Oregon Wine Pioneers Review

vine-lives-frontThe Journal of Wine Economics is the official publication of the American Association of Wine Economists (AAWE). You can imagine how pleased I was when the editor contacted me for a review copy of Oregon Wine Pioneers. It was reviewed by McMinnville-based writer Neal D. Hulkower who concluded:

The writing in OWP struck me as literary, impressionistic and passionate. We share moments of realization with Warncke: “Voila. The missing piece. The link. The glue. I should have guessed. The clue is in the name: A to Z. You can say anything with 26 letters and this is a winery dedicated to expression. Climate, soil, elevation, varietals, and water, are the winemaker’s alphabet” (OWP, p. 56). I also enjoyed the clever analogies Warncke draws. In describing the career path of Tom Symonette of Whistling Dog Cellars, she writes “…a picture emerges of a man whose life – like the vines he tends with such intense affection – had three buds. Two of which, removed, left one strong shoot”.

You can read the full review here.

 

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Storytelling: Transformation

Storytelling is the essence of communication. The elements of storytelling are like letters of the alphabet. When you know how to use them, you can tell your best story.

Element 16: Transformation

Stories derive their energy from transformation — someone or something has to change.

Case study: Whistling Dog Cellars dsc00670

What it is:

Whistling Dog Cellars is a small vineyard and winery in Oregon’s Eola-Amity Hills AVA that produces exquisite Pinot Noir. Owners Tom and Celeste Symonette worked, respectively, in business and pharmaceuticals in Silicon Valley. They had money and success but chose to leave it behind to gamble on their winemaking dream.

Why it matters:

Whistling Dog’s story is irresistible because it is about people transforming their lives. Tom Symonette initially wanted to work in forestry, but lack of opportunity sent him back to school to earn an MBA. He then spent years working 100-hour weeks in corporate finance roles. But, as he puts it, in that world “the most tangible thing you do is print out a spreadsheet.” So he and his wife decided to leave their gilded Bay Area life and, along with their young daughter, risk everything on an old vineyard.

Big, bold transformations like that are the engines that drive great stories. If your story (ad campaign, romance, career development, etc) is sputtering along take a hard look at it and ask yourself: Where is the transformation? If nothing changes, nothing happens. This is boring in life and fatal to stories.

In their own words:

“At Whistling Dog Cellars we don’t just own the winery and vineyard, we actually do the work.  One of us is the primary worker in every step of our vineyard and winery activities; we have no other employees.  Growing and making world-class Pinot is not just our passion, it is our livelihood, it is the only thing we do.  We don’t just stake our reputation on it; we stake our family’s welfare on it.” Read More

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Practice: “In plot-driven stories, the changes are typically external, with the change occurring in the world the characters inhabit. There’s a problem that’s affecting others (it can be anywhere between one person or all people), and that problem must change or else. The novel is about watching how a situation is resolved and the consequences of resolving it.” Janice Hardy via Publishing Crawl

Remember: “Change your life today. Don’t gamble on the future, act now, without delay. ~Simone de Beauvoir

Elements of Storytelling 9: Research

Storytelling is the essence of communication. The elements of storytelling are like letters of the alphabet. When you know how to use them, you can tell your best story.

Element 9: Research

Research is the foundation upon which compelling stories are built.

Case study: Abacela 

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Abacela Winery

What it is:

An award-winning winery located in Southern Oregon’s Umpqua Valley. It is best known for producing world-class Tempranillo, the grape that makes Spain’s famous Rioja wines.

Why it matters:

Abacela founder Earl Jones was a fan of Spanish wines and a medical research scientist. His wife Hilda was a medical technologist. They are by training and inclination people who study, analyse, test, and investigate. When Earl started wondering why he couldn’t find any good-quality American Tempranillo he didn’t shrug and leave it. He did research.

Earl’s quest to find the secret to great Tempranillo took him across countries and decades. He travelled through Spain and across the States, interviewing winemakers, studying soil and climate records. Reviewing the latter, Earl hypothesised that climate is the secret to growing top notch Tempranillo grapes.

As any good researcher would, Earl put his theory to the test. This meant identifying an American region with a similar climate to Rioja, moving there with his family, buying land, planting grapes, building a winery, and making wine. The initial results were good: Gold medal winning Tempranillo wines that outmatched Spain’s finest. More than 20 years on, Earl and Hilda are still researching, still growing, still writing new chapters of their story.

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Hilda and Earl Jones, founders

In their own words:

Abacela, in 2016, is a world-class, multi-award winning winery and viticulture success story. But 21 years ago when founders Earl and Hilda Jones planted its first vines they had no way of knowing what the outcome would be. They were scientists with zero winemaking experience who left secure careers and trekked 2700 miles west, kids in tow, to test a hypothesis.

Abacela was an experiment they hoped would answer a question that had puzzled them for years: Why doesn’t America produce any fine varietal Tempranillo wine?

Earl and Hilda probably weren’t the first enophiles to wonder why the great grape of Spain’s famous Rioja wines was mysteriously absent from American fine wine. However they were the first to approach the question with scientific rigor, form a hypothesis, then devote their lives to testing it.

This is the story of how one ordinary family’s curiosity and determination transformed their lives, built one of Oregon’s best-loved wineries and influenced winegrowing not only in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest but across America.

Read the Abacela story 
Practice: “Interview people, if you can, and if it’s relevant (no one who was alive in 1717 was available for me). But I have done interviews that have enlightened me on ballet, horse riding, frogs, injuries and country policing, for example. Prepare good questions beforehand, tape the interview, and take good notes.” via Sherryl Clark

Remember: “Research is formalized curiosity. It is poking and prying with a purpose.”
~Zora Neale Hurston

Elements of Storytelling 8: Voice

Storytelling is the essence of communication. The elements of storytelling are like letters of the alphabet. When you know how to use them, you can tell your best story.

Element 8: Voice

A clear, unique, personable voice hooks audiences every time.

Case study: No Meat Athlete

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What it is:

No Meat Athlete was a blog that became a brand that became a thriving business for Matt Frazier, an applied mathematics PhD student and amateur marathoner. It began as a chronicle of Matt’s quest to qualify for the Boston Marathon after switching to a plant-based diet.

Why it matters:

Nutrition and fitness blogs are rarely sustainable businesses. The sector is over-crowded, trend-driven and audiences are fickle. No Meat Athlete succeeded where most fail thanks to Matt’s inimitable voice. He tells readers everything they need to know in just three sentences:You’re not here to be preached to. And I’m not here to preach. In fact, I’ll come right out and say that a plant-based diet might not be for you. But I’ll also say this: You won’t know until you try.”

The tone is frank, warm, equable, and non-judgemental. Matt makes no apologies for being neither a professional runner nor nutritionist. Instead, he addresses readers as equals and fellow explorers. He writes in the enthusiastic, endearing voice of someone who has discovered something brilliant and can’t wait to tell you about. No Meat Athlete has grown into a brand that includes books, running groups, merchandise and more but Matt’s voice hasn’t changed. He is still the excitable, passionate, chatty guy you want to go running with then hit the pub for a vegan beer ‘n’ burger afterwards.

In his own words:

You can run without being a “runner.” I did it for five years.

Even once I had run a handful of marathons and was close to qualifying for Boston, when I lined up at the start of a race among all these passionate runners, I still felt like an imposter.

I was just a tourist, doing what runners do, but without feeling like I really belonged.

Sometime during the training for my Boston-qualifying race, where I finally succeeded in breaking 3:10:59, something shifted in me.

Shortly after qualifying, when I was in that happy, weirdly cloudlike space you find yourself in after accomplishing something you’ve worked at for so long, I read Born to Run. And damn if I didn’t feel like a runner after that.

For the first time, I could say that I really loved running, not just as a means of staying in shape or for accomplishing goals, but for its own sake.

And so I became a “runner.” Quotes and all.

Read more

Practice: “You can’t recognize and then strengthen your voice if you don’t hear it—and hearing it in your head isn’t the same as hearing it spoken aloud. Get in the habit of reading what you write out loud. I print and read everything before I send something out and also whenever I’m feeling all snarled up in my organization.

Want to accelerate your voice development? Read out loud to another person without any feedback. This is utterly maddening to your inner approval junkie: “But what does she think about my writing?!?” The magic comes because you turn toward yourself and listen for where you are being true to what you wanted to say and where you’re skirting the truth, where you dug deep and where you skimmed the surface, settling for clichés. Of course, there are plenty of times when getting specific feedback from other writers is useful—but not when it comes to honing your voice. via Jane Friedman

Remember: “Style cannot be copied, except by the untalented. It is, finally, the distillation of a lifetime of reading and listening, of selection and rejection. But if it is not a true voice, it is nothing.” ~Mavis Gallant

Elements of Storytelling 6: Contradiction

Storytelling is the essence of communication. The elements of storytelling are like letters of the alphabet. When you know how to use them, you can tell your best story.

Element 6: Contradiction

Good stories should capture the contradictions and complications of real life and real people.

Case study: Lolo Loren

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Who she is:

Lolo Loren is an artist whose work reverberates with contradiction. Her paintings are, mostly, large-scale abstract explosions of lines, colours and forms. She works fast and intuitively, spreading dark or bright lashings of pigment over canvas, according to her mood. All sorts of materials find their way into Lolo’s art: concrete, wood, dead hedgehogs, and scrapes, which she coats with lacquer.

Lolo is also a mother, an entrepreneur and an expat.

Why it matters:

Stories hinge on tension, and nothing creates tension like contradiction. As an artist, Lolo relies on intuition and abandon to create. As a mother, she is a stickler for old-fashioned manners. As a painter, she incorporates found objects into her free-flowing vision. As a businesswoman, she discovered it is essential to glue these elements in place with lacquer to prevent the work from falling apart. As a Dutch citizen in Spain, she bemoans the conformity and greyness of the country she left but her coffee table in Ibiza is laden with magazines from the Netherlands.

Everyone has his or her own set of contradictions, because all of us play a variety of roles in life. When the artist, the storyteller, is bold enough to express and embody contradictory truths, it gives depth and character to her work.

In her own words:

The Invitation

It doesn’t interest me what you do for a living.
I want to know what you ache for
and if you dare to dream of meeting your heart’s longing.

It doesn’t interest me how old you are.
I want to know if you will risk looking like a fool
for love
for your dream
for the adventure of being alive.

It doesn’t interest me what planets are squaring your moon…
I want to know if you have touched the centre of your own sorrow
if you have been opened by life’s betrayals
or have become shrivelled and closed
from fear of further pain.

Click to continue reading

Practice:“To accept duality is to earn identity. And identity is something that you are constantly earning. It is not just who you are. It is a process that you must be active in…. you need to argue yourself down, because somebody else will. Somebody’s going to come at you, and whatever your belief, your idea, your ambition, somebody’s going to question it. And unless you have first, you won’t be able to answer back, you won’t be able to hold your ground. You don’t believe me, try taking a stand on just one leg. You need to see both sides.” ~Joss Whedon

Remember: “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposing ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.~F. Scott Fitzgerald

Elements of Storytelling 4: Heritage

Storytelling is the essence of communication. Whether you are a writer, entrepreneur or politician your story is how you connect with people.

The elements of storytelling are like the letters of the alphabet. Once you know them, you can put them together to tell your story in the best way possible.

Element 4: Heritage

Stories are how we connect to the past and make sense of the present. Heritage gives us a sense of shared lives, experiences, and memories.

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Case study: St. John & Dolly Smith’s Pickles

What it is:

Possibly Britain’s best pickles, sauces and chutneys. The first time I tried St. John & Dolly Smith’s ‘Scotch Bonnet Pickle’ my taste buds lit up like someone put 1000 volts through them. It was a blistering simultaneous hit of taste and sensation. The heat-wave receded leaving two questions: Who made this? And: Where can I get some more?

I tracked down founder and self-styled Pickleman Chris Smith and discovered a backstory as flavourful as his creations.

Why it matters:

The sauces, pickles and chutneys would be extraordinary, with or without the story of St. John and Dolly Smith. But by connecting his product to its heritage, Chris taps into a primal hunger for stories about love, belonging, success and navigating an ever-changing world. His heritage touches on history, empire, education, immigration, death, and the inevitable march of time. The details of our stories are different, but every one of us experiences equally big, scary, life events. I fell in love with the pickle and its promise that change can be beautiful and there is always another chapter to be written.

The St. John & Dolly Smith story:

St. John Smith taught at some of India’s best schools, some of which were boarding schools where Dolly’s role was that of house matron. When their two older sons left university they moved to England with 13-year-old Chris. It was the first time he’d left India and his abiding memory is of coming off the boat to see frost so thick on the ground it looked like snow. The utter foreignness of his new home was assuaged by the familiar foods of Bangalore.

“Friends were crazy about my parent’s cooking. They would come around with a list of requests for their favourites but my mum and dad were very modest,” Chris recalls fondly. “They always thought ‘oh, they’re just being polite.’”

As the son of gifted cooks, he admits to never doing much in the kitchen. “Why would I, when they could do it better?” One of Dolly’s traditions was taking jars of pickle to school reunions, a flavoursome evocation of shared memories. After his mother passed away, a chance meeting with one of her old friends encouraged Chris to dig out her recipes and revisit his culinary heritage.

Read more here

Practice: “Write down everything you can remember about every birthday or Christmas or Seder or Easter or whatever, every relative who was there. Write down all the stuff you swore you’d never tell another soul. What can you recall about your birthday parties — the disasters, the days of grace, your relatives’ faces lit up by birthday candles? Scratch around for details: what people ate, listened to, wore — those terrible petaled swim caps, the men’s awful trunks, the cocktail dress your voluptuous aunt wore that was so slinky she practically needed the Jaws of Life to get out of it.” ~Anne Lamott in Bird By Bird

Remember: Even if you were in a prison whose walls allowed none of the sounds of the world to reach your senses — would you not still have always your childhood, that precious, royal richness, that treasure house of memories?” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke

New Year Resolution

My resolution for 2016…

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“To guard what is your own. Not to claim what is another’s. To use what is given you. Not to long for anything if it be not given. If anything be taken away to give it up at once and without a struggle, with gratitude for the time you have enjoyed it”

~Epictetus