Sep 17 2011

Free Run Juice: My Life in Grapes

Published by at 2:25 PM under News and Trends,Wine Education,Winery Tours

Hello Wine-lovers!

I’m new to the Just Grapes team, and am happy to be associated with such a fine-looking group of oenophiles! My name is Sam, and I hope we’ve spoken at the shop already, and if not, look forward to. I thought I’d recount you with a bit of my background, and how I found myself working at Just Grapes.

I wish I could remember my first sip of wine. I can’t. What I can tell you is that it wasn’t enjoyed with a fine meal and a Tuscan sunset. More likely, it was “enjoyed” from a jug, in a garage, in high school. Was I whisked off of my feet, starting an endless love affair with the fruit of the vine? Not immediately. In fact, it wasn’t until college that I even started to drink the stuff on a regular basis. Even then, I only drank what the moving pictures told me to drink: Pinot Noir. I did grow to love it though. By my senior year, my room mates and I removed our microwave from it’s kitchen nook, and replaced it with a perfectly-fitting wine rack. We tried hard to keep it stocked, but on a college budget it sometimes held more bushels of bananas than bottles of vino. Regardless, a trend was set- Properly storing and displaying wine = more important than conveniently heating food. For a college senior, depending mostly microwavable sustenance, this was an epic pivot in my life.

After college, I began bartending. On slow days behind the bar at a fancy restaurant, I would sometimes be tempted to read the newspaper. It of course does not look good to have a bartender hidden behind the fold of a newspaper, so that soon ended. What I WAS allowed to read was anything that could be categorized as “professional development”- i.e. bartending manuals and books about liquor and wine. I devoured them. So would begin my passion for not just drinking wine, but self-educating myself about what I was drinking.

I went on to earn a teaching certificate for high school English and History while working at Lynfred winery in Roselle, IL. During that time however, I got bitten by the wine bug BAD. Seeing the production side of the industry, and immersing myself even more in a community of wine-lovers, I began to doubt my career path as a teacher. Once I finished my graduate work in secondary education, I was certain: I’ve gotta see this wine thing through. It dawned on me one day that the tours, conversations and tastings I led at the winery, and later Brix Wine and Cheese in St. Charles, IL was educating enough. I was using the skills I had acquired from my formal background to teach willing participants about my new greatest passion- wine!

I hope to continue to share the joys and pleasures of the grape with all of you reading this, and look forward to being jealous of the wine you’re taking home with you.

Your friend in wine,

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