Cuvaison Estate Wines
November 20, 2012 | Other | Cuvaison Estate Wines

Harvest 2012 Through the Eyes of A First-Time Intern

Cuvaison's 2012 Harvest Interns
Karan from India; Tim, Production Manager; Elise from France; JP from South Africa

Everyone says that harvest is a lot of work, but you don't really understand it until you live it. Take it from first-time harvest intern Adam Gordon.

Twelve-hour days, 7 days a week, is a whole lot easier said than done. Often young interns are attracted to the wine-industry for the romance of winemaking or the glamour of wine country. They are passionate, educated, and eager to dive right in and get dirty. The physical demands are grueling, but the payoff is worth it.




Adam is a 24-year-old graduate from Purdue University whose passion for wine was sparked when he attended lectures taught by the Court of Master Sommeliers. Bit by the wine bug, he acquired Level I Certification from the Court of Master Sommeliers and founded a wine club at Purdue called the Purdue Wine Appreciation Society. While earning his BS in Hospitality and Management, he dreamed of moving to Napa to truly experience the famous wine and food culture. He set his sight on the prestigious Advanced Culinary Arts program at the Culinary Institute of America, located in Saint Helena, California.

During the program, he became the president of the CIA wine club. He experienced high-end aged wines and gained the knowledge of pairing food and wine. After completing the program, he worked as a line cook at Bottega restaurant in Yountville, thinking he wanted to work in the restaurant industry. But after a while, it was the upcoming harvest that naturally piqued his curiosity.

Adam heard about Cuvaison Estate Wines from an advisor at CIA who recommended Cuvaison as one of the best wineries to work for and learn from. After interviewing with the Winemaking team, he was very excited to be offered a position as a harvest intern for 2012! Along with three other interns -- Karan from India, JP from South Africa, and Elise from France – Adam was about to discover firsthand how much work goes into making wine…

What made you want to work harvest?
I wanted to gain the hands-on experience. I had never actually seen any of processes I had read about, such as pumpovers, pushdowns, racking, pressing, crushing, maceration, fermentation, and inoculations. I didn’t really know what to expect!

What’s the most interesting thing you’ve learned?
The amount of hard work and hands that go into the process. It’s very different than working in a kitchen -- and much more physically demanding.

What is your most favorite or most challenging task?
Favorite task would be replacing all the barrel bungs. During fermentation, soft, breathable bungs are used which allow CO2 to escape. At the right time, the soft bungs need to be replaced with hard bungs for aging. It was fun to climb up the high barrel racks and throw the bungs down to be collected. Originally, the most difficult task was to fill the barrels with finished wine because you were responsible for carefully monitoring how fast the barrels fill. The pump is very fast, and if the barrel becomes too full too quickly, the wine explodes out like a fire hydrant. The margin of error is very small, but once I got the hang of it, there was a great feeling of accomplishment.

If you could have any job in the wine industry, what would it be?
To be the President of a winery. I would love to travel and meet distributors and trade. It would combine everything I love: wine, food, and travel.

What surprised you the most about harvest and about the wine-making process?
The amount of work that constantly needs to get done. There is no down-time and the days are long. I was surprised by all the new tasks to learn, especially regarding inoculations.
I didn’t realize the amount of science and precision involved. Steve Rogstad, the Winemaker, has such a wealth of knowledge and was very willing to teach and answer any questions. I’m grateful for the time he gave all the interns and for the education we received. We got to participate with Steve in barrel and tank tastings to learn what was happening in each stage of the process. Learning how wine is made from start to finish, how the science and art converge, was very eye-opening.

What was the high and low of harvest?
High was the harvest party. It was such a great way to celebrate and I had a real sense of accomplishment. It’s also been great working with all the friends I’ve made at Cuvaison. The low was probably feeling the pressure to finish all your work, but it’s all part of harvest.

Would you work another harvest?
Yes, absolutely, but now I know what I’m getting myself into…




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