Events, Turkish, wine
Comments 2

Life in the Vineyard – Part 2 – Harvest

cabernet sauvignon

Today marks one month of harvest work at Chateau Kalpak. I came back here with a small suitcase of clothes and a big bag filled with my pantry essentials. After 2 weeks here, the temperature dropped suddenly and most of the clothes I’d brought became unsuitable, not only for the weather but also for the work I do here. Red wine stains everywhere!

Luckily, our sweet staff has given me some of her old clothes so I’m managing to survive so fa r. More than surviving really… I’m revitalising my inner soul and body here. I wake up every single morning, thanking to the nature and thanking to everyone who made it happen.

Hubby is missing my food so much! And my in-laws are looking after our dog. My in-laws visited me and saw how happy and exuberant I looked and confirmed how happy people are when they do what they love.

Chateau Kalpak

Vineyards at sunrise

No matter how old you are and what obstacles you have, you’ve got to live your dream after all.

While most wineries have finished the harvest, we still have a few more parcels to be harvested including Petit Verdot, with which I’ll be making my own wine! People here even call that parcel ‘Namie’s parcel‘.

I’ve stayed here through the ripening seasons, observing the changes in the colour, size and taste of the grapes and also witnessed some wonderful natural phenomena, mesmerising and blissful sunsets and awesome lightnings.


For the LEARN part, this winery has been everything I’ve hoped for. I’ve been learning a lot more than I’d expected, it being a small boutique winery that produces world quality fine wine.

Putting textbook knowledge to practice has been such a wonderful and valuable experience. There are many ‘oh, wow’ and ‘hmm’ moments that prompt me to read and study more, consolidating my wine knowledge, which is exactly what I was looking for.


Picking berry samples for the ripeness test, for example. It sounded cool so I volunteered, only to regret 10 mins later. Walking up and down the slopes and between the rows of the vines under the hot sun, picking over 100 berries…. well, not as cool as I’d thought! I’ll hide somewhere when it happens again – and I did mange to hide the second time.

Then, you’ll squeeze the grapes by hand and do a Brix and Ph test. Fascinating though, how pure grapes smell and taste, so that you can imagine what kind of wine they will make. Normally, you pick a bunch for a test but here you pick individual berries from different clusters, positions and vines.

grape harvest

Finally, the harvest started and the ladies were hard at work! Two of my favourite ladies posing for my photo, haha. We had so much fun together during the bottling in July and they love me so much that they keep bringing me jam, olives and other food.

While 10-15 village ladies and men were busy at the sorting tables upstairs, I was busy downstairs where the grapes fell into tanks. So busy and exhausted have I been that I’ve been hitting the sack around 9.30pm every night.

pump over

I appreciate wine even more now and you should, too! It’s A LOT of work to make good wine.

THREE times a day, doing the pump-over, alternating between the normal pump-over and aerated PO and doing the analysis for temperature and density(?!) 3 times day. Haha, now I’m talking like a wine geek. Wait till I get to TA(total acidity).

Pump-over might sound tedious but for me, it’s fun because I enjoy the process of smelling it for its progress, and also the feeling that I’m responsible for the wine! Everyday is a joy for me, debunking the myth and theories about winemaking through hands-on experiences.

How grapes from different parcels ferment differently, giving different aromas, and how you figure out the wine has completed fermentation or is struggling to ferment, etc.

When the alcoholic fermentation ends, we test for residual sugar, alcohol content and free SO2. I was very keen on chemistry at school and voila, I’m being a chemist finally! Bravo to me!

Tasting the 2015 vintage before transferring into oak barrels

At one point, new barrels arrived and got filled with old vintages. Tank tastings, barrels tastings, all kinds of tasting are the best part of the job. I always wish there were more tastings! Whenever the English speaking enologist comes each week, I get so excited about doing tastings.

A little secret to reveal…. When we did the tasting today, they liked the wine from a particular vat and I couldn’t help but to smile myself; That’s the one where I dropped a bucket and almost killed myself trying to fish it out!!! Don’t underestimate the power of CO2, guys!


Perhaps the only thing missed here is the communal love for wine. Wine is a product, bitterly admitting that it’s a commodity in the modern day, but to me, it started as a culture 15 years ago and it will remain so forever.

However, in Turkey in general, the cellar hands don’t really have the same love and passion for wine as the winemakers do and things get a bit frustrating.

They might not share the same passion but they are sweet and lovely people. I’m teaching Korean to the handsome French looking guys and English to female staff. Why men want to learn Korean? I have no idea!

kalecik karasi

Kalecik Karasi before going onto my cheese platter

Tasting different grape varieties, especially the rare Cabernet Franc, Kalecik Karasi, Petit Verdot, etc. is also so exciting. What grapes are you eating tonight? Petit Verdot! How luxurious to have a whole bunch of Petit Verdot on your cheese platter, huh? When they finally harvest Petit Verdot and wonder why they have less grapes this year…..oh, well!

It’s been wonderful to be physical and be natural in this amazing place. I don’t think I can go back to a sedentary job after this. Up next is the food I’ve been cooking up in the tiniest kitchen in the world!


  1. Hi Namie! Even from your writing, I can tell that you are very happy 🙂 You made me think about my life and my choices. You are totally right saying that one should do what makes her happy. For me, it has never been easy to know what I really want. I always wonder, whether or not it is true that you will love your job, once you convert your hobby to a job. It looks like I’ll be thinking about what I like, this weekend 🙂
    Take care and tell Bülent Bey that I miss his wines here in Bremen 🙂


    • Hi Elif, people who love wine have a complicated life, huh? It’s probably a lot easier to pursue your passion in your new country though, right? Working in a winery has given me real perspectives into winemaking and wine industry as a job. I wish I’d had this opportunity earlier! But better than never and I will have something wonderful to remember for life. Follow your heart!
      Yes, the wine here….great, isn’t it? 🙂 How lucky to have it with my dinner every night!


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