Thanks to the amazing support of our fabulous fans and friends, our LIKEs on our Facebook page have jumped in the last 24 hours (our CMO is hoping to hit 440 LIKEs in time to celebrate her milestone birthday on July 8).
But, we realize that perhaps a few of you don’t know our story, or why the heck we started down this (questionable?) path.
To that end, we share the Cincinnati Enquirer article by the recently-retired-from-journalism John Johnston, who is an amazing craftsman of the written word. We were so honored when he wrote about Dave (Bells Up Winery’s winemaker) in an article published on September 5, 2011. Here’s what John had to say:
Cincinnati Enquirer, Sept. 5, 2011
Corporate lawyer takes life-changing risk
New winemaker already winning prizes
Written by John Johnston
WITHAMSVILLE (OHIO) – There’s that old adage: When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.
And then there’s David Specter’s version, in which life pushes your stress-o-meter into the red zone and you make cabernet sauvignon, merlot and other wines.
A couple of years ago, the 37-year-old attorney was on the fast track as a senior manager with a multinational accounting firm. For nearly a decade he had advised clients on tax matters related to corporate mergers and acquisitions.
He was good at his job – and well qualified for it, what with a finance degree from Miami University, and MBA and law degrees from the University of Cincinnati. And yet …
“At some point you have to ask yourself: Is this something I really enjoy doing?”
His answer: No.
“I was miserable,” he said. “I was stressed out.”
Sara Pearson Specter, who is also 37, saw the stress beginning to take a toll on her husband’s health.
“I thought, ‘If he worked this hard at something he doesn’t enjoy, and he’s successful at it, what if he was doing something he enjoyed? How much more successful could he possibly be?’ ”
And so, in the midst of the Great Recession—and shortly after the Specters brought home to Withamsville a newborn adopted daughter—he quit his job to devote his time to learning the art and craft of winemaking.
It was hardly an impulse decision.
Several years earlier, looking for an activity they could do together, the Specters bought a home winemaking kit, which came with juice concentrate. They also enrolled in a winemaking class.
Fascinated by the flavors he could extract from ingredients, David delved further into the world of winemaking. He bought more kits. He experimented with real grapes, which he procures from a variety of vineyards.
He and Sara took a trip to Oregon, where they met a couple who had once lived in Cincinnati. That couple had left the corporate world, sold everything, and taken an unpaid internship with a winemaker before starting their own modest winery. [CMO’s Note: Steve & Kelley Styring of Styring Vineyards—they’ve been great supporters of ours!]
We could do that, the Specters thought.
In early 2009, Specter took a one-year leave of absence from his job. He met with Joe Henke, owner of Henke Winery in Westwood, who allowed him to come in once a week, help out around the winery, and learn.
After the year was up, the Specters had a decision to make.
“We talked to our financial adviser,” David said, “and we made the decision that I was going to go ahead and dedicate myself fulltime” to winemaking.
The stability of his wife’s business—she operates a full-service marketing company out of their home—made the move possible, he said.
He has become a serious student of the winemaking craft, continuing to volunteer his time to help Henke while also making various vintages in the wine cellar at the Specter home.
Henke, who said his 37 years in the business is the result of “a hobby that got out of control,” sees in Specter the same kind of drive.
“He’s learning his trade well,” he said.
Apparently so. Last April, Specter’s 2010 seyval blanc won “best in show” of 95 wines at the 13th annual Henke Amateur Winemaking Contest. In June, Specter’s blend of syrah and petite syrah won “best in show” of 174 entries at the second annual Listermann Brewing/Valley Vineyards Amateur Wine Making Competition.
“The medals are nice, but the feedback is better,” Specter said.
He can’t legally sell his wines, so his tasters typically are family and friends. But he’s looking toward the day when he opens a winery and welcomes paying customers, which won’t happen until the Specters sell their house and find a suitable location.
“We’re not looking to make millions of dollars,” Specter said. “And we’re not looking to be the Gallos.”
Spoken like a winemaker happy to have escaped the corporate world.