November 30, 2014

To Burgundy and Back Again, by Roy Cloud

Something I've done more since harvest ended last month is read. Because it's still a very busy time for wine sales and shipping, I haven't read nearly enough. That should change this month and next, as holidays allow for more time and the new year is predictably slow for wine sales.

I have a number of books - wine related and not - on my night stand, and one I finished recently is To Burdundy and Back Again, by Roy Cloud. It's not a great book, but it's a fun, engaging and personal story from the proprietor of Vintage '59 Imports.

The story is set in 1997 when Cloud is starting his wine business and he goes to France with his French-speaking brother to search for producers to import. Cloud's father had recently been injured in a bike accident, and the transitional journey serves as catharsis for the brothers.

I enjoyed the stories of traveling in French wine country, from Alsace to Burgundy to the Rhone and Provence, with in depth sections on producers as unconventional as Marc Tempe in Alsace to the elegant and haunting wines of Joseph Voillot in Burgundy. As armchair wine travel, this book is an easy, fun read.

On a more personal note, I especially enjoyed the extended quote and then riff on Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, with the brothers retracing some of Hem and Fitzgerald's well lubricated road trip from Lyon to Paris, starring a roadside picnic and fresh Maconais white drunk straight from the bottle. I love that book and loved finding such rich reference to it here.

Cloud has a writing degree and there's more structure to the book than just the story of a wine importer starting out. I didn't necessarily think the book succeeds on that higher level. It's just a fun read, the kind of book that makes you hungry and thirsty as you get out a map to chart locations along the route. There's no higher compliment for wine/travel writing.

November 29, 2014

Ten years

What do you say when you haven't spoken for so long? I think about that. It's good to be back.

The last few months have been the busiest of my life, wonderfully so. It just can't go on like this forever, working a full time job, making and selling my own wine, working as a partner in another wine business, not to mention duties at home as father and husband. It's a little crazy to be honest.

But it represents something I set out to do ten years ago that actually came to pass, by hard work, persistence really, and definitely a lot of patience. I wouldn't want it any other way.

I kind of have a thing about remembering dates in my life. So it strikes me today that exactly ten years ago, after a tumultuous Thanksgiving weekend where I was preoccupied with taking a job I didn't want just because I thought (with some prompting) that we could use the higher salary, I drove home from the final interview and had what you might call a "come to Jesus" moment. 

In the old Honda, driving home on I-5 through north Portland on a grey Monday morning, I committed to a life in wine. I thought, I have a job that I'm pretty good at, with a lot of flexibility and paid time off. Why not use that to work days and even harvest seasons in wine? Who knows where it might lead? Certainly it would be better than that shit job that could have ruined everything.

I had no idea anything would actually come of it. And I don't think anyone in my life - including me - really knew what I was doing. It seemed so far fetched to make my own wine commercially some day that I didn't exactly declare that goal to anyone, for a while anyway.

I just went for it, getting more involved in the local industry in many different ways, the stories of those years recorded here by intention and chance.

I started this blog pretty soon after this day ten years ago. I thought that I'd write to process what I was learning and doing in wine, and I'll admit I thought maybe someone who was searching for me would find it and get a really good sense of where I was coming from in wine.

Ten years have gone by so quickly and I still feel like I've only just begun, perhaps like a vineyard that takes years to bear fruit and then a few years more to really start hitting its stride. 

So it's good to be back writing. And better to think of what's to come next.