I’ll be heading to Southern California in a couple of weeks to do a wine dinner and to work the market. I won’t be at home with my girlfriend and dogs (my favorite place) nor at the winery (the next best), and I’m hoping that what I’ll do over those couple of days will yield positive results. And as I’m writing this in the sensory lab at the winery about to pitch yeast into a fermenter, I’m feeling just a little melancholy. So many trips like this in the past and so little ability to determine if the results have led me anywhere other than away.
Certainly not just the fact I’m over 50 now, or a grandfather of two perfect grandchildren, but I’m acutely aware of time passing and all too aware also of the fragility of life – the lives of loved ones and of companies. Success is taking on a different meaning for me now. While it can never, nor should be, uncoupled completely from the inevitability of commerce, it is the pure, more fundamental relationships, that drive me now.
Being a small brand with world-class aspirations (and wanting to be holistically complete) my idea of success for my brands is being circumscribed evermore completely by relationships. My idea of the proper relationship for winemaker and the vineyard and the craft has changed dramatically. No more am I trying to twist and mold and lengthen and compress. Now, I’m in a symbiotic relationship that is less about control and “making” than it is about revelation. Each element works in concert with the others and the process of sharing energy and desire with all my “partners” can lead to moments of perfection, or a state of perfect now-ness.
I am happy that I’ve realized this now so that I can spend the rest of my career unlayering complication in myself and in my wines in order to approach true clarity. Each little stage of this process – a moment of seeing my work for what it is and what it means – is a successful one.
Success, too, looks like my wine club members and my guests at the winery coming away from their experience with a deeper sense of the magic of wine and of the place that wine holds in a well-wined life. Without an avid and enthusiastic receiver of experience, the most magical moments echo soundless in the vast nothingness of today’s techno-reverb. It is my hope that this “sloughing-off” we are trying to accomplish will invite one to contemplate a more authentic and atavistic experience. When this happens – even if only rarely – that will be a deep and good thing.
The final piece of my evolving vision of success is the caretaking of our land. There are a multitude of sources available to describe how one can farm organically or biodynamically, and they have profoundly affected my thinking about what we are doing now and where we ought go. The simplest way for me to describe this relationship to the vineyard is embodied in a phrase you see if you’ve ever hiked in the White Mountains.”Pack in. Pack out.” Simple. Don’t leave footprints. Leave things the way you found them if they’re right. Make them right if they’re not. It is crucial – as with every other relationship – to work to reverberate at the same frequency so that outputs naturally come from what has been put into them.
Perfection doesn’t mean a lack of flaws, and it comes about by doing just those true things that need to be done. The well-lived life is spent discovering what those true things are.