Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tapping into my Acquis - Wine & Teaching

I love this expression, mes acquis. That which you have acquired, that which you own, and in this sense, my skills and knowledge. In the many years, the many lives, the many projects I've managed, I've come away richer in much, if not in gold.

As I put my efforts to creating a fulfilling life in a beautiful community, known frequently as a place where, "half the pay is the bay," I am tapping into my various skills, and rediscovering how deep my knowledge is, and how it might carry us forward.

Wine and teaching. I've done so much of both. So, it's rather a natural progression to develop this angle further. The last time I hoped to make wine a major part of my professional life, the timing was terrible. The dollar was weak. The US had just experienced the financial crash/housing crisis, and I was hoping to use my experience at the side of an organic vintner to sell French wines to the US distributors. To do so, I honed my tasting skills, my teaching skills, and my knowledge of the wines themselves. However, I did not have the personal nor professional funds to ship and carry wines to the US repeatedly in order to find those importers/distributors.  Too late I realized that one must present wines again and again, proving consistency and professional commitment, before finding a business partner. And so, for the time being, I shuttered that possibility.

Yesterday, after a fruitful discussion with a colleague who runs a professional culinary school, I've submitted a proposal for an intensive wine tasting and food and wine pairing program for his students. As I put it together, it was so clear how I would progress, what subjects were important to cover, how I would balance the intellectual and the practical.

I think back to the many wonderful professional wine tasting experiences I've had, with the top experts in the field such as Karen MacNeil, with my chef sommelier in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Guy Brémond, with the many vintners who received me generously into their wineries and explained at length the processes they used, tasting from the barrels, tasting from the tanks, tasting bottles both young and old, tasting, savoring, describing, explaining. And yes, I remember back to the years I spent alongside an organic vintner who shared every step of his world with me. Thus, I've been there, from harvest through winter pruning. I've been there to taste and blend with the oenologist. I've been there at wine fairs, tasting, selling, discussing.

And then there was that huge translation project I (happily) plowed my way through, the Bettane & Dessauve.  All the tasting notes for every wine they considered worthy, throughout every region of France (except Burgundy and Bordeaux, which my colleagues kept for themselves). I put together a massive list of specialized vocabulary, and eagerly went out to taste some of the most interesting options. 

So, add in my Waldorf teaching experience, and the twelve years' running a cooking school in Provence, and well, what a perfect fit! Stage one - wine intensive; stage two... sensory analysis on a deeper and wider level: cheeses, beers, chocolate.

So, the proposal went off yesterday. We shall see...

Saturday, September 5, 2015


It's been a doozy of a year. As my son Jonas says ever so simply: a lot has happened. Catching our breaths, living under the same roof, grounding our lives in some semblance of normalcy. These seem to be our main goals right now.

Balance: living both as American and French nationals.

This is a goal. Not always easy to manage, but still a goal. For the kids this meant Jonas in France for much of this school year, reintegrating his Waldorf school, and living with his father. For Leo, that meant a long and leisure-filled summer in France for his 18th birthday. For me, this means getting back to France every winter to care for my home and to offer Winter Truffle and Foie Gras Tours.

In the meantime, we are now reunited in my family summer home in Traverse City, enjoying the end of summer quiet, the last of the heat, and a very late Labor Day. Most of our extended family has departed for their winter lives and homes. Schools start up on Tuesday. Later than I've ever experienced. When was the last time Labor Day came this late? I imagine we were back in France with schools that began on August 29th at the time.

I've had some fantastic work experiences this year - consulting on a goat farm in North Carolina, helping them improve their lactic cheese makes, tweak their blue cheese-make and develop a new washed rind soft cheese; the last won an award at the American Cheese Society this summer. I've also visited other colleagues and worked along side them, sharing my skills and knowledge, and picking up some new skills and ideas through observing them and chatting over a meal, wine, and nibbles of cheese.

During this pause in my full-time cheese making life, I'm contemplating different futures, different possibilities, different projects. I'm also simply looking at different ways to make ends meet in the meantime. Life doesn't stop and top of the list each day is caring for my children and paying the numerous expenses a life accumulates. I'm also treasuring my friends, consolidating our affairs, considering book projects, and reaching out. It's a luxury to have time to plan and plot.