Personal Stories – Wine

Apr 262012

wine blogRead :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 1)

Read :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 2)

Read :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 3)

Read :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 4)

It was the birth and adolescence of our children that slowed the wine-stained part of our lives and seemed to bring it all into perspective. While my passion for wine and winemaking never died, for the next 20 years it often took a backseat to soccer and volleyball games, golf tournaments and ski races as by then we had relocated to Colorado to find a simpler lifestyle in the mountains.

But a true passion, like a long lost love, never dies. And while we may stray from our roots, it is those very roots that anchor us and call us home. Those two roots for me are wine and Austin, Texas. As the children left for college, Donna and I began to migrate back to the wine-stained lifestyle we enjoyed so much, now more mature and less prone to excessive hedonism. And we purchased a small place in Austin and reunited with many of our wine friends there, if only part-time. It was not long before my smoldering passion for wine reignited into an all engulfing conflagration. Continue reading »

Apr 102012

Would you leave a secure job for a shot at working with a winery?

Advice from six who successfully made a wine-stained reboot

Each year millions of enthusiasts visit California wine country. In fact, Napa Valley is California’s second most popular tourist destination, behind only Disneyland. While many tikes dream of life in the Magic Kingdom, many like me, dream of a life in wine country.

What is so alluring about the wine country lifestyle? Certainly there is the idyllic vineyard landscapes, the sweet aromas of oak barrels and the chance to create liquid art that brings pleasure to so many. But the one thing above others that seems to engage most wine country visitors is the passion they feel from winemakers, tasting room folks and locals they meet during their visit. The passion for the grape is so contagious that many wine lovers leave wine country wishing they could reboot their lives or “do it over again” and somehow create a new wine-stained life.

Of course we have all heard the stories of the rich and uber-rich that bought or built the winery of their dreams. While those stories are wistfully intriguing, most of us will never have that kind of money, short of acquiring that lucky Powerball ticket while filling up the aging Toyota. The passions of wine country however are not limited to the uber-rich and those with viticulture and enology (winemaking) degrees. Wine country is filled with people who sacrificed established careers, good jobs and in some cases friends and family to chase their wine-stained dreams.

During my time as a wine blogger I’ve met quite a few people who found their lives unfulfilled until they took a leap of faith and landed an hourly winery job. Though I share their dream, so far I have not been willing to quit my secure real life job, to be an $8 an hour harvest intern. Am I missing out on the adventure of a lifetime? Continue reading »

Mar 212012

wine blogRead :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 1)

Read :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 2)

Read :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 3)

The years that followed my wine revelations at the hands of Charlie Wagner continued to advance both my zeal and enthusiasm for the gospel of the grape. Austin’s wine scene grew exponentially, due in no small part to the hi-tech boom fueled by the meteoric rise of Dell Computers and the literally thousands of “Dellionaires” (many from California) looking to spend their good fortune on wine, food and a party time. Winemaker dinners, wine bars, wine friends and a few more trips to wine country filled the rest of the 1980’s and well into the 1990’s, often to excess. That period saw the birth of the Texas Hill Country Wine and Food Festival, a wonderful series of winemaker dinners at the newly opened Four Seasons Hotel and a bevy of restaurants with great wine lists and bars in the newly re-envisioned Warehouse District, near downtown. Continue reading »

Mar 082012

wine blogRead :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 1)

Read :The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 2)

Late in the fall of 1983, John, an eccentric wine-business friend, insisted we join him and his wife, Jennifer, on a trip to Napa and Sonoma. The excursion included events that would ultimately change both our wine-stained lives forever. We flew into San Francisco and rented a white Lincoln Towne Car, the size of a small yacht. We cruised across the bay and into wine country. I was mesmerized. In November, with harvest completed many of the vineyards still had leaves of rustic red, yellow and harvest gold. The trip had many memorable moments, including the haunted San Francisco B&B’s where John insisted we stay. Lest we forget the corner sushi bar whose concept of hospitality was to curse in Japanese as you entered.

Donna spent the whole trip politely passing on any red wine tastings, limiting herself to whites. She had yet to develop a taste for rich red wines with their structured tannins. As if acting in unison, the red wines would begin to pour and her right hand would cover the wine glass. That was until the moment in the living area of our Healdsburg B&B when Donna lost her cabernet virginity. Around four in the afternoon we sat with a few other guests to share the day’s wine tasting bounty. John opened a bottle of Jordan Cabernet and insisted Donna give it a full-on chance. With much trepidation, she lifted the glass to her lips and took a sip, letting the wine settle on her palate. At that instant she knew what she had been missing all along.

Continue reading »

Feb 132012

wine blogRead : The Unlikely Conversion of a Wine Evangelist (Pt. 1)

The rest of the 70’s and into the early 80’s were spent ensconced at the University Of Texas School of Business finishing my undergraduate business degree, MBA degree and teaching undergraduate business classes. Wine, however, remained a growing fascination. Those years were lean. Odd jobs generated what little spending money I had. Once, my prospects were so bleak, I even took a job catching live snakes at night for a campus area pet store and the occasional rattler for a university science project. Wrestling rattlers on the end of a snake stick is a bit off the wall and frightening. But I needed some, as we say, walkin’ around money, and hell, this is Texas. Finally, I ended up with a desk job at an insurance agency. At least that was safe from venomous reptiles. During this time I also received a small university paycheck as I continued my position as an instructor at the UT Business School. Certainly, not the income needed for a fine wine collection or even much consumption, but we did our best. Continue reading »