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Hi, I am interested in working at a vinyard for the season so I can learn the grape growing and wine making process from start to finish.
Does anyone know how I would go about finding a position like this?
I know there are people who do this for a living traveling from vinyard to vinyard...There could be worse ways to spend your day Smile
Im thinking Norhern California or Oregon but am open to any info you may have.
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You want to be a migrant worker? Migrant workers don't even want to be migrant workers, it's a brutaly tough life. There actually are few ways worse to spend your day than doing farm labor. But ok, here are some tips:

1. Read as much as you can about grape growing and winemaking. Technical stuff, not pairings with Andrea. Start with Cox's "From Vines to Wine".

2. Work in a restaurant. Prove you can work long hours at low pay spending most of your time cleaning things.

3. Learn Spanish. Working in a restaurant will help.

4. Get a forklift drivers permit.

5. Don't say anthing like, "romantic", "exciting" "or glamourous" when asking for a job. Talk about "cleaning", "lifting", and "20 hour days".

Personally I've taken dozens of people out into the vineyards with me, including many full time professional gardners, and maybe 1 in 10 wants to go back for a second day.

Jobs are hard to get, most new openings, go to new grads from Davis, or people with farming experience. If you're serious though someone will take you on.
I think Steve8 is still ahead of you.

Dave's actually one of the few people who said he'd come out and work again in the vineyard.

so yeah Cherry, if you're serious, getting a job is actually no porblem. Show up and start knocking on doors and calling people. Wage for vineyard work is normally $10 and hour. I've got 15-20 hours per month you can take on.
Internships do exist. They usually run through harvest or Labor day - Thanksgiving. Again, mostly to Davis grads and students. Stiff competition for those jobs.

If you're coming out with out a degree and with out experience, you're going to need to start in the fields or the tasting room most likely.

Let me give you a clue on how tough it is. I work at Chaine d'Or during harvest. Unpaid, I put in 50-60 hours there doing everything. I pick grapes, hoist bins, run the crushpad, clean the equipment, everything.

The owner gets 20-25 offers every year for that job and he's had 4 people do it over the past 22 years (makes the odds about 1 in 100). When I got it, I had been taking care of my own vineyards for 5+ years and already made wine commercially. I'll also work at Big Basin Vineyards this year. I'll be on staff for 3 weeks, paid. I'm the only 'full time' person he's adding. That's now 7 years of vineyard experience and 3 commercial crushes of my own to get a 3 week job.

You can do it, but you need to commit to taking anything and be willing to do anything. What opened doors for me was that I had put my time in in the vineyards and people knew I was serious about the entire process.

The entire process is 'just work'.

Tomorrow I'm cleaning up cuttings from one vineyard and burning them, then removing large weeds with a shovel and tree pruner, I'll also repair drip lines and weedwhack anything over 10 inches.

Sunday in another vineyard I'm repairing broken posts and stakes, laying out deer repellant, and rewiring trellis on a section of Zinfandel (the work Dave helped with last year). If I have time, and help, I'll repair the drip system.

No spraying this weekend since it's supposed to rain Sunday night, or I'd do that.

Monday I'm racking barrels, just about 5-6 hours of work, transfer all the wine to tank, clean the barrels of gunk and transfer the wine back, then clean the tanks. It's a pain because I suck as a forklift driver and moving barrels around takes me longer than most people.

Next weekend the tasks change, but it's more of the same type of stuff.
Coincidently, we just returned from a trip to Napa. During a visit to a small winery one of our group asked about working at the winery to learn about wine making first hand. The host indicated that because of the current pressure on immigration (legal and not) there would be a shortage of help this year especially at harvest. She told our friend that her help was welcome and she could probably call most smaller wineries with similar results.
I worked a harvest once. Let me tell you, it's like skiing for 10 hours straight, with an hour for lunch. Imagine being in a skier's squat for eight hours. The thighs begin to burn, and then just cramp up and lock down. Then do it again the next day. OK, we still love it. And we go back again and again. Wine lovers do idiotic things. I'm with you. Do it until you find something better to do.

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