An introduction…

This is the post excerpt.

My introduction to Sierra Foothill wines began in 1984, when I was only 14 years old. Although I didn’t learn much about wines, I learned a whole lot about myself and other people!
John McCready of Sierra Vista Wines had hired my brother and I to help out at the harvest. Our job was simple- set empty 5-gallon buckets out in front of the harvesters and then swap them out for empty ones as they filled up. We would then carry the full buckets to a truck and trailer with a macro-bin on it. We would dump the heavy buckets of grapes into the bin and repeat the process… over and over.
Strangely enough, the part I struggled with most was placing the empty buckets in the right spot for the harvesting crew.
The picking crew was a Hispanic family with members from 14 to 60+ years in age. The youngest picker would lead and collect the most obvious fruit. They would progress in age, with the tallest picker collecting the higher fruit and the shorter relatives collecting the low-hanging fruit. The gleaner, the oldest member of the family, came last.
I noticed several things about the gleaner. Not only did he appear ancient and too frail to be doing this physical work, but he also trusted entirely to his hands to find the hidden grapes left by the rest of his family. He also was the least accommodating with my bad bucket placements. When I set down the empty bucket too far away, the bunches he tossed would fall short until I repositioned it. Once it was in the correct place, he unfailingly hit his mark.
We worked hard throughout the morning (we had started at 6:00!) and took a lunch break at 11:00. When we stopped for lunch, the youngest member of the harvesting crew offered his arm to the gleaner and led him to a shaded rock, folded his hoodie into a cushion and carefully showed him where the seat was and helped him ease down onto it. At this point I finally realized that the wizened old worker was completely blind!
I would love to tell a story of how I came to know this family better and traded items of my lunch for scrumptious and spicy authentic Mexican dishes over time etc., but instead I only worked a couple days before I learned that my brother was stealing finished bottles of expensive wine, and I quit before I could be implicated in the thefts.
My brother was never caught, I looked like a slacker flake, and I didn’t work in the wine industry for another 25 years… at which time the wine industry in El Dorado County has blossomed from 4 to 34 tasting rooms. But that is another story.