This is part of a series introducing you to interesting people in the wine industry. For many, the journey into wine is not only intriguing but often quite an adventure. These talented individuals are what make the wine industry what it is today so follow this series to meet this group of passionate people who have dedicated their lives to wine.
Why Wine? An interview with John Grochau of Grochau Cellars
Michele Francisco: Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
John Grochau: I have always enjoyed wine, but it took until I was 25 to think about it on a more serious level. I was working at Higgins Restaurant in Portland. Working in a fine dining restaurant offers you many opportunities to try wines I could never afford. The wine was a 1992 (I think) Domaine de Hubert Montille Volnay, not the best vintage, but a transcendent wine to me.
MF: What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
JG: I bounced around in college, never finding a focus. I spent most of my late teens and early to mid-twenties racing my bicycle all over the US and Europe.
MF: How has being in the wine industry changed you?
JG: went from working only nights to working day and night…
Really though, I went from job to a vocation. A life long pursuit.
MF: What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
JG: It’s agriculture, art, wine, branding, hospitality, flavors, textures, balance, physical labor, mind numbing compliance. I love it all, except the compliance.
One of my favorite moments in memory takes place on the back of a tractor while working at Brick House Vineyards. I was tilling in the cover crop of onions, legumes, sweet peas on a mostly dry afternoon in April. The smell of the damp soil and the cover crop being turned into it. The sun poking through the clouds every so often. I miss riding the tractor.
MF: Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
JG: Working at Higgins Restaurant has brought me everything. I met my wife there, I found my calling there. I learned so much about food, farming, conservation and relationships from Greg Higgins. I learned so much about wine and the wine business from Andy Zalman (Sommelier at Higgins). Without working there, I would not be here, period.