A moment of wine truth

It’s 11:18pm on Sunday, November 18th, 2018.

I’ve just finished another solid 3 hour study session with some moments of procrastination to distract me from the overwhelmingness of Bordeaux and it’s complex history and confusing soils.  I’m sitting here asking myself how I got here, why I choose to be here and where I see myself going.  It’s hard to explain, but I’m overcome with the insatiable desire to tell you a bit more of my personal, intimate journey into wine.

Those that follow me on social media, especially those that have followed me for the past year have probably picked up hints that lead into my complicated personal life.  I hope they’ve also picked up on my undeniable passion and drive for wine…all facets of the subject.  It’s a love I’ve never experienced before.  I can’t explain what drives me to keep going, but against all odds, I force myself to carry on.  It’s a subject that consistently makes me feel inadequate, and I mean this in a good way.  I always feel like the least knowledgable in the room, and that drives me to catch up; but the thing is, I never do.  There’s always more to learn, and it’s kind of a good feeling….trying to obtain the unattainable?

My current living situation is not entirely ideal.  Myself and my two small girls, Isla and Piper (ages 3 and 5) currently live with my parents.  At the end of June this year I moved back to Kelowna, BC, (my hometown) on the spur of a moment decision.  While the decision to pack up and leave was quick, the build up was slow.  It had turned into a life I no longer wanted to lead.  I had spent a decade of my life living and for the most part loving, life in Johannesburg, South Africa – but deep in my heart I knew time had expired.  I owe a lot of my best memories to that place and I believe that had I not moved there, I wouldn’t have fallen for wine.  I had (have) an unbelievably solid network of friends and a waterfall of wine inspiration there.  It’s where I fell in love with wild life, adventure, living on a whim and of course, wine…Chenin Blanc to be exact.  I will always feel part African, and Africa will always be in my heart.

My living situation there however had become something that caused me more anxiety then I could probably comprehend in the moment.  I had to grapple the realisation that I was in a marriage that was no longer working.  I didn’t feel secure in my surroundings and my heart was calling for change.  Somewhere in the chaos I continued to find solace and peace in the subject of wine.  Studying it, drinking it and using it as an escape from a very deep unhappiness.  I’m not proud to admit that there was a point where I was deep in a bottle of wine a night, sometimes I’d open a second.  I went briefly into a scary place with a substance I treated with such high regard.  The drink had not only become a subject of study, but also a personal drug to numb and help me avoid my deeper unhappiness.

My first few months back in Canada were full of ups and downs.  Highs and lows.  More wine, more confusion and time of intense recovery.  Seemingly endless nights face down, sobbing into a pillow.  Fears over finances, my children’s well being and how the hell I was going to raise them alone.  I decided then to take time away from the diploma and pushed forward to start creating an independent identity and a new life.  I promised myself I wouldn’t settle for less than what made me happy.  But I was starting from scratch, I had to create an image that wasn’t associated with another person/half, money, power or status.  I had returned to my hometown and into a wine industry that didn’t know or give a shit about who I was.  I had to also wrestle and defuse any and all toxic relationships in my life – and keep my head clear.  Turns out I’m a magnet for narcissists.

I decided to eat the biggest slice of humble pie I could find and get to work.  Start tasting the local wines, meeting people in the industry and surrounding myself with people that I found inspiring and motivating.  Some of my best moments have been the small ones…like chatting to customers about amazing wines and breaking down cardboard boxes at Cask and Barrel 3 days a week with a huge smile on my face.  Why?  Because I’m surrounded by, in my opinion the best selection of wine in Kelowna and some of the most motivated “I’m in it for the love of fermentation” people I’ve met.  I got to pick grapes for the first time at Kitsch, and have chats with one of the most inspiring women in the business, Ria Kitsch.  I’ve been able to drop off and pick up my kids from school everyday, fold their laundry, hug and catch up with my family members and write.  Writing makes me happy…actually scrap that…sharing makes me happy.  I took a deep breathe and launched my new business Cellar Selection and Design last month, which has been met with so much support and encouragement.

Moments still come back and force me to stop dead in my tracks, I have to remind myself to breathe.  The below zero weather tonight (sitting outside) had me longing for my old patio in Johannesburg; the sounds of the birds, the taste of old vine Swartland Chenin, the warmth of the African sun.  I breathe the cold air in and out and stare down the street that I grew up in, I close my eyes and I feel the sun.  As I’m breaking down boxes I stop and imagine myself on a game driver, watching a lion kill.  The cold taste of a Savannah on my lips, the dry, dusty African air.  I think of Joburg taxis and traffic, heat, singing street dwellers, colour, protests, corruption, rainbows and thunderstorms.  I think of so much colour.

Now as I rebuild and re-establish and find a new kind of beauty in my surroundings.  As I navigate my way through my wine studies, growing a business and raising two children on my own, I tell myself life will never be the same, but it’s going to be better than ever.  Everyday I make a point to stick to a specific routine.  I wake up, even after few hours of sleep and I remind myself to wash my face, drink my coffee and I sit at my mirror.  I forgive myself, I praise myself and I tell myself what I want.  And what do I want?  I want to learn as much about wine in this life as possible.  I want to surround myself with kind, inspiring people.  I want to raise my girls to become humble, driven, kind human beings and I want to keep going.  I don’t want to spend another day not doing what I love.

Thank you for all of the love and support up to this point.  It has and always will mean the world to me.

Cheers for now,

Katie