People often ask what inspired me to become a winemaker. And, inevitably, the story, no matter how it starts, always comes back to this tree. You see, every morning when I raised the blinds in my apartment in Astoria, Queens, this was my view of the world. If the tree had no leaves, I knew the wait for the subway would be bracing. On a day like today, where young leaves are popping out on trees all over New York City, I’d probably open the window to let out winter’s stale air and breathe in Spring-exhaust fumes, car alarms and all. If there was a full canopy of green, then I knew summer was upon New York, with all the languor and humidity that comes with warmer weather. And, if the leaves on my tree were turning golden, it was my cue to head to Central Park to walk amongst the palette of Fall colors that are so fleeting in the City. This tree was my one true connection to all things natural. It was a barometer for the passing seasons, and likewise, my time in New York.
It was from this vantage point that the seed for winemaking was planted. It was in the kitchen of this apartment, whose very window faced this tree, that I started brewing beer. I was in this kitchen that I fell in love with the science fermentation. It was on the stove next to this window that many experimental batches of beer were brewed- some good, some great, and some….. well, some exploded! And, in time, it was from a tiny table next to the window, with this tree as my only witness that I started scribbling a list. On that paper I started to list the pros and cons of my life in New York.
I knew I loved dance. I loved moving through space and the challenge of creating new dances. I relished performing for audiences, feeling their energy from the dark void at the edge of a lit stage. I dearly loved traveling and experiencing new places, even on the tight schedule and budget of a dancer. And, as I mentioned already, I was falling in love with fermentation.
The other side of the list contained what I was missing in my life. At the top of that list was a series of things related to nature- sunrises and sunsets, seasons, stars, and growing things. There were many more items on the list I am sure, but I can’t recall them anymore.
From that list came the first nebulous notion of making wine. After a trip to California visiting wineries and looking into wine schools, I came back to Astoria and started the process of untangling myself from New York. It was a summer day when I loaded all my belongings into my VW bus-all under the shade of the tree outside my window. That was the last time I saw that tree until today, almost 10 years from the day I packed up and drove away to my new life making wine.
A decade later I am making wine in a place I truly love, working with wonderful, creative people who believe in the wines we are crafting. I have witnessed some amazing sunrises and sunsets in that period of time. I have traveled the globe learning about and making wine. I am extremely happy with my decision to uproot myself from dance and transplant that artist into the arena of winemaking. The things on the list I enjoyed about dance- being creative, making people happy, traveling and learning, and lastly, fermentation, have all become an essential part of me “the winemaker”. As I sit in a Greek cafe’ in my old neighborhood in Astoria, drinking rich creamy coffee and eating sticky, crispy, cinnamon and pistachio-infused pastries, my mind drifts to the view from my new home- Anne Amie Vineyards. I made the right decision ten years ago. Enjoy the view from outside my window now!