Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Hidden Journeys

It’s odd, isn’t it. We discover our truest passions by accident, stumbling upon them like a pit in an olive or a fantastic sunset. Then, quite suddenly, they’re a part of our lives and we can’t imagine what we did before they came along.

My opinion is that these kinds illuminating moments inevitably solve a myriad of other open ended questions and create a recipe for solutions that’s as easy to follow as making chicken soup. Finding these kinds of analogous answers, and leveraging them to new heights, seems to be the hallmark of the female species. Sure, shopping with us is frustrating, so say some of our husbands and lovers. Guys hate it when we walk in to a store looking for red shoes, but walk out with a coffee maker, new eye shadow and salad tongs. But with one trip you can bet we’ve crossed out three other things on our list, and we’ll look good making our morning java!

Why are we so open to and drawn in by peripheral cues that guide us to a path different from the one we set out to travel? Because choices are made not just by logic but by emotion. The stimuli we feel at any given moment helps us make a judgement call to insure that we’re nurturing, protecting and expressing all at the same time. There are cues happening all around us beckoning us not to miss the subtleties of possibility, when the courage to take the path less traveled is put in motion.

It’s hard not to relate this to the story of wine. You never really know what the grape will become. You offer it soil and it prefers rocks. You give it water but it likes it when it’s just a little dry at the end of the season. You gently harvest it and massage it to release its liquid secrets but it never really gives you much hope of predicting it’s exact journey. How do we make wine? We give it respect, we offer it the chance to change and release hidden flavors, we protect it and let it sleep and refine and then it gives us the greatest gift of all, it’s uniqueness and complexity with every sniff, swirl, and swallow.

Our Networking, Women and Wine blog about wine is about that love affair, a connection that invents itself only when we let our intuition discover it’s own way, and then celebrate life together as women who are working hard to become all that we can be, when a passion finds us.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Two Days of Wining in Yadkin Valley

On Thursday the 5th of February, cloaked in the noble intention of business research, Carmen and her husband John and my husband Ron and I set out to enjoy two days of Dixie wine tasting in the beautiful Yadkin Valley. As we crossed over I-40 we could see the beginnings of the Blue Ridge out in the distance and knew that she was whispering her magic upon the rolling hills of North Carolina's fertile wine country, beckoning us to taste her blue skies and viniferous music.
Our first stop was the charming grounds of Laurel Gray Vineyards where a crisp Chardonnay started our journey. They offer a well rounded variety that does not have any kind of an identity crisis. It's forward, balanced and begging for food (and summer!). The surprise of course is that you can sip on a Chardonnay of character this far east of the California grape gurus. Their 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon and their luscious 2005 Estate Reserve Cab are flavorful and well crafted. The 2006 bursts in your mouth with tart cherries, mellow licorice and ends with a purposeful explosion of buttered toast. As we took a mouthful with their famous Cabernet Chocolate sauce we considered camping there for the rest of the day, but more grapes were calling.
As a sidebar, don't miss the detour to the Amish General store not far from the vineyard. Simple and clean surroundings, decadent pastries, and a deli sandwich awaits you that is slathered with the leanest corned beef I've ever had. It's a perfect rest stop.
Back to our trip, or shall we say back in time for a visit to Italy and Raffaldini Vineyards in the Swan Creek growing region. "Chianti in the Carolina's" is the motto and when you drive up to the large, stone villa, you know the fun is just beginning. First of all, you must request Paula next time you're there. She made the experience delightful and had a lot of insight into the winemaker and the story of Raffaldini. But stealing the stage were some fantastic wines. Of note the Vermentino is crisp and summery. The fruit is ripe but tannic. It is wonderful with smoked oysters, turkey and honey mustard sandwiches (Yep, that's what we had for lunch. Yum!). The Sangiovese is charming and full bodied. For $15.00 it's a steal and very popular. So much so that unless you're in the wine club, you can only buy 6 at a time (only 12 for members!). This is valuable stuff.
Their MCCCXLVII is ethereal and warm boasting a rustic blend of Malvasia Nera (yah, that's a grape!) with smaller portions of Sangiovese and Syrah. If you're not craving a moist bite of lamb with this wine then pass your 6 bottles on to me! (Yes, there's a limit on purchasing this wine, too.)
As we sped up I-77 toward another favorite, we remarked about the surprising complexity of North Carolina wines. Yes, there's a distinct flavor to this region, and not unlike the people they're polite and refined, but they always share their opinion with confidence and authenticity. We knew there were more stories awaiting us.
Round Peak, in Mt. Airy is one of those vineyards not to be missed. And since the winery recently changed hands in December, the new owners and wine maker have even more plans to explode onto the scene. If you haven't had a Round Peak Cab, you're missing a great value. All award winners, you'll want to zero in on the 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon (memorable, earthy and wonderfully dry), the 2004 Cabernet Franc (woodsy and tart with plumy flavors), and the 2005 Merlot (better than the 2004!). Oh, and ask for Ken Gulaian. He is the new owner and he's passionate about creating wines that will make you sit up and take notice as well as supurb plans to enhance the entire tasting experience!
Dinner at TwentyOne and Main, in Elkin is an oasis of perfection. The Salmon and Scallops will lay you out and don't forget to try the fried artichoke hearts. This restaurant is classy and inventive and a perfect ending to a day of wine tasting.
Friday dawned with anticipation, and after enjoying our prized Amish breakfast rolls we headed out to Shelton for a plethora of amazing flavors (By the way, the best time to taste wine is the morning when your palate is rested and clean.) Let's start with the 2005 Estate Cab Franc which is just plain transforming and Shelton makes the most of this NC friendly grape. Their Kudzu Block Syrah tastes deep, poignant and smokey and the Family Reserve Claret is mysterious and romantic. Hurry and you'll be able to buy a case of this Claret closeout wine for half of it's $40 price tag. A deal worth getting in the car for -- uh now. Hurry! Yes, go!!!
After our aforementioned lunch of oysters and white wine, we sped back down 77 and over 421 to Hanover Park Vineyards. The second oldest winery in NC, you'll find some hard to find favorites and a Cab Franc that rivals any I've had. The Chambourcin is reminiscent of eucalyptus, spice and licorice. The 1897 is a more complex blend of the popular Michael's Blend which sells out quickly every year. Outside this 100 plus year old home, four rocking chairs simply call your name for reflection and tasting.
We ended our day by discovering Westbend Vineyards (we're told this is THE oldest winery in North Carolina), a hidden jewel in the crown of southern viticulture. The Chambourcin tastes like Christmas with clove and earthy flavors that will surprise you. Westbend wines are all award winners from a smile generating Cab Franc to their amazing Estate Cab (one of the best cabs we drank all day!)
After returning home with our collection of engraved glasses, enough wine to serve at a wedding, and a wonderful dinner at Caruso's in Cornelius (Oh my, don't miss it!) We realized that we can't leave this kind of business planning to just anyone. We'll have to do this again and again until we've discovered every nook and cranny of the wonderful world of North Carolina wines!

Women Are The Healers

If there is any energy to be focused, it must be from women. We are healers, nurturers and long to bring connections to our world. I see so many of us falling into the open pit of fear. We are letting it consume us and yet the future is not written!! We are fearing something we ourselves can control!
I am hopeful that if we gather as women and borrow each other's strength we can create a fabric of wellness that will blanket us all, awakening others to offer their piece of wisdom to our circle.
As women, we tend to pull ourselves in during times like this. Thinking that if we conserve and protect we will last longer. And yet, as creatures of creativity and beauty, we must take this as a cue to expand all of our senses and possibilities. We must give ourselves a wide berth and think about things that we thought were impossible, and make them possible.
Only when we believe there is something new that has been waiting for the sunlight to grown, will we step away and let the rays touch the earth below our feet so that the ideas can germinate, and we can begin the journey!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

What Networking Women And Wine Is All About!

Another year is behind us and 2009 looms before us with all its potential and mystery. But the only way to know what it will bring lies in understanding the real person that WE are.
In essence, understanding what is truly authentic about our lives, our dreams, our needs and our talents. Putting these things to work will make all the difference in determining what this year and this day will look like.
Networking, Women and Wine was created as a platform to access our unique abilities as women to connect and create solutions, allowing it to germinate in each of us. Our lives are then enriched and our sphere of influence is enlarged.

Why combine wine with this scenario? Wine has become a pseudo-mascot in this endeavor. It is something that satisfies when the authenticity of the fruit, the terroir (the place, soil and growing conditions), and the skill of the winemaker combine to unlock the potential and variations in each vintage -- for that matter, in each sip.
And so it is with women. When we are nurtured, we open up and offer our unique influence for good, blossoming to our fullest potential.
NWW offers networking meetings with wine tasting and wine instruction as well as resources to help you learn about wine. Join us in 2009 and discover the power you already have, by tapping into the authenticity in yourself and your business.

Camine Pappas and Carmen Hunter, Co-Founders, NWW

Networking, Women and Wine ask: Where are You Headed?

"If you don't change direction, you'll end up where you're headed."
This quote, on first inspection, seems harmless, and yet if we reflect on it further, we can see that even a slight miscalculation will push us way off course. It becomes rather frightening to consider how important the course is and how disastrous the wrong one is when you think about what might happen if you’re on the WRONG track.
If you’re like many of us, you feel you’re spinning and have no time to do any course correction let alone course calculation. That is why you must make sure you know who you are and what you’re known for, and of course how to get that idea across to your customer.
The way to find the course and stay on course is through brand marketing. The idea of brand is nothing new. It represents the emotional label a consumer uses to catalog you in his mind so he can quickly recall what you are and what he gets from you. Whether you’re an accountant or a Realtor®, others are forming opinions and creating shortcuts to describe you as well as determining how to interact with you. Shouldn’t you be in more control of what they’re remembering?
The good news is the more you understand your message and "who you are" in all aspects of your business, the less complicated it becomes to communicate who you are to others and the more time you have to create solutions all your customers will remember and pay for again and again.

Here at NWW, we're all about connection. The one thing that all of us need to help us stay on course and create innovation. In fact, we make our evenings casual on purpose. Without formal tables, a podium or "someone in charge," you become the author of how this evening helps you. Whether you find a new friend, find a solution, or create a doorway for another to find a solution in their business, we’ve accomplished our goal for this evening. The only thing we encourage you to do is talk to everyone and exchange a business card or a greeting with all of them.
Why are we aligning ourselves with wine? First of all, it’s fun. Moreover, the idea of wine is about the fact that it’s personal to each of us. We taste things differently and therefore learn something new with each glass we explore.
We hope that you will find something new to enjoy at each of our functions, and be a part of our next gathering - and bring a friend!
Carmen Hunter, and Camine Pappas

Six Ways to Become Truly Authentic

Every day the flood keeps getting closer to our front door. The waves lap at our kitchen table, taking our food and our way of life with it showing neither remorse or evil. It just "is." While it's becoming harder and harder to imagine that we'll survive this without having to become greeters at our local hardware store to pay the rent, there is still something that the waters can't touch. And that is how you feel about yourself inside.

Our way of life here in the western world has been the subject of many criticisms. Mostly we are dubbed as a citizenship of mindless and selfish consumers, eating everything alive as we go and spitting out all but a small bit before engorging ourselves again. But what we're not asking is why do we feel so unsafe that the only path we choose is one of gluttony? Why in a country of wealth and opportunity are we falling like flies into a pit of acquiring? Although we are told by certain scholars of human behavior that gluttony is a natural state of man, what can be uncovered by asking the deeper question may help us all find more peace and even some macro answers as well. How can we find enlightenment and, as the Yogi's say, become Buddha and find true peace?

We have created and sponsor a networking group for women called Networking, Women and Wine, here in Charlotte, NC. We meet once a month to help each other find solutions and friendships. Although the premise is to widen our sphere of influence as business owners or career women, we believe that the power of gathering with a higher ideal for creating solutions helps soothe and renew us all.

Wine has become our mascot for the simple fact that wine and wine making are such symbols of creativity, individuality and authenticity, let alone their symbolism for surviving hardship while growing and becoming more complex as time goes on.

Which leads us to the reason for this narrative; some advice on authentic living.

How many times have we heard this word and wondered, deep inside, if we can get in touch with this concept in a world that seems to be mired in deceit? Peeling off the layers of camouflage diligently applied to our business image, through a collective desire to be on top, follow the pack, and acquire the right things has caused us now to question our own intuition. As business women, we've followed all the rules, listened to the so called experts of business, sociology, and profit and wondered why it felt like we were having an out of body experience every time we marketed ourselves.

We hear a lot of people talking about getting back to basics. My opinion is, and you may share my thoughts, that the word "back" is inherently the problem. Looking to the past as a teacher is like asking a 5 year old how to handle a mid-life crisis. There is no perception of balance or wisdom, without experience. The past can indeed be a teacher (not a template!), but to reinstate old ideas is slow death and a movement away from being authentic in almost every language of success.

To follow the natural rhythm of life is to move forward and reinvent every day. There is only ‘now’ to listen to. And listen carefully you must. The basics we crave are in us already.

The following are some rules I see being obeyed by those moving forward in wellness, who are creating a life of positive success, no matter what the tide is bringing in or taking away. They’re concepts you can apply starting today, so that you can resuscitate your livelihood, your brand and your sense of self.

1. Isolate clearly the reason you’re doing what you’re doing.
Is there yearning in your heart each day to grow your business or career? Do you see ways it can integrate into the fabric of humanity and offer prosperity to others, not only to you? Does it burn with a passion and make you feel whole? Find that and you find success.

2. Locate someone who displays this kind of success and ask them to be a mentor.
Who are the people that stand for what you stand for? Whether you talk with them via a pod-cast from Bermuda or sit over a cup of coffee each week inside your house, create a structure for asking and recording their responses on a myriad of disciplines that are valuable to you. Then create a plan to implement them a little each day.

3. Balance your life in every way by keeping track of the basic needs in your life.
Nutrition, movement, fulfillment, and safety.
Make sure you’re not sabotaging your body and your mind by eating poorly. You don’t have to become someone who eats only leaves and herbs, but watch nutrition by monitoring sugar intake, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and overly large portions, and learn about the effects certain prescription drugs may be having on your body that you need to compensate for.

Movement is life, because it helps with circulation and clarifying the body of toxins. Movement is also a way to indulge in self expression and of course some kind of exercise is the key to everything. Then, when it’s time NOT to move, make sure sleeping is done in an environment that allows restfulness and peace...and enough of it.

Fulfillment is the balance of your sense of self. Are you communicating properly with the people in your life? Are you saying what you mean? Are you in touch with what is hurting you or helping you? Do you need to work on that part?

Safety, a basic human instinct, rules most all other behaviors in our life. If we don’t feel safe we react sharply in a primal ways that throws us off balance and certainly wreak havoc with those around us.

4. Share some time with those you love and ask them if they see you being true to yourself. They’ll have surprisingly valuable answers.
Mirrors are great. But the reflection staring back is still seen through your eyes, your value system, your lens of life. Truth exists from inside you and you overlay those value systems to everything sometimes clouding your path. Good friends and people you respect for having balance can make excellent sounding boards for true self discovery. We’re not talking about gabbing and sharing all your woes with people, we’re talking about self awareness. Ask them if you seem happy, and if you are easy to be around. Ask them if they have any thoughts about whether or not you’re being true to yourself. Make it fun and you’ll find out some wonderful things about yourself. You’ll find most of these people have some insights that are positive and wise, and give you good direction for the future.

5. Evaluate what YOU can do to make the world around you a better place and incorporate that into your business plan.
This is easier said than done, but still possible. If the results of your product and your dream do not eventually help the world around you, your imagination and resources will diminish. We must look to create connections and success through products, services and behaviors that create lasting impact. That is the way to finding a path that is real, to a prosperity that is rewarding and to authenticity in every way.6. Finally, simply let the tide in.You cannot hold back the waters of change or correction. Often the crop is washed away with the weeks. But we can all find new endeavors waiting on the wake of it's perceived destruction. I always say, any day you're breathing in and out is a good day! Make good on the inside and you'll find life is still full of wonderful lessons, opportunities and connections.

6. Finally, simply let the tide in.
You cannot hold back the waters of change or correction. Often the crop is washed away with the weeds. But we can all find new endeavors waiting on the wake of it's perceived destruction. I always say, any day you're breathing in and out is a good day! Make good on the inside and you'll find life is still full of wonderful lessons, opportunities and connections.