Harvest season for me is a waltz between my three selves, switching partners as necessary.  One is the completely present Sonja working, head down, checking off each responsibility, day to day, week to week, ensuring everything is done correctly at the winery.  Timing is critical.  Focus is vital.  Distraction is dangerous.  The future is a hazy mirage.  Second is the out-of-body Sonja, choreographing everything from above, sometimes chiding number one asking, “What are you doing?”  “Don’t forget to order the glasses.”  “Did you send that invoice?”  The third Sonja is the one who leaves the winery exhausted and enters the tasting room to a full house reenergized in spirit as to why Sonja #1 and #2 exist. 

Now that harvest has made its way toward the winter months, almost all of the fruit has been picked as I write except Larner Grenache, scheduled for harvest Tuesday, November 13th.  My three selves have a quiet moment together to assess the work accomplished and the work that still lies ahead.  (Picking fruit is only one major step toward winemaking amidst dozens of steps that come before and after.)  It is also a pause to express something that has been simmering deep down throughout the last few months, gently bubbling its way to the surface being pushed around by my three selves while processing fruit, walking vineyards, cleaning barrels and punching down fermentation bins.  For the first time this year I took on the responsibility of an intern for three weeks.  Simon is a wine club member and earnestly asked if there was any way he could assist me.  I pondered the notion for a long while and finally said yes.  Not that I don’t need help or want help.  Though if you look back to the previous paragraph, a mediocre intern can mess up timing and focus and be a distraction. 

FYI - Simon was superb.  I learned 3 things from my experience with him.  1. I am pretty intense to work with, particularly when 3 selves are battling for attention.  When you are by yourself, it is ok.  When someone else is in your midst, it can be scary.  2.  Simon asked A LOT of questions, which I understand.  I do, too.  Though you can’t learn winemaking in three weeks.  Nothing makes sense in that time frame.  Wine is patience.  Wine is virtue.  Wine is wisdom.  Vines grow for years in one place, nurturing the soil, making a statement and giving life.  Seeing grapes in a winery is out of context.  Today where everything is accessible “on demand”, wine provides the checks and balances on that immediacy.  I finally said, “I can give you every answer to all of your questions and you still have no answers.”  Essentially, pay attention to what you don’t know and take in the ephemeral.  Wine is nuance. You can’t teach that.

The third lesson came on his last day.  I asked him to present his honest experiences at a speaker series with no editing or input from me.  He was great and engaging.  He also posed the question:  “What would the world look like if Sonja just gave up.”

I laughed at first. “Nothing at all,” I answered.  Which is absolutely true.  No one’s life would change.  I wouldn’t have calloused hands and wacky dreams of grapes falling during harvest.  There is ample wine in the marketplace.  Plenty of delicious Grenache to showcase to your friends.  I am reminded of this everywhere I go outside of the winery and the tasting room bubble.  In July I was in Oregon with my husband tasting wines at the International Pinot Noir Conference.  All the wines were great.  Working the wine market, visiting accounts in Los Angeles, Metro Detroit or Washington DC - lots of wine everywhere I look.  Your local supermarket is stocked with walls of fine wine.  Target.  Costco.  Whole Foods.  Santa Barbara alone has more than 200 wineries to choose from.  Edna Valley.  Paso Robles.  Napa.  Sonoma.  Temecula.  Santa Cruz.  Mendocino.  The entire world!  This isn’t a sales push away from me.  This is a massive thank you for supporting me the way you do.  It is my goal each day to make this an important and valuable experience for you each time you choose us.  Because even though your life wouldn’t change, my life would.  Your smiles, faces and encouragement would be missing.  I would kinda miss my callouses, too. 

When you share our wine you are drinking in the beautiful landscape of Santa Barbara Wine Country.  I don’t expect you to remember the clones, the soil, vine row orientation or even the vineyard name.  That is my job.  If I have done all the hard work, the results should be evident in the final product, thus making your job easy.  Enjoying delicious wine, connecting to the maker, the farmer and the land through liquid gold.  That is a major commitment to honor on both of our ends.  It takes effort and dedication.  I take this responsibility seriously.  At each staff meeting I remind my incredible colleagues that every person who walks in that door is a miracle.  All we have in equal proportions regardless of ethnicity, gender, religion and politics is time.  The fact that you have chosen to share your time and resources with us is a gift.  Thank you. 

NOW let’s get back to the FUN.  Please join me.  Immerse yourselves in the background, history and insight into this beautiful world of wine.  This is in your honor.  Join me for vineyard tours.  Grenache Roadshows.  Barrel tastings.  Educational seminars.  Private Dinners.  All yours, on demand.