A photo of the Grape crusher statue in napa valley, wine country. The Heart of Every Region is the People. These are their stories... After Maria decided to leave the finance industry, she asked herself a very important question. “If passion was everything, and money wasn’t an issue, what would I do with my life? It took me a long time to answer that question, but it eventually came to me in words – people, travel, language, culture, culinary, wine, and arts. I read a book called, ‘When God Winks’, worked through the themes in the book, and started to think deeply about what those words meant to me.” _ Napa Valley Photographer “In my early 30’s I was able to hone my skills and focus my ADHD. You see, in my mind, there are millions of thoughts and voices going on all the time. It has made it difficult for me to explain myself at times. I’ve learned, over time, how to make that a positive thing and use it to my advantage." _ Napa Valley Photographer “Mario is really good at reading people.” Emilio says. “He’s really good at getting to the core of what’s bothering you and makes sure you are taken care of. He’s also able to look at problems and simplify the whole issue. He’ll make it shorter and faster. It’ll always be something that I would have never thought of,” _ Napa Valley Photographer “Firing my first chef was the hardest thing I have ever done in my life. At the time, I was on the fence. I had no idea how to cook any of our dishes. What was I going to do without a chef? There would be no direction and I thought everything would fall apart..." _ Chris is a self-proclaimed nomad. When he was in his mid-twenties, he had sold nearly all of his things, packed up his little Nissan 240 with a few essentials, and set out on the open road with his beloved dog. For two months he traveled cross-country via two-lane highways, visiting at least 12 national parks along the way. _ Napa Valley portrait photographer “I should have died in that war. I always used to ask, ‘Why me?’. A lot of us felt that way. But at the end of the day, why not me? I made it. I’m so sorry that my friends didn’t, but I will live through them, because I KNOW they would be doing a lot of great things in this world. So, I’m doing this for us…_

Everybody has a Story.

My early childhood began in a small town just outside of Tallahassee, FL. After high school, I joined the Navy, traveled around the world, and lived in Yokosuka, Japan for 2 years. When my service was complete, I moved to the Clearwater/St. Petersburg, FL area for a few years and discovered my love for performing. This led me to a 12 year journey in the greatest city on earth - New York City, NY. Towards the end of my time there, I married an amazing woman. We decided to shift our life to the west coast, so we packed up, traveled cross-country, and landed in Los Angeles, CA for 4 yrs. Barely making ends meet financially, I completely switched gears, reeducated myself, and landed a job working in one of the great wineries in Napa Valley, ZD Wines.

Whew, what an adventure this has been!!
And so the journey continues...

I want to help people connect with one another and this amazing region! Join me as I photograph and interview people currently living in wine country. It's a special place here and the stories you will hear will hopefully touch your heart, make you smile, and bring a little joy to your neck of the woods. Please comment and share any story that resonates with you...

Welcome to the People of Wine Country!
These are their stories...
 

“My biggest thing is nature, nature, nature, nature. Nowadays we are SO separate from nature that we forget to watch the leaves fall off the tree or take a hike. I mean, who doesn’t have fun on a hike? I feel we are locked into GO mode and we forget that kind of simplicity. It’s the witnessing of these small things that makes up an epic moment. You have to be in the moment to appreciate these things and not be distracted by text messages or what will you do tomorrow."

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“When I was 13 years old, my father lost his job. It was 1980. My dad worked for Ford in Richmond. He was a United Auto Worker and during a recession, he was laid off. We lost our house. We lost everything. From the time I was 13, until the time I was 17, we were pretty much homeless. We were like nomads. There were times I wouldn’t eat for three days. I was going to school though. I stayed away from drugs and didn’t get into any crime. I didn’t do those things because I had SO MUCH respect for my father, for the hard work, and what he was going through."

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“This tattoo, on my wrist, is my grandmother’s heartbeat. It was the last heartbeat reading they took while she still lived in her home here in Napa.” It all started when Dakota moved to Northern California to pursue a dream, shortly after graduating from HSU in sports marketing and broadcasting. “Two months after working in the city, my grandma was diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer that quickly metastasized to her liver and brain.” Dakota says.

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Florencia was scared, uncertain of her next move, and struggled far more than expected trying to understand the Kiwi accent in New Zealand. She was 21 at the time and was there on a work visa. The excitement of working abroad was beginning to crumble right before her eyes. Her money was dwindling day by day, she had no phone, and was desperate to make this work. Right before she threw in the towel, she made one last attempt and reached out to someone via an online travelers’ chatroom. By an act of Grace, she connected with a friend of a friend named, Juan.

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“I came from a big family. I’m right in the middle of 7 kids. We grew up lower-middle class. A daytrip in the station wagon was a big outing for us! I’m really fortunate to have such a great family. My folks were really ‘nose to the grindstone’ type of people. My dad was the disciplinarian. He taught us work ethic. My heart came from my mom. Be respectful, be responsible, that’s what they taught us.”

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Alejandro is the tasting room manager for Madrigal Family Winery in Calistoga. He grew up in the Hispanic culture. “I’m a Mexican and I am the first generation in my family to grow up in the United States.” He says it has been extremely difficult to be the first one in his family to fully except the culture here.

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“There was a gentleman who lived in the abandoned town of Ballarat for 50 years. He was totally alone. What I mean by ‘alone’ is that he had no woman – a bachelor till the day he died. His name was Charles Forge, commonly known as ‘Seldom-seen Slim’. He died on August 10th, 1968 and will be remembered as the last ‘Single-blanket, jackass, prospector to have ever lived’. That means he was a man who had a burro, one pack with a single-blanket, and spent his days prospecting the Panamint Valley for riches."

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