An awe-inspiring Thursday afternoon...great wines, great food, great friends. Amelia Ceja, owner and founder of Ceja Vineyards filled the afternoon telling the story behind the Ceja label. Imagine sitting in her vineyard, enjoying the sun, the peace, the amazing food prepared by Amelia and tasting her wines...I could go on and on...peaceful contentment surrounded us as we sat among the vines where the Ceja Chardonnay grapes are harvested. This is only a glimpse of the wonderful day we had...
Saturday, July 9, 2011
Monday, July 4, 2011
I really did stumble into this quite by accident. I probably always knew that I was supposed to like wine – but for this to be a driving passion in my life, now that took me by surprise.
One of the fondest memories I have was being a child and stomping grapes in a big wash tub (the kind they used for the old wringer washing machines) in my grandmother’s kitchen. My grandmother’s brother used to pull up in her driveway in his old pickup truck with bushel baskets full of grapes from his vines. I was too young to appreciate or care how many vines he had or what kind of grapes he grew; but I do remember how happy both he and my grandmother were talking about the wine they would bottle from the crop he had just delivered. He grew the grapes; my grandmother made the wine.
Flash forward several years and I was going to college. Being involved in the wine industry never crossed my mind as I was trying to figure out what my major should be; I had an aunt that told me I really needed to focus on business because that was where the money was. I took her advice, majored in business with a concentration in accounting. (Trust me; the personalities that do audits and tax returns are polar opposites of people in the wine industry!) I went to work in public accounting and then passed the CPA exam (not on the first try, but who’s counting?) Being in public accounting was tough; the hours were long and grueling and I was so exhausted at the end of the day that I couldn’t even enjoy a glass of wine. All I did was sleep so that I could get up and do it again the next day.
After a few years, I moved from public accounting to the private sector with a bang. I went to work for Richard Childress Racing (NASCAR, #3, Dale Earnhardt). I worked there for more than 10 years. The first few years were lots of fun but there was always something missing; the fulfillment you get from doing what you were meant to do. So I left and went to work for Richard Petty – another NASCAR icon, but the simple change in environment didn’t fill that void. After only two years at Petty Enterprises, the team was shut down. I was laid off work in January, 2009. For the first time ever, I was out of work and didn’t know what to do with myself or my time. But the timing couldn’t have been better!
Thanks to Murphy Goode, I decided to try out for the Murphy Goode Lifestyle Correspondent in the summer of 2009. While I didn’t land the job, I did dive headlong into the wonderful world of wine via social media. I was happy just surfing the net and tweeting about local wine events or half-price wine nights at local restaurants, etc. Then one day I received a DM (direct message) from a follower on Twitter. He wanted to know if I would look at his website and just let him know what I thought about it. Of course I said yes, but didn’t really work it into my schedule. So a couple of weeks later when he saw me on Facebook he asked what I thought of his site. I immediately jumped over at this point to check out the site and see what he was trying to do. The site wasn’t bad so we chatted online for a bit; then he asked if I would call him. I was so outside of my comfort zone calling this “stranger” I had met online; but I did it anyway.
This stranger is now my business partner on our website NC Vineyards , but I will never forget that first phone call. The first thing he said to me was that he didn’t want me to think he was some sort of pervert.
He told me he was married, had 2 children, and a steady job and that this website was just a business venture that he was trying to get off the ground. Since we live in the same area and had the same interest in North Carolina wines, he was hoping that I would take an interest in his website and help him. Turns out I am the wino; he is the techie, a perfect partnership.
About the time I really started cranking up my wine life style, I was called back to work by the Petty’s. Going back to work was a difficult decision but I needed a way to pay the bills. Two years later I am still working my 9-5 and even though I haven’t given up my day job, I am fortunate enough to work only four days a week and have Friday off. That’s when I visit local wineries, tweet about their wines and try to partner with them to promote the winery and their events on our website. That’s where I shine and it shows in the way I interact with the wineries.
We recently had a big wine festival here. It was so rewarding to be setting up my own booth to promote who we are and what we do; but to take it to another level, as each of the wineries got their own booth set up before the crowd flooded the streets, the winemakers and winery owners had a few minutes to walk around and say hi to each other. I was amazed at how many of them knew me (me???) and would stop to chat or give me a hug. The service we offer them on our website is working. We are getting the word out to people about the wineries and we are driving traffic to them.
My life continues to evolve and one day not too far away I will be able to say goodbye to my 9 – 5 job and spend my days talking wine, sipping wine, promoting the wine industry and traveling to great wine destinations.
Posted by Passaggio Wines