This post is being submitted to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #31 and is my first submission! https://thedrunkencyclist.com/2017/02/07/monthly-wine-writing-challenge-31-mwwc31/ #mwwc31
Merriam-Webster defines faith as “complete trust or confidence in something or someone.” Now at five years in wine, I want to share the story of how I got here and how I took that my leaps of faith.
I’ve worked in the same industry for nearly 35 years. Information Technology, at times can provide some interest and intrigue for me but it can also be after all these years it can be as comfortable as a well-worn flannel shirt or a favorite pair of pajamas or slippers. It has always been there. It has provided for my comfort – the room over my head, the food on my plate, and most definitely the wine in my glass.
I have to go back a few years to fully tell my story. In 2005, I experience excruciating back pain caused by herniated disks. In May of 2005, I had a two level laminectomy surgery where the herniated part of the disks are trimmed to reduce the pressure on the nerves. While the surgery provided immediate relief from the excruciating pain, I still was restricted in what I just couldn’t do without causing some moderate pain. My days consisted of going to work and going home and laying prostrate on the bed. This was my shampoo, rinse and repeat – each and every day.
In 2008, I was frustrated with the painful and limited life that my back placed on me and I had a two part, two level spinal fusion (for those interested L4-L5 and L5-S1). The surgery went well and my recovery took time and over the next year and a half I was able to get off pain medication and I finally had my life back again.
My husband and I started taking day trips since I was feeling better and we would often find ourselves stopping at a winery or two in Virginia wine country. This was our most special time together.
We both found ourselves interested in learning more about wine and we started taking wine education classes through the Piedmont Epicurean Agriculture Center in Northern Virginia. We learned about wine tasting, wine and cheese pairings and several wine regions the world over.
In fall of 2011, my husband lost his job of nearly 13 years due to a corporate merger. We were stunned to say the least. He worked on getting his resume out on the street and with more time on our hands (okay, his hands but I made more time from my work schedule too).. Eventually, he found a part-time job but it entailed working overnight on weekends. If anytime, I am honest and I’ll be direct and say that I am not good at being quiet. I needed to find something to do while he slept during the day.
One fateful day, I saw a post on Facebook from a winery looking for warm weather help. The winery was one that we had visited a number of times and had thoroughly enjoy . I thought about it and I remember hearing myself say aloud “I could do that job.” I took that first leap of faith and went for an interview. I was hired and started pouring wine mid-March of 2012.
I remember my first day at Barrel Oak Winery in Deplane Virginia vividly. I was nervous about remembering all the information about the wine but most of all I was concerned about my physical ability to be on my feet for an 8 hour shift and when needed to lift and carry 40 pound cases of wine. The day ended up being about 85 degrees and everyone came out of their winter hideaways and came out to wineries. We had three people deep at the tasting room bar at all times all day. I, at one time, was doing 7 individual (not people – groups) tastings at one time. When my 8 hour shift ended, the winery was still packed and I told my managers that I couldn’t leave them short-handed. I worked 11 hours my first day. I drove home and when I could barely get out of my car I thought to myself “What in the world have I gotten myself into…”
I went back time and time again and found that I loved pouring wine and explaining how wines were made and about the owner’s stories.
My husband found full time employment in January of 2013 but that didn’t stop me from continuing working in the wine industry.
I loved wine so much that I started taking more advance wine education classes and in of month I earned my WSET II with distinction. I have taken course work for WSET III and CSW but day job demands have kept me from taking the examinations. My goal is to take these in 2017.
I worked at Barrel Oak for nearly two years. I learned so much those two years. I learned much about myself. I learned about being in a service-based job but most of all, I found that my leap of faith was not for naught. I had found my passion.
I left Barrel Oak in January of 2014. I thought that my skills could be better utilized elsewhere. I sat back and took many breathes and decided that I would take a bit of time to figure out where I wanted to land. Word had spread that I had left Barrel Oak and I received a couple of emails and Facebook messages asking if I was looking for employment. I was stunned.
My husband and I had been customers (as time allowed) of Casanel Vineyards in Leesburg Virginia since about 2010. It is a family-run business and we happened upon them with friends on a random road trip.
I had spent time with the daughter from the owner family of the DeSouza family, Katie, at a monthly tasting group for well over at a year that was made up of Loudoun County winemakers and winery staff. I learned to respect her palate and opinions. When Katie contacted me and about coming to work for Casanel, I sat back and thought about the direction the winery was working towards. In the near future, they would hire a new winemaking consultant, the daughter of owner family would become winemaker and the winemaking facilities in the yellow barn would open.
It didn’t take long for me to make a decision. Casanel is where I wanted to be. I had FAITH that Katie would do great things in the future and I continue to had faith that she will do amazing things. She has exceeded any of my expectations and I couldn’t be more proud of her.
Casanel embraced me as part of the family and allow me to not only pour wine for them but to also create and conduct wine education classes for our wine family – club members as well as other guests/visitors.
So here I am now 5 years after that first winery work day and I’m still going strong. I love my job. I’ve learned so much about wine but most of all about myself.
Cheers to 5 more years in wine and new leaps of faith.
This past Friday I participated in my first harvest of the 2016 vintage. It was the first time I have ever harvested Chardonnay. In the past, I’ve helped to harvest Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Traminette, Chambourcin, Pinot Gris and Carmenere. Every time I help harvest grapes, I learn something about vineyards in general, the specific vineyard and place, the grape I am harvesting, and most of all about myself.
This year, I learned about the shapes and growth of Chardonnay clusters. I learned how early summer hail and late summer high heat can effect grapes and how to recognize that damage. I am very happy to report that the damage was minimal. Other specific locations in Northern Virginia were hit hard with hail damage in May or so.
As for what I learned about myself, I learned that this city girl who was born and raised in New York City (Queens) finds part of herself out in the vineyard. Whether it is a pre-tasting room walk about the vineyard to take in the sights and sounds or working with clippers in sticky dirty hands harvesting grapes, I find another part of me – the nature lover and the person that loves to be part of something very special.
While drinking my coffee this early morning, I realized that today will mark the beginning of my 6th year helping to harvest grapes rather than 5th as I had thought. I started working part time in the Virginia wine industry in March of 2012 so this would be the 5th harvest, however, my first harvest was in October of 2011 not as an employee of a winery or vineyard but as a customer and volunteer.
Back in October of 2011, Rich and I helped harvest Cabernet Sauvignon at Casanel Vineyards in Leesburg, Virginia. I have photographs of the grapes from back then and they weren’t pretty. The year 2011 was a rough year on Virginia winemaking. In August, hurricane Irene imposed her wrath on us and on her heels a nor’easter. Seventeen inches of rain feel in a month and a half and I remember one sunny day out of 30. Mother Nature’s reminder to all that despite all the great love and care shown in the vineyard that she ultimately decides what the year will bring to the farmer.
I stood in the vineyards with clippers in hands and a cluster of Cabernet Sauvignon in my glove feeling the sun warming on my shoulder on what had started as a very cool fall morning. Little did I know at that very moment that something deep within me was awakening and that I was going to find my true passion – wine, winemaking, and viticulture.
In March of 2012, I started working part time at Barrel Oak Winery in the tasting room after my husband became suddenly unemployed and was underemployed for a good part of a year. I loved working in the tasting room. It gave me social interactions that I missed having in my IT day world and it gave me a forum to explore and share my passion – wine and wine knowledge. I would decide to move on from Barrel Oak Winery in January of 2014 and found myself being courted by a few wineries without even having to apply. Katie DeSouza whom I had gotten to know as a customer of Casanel and through a local monthly tasting group was on the doorstep of becoming the family’s winemaker along with a consultant who at the time was not yet know. I had a feeling about Katie. I knew she would do wonderful things and I accepted the job.
Now it is 2016 and I’m at Casanel Vineyards & Winery back where it all started. Later today I’ll have many a cluster of Chardonnay in my glove and once again I’ll be feeling the sun warming on my shoulder on what had started as a very cool fall morning.
Perhaps this is where I was meant to be all along.
Tomorrow morning, before the crack of dawn, my husband and I will load up the car and hit the road embarking on our first trip (non-family visit) in a couple of years. It seems that vacations, road trips or breaks have been few and far between due to job demands, schedules, and vacation balances. The central focus of this trip will be two and a half days experiencing and learning about Vermont wines, ciders, meads, beers, spirits, foods and products as part of #tastecamp 2016 #VT
Tastecamp provides bloggers, writers and others to share in a specific region’s fares and this year’s focused region is the state of Vermont. The attendees will be given the great opportunity to meet with winemakers, cider makers, brewers, distillers and other local producers of various other products.
I am excited to be able to participate and to be able to experience Vermont as part of this amazing event. I am excited to meet many people that I’ve followed and interacted with for years via their blogs and other social media outlets.