What is the definition of being successful? Is it making more money than you know what to do with? Is it having letters after your name that people aren’t even sure what they mean? Or is it simply being happy? When Mike and I decided to enter the wine business, we knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road. We were realistic. We understood that we would neither be an overnight sensation, nor ever be as recognized as Robert Mondavi. That’s not why we entered the business. We entered the wine industry because we love wine and it was our dream to own a winery. We chose to not just wish or dream about it, we made a conscious decision to make it happen. We chose to Pursue Our Passion.
It’s a scary thing chasing down your dreams, but if you don’t enter the race you are never going to win. One of my favorite sayings about Pursuing Your Passion was made by “The Great One,” Wayne Gretzky. He very eloquently stated, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.” He knows you need to take risks. You need to leave the safety net that tethers you to your comfort zone so that you can experience what happens next.
In this, what has become a monthly tradition, a guest blogger will tell you their story of how they pursued their passion in the wine industry. These people understood what Van Gogh meant by “I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”
The amazing thing about social media is that it makes the world a small place. The purpose of Twitter is to engage with other people. In order to do this I started joining Twitter chat groups. Since the majority of the groups I partake in are all about wine, it not difficult to fathom that you run into several of the same people. As in life, some people come and go while others a connection is made. If memory serves correctly, the first place I saw Debbie was in #winestudio. Her name HV (Hudson Valley) WineGoddess, caught my eye immediately. Living near the Hudson Valley, her posts were very relevant to me. Her tweets started showing up more frequently on my feed (have no clue how Twitter decides that) and then we started tagging each other and an online friendship emerged. The social media world association became an in real life friendship one day last year when I got a DM asking me for my email address. I replied and that afternoon an email was in my inbox asking me if I would be interested in judging at the Hudson Valley Wine & Spirits Competition.
Excitement came over me and then fear immediately followed. Judging a wine competition! Eeeek! I have never done anything like that before! Trusting my palate is easy when it comes to deciding what wines I like and blending trials for our Cabernet Franc, however using my palate to judge someone else’s wine, was a whole different ballgame. A game, by the way, that I now endear and am honored that she has asked me back for this year’s competition.
One thing I believe in life is that you must be amenable to new experiences and I believe Debbie lives by that rule also. In fact, stay tuned to both of our accounts, since we have decided to embark on a new joint adventure starting June 5th! Enjoy, as she recounts her story of how she continues to Pursue Her Passion.
You just never know where life will take you and the doors that open. Before I began writing about wine and involved with my local wine region, I owned a travel agency that focused on sending people to the wine regions of the world. This focus was developed from my love of wine and to share the places it’s produced so people can visit and experience the culture, the wine and the food. It was through the travel business and a booth at The Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival that I realized I live the oldest wine region in America, the Hudson Valley. I grew up here, lived here and didn’t know any of the local wineries in attendance, including Whitecliff, the winery next to me. It was from that point on that I set out to learn more about the wineries, the people behind them and began to market travel to visit the wineries of the Hudson Valley. That is where it all began.
It only takes one person to friend you and believe in you. That person was Michael Migliore owner of Whitecliff Vineyards & Winery. He was and still is President of the Hudson Valley Wine & Grape Association (HVWGA). He approached me about volunteering at the Hudson Valley Wine Competition which is run by the HVWGA and of course I said yes. Never thought I would one day be the chairperson. I accepted to get a better understanding on the wine region and to understand the wines of the Hudson Valley. After 3 years of volunteering, the current chairperson moved out-of-town. There was nobody to take it over, so I volunteered to do so. Realizing this is the only competition I know, I volunteered at the New York Wine & Food Classic to see how a larger wine competition is run. I took what I learned and applied it to the Hudson Valley Wine Competition and found the competition a new home at the Hudson Valley Wine & Food Festival. Today the competition includes not just the wines produced in the Hudson Valley but the ciders and spirits as well. Never stop learning and researching and look for areas to improve upon. For Hudson Valley wineries, cideries and spirit producers, this competition has become a great showcase of their products.
Make it Personal
As I begin to get involved, with the wineries, going out to meet the people behind the wine, an opportunity opened up for me to work with the Shawangunk Wine Trail as their Part-Time Marketing Director which I gladly accepted. Marketing and wine my two passions, it doesn’t get any better than this! Did I mention I also had a day job in Community Relations for a regional health insurance company, a husband, two kids, a dog and still had the travel agency? When you find your passion, you make it work because after all it really isn’t work when it’s something you love. In fact, I began to be known regionally as “The Wine Goddess” even at events for the day job. Truth be known, it was my day job that really gave me access locally to spread the word about wine in general and the Hudson Valley wine region. People began to ask me about wine pairings, wines to purchase for parties and I made it personal to become the advocate for Hudson Valley wines, the region I love and call home.
As you begin to get involved with your passion, something you love, you begin to network with others and more opportunities opened up. For me, once again, marketing and wine, the regional branding of Hudson Valley Wine Country. I was the only person who could bring together a divided wine region. I don’t mean divided in a bad way, but geographically. You have the east side, west side, and northern areas and that Hudson River is the great divide. The region needed to be unified and I was someone with no attachment to a winery and a passion to see the wine region recognized. Working with the New York Wine & Grape Foundation and all the wineries in the Hudson Valley, Hudson Valley Wine Country was born and I was the major force behind it. Something I am very proud of.
Networking comes in all forms, your classic B2B meeting and the internet. The relationships you build on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook are just as important as the classic forms of networking. I always thought it would be great to own a wine brand. My family roots are in Hungary where they owned vineyard in the Tapolca, Hungary and were influential in the European wine trade. Wine is in my blood. Then a simple answer to a tweet:
Would you like to see a wine called Happy Bitch? Retweet if your answer is yes.
— Keryl Pesce (@KerylPesce) April 26, 2011
@hvwinegoddess Would love to talk to you more about this Debbie. Send me email when you get a minute. Keryl@happybitchbook.com
— Keryl Pesce (@KerylPesce) April 28, 2011
A phone call to a local winery owner, a meeting and the next thing you know I am co-owner of a wine brand called Happy Bitch Wines. Did I know Keryl, yes. I sent her and her husband to Napa a few years back (before the tweet) but we were just acquaintances then after a cup of coffee we were business partners. You never know where networking takes you.
I love wine and sharing my passion with everyone. From 20 years in the travel business and 11 years writing about wine I thought, how can I put all this together to help people. One of the comments I encountered working in the local wine industry is directions. The Hudson Valley isn’t Napa with wineries one after another. Sometimes it can take 20-30 minutes to get from point to point. A bell went off in my head and I thought I would write a book to assist people in their travels to the Hudson Valley. This April my next baby was born…Tapping the Hudson Valley. It’s all about day trips and weekend itineraries visiting the craft beverage producers of the Hudson Valley and the sites along the way. Also included are farmer’s markets, restaurants, lodging and directions should your electronics fail or you find yourself in a dead zone. The goal is to assist travelers in maximizing their time in the region and for the locals to get out and see what is in their backyard. I couldn’t have done this without the relationships I have with the craft beverage producers and the local tourism agencies.
Always Continue to Learn and Move Forward
By immersing yourself in something you enjoy and love you meet some really terrific people and have some amazing experiences. Wine is it for me. I love exploring new wines, learning and sharing my experience with my friends and followers. The people I have met on this journey and will meet in the future all have and will influenced me in many ways. Never stop learning and exploring new options. One never knows where the journey will take you, but I sure hope you come along for the ride.