Phoenix rising: The New Winehiker Witiculture Blog.

No doubt many of you recall the frustrations of the 2008-2010 economic downturn. Housing bubble, financial crises, stock market woes, massive unemployment hitting home for so many of us. The course of my life and career were certainly on a parallel: I found myself scrambling for a paycheck – almost any paycheck that I could earn with a keyboard. Furthermore, I had developed problems with my left hip that precluded any hikes longer than 4 or 5 miles.

And I crashed head-on with the realization that I could no longer operate my tour business, California Wine Hikes.

It was a grim time, and I felt its deep, bitter bite for weeks, even months. Feeling the heavy weight of failure, dwelling more than I should on how I’d wasted five good years, and desperately searching my soul for any kind of meaning as to where my life had gone and why, I realized I needed to close operations on my business, shut down my website, and springboard full tilt boogie for Jesus into the job search.

Those were dark, dreadful days. It was not easy to appear enthusiastic during job interviews, but somehow I managed to dig deep and shine. It took a long while, and it was damned hard to stay focused and positive. Thankfully, after many months, the phone finally rang and I came away with a technical writing job that pays the bills – a job that I still hold today, nearly 2½ years later.

I quickly discovered that landing that job was not the only silver lining to my recent dark storm cloud. While I had already possessed the chops to fulfill the role of technical writer, it had become very apparent to me that my company’s website needed work. A massive lot of work! It helped immensely that I had spent the better part of the previous 5 years managing a business and website, honing my HTML, SEO and content-creation skills, building an understanding of social networking, and even building the vocabulary, the jargon, of the web developer. Right then and there, two weeks into the job, I volunteered to own the company website.

Those 5 years of skill-building hadn’t been wasted after all.

I threw myself lock, stock and barrel into the job. I worked hard to heal my hip. For two years, I rarely came up for air. Though on salary, I worked nights. I worked weekends. Twitter, Facebook, and blogging, to me, were abstractions I could not afford. And, though I felt all the while a strong compulsion to drastically improve my company’s website and technical documentation, I felt equally strongly about resurrecting my own sense of self-worth, of contribution, of accomplishment. As I ticked off each painstaking milestone, both job-wise and hiking-wise, it began to occur to me that light was actually beginning to appear at the end of my own personal tunnel.

And I began to reach out again.

Many of you who are reading this post have certainly noticed an upturn in my social media activity, which I returned to in the Spring of last year. Some of you are even reading my online paper, Winehikers’ Daily, which I felt was a way to not only inform and perhaps enlighten my audience about the topics they find interest in, but also a way for me to keep my finger on the pulse of current topics – and reconnect with my social network. Though I had been away from social media for what seems an extended hibernation, this journey back has, in retrospect, been very much a sound mental health decision.

Let's hit the trail.

Let’s hit the trail.

I don’t regret that journey.

Today, despite the ritual and the process of these past few years, I realize that this journey has turned out to be a very redeeming one. I have emerged from the other end of my long, dark tunnel. I’m largely satisfied with my job accomplishments. And I am hiking again!

And, if you’ll permit me to be so bold: I have returned to blogging.

Behold the new winehiker witiculture!

I am deeply grateful to you, my readers, for your abiding warmth, understanding, and patience. I hope you’ll join me on the next leg of this journey.

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Folks, what do you think? Was my return to blogging a good idea? Or, is blogging dead?
Did I wait too gol-darn long to resurrect my blog?
Are these all just silly questions?

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The 2006 California Wine Harvest is under way

Crushpad: San Francisco-based citizen winemaking.

Crushpad: San Francisco-based citizen winemaking.

The Cellar Rat dwells among the tanks and barrels at San Francisco’s CrushPad, where wine retailers, restaurateurs, and wine enthusiasts alike can crush and ferment their own wine.  It’s a great concept, and apparently business for CrushPad has taken off. Imagine seeing your own bottles of “Chateau [insert your name here].”

California’s 2005 bumper crop yielded a record harvest in terms of grape tonnage and dollar value. Because of that, expectations are that this year’s crop will be smaller.  The Cellar Rat thinks that’s the case so far.

Says the Cellar Rat:

“The grapes are ripening, and wineries all over California are getting the first grapes of the year coming in. Harvest for 2006 has begun with Pinot Noir for Sparkling wine in Napa and Sonoma counties, and Sauvignon Blanc in other regions. This first small stream of Pinot Noir for sparkling wine will be followed by a torrent of white grapes, which typically ripen first, followed by the red grape varieties. And it’ll all wrap up mid-November.

There were two defining events for this year’s growing season so far. The first was that the spring was cold and wet, which delayed bud break by a good two weeks in most California vineyards. The second was the record-setting heat spell we had in July. Temperatures as high as 114 deg. F were reported from vineyard managers. You’d almost think this should help get things caught up after that late start but the reality of the situation is that the vines shut down at temps between 95 and 100 deg F. So in reality, this slowed things up even more.”

If the mild weather we’re now experiencing is any indication, then the 2006 harvest appears promising.  We’ve got ideal ripening conditions, which promote desirable sugar levels and perhaps yet another fine season of quality California wines.  Yippee!!