The bottling line. Does it conjure anything for you? Me neither. At least, it didn’t used to, before I worked on one. Then when I did, for the first time, bottle, I thought it was mesmerizing. At first. Then, I thought it was tiring. Long, tiring, even kind of boring. It was too physical to be meditative, too repetitive to be interesting. So again, no conjuring. The bottling line. No resonance.
Then I received this picture …
The picture came from Will Thomas, our viticulturist up at Lytton Springs. This is a shot of the bottling line at Lytton; they’re bottling the Ponzo Zinfandel. And for some reason, it really struck me. The bottling line.
It occurred to me that there is something that happens on the bottling line that is completely, utterly unique amidst all the processes involved in the making of wine.
It is on the bottling line that wine — a lot of wine; gallons upon gallons upon gallons of it — transforms from wine in the grand abstract, to the very specific reality of YOUR bottle of wine. On the bottling line is where that grand mass of liquid, housed in some enormous tank, or spread out across a multitude of anonymous barrels, becomes YOUR personal bottle of wine. YOUR bottle of wine is born on the bottling line.
Who can know now what might happen to that bottle, what might become of it, what unforgettable experience or ritual it might play a role in? It might be the wine on the table at the restaurant you dine in on the night you ask your lover to become your spouse. It might be the first wine you taste in the first hours after your first child is born. It might be the first wine you serve with the first holiday dinner you cook the first year after your grandmother passes away. It might be the wine you pour on your father’s grave as they return him to the earth from whence he came. It might be the wine you drink to celebrate the 50th anniversary of your wedding. It might be the wine you give your son the night he becomes a father. It might be the wine your share with a best friend you reconnect with after 20 years of not talking. It might be the wine you drink with a great loaf of bread, an excellent hunk of cheese, and a really good book, all by yourself, on some beach somewhere, on some anonymous Sunday, some year, in some country, that is in fact one of the most pleasant days of your life.
That wine may have just been born on the bottling line.