California winemaking gives me the creeps.  And I’m not alone.  Everything winemakers do is completely dependent on hispanic labor.  Yet we treat these people like animals. You have no idea.

When I negotiate a sale of a piece of Napa real estate to be converted to vineyards, the first thing we do, before the D9’s can fell trees and rip land, is to hire Mexicans to hand-carry out the bedsprings (which foul the backhoes of the machinery) left behind by the displaced tenants.

Upwards of 20,000 migrants are employed in North Coast farming (and not a lot of locals want to horn in on their jobs).  Thanks to high visibility initiatives by good-hearted corporations like Beringer-Blass and Kendall Jackson, low income housing is now in place for nearly 10% of the need.  The rest sleep in the woods.  No kidding.

When I was winemaker for R.H.Phillips in Yolo County, I had an employee of several years who chose to return to Mexico because the dental work there was a better deal.  A month later he was deposited at 3 AM on my partner’s doorstep by a “coyote” human smuggler who offered to beat him to death with a baseball bat if we didn’t produce $3,000 cash on the spot, compensation for redelivering him to “God’s Country.”

This is the sea we winemakers all swim in.  We don’t speak of it.  We hear the contraversy raging around immigration, and we just want to lay low and sell some $50 cabernet.

Time for truth.

I feel Americans are being conned, imagining that jobs are lost when these hardworking yet humble people sneak across the border to make our lives work.  On the one hand, these people would much rather work in their own country, in their ancestral home.

But until their own agriculture stabilizes, we are privileged to access their skilled expertise and hard work as the lynchpin of our winegrowing enterprise.

God bless them for it.  Heaven knows no white man will pick our grapes.