There I was, staring down on the streets of Toronto from the first apartment I ever loved, tears still stinging in my eyes. Thankfully, the embarrassment was fading though, and I was starting to think more positively again.
I knew that I definitely wanted to work with wine, but I wasn’t sure anymore about which field to choose. I was still contemplating taking the test, but I knew that even if I passed it wouldn’t make me a wine expert in my own eyes – I had never even stepped foot in a vineyard! I mean come on, it would just be way too hypocritical.
So, how could I break into the industry? I had no relevant qualifications. I was 24 years old with no degree, a waitress job and the effects of recent humiliation clouding my positive sensibility… At 24 most of my friends had already graduated university! I was looking at my situation with a pretty shitty attitude and that wasn’t going to get me anywhere. Like, hellllooo! I was only 24 years old with the entire world at my finger-tips!
Now, that’s more like it!
So, what did I do?
(Honestly, I won’t lie to you guys… before I did anything I re-watched the film ‘Somm’ and cried into a bowl of carbonara…)
But! After that, I loaded up the good ol’interweb and started to do some research, which eventually led me to my decision. I would not write the exam. Instead, I would take a different approach; one that seemed a lot more natural and a hell of a lot more fun!
I decided to use the money that I would have paid to write the test, on a one way ticket to European wine country. I knew that I wanted hands-on experience rather than more time in class-rooms and this would be the perfect way to expand my knowledge and give me the chance to see the entire cycle of a wine’s life. From planting the vines right on through the whole development. Harvesting, pruning, working in the cellar, bottling, labelling, selling, and most importantly, enjoying some juice myself, duh!
I started by emailing wineries looking for a spot on a harvest team somewhere. It was early September and harvest was already underway in some places, while most others had their teams assigned anyway and were getting prepared to begin.
With just enough time left to sort out a working visa I got an answer from a winery called Weingut am Stein, in Germany’s Franconian wine region.
I could not have been more thrilled!
Located in the heart of a gorgeous little city called Würzburg and run by the the most incredible family and team, Am Stein turned out to be the perfect place for me to start my new beginning. I didn’t know a ton about them then, but I had read about their reputation for quality and knew that they were organic certified and practicing bio-dynamics which interested me a lot. Photos of their vineyards looked more than a little intimidating (steeeep, steep, steep!) but it would be a great place to learn, and climbing up and down slopes like that everyday definitely couldn’t be bad for the derrière! #bootypoppin Say whuuut? Plus, the region is famous for varietals that I didn’t know much (or anything) about, like Silvaner and Scheurebe, so I would definitely be broadening my horizons!
All boxes checked.
Well, except for the language bit, but that would come with time… right?
Ich bin immer noch nicht sicher 😉
So I got to work at making the necessary life changing arrangements. Ended contracts, quit my job, told my parents, drank all my wine, … like I said, ‘necessary’ steps.
Sub-letting my apartment was a breeze, and luckily one of my brothers was moving to Ontario for school in the fall, so he was happy to come by with a truck and take away all my furniture. By the way, he is now living with some serious swag… I’m talking Vogue coffee table books, faux-fur throw pillows, enough champagne flutes to hand-out during a marathon and one seriously bad-ass cow skin rug…
I bet he’s crushin’ it with the ladies!
I packed up my whole life in Toronto in a matter of weeks and before I knew it the day had arrived for me to go. My friends came over with cup-cakes, Champagne and vodka and we said our goodbyes to each other, and to my apartment. We had shared some pretty good memories there and it was only right to go out on a good note with some sugar, bubbles and a shot for good measure. I knew I’d be seeing them all soon and often on my many adventures so it wasn’t too much of a sob-fest.
My UBER to the airport was super surreal. Whether that was thanks to the booze or to the reality of my situation, I’m still not sure, but the former probably didn’t hurt my confidence to keep going. Oh, and the fact that I would be homeless and jobless if I tried to back out could have also been a factor… Either way, waving North America good-bye was something I had done before, and with my love for travel and adventure I was still excited enough to not look back.
That was September 2015 and if you follow me on Instagram you may have noticed from the locations of my posts that I’ve been back for plenty of visits, but Würzburg is still home for now and I love it!
What happened after I landed in Frankfurt?
What was harvest like?
How did I find work once it ended?
Find out in Chronicles, Part 4