The Making of A Wine Geek

When one makes a major life change there is usually an aha moment that inspires it. A spark of realization that a new path is needed. That is what happened to me about 4 years ago when I walked away from my Interior Design career of 20+ years to pursue my passion for wine.

wine-glassBut my first real ‘moment’ with wine happened much earlier than that. For that we have to go back, way back, to my twenties (let’s not do the math ok?) and a dinner at The Pillar and Post Inn, in Niagara-on-the-Lake. It was the first time I had ever spoken to a Sommelier and had a bottle of wine recommended. She suggested we (my then hubby and I) try an unfiltered Pinot Noir from Henry of Pelham Winery. I still remember that experience and that wine. At that moment I understood wine could be something special, not just something to drink with dinner.

In my defense, I never grew up around wine. My Dad was a scotch drinker and Mom had her gin and tonics. Wine was served only when family came over and it wasn’t something that was celebrated or appreciated. So when I came of drinking age, my wine selections were usually “I’ll have the house red.” I had no idea how to pick a wine or that there was really much difference besides the price. Oh the ignorance of youth.  

Fast forward to that Pinot Noir and a new appreciation for wine. I started paying a little more attention to what I was buying, but I still had no clue on how to select a wine and I was still only buying reds. Years (and a divorce) later, I started dating a guy who had been in the wine business in England. When I told him I wasn’t a fan of whites, he quickly set about to open my eyes and palate to the world of white wine. Several wine flights and food pairing sessions later, I could tell the difference between a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc and an oaked Chardonnay. I was so proud of myself.  

blind tastingOk, let me clarify. I could tell a difference when tasting them side by side but I had no clue of the correct terminology or how to describe them. My newbie wine status was embarrassingly revealed when I went to my first wine tasting party with my wine knowing boyfriend and his friends. It was a blind tasting, the bottles were all hidden and they handed out pen and paper to guess the varietal, country of origin and I don’t remember what else. I looked at them like they were all crazy. No way could you tell what country a wine came from just by tasting it!  

Well sure enough, they were talking about how ‘this wine is a Shiraz from Australia’ and ‘that wine is a Merlot from California’. My jaw was literally on the floor. Not only was I embarrassed I had no clue, more importantly I was envious and wanted to be able to do it as well.

Shortly after that dinner I signed up for my first wine course, but life and career got in the way and I had to bail on it before night 1. Several years later, I was on the other side of the country preparing for a return to the west coast. I had made the decision I was moving back to British Columbia, but I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing. I was feeling very burnt out with the design industry, but it had been my career for 20+ years. How did one make a change after so long? And what would I do?

dream jobThe answer came after having a farewell coffee with a friend of mine. We were chatting and I said I wasn’t sure what I was going to do when I got back to Vancouver. I was thinking my options were I could work at a design company or I could work for myself again doing freelance work. He asked “what’s your dream job?”  My answer was “I want to drink wine, travel the world and share my experiences.” Of course I figured that was impossible. Who gets paid to that right? Plus I didn’t have any experience in wine, except drinking it. All of these things I pointed out to him.

It could have ended right there. He could have laughed with me and said, ‘yeah, wouldn’t that be nice.’ But he didn’t. He said ‘you could do that. It would take time but you could do that. You know how to write. You know how to create a website. You could go home and start a wine blog tonight if you wanted to. You could start working at a winery as a tour guide.’

He then went on to tell me about a recent experience he and his wife had at a local winery where the tour guide was uninspired and not enthusiastic. He said he thought I would be great in that role. I was starting to believe him.

I left that coffee chat pondering the possibility of a big change, but of course, doubts are always lingering. That evening I was having dinner with a design client of mine. We had just finished her dream Kitchen renovation and she wanted to have me over for dinner. As we were having a glass of wine in her Kitchen I told the story of my conversation earlier in the day. At that point I was still sceptical about such a big change. I was telling her that although I knew people who had made big changes in their careers, I wasn’t sure I could.

Again, it could have ended. She could have told me a story about someone failing miserably or simply agreed with me that is wasn’t a good idea. That might have stopped me in my tracks. Instead, she told me a story about a friend of hers, that was a single mom with 2 kids, that walked away from her corporate life to go into the wine industry. And she loved it and was so happy she did it. I stood there and thought, ‘ok, I am a single woman with no dependents, if she can do it, I have no excuses.’

no excusesIt was my aha moment. The universe was trying to tell me something. I could choose to listen, or to ignore it. I went home that night and googled “wine jobs in Canada” and found a job listing for a winery in the Lower Mainland. I tweaked the resume, sent it out and the rest is history.

Four years later and many wine courses completed, I am completely in love with the wine industry and consider myself a bonafide wine geek. This is my home. I’m not travelling the world, drinking wine for a living yet, but I am on my way. One step and glass at a time.


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