It all happened rather suddenly actually.
We had been travelling the world, moving from hemisphere to hemisphere, following summer, making wine. Idyllic in many ways, always warm, generally sunny, long days. Living in amazing places like Northern Spain, New Zealand and California. Not just visiting new cultures but actively participating. Trying new foods, learning new currencies, and understanding new accents and colloquialisms. The difficulties were more like hassles, living out of suitcases, finding new places to live, sorting transport, and were easily outweighed by the good. There were long hours as 12 hour shifts, 6 to 7 days (or nights) a week, are the norm during harvest, but the experience gained was undeniable.
During the harvest we seem to spend our free time either sleeping or looking toward the next harvest, next winery, the next job. However, for ourselves, with each place we worked, we also looked at the land and the possibilities of settling and managing our own vineyard. Northern Spain, it was the Somontano region, at the foothills of the Pyrenees, that interested us most. New Zealand, it was the southern end of the South Island. California, the Russian River Valley in Sonoma County. We did a lot of driving around, looking at vineyards, grape varieties, scouring the internet for sales of land, talking to locals in the hopes of an inside scoop. But nothing showed its hand, and nothing really called to us. It was like trying to fit the proverbial square peg in the round hole.
The Dream had always been France, in particular Burgundy, Pumpjack’s mecca. We were always looking in that direction, but just couldn’t figure out how to get there. Our French was almost non-existent, yet was needed to truly work in France. Still, we took steps whenever we could. We purposefully took a house sitting in Southern France, between Spain and New Zealand, to work on our French, as well get a better feel for the culture.
We were in California when our opportunity arose. We had determined that California was not the place for us to live and make wine and we were looking towards the ‘next’. As usual France topped the list and applications were going out. And then, purely by chance, we saw a long term house sitting come up near Chablis. (House sittings rarely come up in Burgundy.) It didn’t matter that no job was lined up, that we knew no one, that we would literally start from a blank piece of paper. It just seemed too good an opportunity to pass up. It would, at the least, put us in the right area to get the lay of the vineyard land, meet people and improve our French.
We applied and the response was immediate, an online interview done and suddenly in a matter of days we were leaving California and heading to France – for the winter. It felt insane, yet exhilarating. We had taken our first step forward on the path of our own dream.