Making Wine Requires Stepping Out of Your Comfort Zone To Live This Dream Life

Making Wine: Lab instrument the Volitile Acidity Cash StillNever in a million years did I dream that I would be working with sulfuric acid, phenolphthalein or an instrument called an ebulliometer.

As a child, I did not ask Santa for a chemistry set.

I completely loathed anything and everything to do with the periodic table of elements throughout my entire academic career.  Particularly distressing to me was the snore fest, portion of my college chemistry course.

And during the lecture class?

Well,  all I ever heard were those grown ups voices right out of any Charlie Brown Peanuts special, you know — bwah, bwah.  Bwah, bwah, bwah, bwah.

Good grief, indeed. Many was the time I would rant, “Ugh, I’ll never use this information in my entire life!”

In fact, when I used to guide visitors through the Napa Valley, California and Willamette Valley, Oregon wineries I have worked for, I’d often point to the rooms where the assistant winemaker and person know as an enologist worked, breeze by and say, “That’s the lab.”

Frequently, to my dismay, I’d have to put on the brakes, back up and answer when guests would remark that they were unaware that wineries even had laboratories.  And why on earth is a lab necessary to vino production?

My pat answer was, “I don’t really know much about the chemistry thing, I just know that grapes get harvested, crushed, go into tanks and or barrels and later into the bottle. Now, what’s say we go into the barrel room and do some wine tasting, then out to the terrace for some cheese and a spectacular view.”

Oftentimes, at the conclusion of tours, I received praise and comments about the impressive level of wine knowledge I possessed for such a young woman.

Truth is, forty-something me knows that twenty-something me didn’t know anything about wine, except (and only just newly, then) how to drink it.

I thought, quite certainly, that my brain simply wasn’t wired for science-y stuff and such.  Not to mention the scads of people and family members who told me that because I was blond, physically stereo-typically well endowed and pretty-faced that I really was best suited to being the hostess, party planner or perhaps flight attendant ‘type.”

In any case, my world was not turning this way.

For many years, it was all about the special events/hospitality/sales and marketing part of the wine industry for me, and it was simply inconceivable to imagine participating in any other area, comfortably.

This period of life was all before my dreams began taking shape.

Back when I was driven and living by and for a paycheck and not my soul’s ideals.

These early Napa, California days did, definitely, serve a most wonderful purpose to be sure.

I met my husband-love man of my dreams in Napa. I discovered the magical world of fine wine and food in Napa.  I saw beyond the struggling and poverty of life that I had only and exclusively known before this time, in Napa.

All of these things come together, have created the great romance story that is my beautiful dream life of today.

Now, contrary to what some may know of me think, every weekend, and even more days during the harvest season, I work in the winery’s lab where my husband is the winemaker, for an 85,000 case production winery, here in the heart of Oregon’s Willamette Valley.

Making Wine: French oak barrels in the cellarIn fact, here I am, writing this week’s post for 8 Women Dream from the lab at the winery.  I’m running SO2s, VAs, Alcohol numbers and doing the whole chemistry thing.

HAH!

The information I gather and report back to my husband is a crucial part of the whole process.  Ask any great wine-crafter.  It’s great to be needed for your brains.

Here’s what else lab work is:

Time for me to listen to my very own mix of music, totally alone.  A delicious 48 hour shifting of the weight of responsibility for the care and keeping of our home schooled children, vineyard garden farm, laundry, meals and household chores to my husband-love for a couple of hours on the weekend days, (that is when we are not traveling for our life-business).

Working at something so very different from the regular baking and cooking, constant cleaning and organizing of my home and family, and former hospitality industry, yet, something so vitally important to our livelihood, provides the great blessing of balance so crucial to my happiness and dream realization.

Making Wine: Fermentations in fall at the wineryThe four of us live in loving symmetry here and not one of us resides, at any time, disconnected from the other, as it has been in years past when I drove to my jobs in restaurant/hotel management with my very small children at pre-school or day care.

I made a conscious, determined choice to learn something not only new and completely foreign to me, but something I swore, in absolute terms I would NOT ever want to do, to work in tandem with my husband and in perfect accordance with the picture of our American dream instead of moving in what felt was the opposite direction.

It’s the shape of my heart . . . family, vineyard farm and garden, wine making, being very and in all-ways in love with my husband and all of us in touch with and supportive of each other’s hopes and dreams.

The gift of a positive attitude, coupled with my desire to say, “yes” to life and its surprising notions, more often than it occurs to me to dwell in I cannot, is a key to moving my dreams forward and for which I am immeasurably grateful.

Making Wine: Filling the barrels in the cellarDo I dream of being the best enologist in the world of wine, the greatest mama in the world, or most loving wife and partner in the whole wide world?

Nope.

I just want to be these things in my world.

Raising a glass always half full of cheer to you and the crazy-fun of finding out what your dream life picture may turn out to be!

Reporting from the lab at the winery, until we meet next Sunday,

Shellie

Making Wine: Dusty bottoms in the tirage bin

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