HAPPY: On Bottling Bliss in Berkeley

On Tuesday I –the proverbial “not a morning person” — got up at 5:50 am to head to Berkeley to hit the bottling line at 8 am at Donkey & Goat winery in Berkeley, California. Much gratitude to nearby Philz coffee and Donut Dolly for helping me fuel up a little after 7 am. Without your great food and drink I might have fallen asleep into the machine and end up bottled myself. I arrived and saw the “On Site Mobile Wine Bottlers” truck on the lot – what a great service for small wineries. The taglines says it all: “bottling done right.” IMG_0779 IMG_0777

Our fearless leader from the company was Mr. “QC” (Quality Control) who made sure that only good bottles ended up in the cases we made that day. BTW, Donkey & Goat unveiled their new label. Love it! Can you see the donkey and the goat? 😉


First job: pour the screw caps into the machine. I have worked the line but never had the pleasure of this particular task – so prefect for a half-awake soul. Once I got the rhythm of going up and down the ladder, refilling my colander with caps and then carefully pouring them into the machine. It was like a weird meditation – the kind maybe only weird wine geeks like me experience. It wasn’t long before I got that blissful countenance and felt my entire body expand with a sense of well-being. Seriously. This surprised me as just a week ago I was talking with a winemaker who mentioned how much he hates bottling – it’s repetitive, boring and plain hard labor.

I found it to be something entirely different (initially). However, when I switched jobs, I started understanding better the winemaker’s sentiments. My new job was also one I had not had before: placing the foil caps on the bottles after they are corked. That was one demanding and tiring job – cradle the foil caps like a baby because they are delicate; if they jam then all bets are off because the bottles are coming at you at a good clip. Several times I yelled,  “Houston, we have a problem” or “Mission Control, we need you!”

On to the third job: putting labels on the cases. Yeah, super easy breezy way to end the day. This job allowed me to chat with my fellow line workers.

Shift ended late but we had bottled – drum roll please – 1754.6 cases of wine! Untended Chardonnay, Stone Crusher Roussanne (the orange wine), Grenache Noir, Carignan, and the Five Thirteen (red Rhone blend)! Last but not least we basked in the joy of a job well done over a glass of wine. Tracey Brandt even brought out one of her coveted Lily’s Cuvee, the pétillant naturel (lightly sparking wines produced with no additives) Chardonnay!

All day, bottling kept me in the moment and in each moment, able to extract the joy from even the most difficult of tasks.

How’s that for a”wine” AND “soul” story?


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