Two weeks after I spent the better part of a day picking and processing grapes at Southold Farm+Cellar, parts of my body still ache. Yes, that’s a commentary on my present level of physical fitness — and no one would ever suggest that picking grapes is work meant for someone who stands 6 feet, 3 inches — but it’s also a reminder of all of the hard work that goes into the wines we love drinking so much.

Most people picture the life of a winemaker as an artistic, romantic one spent walking through vineyards, examining the grapes, perhaps plucking one from the vine to taste it before returning to the winery to taste wines and blend them before bottling.

Those things do happen, of course, but the reality is far different. Most of our local wineries are farms — and farming means hard, physical labor, long hours and sore bodies.

I try to volunteer as a harvest worker at least once a year, partly because I like seeing for myself how healthy the fruit is (or isn’t), but also because it lets me feel like a part of the local winemaking community in a way I couldn’t otherwise. Working shoulder-to-shoulder with people who do this for a living offers me just a taste of what their lives are like, but that taste is important to me.

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