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Awakenings Chapter 1: Dreams, Page 8

The following morning found Joe getting up before the dawn to meet with Umberto, a local agent representing contract grape harvesting crews.  After downing a few quick cups of coffee and a bowl of cold cereal, he headed out to the parking area in front of the winery, to where Umberto had parked his old pickup and was already examining the grapes on the nearest vines. 

“Good morning Burt”, Joe used the nickname that most of the rest of the growers used for Umberto, who had been assisting with harvests in this area for more than 10 years.  “I think that we are about two weeks from being ready to harvest.”

Umberto smiled at Joe as he chewed on some of the grapes. “It will be sooner than that, the weather is supposed to warm up”.  Umberto spit out the seeds.

“How many pickers can you get me in two weeks?”

“We will have 10 for you, Joe.  You have always been a good customer, especially when Elise makes those wonderful meals for the crews.  They really look forward to that.  This year, good pickers are getting harder to find.  The increasing acreage of grapes is also not making it any easier to meet the demand for skilled pickers.”

“Yeah, Ed Knudsen left Chateaux Ponderosa and went to work for Etoile Rouge, the new name for the Old De Marco Winery.  He says they put in 100 acres of Zin this year.”

Umberto raised one eyebrow. “My cousins down in Madera say that the Fairchild Group, the ones who own Etoile Rouge, are to be treated with caution.  I am not really sure that they have been known to be associated with fine wine.”

Umberto clearly knew more about the Fairchild Group and Etoile Rouge than did Joe, so here was an opportunity for Joe to learn more. “What is the Fairchild Group’s connection to the wine industry?

“The Fairchild Group owns a couple of jug wine producers.  They are a major supplier to the store brands for Megamart, one of their biggest buyers.  Megamart looks for volume and not necessarily for quality.   The Fairchild Group has learned some of Megamart’s predatory business practices and are using these against their competitors.  It would not be good for the fine wine industry to see these practices enter the business of fine wines.”

Joe and Umberto discussed the costs of picking and they both signed the contract that Umberto brought with him.   Umberto had another early morning appointment to coordinate grape harvesting and shook Joe’s hand before climbing into his pickup to leave.

Umberto’s conversation triggered more thoughts for Joe.  He decided to give Ed Knudsen a call.  Reaching into his pocket, he opened his wallet and pulled out the business card that Ed had given him on Saturday, and dialed the number on his office phone.

“Hello, Ed?  This is Joe; wasn’t that an interesting wine tasting on Saturday night?  It is not very often that you get body guards pulling guns!”

“Yeah, everyone is going to be talking about that one for a few years.”

“Saturday night, you extended to me an invitation to stop by for a visit to see the changes that you are doing.  I would like to take you up on that today if you have time.

Continued ...    Back to Page 7