor gets very warm. When it comes time for lunch, we cannot help but turn on the fan or open a window, but after a leisurely lunch and sitting down for a time, we often forget to close the windows or turn off the fan which is actually quite bad because the wind at night will blow and the movement of the fan will actually set off the alarm! Always double-checking to make sure the fan has been turned off and windows closed saves many a headache in the middle of the night!

To switch out a CO2 canister, first off, you need to make sure the valve is off as you cannot use the wrench to untighten the connector piece – it’s just too tight. This is akin to letting out all the excess water in a hose before rounding up the hose itself. Then untighten the piece and unchain the canister (it’s chained to a small dolly that is similar to the way the chain to roll up or close the door to the cold room operates). Remove canister by rolling lightly like you would a barrel. Roll new canister into place. CO2 canisters have “male” parts while argon canisters have “female” parts. Chain the canister into place before opening it. To get the seal off the new canister, simply take off the metal covering and hold over the seal and turn on the gas to shoot off the seal fast and effectively. Reconnect the connector piece.

I finally learned how to work the forklift! This has long been something I’ve wanted to be trained on. Only, funny enough, I wasn’t exactly trained. I think Ed knew I could do it (as he trains us on absolutely everything else that requires mechanical operation). I also think he was likely waiting until the parking lot was fairly empty of cars…ha.

Sure enough, it didn’t take me long to figure out the controls. The lever on the steering wheel has a forward, neutral and backward option while the 3 gear controls on the right side allow you to tilt, lift or lower, and rotate. Our forklift is electric (and must be charged) but is very quiet in the still position, so you can’t always tell if it’s on until you try moving.

That said, it’s also very sensitive and will roll backwards unless you really punch down hard on the gas to get it to go forward. Trying to stack bins on a slanted area is really hard! But, even though I wanted to give up because I couldn’t get them aligned as quickly as I thought I should (given the rolling issue), I persisted and kept on. The guys I work with were probably amused and horrified at the fact that I couldn’t get the bins stacked right, even though they knew it was my first time working a forklift. One of them actually gestured that to me that he was going to just manually push them into place and I gave him a look that I think said “don’t even try it buddy; this is between me and the bins” because he suddenly backed off. It was a few seconds after that hilarious exchange that I finally and successfully stacked those darn t-bins! Success and no cars or humans were damaged in the process!

I’m in awe of how Ed applies training. It’s truly based on a trust system. Trust in terms of how well he sees us retain information, repeat necessary steps to complete a task, and apply the appropriate pace, grace and temperament. Once he knows we can learn and apply skills with a safe mindset, he lets us try new things on our own because he has confidence we can do them from the jump. Feeling confidence from someone you respect and want to do right by is very motivating. When I stepped onto the forklift and there was no Ed there to train me, I realized I could, just simply, do it. And I did.