I grew up in Pittsburgh, which isn’t exactly the heart of America’s wine country.
Pittsburgh is known for ketchup, pierogis, chipped ham, Klondike Bars, fried zucchini strips, and the Primanti Brothers sandwich (grilled meat with coleslaw and fries between two pieces of Italian bread). There also are the steel mills and bridges. And, for good measure, it’s the birthplace of both the Big Mac and the modern emoticon. ☺
Wine? Not so much.
In large part because of my Italian heritage, however, I was raised to appreciate wine. I still remember my paternal grandfather stomping his own grapes when I was a kid. And one of my favorite activities with my wife is to tour vineyards and sample good wines. We’ve visited wineries everywhere from the Mendoza Valley of Argentina to the Barossa Valley of Australia to the Tuscany region of Italy.
In our case, it’s not just about the wine. There’s another fruit of the harvest that’s just as important to us—the fruit of relationships. Sue and I often take our wine tours alone (just the two of us), and we value that time together. But earlier this fall, we spent a few days in Napa Valley, California, with 35 of our closest friends. We enjoyed great food, toured wineries, and even took part in a grape-stomping competition. My team didn’t win, but hopefully I did my grandfather proud. As you might imagine, we had a great time.
There’s a simple beauty in vineyards with their ordered rows, winding vines and colorful fruit. But the picturesque postcards betray a more complex and fragile system that requires careful attention and diligent cultivation to ensure any type of meaningful harvest. Relationships are much the same, of course. They are complex and fragile, and they require intentional nurturing. But when cared for properly, they produce something amazing that only gets better with time.
In this iconic scene from I Love Lucy, Lucy tries to learn about wine production in hopes of landing a role in an Italian film called, Bitter Grapes.. The fruit of the harvest, and that grape stomping gone awry, isn’t meeting the relationship goals we’re covering here!
The relationships we build with family, friends, co-workers, and others give deeper meaning and purpose to life and work. So, it’s worth celebrating the incredible blessings those relationships produce.
Thanksgiving is a holiday that originated from the idea that we should collectively show gratitude for the harvest. It’s not a uniquely American idea, but we Americans have darn near perfected the celebratory feast, which dates back to at least 1691 when the 50 surviving passengers from the Mayflower spent three days dining with 90 members of the Wampanoag tribe. The menu might have included turkey, but it’s unlikely that the pilgrims had any wine from the fruit of the harvest for that first festival. Maybe some fermented apple juice. But they were nurturing relationships, and we’re continuing to reap the harvest—from Pittsburgh to Napa Valley and in all points in between.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!