As you all have most likely heard, the 2019 harvest and season are looking pretty amazing—a historic harvest that will be talked about like the 2010 vintage wines. This month, as we “wine’d” down from harvest, We want to use this blog to herald our team here at Sunset Hills Vineyard. As a vineyard guest, you hear from us individually, whether it is on a tour with Bridgette, at a club party with Sydney, or behind the bar with Audrey – but there are so many other wonderful, hard-working wine and farm enthusiasts here at the winery that perhaps go unnoticed.
Sunset Hills and 50 West could not exist without them. There would literally be no vineyard, no wine, no tasting room. We play host to a full-time crew of five (5) people. Their work week is dedicated to our vineyards rain or shine, freezing temps or scorching sun. The vineyard crew of 5 do everything; from mowing the grass to flipping cases for ten hour bottling days, and everything they do for the winery, they do with great effort and pride. They may ask for a soda or request pizza instead of brats for lunch, but they do the hard work day in and day out so that our business can create a the incredible wines that we are then able to share with all of you.
Our vineyard crew is joined for 8 months out of the year by a team of eight that joins us from the Baja California Peninsula. This hard working team is keen on learning new ideas and perfecting our processes. Take Joel for example, who has worked with us in the cellar for harvest. Joel is the type of friend that everyone needs—he always has a smile on his face and a quiet yet witty joke ready for you. He asks for clarification when he feels like he needs to, and he takes initiative to do the next task with no hesitation. Joel has learned to speak slowly so that we can communicate both on cellar actions for the day or a casual conversation about our families over the sorting table. We have a goal that he teaches us one Spanish word every day – we learn, we grow and we create together.
The Tasting Room, for those who don’t know… IS SO EXHAUSTING. Harvest is one of the most tiring yet exciting times of the year for me. We joke that “every day is Wednesday” because there is no sense of a weekend, no tracking of days of the week other than to ask “what day are we picking?” Although tiring, nothing compares to a busy Saturday behind the tasting room bar. The day begins with a morning meeting where our teams prep the staff by communicating the weekend events, big groups, or special occasions that are taking place at the winery. Everyone is listening, quiet, the calm before the storm. And then… THE DAY….
Finally, at closing, the floors are vacuumed to perfection, bathrooms are spotless, bar is wiped down—we can all relax with a beautiful glass of wine on the porch as the sun sets behind the tree-line. Yes we share stories from the day, but we have interesting conversations about all things other than wine.
Our weekday staff is the glue that holds it all together. We support each other, listen to plans, pitch ideas, lend a hand. We work to make our dreams come true, as a small business we know that we all have each other’s backs; there is no line drawn between jobs. Just because my title is winemaker does not mean that I can’t help stock the tasting room or cut the grass every now and then. Helping each other out is just skimming the surface. We are a true family here at Sunset Hills. Sunset Hills is not just a vineyard, a winery, a place to spend a Saturday, it is a place where talented, driven people work to make this lovely, inspiring, beautiful place run the way it does. From the vineyard to the tasting room to the management team, we all look out for each other in a way I hope continues in years to come.
At the time of writing this, the last of the Cabernet Sauvignon to pick is scheduled for Friday. I am listening to the hum of the press squeeze Shenandoah Springs Cabernet Franc. Barrels will be filled tomorrow and stacked in the cool cellar. Another vintage ends, but our staff keeps it alive as the bottles come into the tasting room to share with each other and our wonderful members, clients and customers. We all look forward to having a bit of free time now that our epic 2019 harvest is complete, but we are happy to be surrounded by the team and our family here at Sunset Hills and 50 West.