When most girls bring a boy home to meet the family the questions go something like, “So young man, what are you studying in school?” and “What are your intentions with my daughter?” Here at the vineyard, the classic interrogation has a rather different tenor. We sub out the “Be home by midnight” with a “Harvest starts at 5am, you best be up by then.” My brother sidles up with his classic, “So, you ever driven a tractor? No? Well, tomorrow’s your lucky day isn’t it?”
When I bring a boy home for the first time, he has to prove his devotion by enduring a full day of the Vineyard Grant James harvest. It starts before the sun comes up with mom bringing out her famous Vanilla Macadamia Nut coffee, which, sorry for you doesn’t actually have any caffeine in it’s sugar sweet depths. It’s followed by grape-picking in the cold where it’s still so dark out that you aren’t quite sure those razor sharp clippers of yours are hitting their proper mark. However, the cold burns off quicker than you expect and next thing you know the sun’s up and you are begging for it to hide again in that cloudless Ramona summer sky.
Next, grandpa comes over to that sweet new boyfriend and tells him it’s his turn to crawl up into the grape de-stemming machine. “Well that’s it young man. Just stick your hands in just so. Oh no, the de-stemmer has short circuited? Well get up there and fix it then! Aren’t they teaching you anything at that fancy university of yours? You take science classes there, go fix the circuitry and get us up and running again!” This is followed by hours of hauling buckets of grapes, keeping the newly crushed juice cold with dry-ice, then just when you think you’re done, it’s your responsibility to clean every last sticky grape off the property.
But hey, at the end of the day, if you make it through all of Boyfriend Initiation you get to come back again (and again) to be a part of a true family business. And you get the girl! I’m worth it I promise.