Nearly sixteen years after I first volunteered in a commercial winery, ten years after seriously committing myself to an apprenticeship in wine, and six years since I founded my winery, Vincent Wine Company, I am delighted to say that today, June 19, 2015, I am quitting my day job in higher education and entering the wine business full time.
It has been a long time coming, it's taken a lot of patience at times, but it is finally here. Dreams do come true.
Don't get me wrong, what I did today in resigning my position as Director of Professional Development at a local university was difficult for me. I came to my higher education career fifteen years ago, after several years in various editorial positions in book and periodical publishing.
I am passionate about helping people learn and grow, be it from classroom learning or simply reading on one's own. In this career, my work has been largely to identify what people need to know to help them in their professional lives, then to find the right people and work with them to create the experiences the audience needs.
I'll miss that work. But I won't miss it nearly as much as I'm looking forward to my future in wine. Let's not even get into university politics and bureaucracy. I will not miss that.
I've heard it again and again in my years in wine - don't quit your day job. And I didn't, I took that advice seriously. My one overarching goal, beyond making great wine, was to accomplish enough each year to continue my quest to make great wine. You know, sell the wine and you get to make more.
So far, so good. But there's only so far you can take things as a side project, no matter how large a side project it's become. And there's definitely stigma in making wine while still working outside of wine, as if you can't be that serious about the wine if you're not full time, and you certainly can't be too serious about your day job if you have this side passion.
My life has been about making these two worlds fit together. Sometimes it was painful to hear people tell me I must not like what I do for "work," or I must be cutting corners on the wine I make, simply because they couldn't accept the whole picture of my life.
But the truth is, that dichotomy exists and sometimes has been terribly difficult. I'm very happy to let it go.
Before you get worried and say, what if it doesn't work? It might not. But I'm six years in, things have gone well, even better than I could have expected (especially knowing what I know now). At this point, my best business option is to immerse myself more fully into wine. It's not a lark, it's not numbers on a page, it's a real business with a track record and, like a child, it demands more attention.
The good news is that I don't have to leave behind my passion for learning and reading. One opportunity I see in my wine business, of course beyond making the best wine I possibly can, is to create opportunities for people to learn and grow in their own wine knowledge. I'm not thinking of some kind of hospitality center that many wineries provide. Instead it's something more personal and intimate.
We'll see how all that shakes out, but for now it feels great to seize this dream fully, after a long wait, after a lot of difficult work.
It's finally here. I can't wait. And I know the work's only just begun.