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on the table

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y back hurts. My hands hurt. It’s hot. I’ve been stooped over, punching at the dry dirt with a spade so my partner can coddle the baby grapevine from its pot and nestle it in the hole I’ve dug. We push soil over it and pack it hard with the heels of our boots. Then both of us move several feet down the row to the next marker to do it again. Then again. Midmorning, we hear a shout—oh, sweet sound—from the dirt road. All over the vineyard, workers drop their spades and gather for a mid-morning refresher of chilled rosé and glazed doughnuts. A perfect pairing. Manual labor is new to most of us. We’re softies, with hands accustomed to pouring wine, serving plates, chopping vegetables or, in my case, tapping a keyboard. But for this week, we’re migrant field workers, laboring with the regular team that plants and prunes the vineyards at Saracina

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Winery in Mendocino County. Francis Fecteau, owner of Libation, Inc., a Utah wine broker, has recruited us city slickers for the workforce. Like most vineyards, Saracina contracts with the same workers year after year; we work alongside the pros, making up (I hope) in enthusiasm for what we lack in experience and calluses. Fecteau appropriately calls our involvement “Wine Camp.” Twice a year, Fecteau invites Utah restaurant sommeliers, chefs, servers and owners to accompany him on a working trip to California wineries. While there, the Utahns dig, plant, prune and taste, talk to winemakers and grape growers, tour the vineyards and get a first hand and hands-on experience of what it takes to put wine in a bottle. Fecteau believes “Better farming makes better wine.” Many of the wineries involved practice organic, biodynamic or sustainable practices. His reason for hosting the trip is equally simple: The more you know

about something, the better you can sell it. That, of course, is good for the wineries, the restaurants and him. I think it’s also good for Utah. “Many people in the hospitality business develop a purely academic understanding of wine,” says Fecteau. “I want them to see how it goes from the dirt to the bottle. I want them to understand the passion behind it.” Our team comes from all aspects of the hospitality business and all types and sizes of restaurants. Ty Richchouyrod, Food and Beverage Director for Grand America’s restaurants; Scott Gardner, bar expert and co-owner of Water Witch; Billy Sotelo, chef at La Caille; Jodie Rogers, Food and Beverage Director at Deer Valley Resort and Briar and Melissa Handly, owners of HSL and Handle, are working in the fields and many also work in the kitchen, too, preparing meals for the campers and hosts. (Fecteau arranges

Salt Lake Magazine Sept Oct 2016  
Salt Lake Magazine Sept Oct 2016