WWOOF Work: Guests and Events
The time had tearfully come for my fourth and last week wwoofing at Castello di Potentino. Monday and Tuesday brought about a sense of déjà vu, returning me to my first two, intense days working at the Castle.
We picked the last 20 rows of grapes over those two days, pressed them in the cantina, and washed up the crates. There was much to get done, and a few of us had to return to the cantina after dinner to help Uran.
Those were long days, as well as the worst two days of grape-picking I had experienced. The air was humid and fruit flies were creating a symphony of buzzing around the vines, at times swarming around us as we picked numerous unsightly bunches. I even got a couple of unwelcome flies up my nose.
By now, the mold had set in quite a bit, and it was a completely rare find to encounter a bunch of grapes that didn’t need careful attention or a disdainful toss to the ground.
We were down to eight wwoofers, so things didn’t go as fast as when we had been sixteen strong. But we tried to motivate each other as best as possible, and get ‘er done to boost everyone’s morale.
Our schedule changed a bit during my last week at the Castle. Instead of our usual weekend days off, Wednesday became our free day (which was quite welcome after two hard days with the grapes and flies), with half days off on Thursday and Friday.
This was because a big birthday bash was being planned for the upcoming weekend. James, a friend of Charlotte and Alexander, was inviting a Castle-full of guests for his party on Saturday. It was also his brother’s birthday and so another party would be held on Friday for him.
Something exciting always seemed to be happening at the Castle. Early on in my stay, a chocolate-wine pairing event hosted by Rococo Chocolates had taken place. All of the wwoofers were treated to participate in the delicious event.
The Rococo “Chocolate Lady” (I have sadly forgotten her name) and “Chocolate Man” (James) brought several of their exquisite chocolates to pair with wines from Castello di Potentino. Sandre, a guest and importer of the Castle’s wines, also generously brought some champagne and wine for everyone to taste.
A yoga event had also been hosted at the Castle during the weekend I was in Rome. Aside from practicing yoga poses, the yogis were also taking a wine course during their stay. They were treated to a beautiful, four-course meal each night, prepared by Avi, a sous-chef at The River Cafe in London.
This week, guests had already started to arrive before the big weekend. The wwoofers took turns helping chef Christina prepare big lunches and dinners leading up to Friday’s party. Then came the first birthday bash of the weekend.
There were so many guests, they couldn’t even all fit inside the great dining hall. There was an abundance of chatter, food being enjoyed, and musical performances for the guests’ listening pleasure.
Saturday was yet another long day of prepping food and post-meal cleaning. I felt like I got a sneak peek into what life in a high-end restaurant kitchen would be like: stressful and non-stop (that ended with dancing around the kitchen table).
Sunday morning, we were all dead to the world. Nobody seemed to know what time we were supposed to work, and some seemed convinced (or maybe in denial) that there was no way we would have to be up early to work after such a long night.
But alas, we were summoned to the cantina and stumbled in late. I was still half asleep and ended up tripping and flying into some jugs outside the cantina, skinning my knee in the process. Not my finest moment.
We spent the day pressing grapes and cleaning, pressing and cleaning. The smell of the cantina had become a nostalgic one for me by the end of my time at the Castle.
The next day, Monday, was more of the same. It was my last day though, so quite bittersweet. The time seemed to crawl so slowly, but I reminded myself to take in every last moment in the cantina and working with my fellow wwoofers, who I was going to miss immensely.
There was only four of us left at this point — Clara, Manuela, Lev, and myself — as well as Karen and Christina, but all of the wwoofers who I had experienced Castello di Potentino with over the past month had become part of the story that I’d be leaving with.
We sang songs in the cantina to pass the day (as we had often done over the weeks), and skipped over the sad ones.
At the end of my last shift, I felt accomplished and both happy and sad that my wwoofing adventure at the Castle had come to an end.
It would take a while for the grape skins to fully wash off my hands. “It’s like art,” Christina had said to me over my goodbye dinner.
Indeed, I’d just have to look down at my palms and fingers when the Castle seemed like a faraway dream, and know that the memories would always be etched in forever somewhere.
>> Read the next post in the WWOOF Italy series: Eating at Castello di Potentino