Raising the Bar

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Vincent Van Gogh, Sower at Sunset

Much of my career, I’ve used my enthusiasm and communication skills to champion products or causes. Naturally, I gravitate toward gigs that allow me to promote matters I genuinely support. So, I’ve had some fulfilling jobs.

Along the way, I’ve witnessed some colleagues working without much gusto. From my vantage point, this seems to happen when there is a lack of authenticity in the company or cause. Does this happen in the wine world? You betcha.

My latest article for Nomacorc calls for greater accountability and truth in winery marketing. Here’s that piece. Thanks for reading.

 

“It’s important to find your lens.” In conversation with writer Cathy Huyghe

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Cathy Huyghe is an author with an appetite.

In Cavalier Career, we explore the will to do good work. So what kind of work does it take–really–to bring wine to the table?  Consider:.

  • A harvest crew skilled not only at picking fruit, but hunting rabbits.
  • Courage enough to traverse war-torn Syria in a taxicab full of ripening grapes.
  • Nerve to skirt the law, particularly in Turkey, where it is illegal to market wine and the consequences may be harsh.
  • Patience as long as the life cycle of a koala bear: If eight years pass before you bottle your wine, then so be it.
  • Hunger. Voracious hunger.

That last bit, according to writer Cathy Huyghe, is key. Whether the ache of passion or of physical appetite, hunger drives the wine business. It also drives our own private pursuits. 

RedCoverHFW-1In Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass, Huyghe uncorks bottles
and stories from around the world. With uncommon curiosity, she looks past the luxe labels and technical tasting notes to global socioeconomics. The resulting twelve “conversations about wine” (as she calls them) reveal the humanity behind one of the world’s most celebrated beverages–and the drive it takes to pursue one’s hunger. 
Continue reading

Say What? (On Curiosity & Connection)

 

I’m one of those people who tends to apologize.

A few years back, I crashed my car–a 1967 Ford Falcon in near-mint condition–through no fault of my own. Thrilled to be in one piece and hopeful the other driver was, too, I leapt out and exclaimed, “I’m soooo sorry!”

I said this, despite a lifetime of warnings I’d received about the danger of taking responsibility at the scene of a car accident. Why? …because in my vocabulary, “sorry” is often not an apology at all. It’s a show of empathy. In this case, I was worried about the other driver.

In its complex coding, “I’m sorry” is akin “bless your heart”. When I say it, I’m often sending goodwill and sometimes even pity–not subservience. You either get this, or you don’t.

This is a problem of interpretation–a matter I’ve been thinking about a lot lately, and not just for this reason. Our globalized society melds languages, dialects, slangs, and jargons. Amid that mishmash, we seem more likely to misunderstand and offend one another. What to do?

I believe we must show more curiosity toward one another.

Continue reading

Mind the Gap

In previous posts, I’ve conveyed that the wine business, while deeply satisfying, remains hard work. Admittedly, it might sometimes be work with idyllic vineyard walks and glitzy parties–but hey! It’s a grind, in its own way.

Over the last year and a half, I’ve enjoyed writing about the wine business for various outlets. My latest piece tackles the topic of interdepartmental rifts (specifically, between winery production and marketing) and offers tips for communication that heals. Company “tribalism” can arise can happen in any industry, so it may be relevant to all. Thanks for reading!

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10 Reasons Why Making Your First Wine is Like Traveling to an Unfamiliar Country

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Misty jungle, Guanacaste, Costa Rica

Over time, I’ve become familiar with certain steps in the winemaking process by working with my employer–sampling grapes, doing punchdowns, or cleaning tanks. Yet I had never experienced it in such detail until last week, when I harvested my own fruit and began my own winemaking project.

In my mind, I’m on a journey. I’ve landed in a thick jungle and I’ve gotta make my own path out. In the spirit of adventure, then, I give you:

10 Reasons Why Making Your First Wine is Like Traveling to an Unfamiliar Country

  1. You are excited! Now scared. Now excited! Now scared. Now …
  2. You are spending waaaay too much money. And it’s worth every penny.
  3. Friends who’ve been where you are going wanna tell you exactly how to get there and what to do. Now, should you take their advice?
  4. Once you set off on the trip, you realize you really should’ve packed some nutrients—like trail mix, or maybe some Ferm-Aid.
  5. You knew in your gut you were taking a wrong turn, and you did it anyway. Now you are lost and it’s a little scary. Always trust your gut!
  6. Where you least expect it, you find a like-minded friend to help you on your way.
  7. You speak the language, and blend in pretty well—but you’re not a local. And there’s always someone reminding you of that.
  8. As an outsider, you discover things even the locals don’t know.
  9. When the day is over, you’re gonna kick off your boots and have a cold beer.
  10. You don’t know what’s next on the itinerary, but you can’t wait to find out…

To Hell With It. Let’s Do This.

20150826_103915Following instinct leads to joy: I’d nearly forgotten.

On Labor Day, I rose at 4 a.m. to drive to the Sierra Foothills and harvest a half-ton of Grenache fruit. Yep, I set out to make wine. Was this a wild hair, a last-minute venture—or, was it my plan all along? Both.

During my six years in the biz, I’d begun scheming up a business plan for my own little wine brand. Would this be the year I launched the project? I wondered, but had decided to wait. My fussy, perfectionistic streak told me that if every little detail wasn’t in place, I shouldn’t even try. (Pfffft. )

Thankfully, when my friend called with a lead on some grapes, I ignored that demon and went with my instinct, diving headlong into the project.

One nagging worry had been: What if I’m not a great winemaker? What if I f*ck up? I’ve assisted my boss in the creation of wines, including this one, of which I’m proud. I’ve also done plenty of supplemental studies in wine. Yet I’ve not followed any traditional path toward winemaking as a profession. Mine has been a zig-zag route. Continue reading

Feast it Forward

katieairstreamMentors, teachers, inspirations: they make my world go ’round.

It’s not everyday you find a person chasing their dreams fully and unabashedly.  Katie Hamilton Shaffer is a social entrepreneur operating a philanthropic lifestyle brand in Napa called Feast it Forward. I was lucky enough to sit down over breakfast with her recently for an interview. Afterward, I shared her story in this piece for Grape Collective.

Cavalier Career has been my work-life manifesto that’s evolved over many years (and several different blogs). Yet its basic principle has remained the same: that I have the power to create my dream job. Katie’s uncommon determination and heart makes her a guiding light for me–and surely many other professionals. Thanks, Katie!