It’s been said it takes a lot of beer to make a good bottle of wine referring to the long, often grueling days of the fall harvest, and while most cellar workers wouldn’t argue that point, a few Woodinville wineries have found more creative ways to keep their crew engaged.
Without exception, everyone agrees music is a must. LOUD music. For Darren Voignes who started making wine in 2004 as a hobby, it begins with rock you to your core music. Visit Des Voignes in Woodinville’s warehouse district this fall and listen for the classic sounds of AC-DC, Van Halen or The Clash. Over at Mark Ryan, you will hear the likes of Queen of Stone Age or American rap metal band Rage Against the Machine. And at Novelty Hill Januik, its indie folk rockers like Jeff Buckley or Elliott Smith, along with plenty of KEXP radio, that get the job done.
Then there’s the food. Years ago, Mark Ryan McNeilly interned with Jed Steele, one of California’s wine legends, who gave him a piece of advice he’ll never forget. Jed told me, “Always keep your people fed,” he says. If you smell tri-tip wafting across the Sammamish Valley while wine tasting in Woodinville this fall, it probably means Mark’s at the grill again. No one goes hungry at Mark Ryan.
Novelty Hill Januik takes a slightly different approach. Four years ago, the winery’s enologist Andrew Januik launched a fantasy football league that traditionally kicks off over dinner the week before harvest. Everyone comes together to draft their “players,” and each crew member selects a team name in keeping with their job. Last year, for instance, head winemaker Mike Januik fielded a team called “The Boss” Andrew’s players suited up as the “The Lab Nerds”.
And while the rhythmic sound of loud music, a full stomach and a little levity is a great way to keep workers engaged throughout the season, don’t think there still isn’t a keg of beer to be found for after hours enjoyment. “It really does take a lot of beer to make a good wine,” says Darren.