Share Your Passion: Accounting Manager Jen on Wine
Wine: I drink it when I am happy and when I am sad. I drink it when I am alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I am not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I am thirsty! – Madame Lilly Bollinger
This is a story of a beer bean counter with a passion for grape juice (the fermented kind).
I’m Jen and I have a confession to make … I am a bonafide wine-o who works at a brewery. Thankfully there are many parallels between my passion and the industry I work in that can explain such a confused state of being. Please allow me a few historical references and personal experiences to make sense of my dilemma and explain my passion.
My part in this story starts in the late ’90s with a boyfriend who worked for Robert Mondavi. Arguably America’s greatest wine ambassador ever, Mondavi’s lessons focused on how wine was part of the gracious way of living and not about the snooty Sommelier at the fancy restaurant. I learned that wine, in its simplest form, was a naturally occurring gift from nature. It wasn’t about the feasts of kings and queens but more about a mealtime beverage for the common man that signified the importance of family, conversation, and the land from which it came.
Both wine and beer are both truly a reflection of the land from which they came. The French have a neat word to describe this — terroir — meaning a “sense of place”. Searching for that sense of place has taken me to some far off lands that have been making wine for as long as time has been recorded. The hook was set and off I went into this delicious obsession.
Being so close to North America’s greatest wine regions was very convenient along the way. But after a few trips to Napa and Sonoma I realized something interesting: most big wineries and fancy tasting rooms had missed the point entirely. These places were not about being gracious or sharing the fruits of their labor but more about exclusiveness and a false sense of privilege. Stand in line, pay your money, taste our wine, buy something from the gift shop, get back on your tour bus and leave.
It was a trip to Santa Barbara wine country where I first felt the spirit of true wine country hospitality and a willingness to take people on a journey from the dirt where it grew, to the glass that I drank it from. I was refreshed to see and meet people like Bruno D’Alfonso and Ken “Byron” Brown pouring and discussing their wines in a simple tasting room at the winery. Imagine that, the guy who made it is actually here telling his story and why the wine in my glass was special. Now I was inspired (or buzzed?), or maybe both. I had to see more.
My pilgrimage to the Old World of winemaking came in 2004 and what I found was life changing. While traveling through the great communes of Burgundy, France I happened across a familiar tale of big business buying up small wineries and vineyard owners at a very swift pace. It was one particular family’s response to the promise of riches that made a huge impression on me. Facing economic challenges and a dwindling family presence in their 6th generation vineyards, the offer of 5 million euros to sell was a handsome payday and life changing opportunity for a struggling family of farmers. One of the daughters was off in Paris with a successful veterinary practice when she heard of the offer. She decided to liquidate her practice and move back home to work in the family business instead of letting it be sold. It was a choice to live a life of passion for meager returns that kept a family and a tradition alive. The magic and history of this place was in the air. You could smell the intoxicating aroma of fermentation. It was a way of life for these people. Not the riches of the big city and big money and certainly not the super space age winery. It was real and it was simple.
How could I take this feeling home with me? How could I remind myself in my daily hustle and grind that life is about more than what you have or drive? For me it is simple, I pull the cork and that pop instantly takes me back. Family, friends, conversation, and laughter with a good meal and a glass wine. The true essence of life and measure of riches. What could possibly be better?
|Post written by Jen Anderson. She’s a Sommelier, a mom, a Bruery cheerleader, and an amazing “bean counter” that keeps us all sane.
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