in which I get a job

by crushed & stirred

This has been a big year for little old me. 12 months ago, I accepted my vintage job at Juniper and bought a one-way ticket to Sydney. Soon after, I was hightailing across the Outback in a station wagon and soon after that, I washed up in Margaret River, only a little worse for the wear, and fumbled my way into a beautiful life and vintage that gave me opportunities to step up to the plate in overdue fits and bursts.

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Juniper Estate

By spring (that is, fall in Australia), I was undecided about the immediate future – the same tune I’ve been singing for the last three years. But I knew I was getting tired of setting up shop again every 6 months. The constant hunt for new work, visas, travel means, housing, transportation, bank accounts, phones . . . the constant readjustment to new lives, new people, new expectations, new challenges and setbacks, new opportunities and excitement. If you can’t tell, I’ve experienced some ambivalence.

My return to California – after great deliberation – was also a homecoming to Donelan. Every vintage I’ve worked has served at least one purpose in educating me; this year, the greatest boost came from the sense of engagement that comes with greater responsibility, deeper involvement, more decision making, more opportunities to set the pace and priorities and to participate. The learning curve felt, at times, as steep as my first. But it also solidified my increasing comfort in this industry and my hunger to take that further. I worried before the start of harvest that I wouldn’t be able to keep up, but that’s not how it felt when I was actually presented with situations that taxed me, frustrated me, overwhelmed me. It just made me want to keep working to get it right. I remembered again something said to me a long time ago by a fellow cellar friend: the difference between a worker and a great worker is someone who, when confronted with an arduous task, says: “I don’t like this, I want it to end” and someone who says: “I don’t like this. I must destroy it.”

Destroy it with finesse, I’ve often had to remind myself. There’s finesse, and sometimes there’s force. Force, and sometimes finesse. I feel like my work is just getting started. In the last few weeks at Donelan, I’ve been transitioning to a new role. My first ever permanent job, and as a cellar master at that. It’s a big deal to me. Some things won’t change much about my day-to-day work. But other things will change a great deal and I’m excited at the prospect of riding these next waves and elaborating on them here, on these virtual pages.

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It’s not exactly hard to imagining living here year-round

This is the first time a vintage has ended and I haven’t already been head-first organizing the next one. It’s a relief. Does that mean I won’t have striking photos to post from mountaintops in New Zealand or eucalypt groves in Australia or wineries in Italy? I can still post those, I just won’t be in the photos. Better yet, I can include shots of Sonoma in springtime – something I’ve yet to see. I can sign a lease. Plant some veggies. Get a subscription to a newspaper (whatever, I like hard copy.) And finish wines.

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