When I went up to the Verde Valley to bottle wine with winemakers Eric Glomski, Tim White and Sam Pillsubry, I kept hearing that “wine making isn’t as romantic as everyone thinks.”
Maybe the guys were afraid that I would find the monotonous assembly of bottling, corking, sealing, labeling and packaging dreadfully boring. But I just could’t get past the romance of the story these grapes tell.
Some people say it’s too hot to grow grapes in Arizona, but the real trouble in Cochise County (where most of the vineyards exist) is the frost. Winemakers do crazy things like light 100s of mini bonfires around the vineyards when there’s a frost warning to keep from losing grapes. In the case of the 2010 vintage, hail really wreaked havoc on a lot of the crop.
But these desert grapes are survivors, as evidence by the wine I had the pleasure of helping bottle.
It takes six people to run the bottling line, and I was put in the toughest seat.
Person 1 is in charge of setting up the vats or barrels of wine to be bottled. Person 2 takes the empty bottles out the boxes to be filled. Person 3 watches to make sure the corker is sucking out the oxygen to form negative headspace, makes sure the bottles are filled to the proper level and puts the tin foil on top of each bottle without bending, denting or obstructing the foils. Person 4 double checks that all bottles have been properly labeled, foiled and filled before packaging each case of wine and sending the box down the conveyer belt. Person 5 stacks the cases of wine onto a pellet to be taken into the warehouse. Person 6 is a floater and keeps the filling machine in running order making sure all the valves, pumps and gases are giving a proper performance.
My job was to put the tin foil over the top of the bottle. Super hard, right? I heard rumors that Eric had said my position was a”woman’s job.” Of course I confronted him and he quickly recovered by saying he may have said that in the context of women being great multi-taskers.
I may be guilty of texting, eating, applying mascara and shuffling through my ipod all while driving, but being apart of this bottling line was straight out of a scene from I Love Lucy. One mistake or delay in grabbing new foils, and bottles would start to pile up at a rate that is impossible to recover from—especially since I was unable to sneakily stuff bottles of wine into my mouth or pockets the way Lucy was able to with the chocolates.
Our assembly line (or assembly squiggle seeing as how the bottling equipment was housed in what looked like a large horse trailer hitched to the back of the building) was fueled by taco flavored Doritos, bagels and organic apples; along with an eclectic sound track of Talking Heads, Gorillaz, Otis Redding, and Snoop Dogg.
The five hours I spent bottling felt more like playing a small role in a romantic comedy.
Sam’s crazy dance moves never ceased to make me giggle, and Eric’s charming smile was absolutely hypnotizing. I relished in every opportunity to soak up his knowledge of wine.
I also found myself transfixed by the instantaneous glow created by the simultaneous removal of oxygen and and redistribution of carbon dioxide just after each bottle was corked. It was as if I was the conductor of my own fireworks show.
I didn’t find bottling the least bit boring; it illustrated why the love interests (of my imaginary romantic comedy) were meant to be together against all insurmountable odds.
It’s nearly a year’s worth of work come to fruition in 750 milliliters. Here’s to 2010.
Zero-Packaging Grocery Store to Open in Austin, TX
Austin, Texas is already home to Whole Foods, but that won’t stop a group of entrepreneurs from founding a new grocery store right in the natural food behemoth’s backyard. While the new store In.gredients will also specialize in local and organic ingredients, there’s one major difference between this venture and its hometown competion: In.gredients promises to be the country’s first ever ”package-free, zero waste grocery store.”
The idea is so simple, it’s surprising that no one in the United States has implemented it yet. (The United Kingdom, on the other hand, got the bulk food-only Unpackaged in London last year). Just like many people bring tote bags to the grocery store, shoppers at In.gredients will be encouraged to bring their own containers to pack up items like grains, oils, and dairy. If a shopper doesn’t have his own containers, the store will provide compostable ones. It’s as if the specialty bulk food section rebelled and took over the rest of a traditional grocery store. In.gredients will replace unhealthy, overpackaged junk with local, organic, and natural foods, and moonlight as a community center with cooking classes, gardening workshops, and art shows on the side.
“Truth be told, what’s normal in the grocery business isn’t healthy for consumers or the environment,” In.gredients co-founder Christian Lane said in a press release. Americans add 570 million pounds of food packaging to their landfills each day, while pre-packaged foods force consumers to buy more than they need, stuffing their bellies and their trash bins: 27 percent of food brought into U.S. kitchens ends up getting tossed out.
In.gredients’s founders hope to open the grocery store’s doors in East Austin this fall, provided that the funding goes through.
Let’s make some Black Milk Boba Tea! Here’s a simple and delicious concoction, ideal for home usage and beginning milk tea brewers.
Ingredients: (Makes about 2 servings)
2 cups brewed Black Tea
½ cup Tapioca Pearls
1 cup half and half or non-dairy creamer
Sugar syrup (see directions below)
2 cups ice
Step 1: Sugar Syrup and Tea
To make your simple sugar syrup, add equal parts sugar and water to a pot and bring to a boil. Brew your black tea of choice and pour in separate container. Store both inside fridge to cool down.
Step 2: Making the Boba
This is arguably the trickiest part of the recipe, but is easy enough with a little patience.
It is imperative that you have a very high water to boba ratio, at least 5:1. Pour the water into a large pot, or rice cooker, place the lid on and bring to a boil. Once the water has begun boiling, gently place in your tapioca pearls. Stir to make sure the boba doesn’t stick together, then place the lid back on and set your timer to 30 minutes (this amount varies upon your particular brand of boba).
Make sure to remove the lid as little as possible. This is key to getting soft, chewy boba.
After 30 minutes are up, turn off the heat and let the boba sit with lid on. After another half hour has passed, pour the pearls into colander and gently wash in cold water. This will get rid of all the excess liquid and starch.
Store the boba in the sugar syrup and place in fridge until needed.
Step 3: Putting it all together.
Place boba, then ice into tall glasses. Next, place you black tea, creamer and sugar syrup into a cocktail mixer or blender and shake/blend. The amount of sugar syrup depends on desired sweetness, but four table spoons is a good starting amount. Pour mixture into tall glasses and serve with a fat straw.