Friday, December 7, 2012

Birthday Week in Wine Country

Funny enough, I had this blogpost already written on Wednesday and then something significant happened that changed my blogpost idea altogether. In the past, I've asked friends and family to describe me using a couple words and the common adjectives used include: intelligent, confident, genuine, optimistic (or "sunny"), and hardworking. I'll explain why this is significant later...

This week, I celebrated my 27th birthday working on a winery outside Melbourne near Harcourt. Before leaving the States for Australia, I cold-emailed a handful of wineries throughout the country asking if they had positions available where I could learn the marketing/events aspect of the industry. A few wrote back and mentioned they could accommodate Diana and me for a week. Since Diana grew up in Wyoming on a farm, I figured she would enjoy the experience. So, we met with the owner/winemaker of one of the wineries that responded and talked about what the workweek would entail. He mentioned there would be some manual labor, but that I would learn heaps of things about the industry as well as help with an event at the cellar door...perfect! Or so I thought...

Okay, now fast forward to Thursday of this week to me crying my eyes out pushing a lawn mower (for the first time EVER, mind you--don't judge! I grew up in a townhouse with no lawn), swatting flies out of my face, blisters forming on my hands, and frustrated that I've yet to learn one thing applicable to a future job in the wine industry. The reason for tears? Three-and-a-half days into 8-hour daily sessions of manual labor, I began to see stars every time I bent down to shovel dirt. So what did I do? I said something to the owner. I am very in tune with my body and I know when something is wrong. (To paint another picture for you: while in the vineyard shoveling dirt, I had to stop to do extended Downward Dogs just to keep my back from having spasms.) There was no way in hell I was going to screw up my back over something like this. Back in high school, I messed up my shoulder during volleyball and instead of waiving my white flag to surrender, I listened to my coaches who told me to take Vicodin and get cortisone shots to mask the pain. It wasn't until I was serving at a volleyball game one day that all the masking agents wore away and I left the game with an uneven, torn shoulder as well as the disappointment that I would never play college ball competitively.

Needless to say, from that point onward, I vowed to never push my body past it's limits. Yes, I workout hard on occasion but there's a huge difference between pushing yourself safely and hurting yourself. Maybe that's why I gravitate toward yoga...

So, I told the winemaker I had to switch over to another task for awhile. He was pissed, but let me also remind you that I was supposed to be working on an event that same day anyway and he didn't let me. Instead, I was sent to the garden to dig out beds, add mulch, and be the gardener's right hand woman. At the end of Thursday, he cornered me in the garden and said something that will stick in my mind forever: "You think you're hardworking, huh? Ha! You're not worth the money I'm paying you. And you're not fit--next time I hire someone, they need to be fitter than you." Such a lovely man (It should also be said that this lovely man told Diana and I on Monday night that he is bipolar).

So, doing what I do best, I found the silver lining in the situation (AFTER I finished crying while mowing the garden lawn). You know what the positive thing was from this experience? The fact that I spent nearly two days with two amazing women, one being the gardener and the other being the cellar door manager/chef. From my time with them, I cultivated a newfound love (gardening) and continued growing another (cooking). Had I not spoken up and said that my back hurt, I would not have had the opportunity to work in the garden and in the kitchen to see how much I love eating fresh and homemade produce and turning them into delicious meals paired with a beautiful wine. These women took me under their wings, taught me bucketloads, and protected me from the winemaker and his snide comments.

In one week, there were many ups and downs, but it turned out to be a very defining moment in my life. I may not be "fit" enough to work in the fields, but I have the personality and intelligence to work with people on the business side of things.

Besides the unfortunate situation with the winemaker, a lot of both good and funny things happened this week. Here is a list of my favorites:

-Overcoming my fear of magpies. The winery had a pet magpie named Sid, so I had to learn to embrace my fears. By the end of the week, I taught the baby bird how to dig for bugs in the garden bed! I'm a changed woman.
-Wine areas of the world are still my happy places. They stir up such good feelings inside. I love being in the country and living simply.
-I feel accomplished. We planted 27 rows of new vines of Shiraz and fixed the wires on old vines of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We witnessed all phases of vine life and aided in the wine-making process from the ground up. I also dug up an entire garden bed, nurtured it, and planted more life into it.
-I learned how the same wine tastes entirely different depending on what kind of glass it's in as well as how to barrel taste and not look like an idiot.
-Randomly enough, I can now add chopping wood, feeding chickens and cleaning their coop, and pea picking to my growing repertoire of skills obtained while in Australia.
-I've also learned real-life skills such as how delicious and satisfying it is to eat food from your own garden. I've always wanted to grow my own veggies and herbs and being here encourages me to really do it! Wine and delicious meals go hand-in-hand, which also reminds me that I need to continue my self-taught cooking lessons when I get back to the States.

I'm grateful for experiences like these to help guide me toward my next life chapter. At the end of the day, I've learned that as long as I keep a sunny disposition and find the good in every situation, things work out for the best. And hey, I can now chalk up this situation to another learning experience!

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