“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”
This quote has entirely transformed my life, but not the way you would think it did. It all started on a hot day in late August at a car dealership in Beaverton, Oregon where I was working. Yes, that’s right, I was selling cars during the financial crisis of 2008, not something I had ever expected to do. I had recently returned from a year of teaching English in Korea, searching the globe for my passion the way that 25 year olds do, but it turns out that teaching English as a second language wasn’t my calling, as I’m sure you’ve already realized. It was a Friday, I remember that because we would always have Friday morning sales meetings to “get us amped” for weekend sales. My General Manager, who was ironically inspirational in the end, barked at us, “You need to be the change you want to see in your sale!”
I thought to myself, “What!? Does he think he’s fucking Gandhi or something?!” and my eyes glazed over for the remainder of our meeting. I went to his office after our meeting adjourned and directly said to him, I know it wasn’t your intention, but you have inspired me to be the change I wish to see in my life. That was the end of car sales for me. I knew that I only had a month or so to find a job at a vineyard helping with harvest.
Before my trip to Korea I had fantasized about the aesthetically pleasing symmetry of vineyards and had started my journey as a wine lover, drinking Riesling (what I now refer to as the “gateway wine”) at a little wine bar called Vino Paradiso in the Pearl district of NW Portland.
I started networking right away and was encouraged by the passion and helpfulness of each person I met in the wine industry. I knew I wanted to try my hand in production, and early on I was encouraged to network and share my goals with others. My next interview was with Stephen Cary at Yamhill Valley Vineyards. He was looking for a cellar intern, someone to help with all the in’s and out’s of fermentation. I was honest with him, that I had no experience making wine, but I had received my degree in Biology and Chemisty at Oregon State and “that I was a hard worker and a quick study.” He was down to crunch time and needed someone quick and said, “alright, come back tomorrow, and that’s how it all began.
I quickly fell in love with the property, process and physicality of the work. Over time my passion grew for the culture, camaraderie and expansive genres involved with the work; history, geology, geography, atmospheric sciences, horticulture, agriculture, culture, food, etc.. It is what you make it. No two days are alike. Still, I am learning new things on a daily basis.
The balance and interplay between art and science in winemaking is what keeps me engaged and curious. Discovering truth in wine (and in life) through research, is invigorating, conversely, respecting the mystery of wine (and life) and the fact that there is still so much we don’t understand is humbling and motivating.