During the last 4 or 5 years, as my wine collecting seemed to be getting more and more serious, and I was assiduously taking notes on every wine I tasted, not knowing what to do with the notes; and reading book after book about wine and grapes and viticulture and...well, you get the picture. It finally occurred to me that maybe, just maybe, I should be looking for a job in the wine industry. But doing what? I didn't know anything about actually making wine, and couldn't see myself doing it. I signed up for alerts about wine jobs in the region, and discovered that most of them involved driving all over the state and carrying cases of wine around, and I didn't want to do that. I've done outside sales jobs where you just drive and drive and spend hours in traffic. Granted, I did it before there were cell phones and GPS and all those lovely modern technological marvels we all take for granted today, but still...just didn't want to drive that much.
So what to do? I searched the Internet for wine jobs and wine education and wine anything. And in January of 2007, I found a company called LearnAboutWine.com. And they were offering a course called 'So You Want to be in the Wine Business?'. I thought this might be something that could help, so JD and I talked it over, and we signed up.
Fighting rush hour traffic to get downtown to the Arts District - not the Music Center, but a much older area East and South of there, near Little Tokyo - we found street parking and went upstairs to meet Ian Blackburn of LearnAboutWine and hear what he had to say. As we sipped on his welcome wine, an interesting white from Mexico (who knew there was wine in Mexico? so much to learn!), more students arrived, many of whom seemed to know each other - making us feel a little like we had intruded on someone else's party.
But we sat down at a table for four, and the class began. Ian introduced himself, talking about how he had started LAW as a blog, and then grew it into a wine education business. We went around the room, introducing ourselves, and to my dismay, it seemed that JD and I were the only ones who were not already involved in the industry. There were winemakers, and wine writers/bloggers, and people who were opening wine stores, and winery/wine company reps. And us.
It was an eye-opening evening. I came home more confused than ever. Where did I fit? What could I do? What skills did I bring to the table, other than a decent palate and a passion for wine?
A week or so later, I received an email from LearnAboutWine, advertising an event at HD Buttercup (the former Helms Bakery building in Culver City), a high-end furniture store. It was around $65 per person, and I was thinking I just couldn't afford to spend that much money, and I noticed, in small print, a note that said, 'Interested in volunteering? Click here.' I was intrigued, and clicked. It launched a new email, so I sent off a note about JD and me. We have a lot of experience with events, and getting things done quickly and efficiently. A few more emails went back and forth, and Ian agreed that we could come as volunteers.
JD and I arrived at HD Buttercup around 6 PM and found Ian's team somewhat in disarray. There were several Cordon Bleu students in white uniforms, and a few other folks milling around. A pleasant young man named James seemed to have some idea of what was going on. It became clear that there were around 30 tables to set up for a 7:30 event, and the manager was not going to let us do anything until 6:30, which was going to make it very...um...challenging to get everything done that had to be done.
Ian looked around, focused on me, and asked, 'Can you handle the cheese?' I replied, 'Of course!' He told me to take the cheese cart - which had close to 20 different cheeses on it - and gave me a list of the wines on each table, and told me to match them up as well as I could. I grabbed a couple of students and JD, and we hurried thru the store, talking to the winery reps, trying to determine what cheese went best with what wine. We got it done, of course. Everything fell into place, and when we ran into Ian about an hour later, he told us we were 'awesome'. Very gratifying! I reminded him that we had a LOT of experience getting things done, and that he should feel free to call on us whenever he needed help.
We went home with a couple of bottles of wine and feeling that something important had changed in our lives.