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Allison Levine, Please The Palate: A new year, a new decade, new inspiration
Please The Palate

Allison Levine, Please The Palate: A new year, a new decade, new inspiration

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When I was a little girl, my mom said something to me that I would never forget. I was nervous about going to a party and whether I would know people and have fun. She told me that you make your own good time. I could go with a negative attitude and would likely not have fun. Or I could go with a positive attitude and see what would happen.

This advice is something that I have carried with me throughout my life, and I approach everything I do with a positive attitude and an open mind.

Over the past year, I have interviewed close to 100 winemakers for the podcast Wine Soundtrack. I ask questions to get to know the winemaker, and towards the end of each interview, I ask each of them if there is particular advice or words of wisdom that were shared with them over the years that they aspire to live by. As it is a new year, a new decade and time of reflection, I went through all of the interviews and thought I would share some of the advice winemakers were given.

Brent Stone (King Estate, Willamette Valley) was taught to take a team approach in work. He learned this philosophy when working for someone else who always gave credit of success to others, yet when something went wrong, he took full responsibility.

Katy Wilson (LaRue Wines, Sonoma County) heeds the advice of her great grandma, for whom she named her winery after. Her great grandmother always said to be who you want to be and do not let others dictate what you should do with your life.

Tom Mortimer (Le Cadeau Winery, Willamette Valley) recalled his father saying, “don’t burn bridges” and added that we should try hard not to burn bridges because you never know when you need a friend.

Karin Warnelius-Miller (Garden Creek Winery, Alexander Valley) said not to be afraid of mistakes. To be a great entrepreneur, you may fail more than you succeed, and it is these failures that will make you stronger.

Brianne Day (Day Wines, Willamette Valley) aspires to something she was told by one of the investors in her winery. He told her that the best part of making a lot of money is to be able to give it away. And while she is not at a point in her career to do this, the generosity of spirit translates to doing what you can for other people.

David Nemarnik (Alloro Vineyard, Willamette Valley) learned by the example set by his immigrant father’s hard work. He was taught determination, to set his mind on something, stay positive and never give up.

Amy Luftig Viste (Angeleno Wine Co., Los Angeles) was taught by a mentor, as she was going to a meeting feeling unqualified, that the only the only person who needs to know that you have no idea what’s going on is you.

Bibiana Gonzalez (Alma de Cattleya, Sonoma County) was working in France when she learned that everything is made in the vineyard. This taught her to be humble as some things are out of our control.

Peter Velleno (Castello di Amorosa, Calistoga) has a saying in his family that if someone asks if you are ready, you say you were “born ready”. If you are always prepared, you will be ready for anything and will be okay.

Ryan Hodgins (Fel Wines, Anderson Valley) recalled a quote that his mother had posted on the wall when he was growing up that said, “the only constant is change”.

Jeff Pisoni (Pisoni Family Wines, Santa Lucia Highlands) shared something his father wrote inside a book cover that said, “the best winemakers are the most prepared and interfere the least.”

Doug Roberts (Irvine & Roberts Vineyard, Ashland, Oregon) lives by the advice that if you are in doubt, there is no doubt. This advice pushes him to trust his gut, to be tenacious and never stop.

Greg Brewer (Brewer Clifton, Santa Ynez Valley) is guided by a principle of being aware of one’s circumstances and mindful of others.

Moe Momtazi (Maysara Winery, Willamette Valley) was advised by his father that if you have a problem with someone, put yourself in their shoes and have them put themselves in your shoes.

Christian Gaston Palmaz (Palmaz Vineyards, Napa Valley) shared that his mother always reminded him that there is always tomorrow. There is always a way to work it out.

Erica Stancliff (Trombetta Family Wines, Sonoma Coast) shared two pieces of advice that were given to her. First, you should learn from the best so that you can be the best but then you must find your own path. Second, you have to be the hardest worker and outwork everyone else.

Jason Martin (Republic of Pink, Los Angeles) shared similar advice that he once saw that said, “don’t follow in the footsteps of the masters, seek what they sought.”

Bettina Sichel (Laurel Glen Vineyard, Sonoma Mountain) credits her father for teaching her not to take things too personally because everything looks different tomorrow.

Adam Lee (Clarice Wine Company, Sonoma) found a note from his father after he passed away that said “muddle through” because when you are in difficult situations, you will make it through.

Sebastien Beaumont (Beaumont Family Wines, South Africa) follows the saying on his family’s crest that says stand tall but do not shout it out, and he believes one should be proud but not arrogant.

Matt Dees (The Hilt, Sta. Rita Hills) recalled his father saying, “make hay while the sun shines” and make the most of opportunities by working hard to get things done. He added that the key is to work smarter, not harder.

Justin Seidenfeld (Rodney Strong, Sonoma County) heeds the words “think before you act”.

Don Hagge (Vidon Vineyard, Willamette Valley) was taught to always look at the glass as half full and to always have a positive attitude.

Erich Bradley (Sojourn Cellars, Sonoma County) embraces the quote that “the world loves talent but pays off on character.”

Jake Bilbro (Limerick Lane, Russian River) was inspired by optimist Dan Kosta who once told him, when he was in the midst of juggling life, that if you look at it the right way, there is an awesome ride you can be riding.

Luke Clayton (Rombauer, Napa Valley) heeds the advice that we should not look at tomorrow or we will miss today.

Lisa Neal (Coeur de Terre, Willamette Valley) was told by her mother-in-law that marriage is never 50/50 and sometimes it is 80/20 and not in your favor. But if you stick through it, you can enjoy the beautiful gifts that come with the experience. This advice is applied not just to her marriage, but to work and all relationships.

Lydia Cummins (Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma) was guided to take chances. Often, we are afraid to put ourselves out there to risk failure. But if you do not put yourself out there, great rewards will not come. And, if you fail, you may learn something.

Ana Keller (Keller Estate, Sonoma) was advised by her sister that you should not do anything that you are not willing to do for the rest of your life.

William Allen (Two Shepherds, Sonoma) heeds the advice he received from Randall Graham, who taught him not to overthink things and to not get in his own way.

Tim Snider (Fess Parker Winery, Santa Ynez) had a strong worth ethic instilled in him by his father. The belief is that the harder you work, the more good things come your way.

Rachel Martin (Oceano Wines, SLO Coast) was taught by her mom that not everyone is going to like you and that is okay. She was also taught to strive to be the best but first place is meant to be shared.

Karen Steinwachs (Buttonwood Farm and Winery, Santa Ynez) left the technology industry to enter the wine industry with the advice to take a chance on something you want to try. If you do something that you love doing, then it will not seem like work.

Berni Orsi (Orsi Vineyards, Sonoma) was taught to put first things first and do not leave something for tomorrow that you can do today.

David Ramey (Ramey Wine Cellars, Sonoma) believes that we must be true to ourselves, true to our word and treat others as we would want to be treated.

Happy 2020!

Allison Levine is owner of Please The Palate, a marketing and event-planning agency. A freelance writer, she contributes to numerous publications while eating and drinking her way around the world. Allison is also the host of the wine podcast Wine Soundtrack USA. Contact her at

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