You know you’ve thought about it. Or maybe not, but since you’ve already read the title of this piece, you’re thinking about it now. If you’re a wine lover and you work a regular, nine to five type job, you’ve probably spent at least one wistful moment staring at your computer screen, or into your glass (or maybe both at the same time), muttering about how nice it would be to pick up and drop everything and move to the vineyard. Well guess what, some people actually do it.

Jamie Kutch is one such person. At the age of 31, living in New York and working as a stock trader on Wall Street, Jamie was a driven but perhaps slightly bored money maker, who eventually decided he’d rather be pursuing his passion – making and tasting and appreciating great wine.

Today, Jamie lives in San Francisco, buys grapes from Russian River Valley growers, and enjoys a close mentorship with the much-admired founders of Kosta Browne. And this past January, Kutch Wines released its first 750 cases of 2005 Pinot Noir.

So, what’s the secret to making it happen? As with so many other of life’s key lessons, you can boil it all down to five easy talking points:

  1. Recognize that Life’s Too Short. As Jamie tells the story of his giving up a conventional job and venturing into the unknown, he reiterates one point several times – life is too short to not do what you love. The impetus for his finally quitting his job, he says, was the recognition that he wasn’t getting any younger, and that a winemaker was what he wanted to be. Once he had his light bulb moment, the rest was “easy.”
  2. Embrace the Geekdom. Jamie is very straightforward about how his journey began: “I was a wine geek, plain and simple.” He spent his days thinking about wine and surfing the chat boards (in between trading stocks, of course, since he was at work). His nights routinely involved creative-themed wine dinners and excursions to Montrachet, a NY restaurant known more for its Monday night BYOB policy (no corkage!) than its tasteful décor. Between the frequent online perusing and the regular wine tastings, he learned a lot about wine and cultivated several valuable relationships.
  3. Move to the heart of it all. While New York enjoys a healthy wine culture, California is the place to be if you want access to the best juice in the U.S. Jamie says he chose Sonoma because “for my palate the Sonoma Coast and the Russian River Valley hands down outperformed Pinot Noir grown anywhere else in the country.”
  4. Pick a grape. Preferably one that’s really challenging to grow. Then, go find some. Jamie makes pinot. He selected pinot because it’s the most complex, food friendly wine, and he wanted a challenge. He also recognized that great wine is made in the vineyard, so he had to choose his great fruit wisely. Since great pinot doesn’t hang out on street corners, or arrive gift wrapped on one’s doorstep, Jamie had to get creative and work hard to track down his first batch of grapes. As he notes, “You don’t simply open the yellow pages and find advertisements for the sale of world class Pinot Noir fruit.” Luckily for him, between networking, stuffing letters in vineyard owners’ mailboxes, and spending some time with geography software, he found a few suppliers.
  5. Savor the experience. And share your wisdom. When asked if there is anything he would do differently, Jamie takes a ½ second to respond: “not one single thing.” With a little passion and conviction (and some modest savings) you can pursue and attain your goal. Jamie points out that he didn’t risk life or limb, and says he would advise anyone considering a similar move to go for it. “I simply made a choice to challenge myself and put everything I had into it.  So far it seems to be paying off.”

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