Lost and Found

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Cliffs, vines, and new beginnings

Serendipity: The occurence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.

…How do you “start over”?

You can move, change jobs and make new friends, but ultimately you have to trust your instincts. For me, it was quitting my job, selling most all of my earthly possessions (not my wine, though, no-no-no…) and following my gut all the way across the Atlantic for the summer. And while the experience was profound, it didn’t answer that burning question: What do you really want?

Wine is an extraordinary creature– it can drink you in, reveal to you all sorts of flavors and textures, and then quickly spit you out. Such was the case for myself after years dedicated to the retail side of wine. Margin. Profit. Inventory. Display. Sell.

Rinse and repeat daily.

Because of the daily pressure to sell, sell, sell, I found myself (gasp!) falling out of love with wine. I hate to even write that down, but it’s true. It occurred to me I was becoming a stranger to the things which brought me to its doorstep in the first place: small family farms, ancient history, cultural connections to people, the magic of yeast, the land and the vine. If I had a day off and was invited out to one of the local wineries, I’d scramble to come up with an excuse for being unavailable. I’d sneak away to the Gorge by myself. My beloved wine books at home began collecting dust. And worst of all, I started giving sample bottles away as if they were junk mail. Commence burnout…

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Signs of the past along the Deschutes

If you’re reading this and you’re in the wine biz, I know what you’re thinking: join the club. And it’s the business of wine that allows it to be enjoyed and explored by millions of people every day. I’m not trying to rail against the economics of retail or wholesale- I’m saying one needs to be honest with themself.

Back to that pesky question. The past few weeks here in Oregon has, ironically, led me back to the same constricted feelings I had six months ago. Should I go for another steward position? No. Mind you, I loved my job for a long time and hold no resentment for the company or any of the people. But after ten plus years, it was — and remains — time to move on.

How about wholesale? I have many good friends who work for wine distributors here in Oregon and some other states as well. And I have a truckload of respect and to some extent, sympathy, for what they do. Hell, a lot of them had to deal with me every week! It’s a dynamic and high-energy job, full of self destiny, if you will, but not my cup of tea. Trying to get from account to account, I’d probably get multiple speeding tickets, high(er) blood pressure, and some serious emotional scarring from select buyers. I really don’t know how you guys do it, but God love ya for it…

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*    *    *

I met Bob Lorkowski at his winery and vineyard, Cascade Cliffs, about five years ago on a trip out to the eastern end of the Gorge. His laid back, friendly and content demeanor was something you wanted to be around and something you wanted to live up to even more. I was amazed that his focus at the winery was not the typical cabernet, merlot and syrah (although he produced them too) that prevails in Washington state’s warmer wine country. Bob was growing and producing top-notch barbera, dolcetto, and nebbiolo.  “Piedmont’s about 6,000 miles that way, dude,” I thought. But the wines were awesome- richer than the traditional Italian expressions of these grapes, but still layered, intense and lingering. DSCN0597

I would re-visit this area of the gorge many times after that hiking, driving, and just getting away for the day. Dramatic basalt cliffs, warm and bright sunshine, and ancient petroglyphs welcomed me back time and time again. I ignored the winery not because I didn’t love the wines, but I made it a rule not to do anything “wine” on my days off. In a twist of righteous fate, I can now be somewhere I love personally and embrace all the aspects of wine I neglected for so long.

I’ve been hired by the winery to help them in all facets of operation, including marketing, sales, event planning, grape picking, vine pruning, bin stacking, floor sweeping, tasting room duties, and deliveries. Among other things. And really, that’s usually the deal at a small, family-run winery and exactly what I was looking for. To be part of something, literally, from the ground up.

A winery. After wandering around throughout the country and overseas, it became clear to me that this is where I wanted to be. Not in some monster, large-production winery where there are locked gates, men wear suit and ties and the women click-clack around the polished floors in their best heels. No, I needed some good ole’ fashioned country winery, where the people behind the counter have grape (nebbiolo!) stains on their pants and everyone’s family.

DSCN0599I’m having a hard time just staying calm, keeping my big mouth shut, and not trying to build Rome in a day. A couple of years ago, they expanded the back of the winery and added an upper floor that will soon be an event center for dinners, parties, private tastings, and who knows what else. If you’ve not been there, get there. I’ll give you a personal tour of the vineyards and winery myself. Bob and his wife Denisse also grow Garlic, produce honey, make mead and more importantly, will know your name when you leave.

*    *    *


Will “Jared Wines Up” turn into “Cascade Cliffs Wines Up”? Nah. That’s my own personal forum for ranting and one of my goals is to create another blog for the winery’s website. I’d like to apologize to those of you who’ve tried to see me while here– it’s been a personal whirlwind of sorts for me lately, and I’ve been desperately trying to get settled. But I now feel the spin cycle coming to a slow halt.

I hope to see all of you out at the winery. I’d better. This post could have, maybe should have been focused on the winery, its 20 acres of vines that overlook the Columbia river, and the awards that the Barbera (2009 Best of the Best Wine Press Northwest), Nebbiolo, and others have won. But as usual, it’s all about me. What can I say? It’s been a while since we last talked, so I gave you all an extra pour…

With grateful and blessed cheer,

Jared

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A parting view as you leave the winery


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~ by Jared on October 27, 2009.

17 Responses to “Lost and Found”

  1. HI Jared,
    I am in Florida till Nov.17th Tom stayed home working on our place in Tillamook – raising the house to put a garage under it – big project! Glad to hear you settled – beautiful part of the country and not too far away – yipee!!! stay in touch and maybe we will see you soon!
    Ciao,
    B.J.

    • Hi B.J.,

      How’s the Florida sunshine treating you?? Look out for them gators…

      Would love to see you and Tom at the winery sometime- or I could give you a personal Cascade Cliffs winery tasting at your place. Seriously.

      …as long as you cook 🙂

      Cheers!
      Jared

  2. Comfortable!!
    Great word isn’t it?
    We seem to get so busy we forget the physical needs of our soul.
    Sounds to us that you have been on the same journey we’ve endured, and YES it is better on the otherside!
    You have our BEST wishes.

    Your Friends
    Skip N Sukie

  3. How exciting! I am so happy that you have found this.

  4. Glad to hear you are close! What a wonderful opportunity and I wish you the best. We will come see you soon.

    Pam

    • Hi Pam,

      How U doin’? Wait, I’m not in NY anymore… HOWDY!

      Let me know when you want to visit, and I’ll give you the royal treatment, for sure.

      Cheers!
      Jared

  5. Congratulations Jared!
    I am glad you are found. Rob and I look forward to visiting you in the Gorge.

    • Thanks Beth,

      Sounds great- I’d love to pour samples of cab, merlot, nebbiolo, blends and whatever else is there for you two! And we can discuss how Galadriel was able to resist The One Ring when Frodo offered it to her… I’m just sayin’.

      Cheerio,
      Jared

  6. Beautiful entry, J. The pictures alone are warming my bones!

  7. Congratulations Jared! I’m so excited for you and your new journey. Best wishes.

  8. Congratulations! OK Jared, Jeff and I are going to schedule a drive out there.. What is happening on Thanksgiving Weekend?

  9. Thanks, Susan… and LOTS! I’ll send out an email soon about the different parties going on at the winery in November.

    Hope to see you and Jeff soon!
    Jared

  10. Jared,

    Great intro to Bob and Cascade Cliffs. Your sentiments match our impressions exactly about that place. And Bob.

    Cheers!

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