“Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
― Marcel Proust
2014 was a year in which my soul blossomed. A seed, or should I say cutting, was planted years ago, one of fascination, intrigue. A love, not just for wine, but for the people behind the wine, began to grow. Through the cultivation of connectedness and encouragement that vine began to produce fruit. I am grateful.
Each year, WordPress provides a year-end summary of the site’s performance. Included is a list of the most popular posts of the year. Each of the five most popular posts could be tied back to the idea of gratitude. Three out of five of them were connected to the Monthly Wine Writing Challenge, my first highlight of 2014.
1) Monthly Wine Writing Challenge #6, January
I had enjoyed reading the entries in previous months, but when the theme “Mystery” was introduced, I couldn’t resist entering. It was an opportunity to share one of my favorite stories from our time in Italy, a story the voters enjoyed enough to honor. When writers you admire give a thumbs up, it is especially encouraging.
I applied on a whim, what could it hurt? I’d always wanted to go, but didn’t know how I could afford to. I had taken the year off from any freelance writing so how could I justify spending the money when my venture was not producing any? It turns out that thanks to the wonderful people and companies behind the WBC Scholarships, I didn’t have to.
Mary Cressler took me under her wing and kept me laughing. Rachel Voorhees charmed all of us at the Rodney Strong dinner. Thea Dwell’s enthusiasm in unmatched. Anatoli Levine and Cyrus Limon provided familiar touch points. Anatoli and I had met in Austin and bonded over Texas wine. Cyrus and I swapped stories since we had a mutual friend and he’d even been to my hometown. I felt a little like a groupie meeting the big publication writers and as if we were at a reunion with all of the Women Wine Writers I had never met. The whole weekend was like summer camp meets college course at a candy store, only it was wine…and free.
The opportunity was one that I will never forget. The idea that the people providing the scholarships saw potential in me was an incredible honor. Finally getting to meet so many I’d admired, the friendships formed, were food for my soul. Being able to learn from and be challenged by talented, driven writers was a boost I couldn’t have received in any other way. It was truly a gift on every level.
3)Rodney Strong 25th Anniversary Dinners
Yes, dinners, plural. The first was in Solvang, the second in Austin…and NYC, Healdsburg, and Miami. The food and wine were crazy good. The first was a great way to kick off #WBC14 and an honor to be invited. The company and shuttle ride were enough to make the evening one I won’t soon forget. The second was a once-in-a-lifetime kind of evening with the collaboration of crazy-talented chefs. I’m sure I wasn’t the best date since I was focused on trying to capture the event through social media, but it was a wonderful evening. I could not have attended were it not for the faith Carin Oliver at Angelsmith PR put in me.
Are you kidding? This was one fabulous party. Incredible music, sound system, lighting. Beautiful people everywhere, a VIP section for the guests of Mumm, Champagne for days. I even wore sequins. I kept asking my husband, “Did you ever imagine that my little hobby would lead to this?” Neither did I.
I was so impressed by the production required to totally transform La Zona Rosa into this crazy, swanky, nightclub. But the people of Mumm not only did it, they did it with a smile. Warm, gracious, accommodating…even at 1am. Which was when this lady turned into a pumpkin. Had we not scheduled a dinner party the next day, I may have stayed long enough to see the celebs and what happens at 4am, but this old lady just can’t do it anymore and still be smiling.
Elizabeth Smith was one of the first bloggers I began reading. I enjoyed watching her transition from a teacher to the wine world. I learn from her honest introspection and get to live vicariously through her move, tackling her dreams in the Wine Country. At the end of 2014, she put out a list of her favorite things: winery experiences, wines, wine firsts, and blogs. I was moved, literally to tears, that my blog made her list. In my last post I mentioned “genuine encouragement in quiet ways” with Elizabeth in mind. We were finally able to meet at the Wine bloggers conference. In her writing and her manner, Elizabeth is both quiet and genuine. She is subtle and wise and encouragement from her is truly an honor.
I could go on. There were dinners with Sequoia Grove and Dry Creek Winegrowers, paella with Mia and lunch with Wines of Provence. There were events like Tour de Vin and Big Reds and Bubbles. Equally special, however, were the less glamorous dinner parties at home. I am so fortunate to be able to buy quality ingredients to serve my family and friends. I am grateful for the example my mother provided and the love of cooking she passed along. Celebrating birthdays or creating occasions, being able to commune with those I love always feeds my soul.
Thank you for sharing in this journey with me. Thank you for reading and for the encouragement. Thank you for sharing your ideas and inspiration. Most especially, thank you to all the “charming gardeners” that share yourselves over a glass of wine or with a click of a keyboard. Cheers to a wonderful new year.