Taking Stock

Order and collaboration: This assemblage, which was displayed in my living quarters, was created by a group of artists who’ve been associated with Penland over the years.


Winter is my season of list-making. I list the things I’ve done. I list the things I’ll do. I list the things I should do, but probably won’t (resolutions, dontcha know).
Alllll the lists.

And then I pivot from reflective, navel-gazing mode into get ‘er done mode. At my recent creative residency at Penland, I powered through my lists. Indeed, I did get things done!

I’m here to briefly report some of that progress–namely, on  s i r s e e.  I launched this project in hopes of finding the beauty of the world and paying it forward. So far, Continue reading

What’s Cooking

“Be ardent in your work, and you will find God in your cooking pots.” -St. Teresa of Avila

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Lloyd R. Moylan (1883-1963). “Navajo Women Cooking

Our 2016 Presidential election was nothing if not a call to action. With one of the lowest voter turnouts in history and a result that’s instilled fear and anger in most, this election has proven what we’ve been told all along: Our democracy only works when we do.

In the last 10 days, I’ve watched friends and family roll up their sleeves and do just that: call representatives,  write letters, march in the streets, and take other actions to uplift the ideals so many of us share. Is it my imagination, or have I witnessed a growing kindness in daily life, as well? My heart swells at this sudden social and civic engagement (even if I wish it’d come before the election).

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my pet project: s i r s e e. At a time when the nation seems to really need a drink, I’ll be offering wine. (Hey, we all make an impact in different ways, okay?) The wine will not be not for sale. Instead, you will be able to access the wine by making a donation to your choice of featured charities.

Yes, that means I’m giving the wine away! My community partners–including the printer, the designer, the shipper, and others–are donating in kind, too. We have gathered a lot of resources in hopes of raising funds for important projects.

First, I want to outline which organizations  s i r s e e   aims to support this winter, and why. It is my hope that 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