La Vie Dansante Wines

Musing of a New-Age Winemaker

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To Every Thing There is a Season (Turn! Turn! Turn!)

Spring has come again to the vineyard and that got me thinking about the cyclic nature of life.  It was two years ago this week that I quit my “Day Job” to concentrate on building La Vie Dansante Wines from a dream into a reality.  This will be the ninth harvest that I’ve been involved in some aspect of the wine industry – the fourth that I’ve been making wine.  As the wheel turns another year and the grape vines sprout new shoots I’m taking a day to think of how I got here and where this is all taking me.

This adventure started in the fall of 2009 when I signed on to be an unpaid apprentice to Jason Goelz as he worked to start his own winery, Jason-Stephens, in Gilroy.  I was at a turning point in my life – more than a little lost and confused – so I decided to start a blog to chronicle my adventure and to help me “find” myself.  Because nothing on the internet ever goes away you can still find the text and images (google: La Vie Dansante Typepad) although all of the pretty formatting is gone since I long ago quit paying the bills for that site.

For fun I thought I’d start the first entry of this blog by reprinting the first entry of the original blog to see where this all started and if I was as naïve as I suspect.

And So We Begin…

     In May of 2009 I made a life altering decision to tear down what remained of my comfortable existence in order to create a clean space in which to start over. To be fair most of my life had already crumbled around me due to either years of neglect or lack of maintenance. I was 47 years old, a relationship I treasured had ended, I hated my corporate job, and I’d lost touch with who I was and what was important in life.

My plan was to take six months off and do all of the things that I’d been putting off for years as I struggled through the corporate jungle. I thought of it as a personal sabbatical of sorts. During the time off I hoped to discover who I was and what was truly important to me so that I could make the most of the years I have remaining.

The recurring theme for the summer was “learning”. I learned to play golf, I learned to ride a dirt bike, I learned to play guitar (again), and I learned about wine.

I’ve always liked wine and living in California I’ve spent a fair amount of my free time visiting wineries. Now I found that I was interested in more than just drinking wine. I was fascinated by the history of wine, where it came from, how it was made, and the people who made it. At first I considered my foray into wine just a detour on my life’s road, something to pass the summer while I thought about more important things. But then I began to wonder “can I make this a vocation?”, “could this be the passion that’s been missing?”

I began to study in earnest, spending hours each day learning all I could from books, classes, the internet, and random people I met on my travels. Now I think maybe, just maybe, I can find a place in the industry where I can make enough money to support myself while working with something I love.

Yes, I know that I am quite possibly delusional and I may cave at any moment and take another high-paying corporate job, but I’m going to give it a shot. This blog is a chronicle of my adventures. It’s a personal journal of the trials and tribulations of obtaining an education in wine and turning it into a new career. If I’m not successful you can watch the death spiral first hand, if I am you may be able to follow my path on a journey of your own.

Everything that follows is, to the best of my wine-muddled memories, approximately accurate. I’m sure there are embellishments and omissions, history rarely happened the way we remember it. To borrow from Jimmy Buffett, “It’s a semi-true story, believe it or not. I made up a few things and there’s some I forgot…”