s i r s e e | the gift

My winemaking project is evolving!

With stars aligned, the project has won donated labor, equipment, and brand design. This logo is the handiwork of veteran designer Lisa Hobro. She and other folks who’ve put their faith in this experiment are blowing my mind with their generosity.

sirsee-logo-1-1
A sirsee is an unexpected gift, in Southern parlance. (Some of y’all know this, already.) I learned the word from my mother, who often surprised us with tokens of love. While the origin of the word is uncertain, the value of a good sirsee is clear.

Continue reading

Solstice Means Stillness

Photo by Wibeke Bruland

Nearly a decade ago, I promised myself I’d spend summer solstice in the brightest part of the world. It wasn’t so much a bucket-list thing—not sure I have one of those—but more a kind of calling. At the time, I’d been visiting one of the darker parts of the world: Denmark in December. I’ve since craved light in its most potent form.

When a writing residency took me to Iceland during this year’s summer solstice, then, I relished not only the time to write, but the fulfillment of that promise. (No, neither Iceland nor Denmark are part of the Arctic Circle, where light and dark would be most extreme. But I’m calling it “close enough”.) I’ve just returned from that trip, after a month of soaking up the brightest light I’ve known. Continue reading

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

PSX_20151115_142937 (3)

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

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

PSX_20150914_200649

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

Self-Employees of the Month: Andrea Enright & Michael Boudreaux

Andrea Enright and Michael Boudreaux

A man may have lived all of his life in the gray, and the land and trees of him dark and somber. The events, even the important ones, may have trooped by faceless and pale. And then … the glory … a man pours outward, a torrent of him, and yet he is not diminished. And I guess a man’s importance in the world can be measured by the quality and number of his glories.”

–John Steinbeck

In 2005, Andrea Enright was living a golden, idyllic freelancer’s lifestyle, her communications portfolio fattening ever with contracts from well-known clients that ranged from Boston Market to Planned Parenthood. She had already successfully escaped the proverbial grind … but something was still missing. Her husband, Michael Boudreaux, a tech maestro for DIRECTV, thought so too. After a bit of soul-searching, they blew out of Denver and joined the Peace Corps.

When their two years of service in Bulgaria came to a close, Andrea and Michael kept going. On a mission they call “Wanderlust or Bust” they continued across the globe, including Syria, Lebanon, and Kurdistan (yeah, that’s Northern Iraq), couchsurfing, blogging, videoing and volunteering as they went. Continue reading

Expectations | Kenneth Koch

One of the great things about April (in addition to rain showers) is that it is National Poetry Month, and you can sign on to receive a fine and beautiful poem every single day. Beats heck out of a marketing newsletter, and leads you to writers you’d either never heard of or long since forgot about.

Kenneth Koch edited the first book of poetry I ever owned. Today I found a lovely and complicated poem that Koch wrote about his own father, “To My Father’s Business”. It illuminates how parental expectations, for better or worse, can play into our career choices.

I thought I might go crazy in the job
Staying in you
You whom I could love
But not be part of
Read the whole poem here.
My own father actually has had a lot to do with how I began writing–precisely by not pushing me, he left me room to evolve. Thanks, Dad!