The romantic me (above in Tuscany in 1994) at 26 years old, thought it was so easy to see. Such a beautiful life, I concluded: grounded to the Earth and the seasons, the reward of honing skills over many years and hand-crafting something that brings pleasure, the connection to history and vintners worldwide over many centuries, and the ability to exercise artistry, passion and vision in one place.
The idealistic me, at 38 years old, knew it all seemed so utterly necessary. After 15 years working my butt off around the clock in NYC while straddling steep learning curves in labor and life (which only left me feeling completely hollow and knowing little joy) I left my paying job behind. I had 3 small vintages under my fingernails and belt, and that small taste of the life envisioned by my romantic and idealistic selves was too much to keep at bay any longer. I embraced a new life's path with heartfelt gusto, and soon thereafter learned I was navigating unskilled, unclear, and uncertain.
Where, during those 12 long years of learning, waiting, and drinking, was my realistic self?
If you drink enough wine, and are too lazy (or reluctant) to wash out your wine glass, in time all of your glasses become rose colored, it seems. In and of itself, that is not so bad. We are here, perhaps, for only one life. And this, beyond any doubt imaginable, is the life for me and my boy.
Miraculously, this year 2012, brings with it the 10th Harvest for Shoe Shine Wine. I suppose when it comes to a whole life's journey “ten” should be fairly meaningless on its own, except that as I write this, I find myself facing the expectations formed from a decade of learning, dreaming, and doing. Shouldn't I be further along? Shouldn't the path to “success” be clearer? Shouldn't I feel more secure about the future? Shouldn't I be swimming in medals and basking under the glow of the adoring media sun? Ahhh, this is where my annoying inner-critic self is heard. Bad timing as always.
Life isn't easy. And most certainly, the life and times of a 1 1/2 person micro-winery ain't. Not yet anyway. But perspective, the vineyards, and hard work keep me grounded. As we learned earlier this month, the Census Bureau reported that 46 million Americans live in poverty-- many of whom in families where someone works full time -- in our nation of abundance. Foreclosures, cuts to public education and food security, and affordable healthcare, all continue to be daily scourges for tens of millions of our neighbors. “Austerity” measures imposed by legislators and bankers worldwide are creating devastating pain among the very victims of past crimes and injustices perpetrated by those same bankers. All-in-all, making a “luxury good”, no matter how difficult, just doesn't compare. Life -- the life of a micro-Winery-- is good.
From the outside, where I once stood fondly as well, it's hard to see the challenges that a small winery faces. It's hard to imagine the steep learning curve, the many obstacles, and the struggles. Through the past 10 years I've grown quite a bit, and have come to passionately appreciate, value, and support the independent local voices and businesses that touch my life. I know, first hand, how much my personal values are best reflected in the shared beliefs and toil of my neighbor, rather than that of a multi-national corporation. And through the efforts of Justice Grace Vineyards // Shoe Shine Wine I realize just how dependent those voices are, on gaining the trust and support of their neighbors, for survival.
In that vein I'd like to share some of what life has been over these past 10 years, as a new micro-Winery, in the ultra-competitive wine market. With 100,000 wines introduced into the US every year, it is surely among the most competitive markets anywhere in the world. Maybe you will come to appreciate what it has taken, and the towering tasks that lie ahead. Maybe you will, as I once did, hear only of the romance, and delight in the intoxicating vision. Or maybe you will simply wonder why I didn't listen to my, apparently bashful, realistic self.
No matter. It's all good.
Such is life.