School’s Out!

Hugo D’Acosta on our last day of class. He’s about to release us to our own devices!

Our last class at the famed “escuelita” ended on an informal and anti-climactic note. I wandered off contemplating  everything I’d learned, clutching my notes in hand and ready to show the world of wine what I’m made of …. ! Just got word that my first grapes arrive on Friday. . It’s Showtime!!! Now I’m as nervous as a new mother. What condition will my fruit be in? Is there anything I haven’t thought of in order to be fully prepared? I’ve read and read and read and read. I’ve taken extensive notes. I’ve talked with other winemakers till I’m purple in the face. Now my grapes are coming and I’ve got butterflies in my tummy! I’m ready though. I know what needs to be done.

 

At Restaurante Laja, enjoying Andrés Blanco’s exquisite vinos, pouring over his winemaking books, picking his brain. This is my idea of learning!

I’ve been in the Valle de Guadalupe for just a little over four months and came with vague ideas about getting work in the wine industry. I immersed myself in the community by making friends with numerous winemakers, attending tastings, carefully listening and observing, getting to know the staff at the local bodegas and generally making a nuisance of myself by asking thousands of questions. I absorbed the local culture like a sponge and learned with all the enthusiasm of a novitiate into a secret society. I don’t know how it happened …. It wasn’t a “Eureka!” type of epiphany but gradually that little voice in the back of my head came forward. I knew what I wanted to do. It was a long-held fantasy that I never dared vocalize because I didn’t believe it was within my reach: to be a winemaker. Four short months later I have two tons of grapes landing on my front step and am launching my own business! It’s enough to make a girl’s head spin.

I’m about to put theory to the test.

But I’ve never been one to sit on my hands in this world of opportunity. I can’t imagine not risking everything for what you love. Living passionately and following your bliss: isn’t that what it’s all about? I’m waxing philosophical but that’s because my brain is overly-saturated with an entirely new vocabulary in English and in Spanish including formulas, implements, procedures, and theories (and the wine I indulged in last night I might add ;)). In two days I will move from the cerebral to the hands-on reality and yes, I’m nervous! After all of this preparation I may be shooting from the hip, and relying on instinct, depending on timing, necessity and unforeseen circumstances. That’s where the art meets the science and decisions shape the drink-to-be.

Small basket press I’ll be learning to use soon.

It reminds me of my background in the theater. I’ve been on-and-off stage since childhood and directed numerous productions. I understand that being well-rehearsed can only take a performer so far. Once on-stage with scene partners in front of a live audience, the show takes on a life of its own and will be what it will be. As a director I’ve learned to balance firm guidance fueled by inner vision and allowing the the sum total of collaborators to shape the final outcome. In this case the director is the winemaker and the players are the grapes.

 

I don’t have stage fright, just normal Opening Night jitters. Hope the grapes and I have a good run!

Sweet elixir of my dreams!

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