Monday, September 3, 2007

Cheap Labor For Harvest Hits Snag

Apteryx Vineyard's general manager John Kovacs thought he had a grand idea.

The weather conditions in 2006 made for massive grape growth on their 22 acre parcel located in the Santa Cruz area of California, and that posed a massive problem for Kovacs. He didn't have enough people to harvest the grapes. When he sought to hire more employees, he discovered he was a Johnny-come-lately because all the other wineries in the surrounding areas had beaten him to the punch.

Then the lightbulb came on.

Kovacs called a long-time buddy in the maritime industry and arranged for a novel solution to his problem. Penguins. Not just any penguins, but emperor penguins. On August 29, just 5 days before the anticipated beginning of harvest, a whole shipload of penguins arrived at Half Moon Bay, just a few miles outside of Santa Cruz. From there they were herded into giant moving vans and quickly transported to the Apteryx vineyards.

Things were moving along swiftly and smoothly. Kovacs was particularly pleased with how quickly the penguins seemed to catch on to the task at hand. "I'd watched March of the Penguins several times and seen how intelligent these birds are. I thought, their sheer volume is going to knock out the harvesting in no time. Heck, I could even use them to crush the grapes if need be. I was totally excited about my idea and wondered why no one had thought of it before. And how fitting, they'd begin the harvest on Labor Day."

Then things went awry.

"There they were, out in the vineyard ready to go, then it hit me. Their wings are too short and stubby to pick anything," sighed Kovacs. "And for some reason they don't have very good eye/beak coordination so they kept puncturing the grapes when trying to pick using their beaks."

So what do you do with a huge herd (flock? gaggle? beach crowd?) of underutilized penguins?

"We herded them back into the trucks, got them on board the ship and watched them sail away back to Antarctica." Kovacs shook his head. "Good-natured little fellows, though. Not a complaint from any of them. They just piled on the ship and some even waved goodbye as they left the port. Such good attitude and work ethics. Maybe McDonalds should think about using them."

Kovacs still has to figure out how to cover the harvest of abundance that is still sitting on the vines, but at least he had an experience he'll never forget.

Happy Labor Day to you all!

***ADDENDUM***

Of course the above is all a silly jest, but I just read a serious blog post about the genuine article, the real labor that goes into those bottles we all enjoy. It's up for toasting on Wine Life Today, and to see the post, click here: Vinography.

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