A very special helper in Okanagan Falls
Every year for the past 22 plus years there has been a familiar face at Blue Mountain Vineyard during harvest. This person is a very special member of our harvest team and although not paid for his many hours of labour, he is appreciated for his genuine heart and the great personality that he brings to Blue Mountain. Hank Stefaniak although technically a member of the family has been coming to Blue Mountain Vineyard faithfully every year for as long as there have been vintages.
Living on the Island those early sojourns were sometimes short as for a while he was still working in Education as an administrator and educator. In the beginning 4 day long weekends were all he could get away for but eventually he voluntarily chose to book vacation and spend his week or two of holidays in Okanagan Falls. Since he retired in 1997 he manages a full month or more whenever possible.
This year I had the opportunity to meet Hank and to chat with him about his experiences during various harvests at Blue Mountain Vineyard.
What are some of the jobs you have done while you were helping out with the harvesting? In the early days I photographed many of the days during production and much of the construction and planting that was happening. These pictures were used for promotional pieces and marketing mainly. (Hank was the very first person to photograph the iconic image of McIntyre Bluff that graces the labels of all Blue Mountain Wines.)
More recently I did spend a little time in the vineyard pruning. I have been mainly in the cellar since, hosing down bins, driving the forklift, barrel curing, topping up barrels, cleaning and rinsing tanks, what I call grunt work! In terms of the wine making and testing....not so much.
Do you have a favorite job in the cellar? Not really, I just do whatever needs to be done although pump overs, climbing ladders and hauling skins were more fun when I was younger.
Anything you dislike about working harvest? Wasps
Most memorable harvest and why? 1996 ...it was super cold and Ian and Jane had the crush pad set up behind the building. There was a makeshift bin dump and I was scraping berries in with my arm and rain was pouring down off the gutters everywhere. It wasn’t bad just freezing cold.
Thankfully this year was the complete opposite and Hank got some lovely long warm days on the crush pad. On behalf of everyone at Blue Mountain Vineyard thanks for all you do Hank and all you have done in the many years that you have been coming to help out with harvest. Your smile, great work ethic and sense of humour are greatly appreciated. See you next year!