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Showing posts from September, 2008

The Harvest at Tenuta Mazzolino - Departing Thoughts

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As I sat overlooking the Po Valley towards the Alps from atop the first foothill where the Mazzolino estate sits, the smells of the harvest, fresh-cut grass and the rose garden intermittently drifted in and out of my olfactories. The sounds of the winery and the birds were behind me, and the distant sounds of farmers on tractors, carpenters, local traffic, a dog barking, and church bells striking half four were ahead of me. The wind brushed my face, and I thought of the other faces and places it may have touched. I thought of the world I am heading into: an intricately connected cosmos where every activity relies on some other activity, resulting in my connection to you, to the land and to those others who work and travel it.

In just two weeks at Mazzolino I gained so much in addition to new perspective (and gifts of a sweater, a scarf, an apron, a bottle opener and many bottles of wine). The beautiful landscape, and the opportunity to learn about wine and work with my hands were wonde…

Attempting to Settle the Score

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Is there a piece of unfinished business in the back of your head? The one (or many) thing(s) that you wish you could go back and do over or complete? For the past eight years, one such piece of business has haunted my thoughts, perhaps even my self-worth in a sense:

Eight Junes ago, I visited Aosta, Italy. It was the first time I'd seen snowcapped mountains, and as a reckless adventurer, I made a goal to get a bottle-full of snow by day's end. I began at 3pm, reached snow by 8pm, but then tried to reach the top of the mountain I was climbing. Approximately 100 meters from the peak, I stopped. It was 10pm and dark, I was exhausted, and I still had a 13-mile hike back to town.
I revisted Aosta last week with one goal: to finish what I had started. This time, however, I chose a much taller mountain. At 9:30am on September 11, I began an attempt to reach the peak of Becca di Nonna, which would be an 8,406 feet (1.6 miles) vertical climb in one day (1,902 feet to 10,308 feet). Befo…

Harvest - Thoughts

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In the last post, I discussed my strategy as I began my work here at Tenuta Mazzolino: smile (but not too much), work hard (but not too hard), etc. In making a recommendation to others in similar situations, I'd say the following: "just be yourself". At work, at home, with friends...everywhere. If you smile a lot, then smile. If you work overly hard, work your butt off. If you're lazy, well, you're out of luck, because I can't think of a job that embraces laziness, but you get my point. You see, what I described is my way and it's not the way for everyone. I do believe that workplace dynamics can be complicated, but if you stick to your guns, you will be respected, even if your colleagues disagree with you. So be YOU ("self-aware" as my old boss Scott Simon would put it). You won't always be right, but you will have your gut behind you.

Tonight we had a pizza, 3-year aged parmesean (incredible), salami and wine (plus some liquor made with swe…

The Harvest - Day 1, Italy (Lombardia Region)

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I'm not necessarily a stranger to working with my hands. I grew up in a family of extremely handy people (my father especially), spent the better part of my childhood mowing lawns, and spent some time working on a water main / excavation crew. When I stepped into the vineyard this morning, I knew what to expect. I planned to keep my head down, work hard, and smile if invited, but not too much. Especially in a place where nobody can understand me, smiling too much could make me seem like a real weirdo. I'd have to prove that I'm a hard worker (but not too hard), that I'm friendly (but not too friendly), and, most of all, that I don't kiss up too much. Nobody likes a new guy that comes onto the scene trying to kiss everyone's butt. These are the workplace undertones that I've experienced (and admittedly expressed, on occassion), especially in many jobs that require manual labor.


I was pleasantly surprised as I began working today. The 12 pickers operated as a …

Tenuta Mazzolino

I'm now in the Lombardia region of Italy, and thanks to my friend and former Blackstone colleague, Francesco Braggiotti, am helping to finish the grape harvest at the Braggiotti family vineyard and winery, Tenuta Mazzolino (http://www.tenuta-mazzolino.com/). I spent a few days last week in Aosta, Italy (post to come), then took the train to Milan, where I spent a night and realized that pepperoni means "peppers" in Italy, then jumped on a train for Casteggio, a small town in the Lombardia region. The manager of the operation, Jean Francois, picked me up and took me to the winery, where Francesco's father set me up with some wheels (a Vespa) and showed me where I will stay for the week. Awesome doesn't describe it...I've been cruising around for the past couple of days, but get down to business tomorrow morning. I've informed Jean Francois that I don't speak any Italian, and it sounds like the entire team speaks only Italian, so we'll see what happ…

The Whistlers

I'm bagging my original post for today because I can't concentrate. As I began writing, I heard the loudest, most obnoxious whistle from right outside the window of my Barcelona hostel - you know, the "two-fingers-in-the-mouth" type you hear when a Mets fan wants to attract a hot dog salesperson at Shea (yes, maybe even louder than yours, Aunt Kim). The whistle happened over and over again...enough to totally block any creative thought and drive me totally nuts. With each whistle I became more and more livid. After 20 whistles or so, I jumped up, ran to the window, and prepared to scream "Shut up!!", knowing the perpetrator must be one of the many thousand English football hooligans in town for the England / Andorra match............

I have no idea how 2 little girls no older than 8 years can produce such a terrible noise. The whistling is still going and I still can't concentrate, but I just can't help but crack up every time it "invades my mak…

Thoughts

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I'm not going to lie....this is hard. I´m realizing what a short time a year is to travel the world and it's making me anxious. I'm also realizing that, as much as I feel the need to have a plan so that I see as much as possible; I just can't. What kind of adventure would it be? I was living a comfortable and calculated life before I left. I went to work, hung out with my friends, listened to my favorite music, traveled home to hang out with my family...everything was familiar. I had the subway system of NYC down. I was getting good at my job and had lots of great friends there. I loved New York, loved my family there, and loved everything the City has to offer. You might ask: "why the hell did you leave?" well, I can't answer that. I'm starting to wonder myself. Yeah, I know...it's the middle of week 3. Every day is going to be a challenge. There is no way to calculate anymore. New language, new train system, new food, new people - over and over …