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Carly Smoot
June 30, 2014 | Carly Smoot

4 Things I've Learned Being a Winemaker's Daughter

Hi there! Welcome to the new and improved Bella Luna Estate Winery blog!

As Sherman’s daughter, and the one in the family who pursued English as a career versus Wine and Viticulture, I’ve been tasked with launching and revamping our social media. As part of this job my dad asked me to start blogging for the winery, which is right up my English major alley. Typically when I sit down to write the words flow as quickly and heavily as the wine or coffee near me (as a grad student, I have developed an equal addiction to both). However, this time around, I was just stuck—cursor blinking, forehead on the desk sort of stuck.

I decided that it would be best to chat with my dad, since he is the winery expert and this is our winery blog after all, and see what sort of stories he had in mind. We productively passed ideas back and forth, and by productively I mean I mostly rambled on about what I thought I might be able to write about with not a whole lot of wine expertise. After at least ten minutes of me talking in circles, he stopped me saying, “Why don’t you just write about what you want to write about?” I rolled my eyes and shot back something along the lines of “Dad, I’m fairly certain no one wants to read a blog post about things I love, like dancing, puppies, literature, photography, and so on—it just isn’t related to wine, you know?” His response: “You’re a winemaker’s daughter, you must have something to say.”

He’s right, as dads often are, so here is what I know to be true from being a winemaker's kid:

1. Good wine takes time…and so does a lot of other stuff in life.
A phrase I grew up hearing from my Dad almost daily was, “Patience is a virtue.” Those words didn’t sink into my thick, twenty-six-year-old skull until recently. In a society of instant gratification, I think we highly underestimate the importance of taking a breath and being patient. Growing up watching my Dad and Kevin tediously measure pH, spending hours on end pruning grapes, and waiting as our wine aged in the barrels taught me that stopping and taking your time is a good skill to develop. So yeah, sometimes we just want a giant chocolate bar and we want that bar now…like…right now, and that is totally okay. However, sometimes we have to stop, take a deep breath, and remind ourselves that, just as vines need ample time to grow and be pruned, as humans we need that time too, to be patient, to take things slow, and the ending is stronger, healthier vines and stronger, healthier humans.

2. The wine industry is all about people.
At this point I’m convinced that if you offer up good food and good wine, people will flock to it. Sure, since I am a winemaker’s daughter I’ve been privy to a whole heck of a lot of good food and wine, but what is truly important is how those things offer up a place for conversation and connecting with people. My dad taught me the art of open-mindedness and the importance of human connection through showing me the power of sitting down at a big table and sharing food and wine with friends and family. I have gotten the chance to know so many amazing people just by taking the time to sit down over a bottle of wine and talk with them. Something I never regret is finding those moments to have meaningful conversations with others, and I understand the importance of this because I saw my dad do it a million times a day with people coming into the winery, winery events, big family dinners, and so on.

3. You can actually have fun at work.
My dad and Kevin work hard. Really hard. There are days that I am at the winery and the two of them are running around juggling chemistry sets and wine bottles, while also talking on the phone, shipping orders, etc. Really, when you get down to it, making great wine is a rigorous business. However, no matter the long, hot days in the sun picking grapes or the late night hours checking the wine as it ferments, I witness as much if not more joy and laughter and fun as they work. My dad and Kevin truly love being winemakers and that rubbed off on their kids. When I was deciding between the career that would pay me a lot of money versus the one that I actually enjoyed doing, I looked back at my dad and realized that I wanted to have a job that I loved as much as him and Kevin—so I picked that. I am never disappointed in that choice, because now I reciprocate the joy, fun, and laughter in my own job as a teacher. It really is the best loving your job and being happy and present in it.

4. Winemaking can be finicky, but you have to fight for what you love.
I have witnessed talks between my Dad and Kevin when they were worried about not getting enough rain for the grapes (we dry-farm, so we are a bit more dependent on the weather than some other wineries), times when yucky bugs were out to get local vineyards, and tension when the wine levels weren’t quite right, but what they never did was give up. My dad didn’t look at wine and think, “Ah well, better luck next year.” He said, “Oh no you don’t give up on me wine, because I’m not giving up on you!” So they work tirelessly to keep the vines healthy and the wine tasting delicious, but the product is so good, because they fight for it to be that way. Good wine isn’t born, it’s made, and it’s made through a lot of perseverance. When I’m feeling bogged down and stuck on a paper or dealing with a student who is giving me a tough time, I look at that stuff and think, “Hey student, paper, [insert any other issue here], I’m not giving up on you!” because when you love and care about something, you fight for it.

So yeah, being a winemaker’s kid means you get a lot more sunburns than the average youngster because of working in the vineyard, bottling, etc. and it means sometimes having fingers and clothes stained red for days on end because grape juice is not forgiving, but all of that pales in comparison when you take into account the lessons you get to learn from winemakers who still believe in hard work, patience, people, artistry, and, of course, fun!


Emily Ridgway's Gravatar
Emily Ridgway
@ Jun 30, 2014 at 8:52 PM
Your dad is a wise man and was so do have plenty to say as you observe and participate in the world of wine. And, as a matter of fact, the first time I had the honor of meeting you was when you were enjoying dinner at a large table of family and friends. Looking forward to future blogs. Cheers!

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