Identity in the wine industry can be a straightforward and yet muddled thing. Especially in regards to personal identity. I am a winemaker. I’m a vintner. I’m a lab tech, and a cellar rat. But really each person wears a lot of hats. I think this is true for anyone who is not in a corporate position. I was going to say it is true for anyone who owns their own business, but it goes far beyond this. Think of the term stay-at-home mom/dad. That poor parent is always moving and if they actually do to get be at there house for most of the day, they never sit down and I don’t seem to remember how to relax any longer. They are holding life together for the family in many ways that are never seen. I know that is what my mom did and still continues to do. For her, you get to add a few family companies into the mix. And I think most people have a few “side” gigs too. Or at least that is how my life as always been. Now in wine those side gigs end up being part of the confusion of my identity.
I am a winemaker -right now primarily for myself, working on my own label and style. And I do consulting. (Where the big bucks are -HaHaHaHaHa! -No. Where you convince people to pay you for your knowledge so you can see and experience a lot of different sides of wine and in turn can pay a few of your bills.) So, for me this means I need another (few) side gigs. Thus I do more consulting but in business -corporate management, company processes, etc. And believe it or not I enjoy this business stuff just as much as the wine stuff. I’m not simply doing one to pay for the other. Through this I also have a job that pays the rent. The “normal” job, which luckily for me is anything but normal. Its essentially an in-house consultant for business development. No, not sales -but the actual design, structure, and development of the geographic and economic growth of the company for a small (well I guess not so small any more) internet service provider. And here I have some wonderful perks, like enjoying the work, working with customers, learning parts federal law and for the most part setting my own schedule. By setting my own schedule I am allowed to be a winemaker, a vintner, a lab analyst, a cellar rat, a taste analysis, and a business consultant. But all of this is simply the long winded, and not very interesting, answer to “what do you do in wine?”, where the real question is “who are you?“.
For ourselves we try and answer this question with business cards, industry connections, past experiences and linkedin profiles that all somehow convey that we are a smart, interesting, capable people that someone else should want to know. While wines and wineries are asked this question simply as they sit on a shelf or as their name lays in a wine menu. Through their brand, name, label, and stats they are asked to tell a short, fast, and compelling story. And just as we might all be impressed with someone who went to Oxford, we are often impressed with a bottle of Bordeaux. But what about the person who went to a small school, that everyone in area knows is impressive, but you’ve never heard of? Just like a wine from a random region. Then we look for look, name, class, rank, accolades. And thus you have the power of labels, varieties, and awards. It all makes up the short identity these products must have to be present and acceptable in the world. This identity is made up of may different elements that we all weigh for value and importance. And often times we are trying to “get” someone or some wine’s identity and thus story, in a quick glance, or from a short conversation in a elevator.
But as we all know, first impressions may tell you something, but it is never the whole truth. For people its getting to know them through interviews, conversations, work projects and the like. For wine it’s simply opening the bottle and having a drink or two. After all people are social creatures and wine is meant to be drunk.
Sometimes we like the person or the taste and first, but then little things start us annoy us or feel off. Other times and they open up, we see bits of beauty that were hidden at first glance.
Life is so much more interesting when we go beyond the first “identity” or impression and get to know someone or some wine. It takes time and a willingness to try something new, different, and unknown. And darling, that is where some of the best parts of life are!