Warning! This post is nostalgic and self indulgent. Look away now if you've religiously read all blog posts in the last year.
I started with travel to Hong Kong - a trip to see one of my oldest friends & a chance to explore whether selling dance shoes would keep my finances afloat. The dance shoe idea fell by the wayside, but I discovered The Flying Winemaker, had my first taste of Gimblett Gravels wine, explored a million dim sum, tasted the best Peking duck in Hong Kong and decided my favourite tea is Dong Ding Oolong. It was here also, that a Chinese fortune teller advised me that the year ahead would be "very good year" and filled with lots of singing, drinking, dancing and parties. I don't think a year has ever been so accurately predicted by the fortune sticks!
There was plenty to blog about in January too, with trips toIceland - where beer was more of a local specialty than wine - as well as some amazing dancing and vodka drinking (as well as wine) in Budapest. This trip had much more of an effect on the wine year ahead than I could have ever expected...
I also found myself doing some market research at Alfred the Grape in Marlow for the DiBonis Serbian winery. Strange things really were happening to me since taking up blogging.
The big event in March though, was my trip to dance in the USA. Washington DC also hosted a visit from my Oregon based friend whom I hadn't seen in many years, and allowed us to indulge in many delightful meals, wines and more wines with the odd cocktail thrown in. It was here that I fell in love with Viognier from Virginia and Pinot Noir from Oregon's Willamette Valley. They aren't the kind of wines you'll find in the supermarket, but they are worth seeking out if you want to see what America has to offer outside of California. Of course, California has some excellent wines, being the world's 4th largest wine producing "country", but these gems offer something that's not been (perhaps over-) ripened in the California sunshine. Hopefully I'll be able to visit Oregon in the next year to sample many more fabulous wines and keep my friend connection going.
Sadly, I hadn't yet been hit with the business planning bug, but I had proven to some rather sceptical people that wines worth Â£15 were frequently far superior to those at Â£5. So, one mission was accomplished. I also forged a friendship with another local wine blogger Perfect Friday Wine and it's great to have a fellow oenophile as a local friend! Inspired by me, I cannot claim, but she's also now resigned her corporate job and is about to launch selling wines on Maidenhead market on Saturday 23rd November, so if you're in the area, do pop along and pick up her French fancies.
Less exotic, but nonetheless fabulous, were dance trips to Blackpool and the Norfolk Coast. It may not be Cannes or Montpellier, and the draught wine at Wetherspoons may have marked an all time low, but I still had a lot of fun with friends old and new, which was just as well, as September was to be a virtual dance free zone...
Grape varieties like Bobal, Monsatrell and Verdil all delighted and I tried to make up for the lack of dancing with swimming and cycling round the city. It's fair to say that the high availability of foie gras and black pudding probably meant that unless I suddenly became Lance Armstrong, I was unlikely to cycle off my gourmandise intake, but every morsel was worth the waistline punishment. And I'm sure the sunshine melts away some of the fat anyway...
In other news, I also continued to enjoy new experiences, such as a Plan B gig at the Sheperd's Bush Empire, a completely unexpected and "on the day" decision which led to a meal at Wahaca were I enjoyed my first ever Hibiscus Margarita - I can assure you, it won't be my last. I also climbed the O2 with my friend, Karen, and we indulged in an array of Greek delights afterwards, including a nice glass of Agiorgitiko (a Greek red wine variety). At the same restaurant, the waiter tried to correct my pronunciation of Viognier to Vinegar so many times, that I felt moving to Greek wine was probably for the best!
It's great that our wine world offers so many different varieties and tastes to delight us. It's such a subjective subject, with everyone favouring something that may be a complete turn off to another. That's why I am now thinking of offering a bespoke wine buying service, tailored to you. Lifestyles of the rich and famous, but with a Purple Teeth (affordable) price tag. Do let me know if you'd be interested in that! During September I also came close to securing a "real job" albeit outside of a big corporate. Receiving the call to tell me I hadn't got the job was one of those moments when I just knew that I was on the right track here. Wine will, by hook or by crook, have to be part of any real job or portfolio career from now on!
I also was invited to participate in the WSET Scholarship contest, and since it was almost a year since I'd put down the books and focussed on drinking, there was a lot of revision to be done. Let no-one say I didn't take it seriously! I was pretty sick during October, and vomiting on the way to the contest was probably not the best preparation for an exam featuring blind tasting, but it was a great opportunity and when it was over I jumped on a plane to Lyon for yet more dancing, fine food and wine with friends. And now it was REALLY time to knuckle down to business, surely. Yes, all that revision had somehow waylayed me from business planning yet again. Luckily a few more bookings for Tasting Events started coming in and a few more business ideas started to take shape over the occasional glass of wine, of course!
We only get one life, and this year, we were reminded of how short that can be, and why waiting to have fun in retirement may not really be an option. So go for it. Do at least one of those things you've always wanted to do!
And if one of those things is learning about wine, then please get in touch and I'll do my best to help you. My new experiences continue, including tasting 100 year old wine this month, working at the International Wine Challenge basically being a wine weightlifter for the week. I met a lot of lovely people and did a lot of that singing the fortune teller warned me about. Now I'm filling in my visa application for a trip to Russia in January. I hope to launch a new wine service in the early part of 2014 and will continue to run wine tasting events while people want to learn from me. Wine of the week hasn't really got the traction I'd have liked, but blogging, like everything else, is a skill I have to learn.
If you've got this far, I commend you. I'd love to hear which blog posts you've enjoyed, which wine subjects you'd like to know more (and less) about, and how I can help you enjoy wine more. So please do get in touch via my blog comments, facebook page or twitter.
Thank you to all of you who've read my blogs and encouraged me over the past year. It means a lot!