A great friend of mine recently wrote: “You have to work a vintage to understand what people mean when they say vintage. It takes over your life for a defined period of time. Damage control: eat, sleep, catch up with cleaning and that’s mostly life for a few weeks. Lots of relationships are made or broken. But I love it.”
She was right and I, along with countless others in wine regions across the world, am living it.
The people with whom one works in such an intense time become very important, and the rituals one shares with them provide a sort of glue that makes vintage a highly social, as well as busy, time. I’m spending most of my time at the winery run by Tim Geddes, where Dowie Doole (amongst other producers) makes most of its red wines. Tim’s engaging wife, Amanda, is a chef, and it is her task each day to feed the hungry, tired winery troops.
There’s something slightly surreal, and at the same time outrageously civilised, about sitting down each day to an extravagantly delicious lunchtime meal, book-ended by hours of messy, physical work. At twelve each day, the small vintage crew pauses to not only to satiate our appetites but also to, just for a moment, enjoy the sorts of sensual pleasures we are, in fact, in the process of producing for others.
It’s perhaps inevitable that we all love our food, and I hope we are a receptive audience for Amanda’s exceptional cooking. But it’s so much more than just a meal. Vintage lunch at the Geddes winery has become somewhat legendary in the region, and each day sees a visitor or two eagerly joining in the ritual. There’s even the occasional guest chef, today’s being Brad Hickey of the Brash Higgins label (quesadillas, corn – delicious). Great food, a beer or two, relaxed banter as our stomachs settle; vintage lunch makes sense of the morning’s hard work and makes bearable the prospect of another late night making wine.
I wonder what’s on the menu tomorrow?