The story of how we met
Whenever I head out on a wine tour with a bunch of new people, I feel as excited as I was on my very first tour. I get to reveal great local places and colorful people and relive these encounters again and again. I imagine that guests who have come from far away and have chosen to spend time with Grape Tours, have great expectations. Every day we want to give them the very best food & wine experiences. Most days we connect and have a great time – wine people are tremendously cool, as you might already know!
For me, the best part of the day is to discover the people I have onboard. I love to hear people’s stories of who they are, what they do, and, if they are couples, how they met. Sometimes important life events unfold on a wine tour - I have seen romantic engagements, and witnessed ashes being spread over Tuscan vineyards. Yes, many a good story could be told but as I always say "what happens on a wine tour stays..." So I'm content to keep all the tales to myself and build memories trip by trip. Through the tours, I've met some great folks that I treasure, and not only. "How did you meet your better half?" is a simple yet blunt question as it is rather intimate, and always provokes a shy smile and a pleasant romantic chill. Unless of course, a couple is dangerously close to splitting. Wine tour guiding is not for fragile souls yet it is varied, satisfying, and very surprising, indeed.
Lately, for a project that you'll all know more about in the future, I was asked to find some pictures of ourselves, so I started digging and bumped into some photos that were significant to how I met Pierre (see a few at the bottom of this). Pierre is my now husband and business partner, or as I like to think of him, my partner in wine (though to be fair, he can make it and I just drink it). The pictures made me remember how I had already written a short story about how we met, back almost 14 years ago. I found the story in the deep archives of my Mac, and after peeking at the first couple of sentences I recognized my candid voice and decided to refrain from reading the rest and write it all over, now 12 years later. Perhaps later I'll compare the two versions, for the fun of it. In any case, I’m sure most of you never read that first version (it was before I had a proper newsletter service), and if you did, it must be long forgotten.
I met Pierre in July 2009. Some of you who read this were there and remember the encounter. Pierre was a winemaker from France who had started the prestigious Master of Wine program and as a result, he was searching to travel to various wine regions. Italy, being a clear second to the wines of France (or so I should hope!), was his first on the list to explore. Pierre googled Tuscan Wine Tours and sent over an email to sign up for 3 days of tours to 3 different regions from Florence. So, one morning, similar to many other mornings, I met my small group for the day’s tour. As always, people from various places were joining for a beautiful day in the countryside with interesting wine producers, breathtaking views, good food, and conversation. Pierre was one of the guests that morning.
Off we went to the Chianti Classico region. It was a Wednesday, I remember. I generally am not an elephant at remembering stuff, but the unimportant details seem to stick! Pierre had introduced himself but was rather reserved sitting in the back of the van. Yet during the day, he did pose all sorts of unusual or technical questions which was a fun challenge for myself and for the winemakers. The next day, with a new mix of people, we went to Montalcino where the conversation got down to the itty-nitty of biodynamics, yeasts, fungi, and enzymes. And on the last day, Friday, we hit the area of San Gimignano with another fun group of people. We were at a winery and Pierre asked, with his heavy French accent, if he could see the bottling room and then was swiftly accompanied to the bathroom. We had a good laugh and by the end of the day, I knew someone special had happened.
When the tour came to an end, Pierre and I went for a walk around Florence where I showed him my favorite wine bar, Le Volpi e L’Uva, and we just wandered and talked the evening away. It was quite exciting, as is expected when you get to know a person for the first time. Then as midnight struck, we kissed, briefly. I had to leave as the next day, Saturday, I had a new wine tour to run, and Pierre faced his final day of acquaintance with Florence.
That Saturday I admit to being a little distracted (my apologies to the lovely honeymoon couple I picked up from the enchanting Castello del Nero). After a short bit of contemplation, I texted Pierre asking if perhaps the next morning he might need a lift to the airport. It would have been a 20-minute drive from Florence to the airport which would have been a sad short drive, so I figured a scenic drive through Chianti would be an opportunity to get a few more moments in. We stopped for lunch at Dario Cecchini’s in Panzano in Chianti, and we had a lovely time eating and drinking at communal tables in the good company of strangers. Pierre had to leave, back to his supervising winemaking Chateau in St Emilion. Who knew when our paths would meet again?
Technology came to the rescue, and a long-distance relationship was initiated with Skype, before work, and after work, and, thank goodness, texting was possible when Skyping wasn't. Sooner rather than later, Pierre was back in Tuscany. This time there were no other guests, and I took Pierre to see the beautiful Etruscan coast of Tuscany, Bolgheri, Suvereto, Magliano, Pitigliano, and the Val d’Orcia. Maybe he would fall in love with Tuscany and join me? We started to see a future together, we just had to figure out how and where. Pierre had a brilliant career in Bordeaux (and a steady income!). And I just had a small start-up company running wine tours seasonally, yet the deciding factor was my daughter. He would have to move to Italy.
The next year, we met in various places. I would drive to Bordeaux, or we would meet in Nice (halfway between Florence and Bordeaux) or we would both fly to meet in for example Paris or London. With no time to waste, Pierre took a complete leap of faith and left his job. Only 2 years after we had met our son Julian was born, we got married, and our second son Oliver was on the way. Our wine tour company Grape Tours became the family affair that it is today, with Pierre’s headstrong organizational skills, and my stubborn love for wine, travel, and people.
Lots more has happened since then and, hopefully, the story will continue, but this is how we got started on our family adventure and also the story of our beloved business, Grape Tours, to which we owe our drunken romance (and I’ve heard that we’re not the only people who’ve met on one of our wine tours!)
July 2009 - Day 3 of Pierre's wine tour in Tuscany at lovely Colombaia winery with owner-winemaker Dante
Me (apparently, can't remember), Skype-dating after our first meeting in 2009
Fast-forward to 2011 - wedding day with my daughter Louise and Julian, our first son.