Monday, September 14, 2020

Book Review: The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh


What happens when a botanist gets her hand on a book about the meaning of flowers?  She gets one of her quickest reads in years.  

The Book:  The Language of Flowers by Vanessa Diffenbaugh is a novel about young Victoria, a girl who is in the foster care system in the San Francisco Bay Area.  The story follows her life from her adolescent years as a foster child, through her emancipation from foster care on to her young adult years.  Victoria was given up as an infant, and she then bounced around the foster care system for 18 years.  The descriptions of her experiences in various potential adoption situations, followed by her life as an adolescent and teen in group homes vividly portrays what many children in the foster care system experience.  

The story may resonate with me because it is set in San Francisco and in the North Coast viticultural area of California.  Victoria lives most of her childhood within the San Francisco Bay Area.  Her life really changes when a vineyard owner becomes her guardian.  The vineyard owner, Elizabeth, farms her own land and welcomes young Victoria into her home and teaches her all about grape growing.  Elizabeth also has an extensive lexicon of flowers, knowing the meaning of each flower in the garden.  Elizabeth finds an apt pupil in Victoria, and they form their own language of flowers during their evolving relationship.  

Victoria is a strong willed, and sometimes violent child who has a hard time finding a family that will become her adopted family.  She is taken in by Elizabeth, and almost becomes Elizabeth's daughter, but it doesn't happen.  You see the relationship build, but also how it is marred during their time together.  

Once Victoria turns 18 she is no longer a ward of the state, and she has to find her own way in the world.  Homeless in a park, she finds a job at a flower shop after she wows the owner with the exquisite and meaningful bouquets she presents to her.  Victoria is a natural florist, and can find the perfect flowers for every customer, for every situation and for every need.  Quickly she is indispensable at the flower shop and she is starting to establish herself as an adult in San Francisco.

Victoria does fall in love with someone who understands her affection for flowers.  They form a solid relationship.  All relationships are fraught with problems and misunderstandings, this one is no different.  The relationship is severed, suddenly, by Victoria, and you wonder how she is going to keep herself together.

Reconciliation does happen, on Victoria's terms, and her future happiness is probable.  Reading this story, I really appreciate that Vanessa Diffenbaugh does not paint a portrait of innocence and victimhood in her descriptions of Victoria.  She shows Victoria's faults as well as her talents.  

The Botany:  This book talks about flowers and their meanings.  In Victorian times (it should be noted that our main character is Victoria) flowers and their secret meanings were used to communicate messages between people.  Flowers continue to communicate messages now.  Here are the flowers and their messages that I'm interpreting this this summer:  

Fennel = Strength.  Fennel is growing with abandon in my garden this year.  I spied a flock of goldfinches pecking out fennel seed yesterday, and fennel is a great habitat for Yellow Swallowtail Butterfly caterpillars.

Grapevine = Abundance.  With the grapevines being laden with fruit right now, you can see the abundance around you.

Oregano = Joy.  I have planted oregano in every incarnation of it this spring.  Variegated, Greek, Italian.  I hope it brings a lot of joy to my household.

Sage = Good Health and a Long Life.  My sages this year have been so drought tolerant and are thriving everywhere I have them in the garden.  I hope it signals good health and a long life for my family during the pandemic and afterwards.

Wheat = Prosperity.  At the beginning of the pandemic my straw bale sprouted and a small crop of wheat was soon flourishing by my compost pile.  

Scarlet Pimpernel = Change.  Every spring this flower finds itself in my garden, along my walkways and places where I least expect it.  I have a new patch of it coming up in a recently planted flowerbed.  I hope this brings good change.  We could all use it.  

Definitely a well written book.  The Language of Flowers was a fun discovery. 

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Time to Polish Up Your Resume: Ideas, Resources, Templates

With little warning, the pandemic has thrown many people into job search mode.  Many of my readers are finding themselves starting over, looking for a job, any job.  To have a fighting chance at landing a suitable position, now's the time to get the job hunt going in full force.  First item of business:  Get your resume updated.  

I've often written about how to make a great resume.  I do think you can write your own resume, and here's how.   I've also compiled my other resume writing advice here

To get started, use a resume template.  Some good ones I've mentioned in the past are on  Recently I have learned about Resume Genius.  They have some great templates and also information about how to write your resume, what to put on it, and how to format it.  I enjoyed their advice on The One Page Resume and The Two Page Resume.  I'm a fan of a one pager, but know that it is tough for an experienced professional to get everything on one page, so I'll concede to a two page resume if completely necessary, just make sure the first page counts!  And don't have the dreaded one-and-about-a-half-page resume.  If you need two pages, fill both pages up.

Not everyone is up for writing their own resume.  With COVID, resume writers are coming out of the woodwork, and plenty of them aren't worth the fee they charge you for a mediocre resume.  Robin Ryan wrote a great article for Forbes Careers about how to avoid getting duped when hiring a resume writer.  Robin is a resume writer, and encourages you to do your homework on the person who will be making your prime marketing piece for your next career move.   

Robin recommends finding a resume writer who has strong referrals, someone who has hiring and work experience in your industry, and someone who takes the time to learn about you and turns around the resume to you in a timely manner.  

Robin also wrote about five resumes mistakes to avoid.  This was all spot on with what I experience with resumes.  While taking her advice, here's another great article from Rebecca Henninger of the Forbes Coaches Council about what your resume should look like in 2020.  

If you find yourself out of a job, treat your job hunt like a job.  Have daily tasks, work with your professional network, and stay on top of industry news.  And keep on keeping on.  If there was ever a time when people will understand that you are job hunting, now is the time.

And don't forget to send me your new resume!

Thursday, August 20, 2020

WineTalent Classifieds: Viticulturist in the Salinas Valley

WineTalent is working with our client, Scheid Family Wines, to find a Viticulturist to manage the company’s vineyard farming and viticulture practices. 
About the Company:  Scheid Family Wines is a family owned and operated vineyard and winery with 11 estate vineyards on over 4,000 acres in the Salinas Valley.  Scheid Family Wines is committed to farming the highest quality grapes.  All of the vineyards are certified sustainable by the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance.
About the Position:  The Viticulturist manages the Scheid Family Wines vineyard farming and viticulture practices. The Viticulturist collaborates and works closely with vineyard management and the viticulture team. This individual will utilize their technical viticulture expertise and solid agricultural techniques to promote vine health and sustainability, crop yield and the quality of the fruit that is produced. The Viticulturist maintains and continues to develop Scheid Family Wines’ commitment to sustainable farming practices.

  • Manage the Scheid Family Wines (SFW) vineyard farming and viticulture practices including the following:
  • Establish and manage mechanical based precision viticulture programs and farming
  • Collaborate on the planning and budgeting, implement the plan and manage the costs
  • Oversee pruning, tying, shoot thinning, shoot positioning, trellis and canopy manipulation, suckering, weed control, cultivation, crop estimation, crop thinning, irrigation scheduling, nutrition, pest and fungicide management and harvest coordination
  • Coordinate and implement training and education for ranch managers and vineyard labor force regarding education of basic viticulture, mechanical farming, and precision agriculture techniques
  • Active member of the viticulture team providing input from core competencies such as vine nutrition, pest management and other inputs that strengthen the team’s approach to farming decisions.
  • Develop and implement nutrition programs and validate results through petiole analysis and other diagnostic processes
  • Collaborate with viticulture and technology teams to establish data flows in a Precision Agriculture management setting, turning data into action
  • Support key seasonal data collection efforts, including crop estimations
  • Continued development of the viticulture program documents
  • Develop and implement pest prevention programs including soil borne pests, mealy bugs, mites, leaf hopper, fungicides, Botrytis, Eutypa and other related diseases
  • Manage trial blocks and experimental varieties and techniques
  • Trial blocks for quality enhancements
  • Nutrition trials and all trials that are advancing wine quality
  • Work directly with the winemaking team in establishment of specific wine quality needs relative to mechanical viticulture and precision agriculture.

  • BS or MA Degree in viticulture, plant science, horticulture, agronomy or related discipline
  • 3 to 5 years viticulture experience or combination with directly related vineyard experience
  • Experience with vineyard operations, farming, or related agricultural experience a plus

  • PCA license or ability to gain a PCA license within the first 12 months preferred
  • Demonstrated solid knowledge of viticulture practices
  • Strong partnering skills and ability to work with a team
  • Computer skills including MS Office, and practical competence with agriculture-oriented computer applications
  • Rudimentary understanding of winemaking to assist with understanding winegrowing goals and fruit/wine quality grading
  • Ability to work overtime (extended hours and weekends) as required
  • Ability to understand any and all safety requirements
  • Clean DMV record

  • This is a full-time, salaried position.
  • Competitive compensation depending on experience plus benefits including medical, dental and 401K

About WineTalent:  WineTalent is a wine industry focused recruitment company. We work closely with our clients and our job seekers to find the right fit of talents, experience and work environment. All inquiries will be kept strictly confidential.

Please email resume and all inquiries to  

WineTalent:  The Right People for the Job

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

WineTalent Classifieds: Estate Director for Luxury Santa Barbara Winery

 WineTalent is working with our Santa Barbara Winery Client to find an Estate Director.

About the company: WineTalent’s client is a luxury estate winery producing highly sought-after wines from a highly regarded AVA. The winery has a stellar team including an estate Vineyard Manager, Winemaker and a world-renowned consulting winemaker. Join the team in an important role that is integral to the success of the winery. 

About the opportunity: WineTalent is seeking an Estate Director to oversee the sales and marketing of the business to increase the brand awareness with consumers and trade professionals.


  • Provide day-to-day and longer-term general management leadership to the business.
  • Lead the sales and marketing activities to position the brand in the luxury product arena.
  • Accountable for winery's revenue, expenses and profitability.
  • Oversee marketing initiatives to ensure increased customer engagement including winery visits, wine club membership and wine purchases.
  • Manage wholesale sales including strategic initiatives.
  • Emphasize direct trade selling with all staff.
  • Manage outsourced consultants in digital, social marketing and content development.
  • Create routine and specific reporting to keep ownership engaged with business developments and performance.
  • Ensure sales and marketing plans match production levels and budgeted revenue generation.
  • Consistently deliver high touch consumer engagement across all channels.
  • Management of human and financial resources.

What the Job Requires:

  • Senior level management experience in a wine focused business.
  • At least 3 years of winery experience in a management, hospitality, and marketing role.
  • Bachelor's degree in Business, Finance, Communications, Marketing or related is strongly preferred. Work history in lieu of a degree will also be considered.
  • Extensive wine business experience to create successful plans, budgets, forecasts and initiatives for the winery.
  • Thorough understanding of DTC and wholesale sales channels.
  • Strong communication skills.
  • Proven personnel management to ensure collaborative team environment.
  • Luxury product and/or lifestyle marketing experience.

About WineTalent: WineTalent is a wine industry focused recruitment company. We work closely with our clients and our job seekers to find the right fit of talents, experience and work environment.

WineTalent: The Right People for the Job

All inquiries will be kept strictly confidential

To apply please email your resume to   

Friday, August 7, 2020

When Living in the Era of COVID, Pack a Picnic

Everything I do now is premeditated.  If I'm planning to go to the store. I have to think about what hours are the least crowded, what I need, is there anything I need to stock up on, and do I have a mask?  If I want to go for a hike I have to think about things like when are the fewest people on the trail, do I need a mask, do I have a snack and water since any snack bar or kiosk may be closed?  And don't even get me started on public bathrooms.  I'm really tired from having to think through all these small details before I do anything.  It's enough to keep me home.  BUT I NEED TO GET OUT OF THE HOUSE!  

Being in the wine world, marketing has often shown beautiful people enjoying picnics in the vineyards.  Companies in wine country specialize in making and delivering gourmet picnic baskets for tourists to enjoy at the location of their choice.  Having picnicking spots has made some wineries hugely successful (especially this one in the Napa Valley).  

Reading Julia Child's autobiography, My Life In France, she and her husband, Paul, greatly enjoyed packing a picnic basket and a thermos of coffee before heading out over the French countryside for the day.  And their picnic was often accompanied by a nice bottle of wine.  Thinking of Julia and Paul relaxing along a waterway or near a beautiful old castle has been seared into my mind for years.  

Having worked from home for over 16 years now, during my lunch break I often watch cooking shows.  Years ago Michael Chiarello had his Easy Entertaining cooking show on Food Network.  I caught his Biking Picnic, and learned how to make a delicious grilled chicken sandwich to throw in my bike's pannier for a roadside picnic.  For years I made the sandwich, thinking of having a bike picnic.  When life gives me a pandemic, I pack my picnic basket. 

To GET OUT OF THE HOUSE I've been coordinating cycling trips with my pod posse.  My friends and I synchronize our watches and all show up at a predetermined spot early the next morning.  Unloading bikes, getting sunblocked and then clicking shoes into our pedals, we are soon exploring new areas.  This cycling posse has turned into a great group of friends who all enjoy getting out in the sunshine and seeing new sights.  They are also all good conversationalists, a bonus when pedaling together for a few hours.  

Cycling in the era of a pandemic has meant that afterwards we can't stop by the local cafe or brewery to grab lunch and a cold drink.  Here's where the picnic comes in.  We all bring something to contribute and bring out our coolers after the ride.  We've been enjoying submarine sandwiches, lavash rolled sandwiches, muffins, fresh fruit and cookies.  Washing those down with a cold local brew really makes the meal.  Being outside on a picnic blanket with friends, socially distanced, makes this pandemic a bit easier to digest.  

I'm finding that picnicking really scratches that communal dining itch I've been suffering from these days.  I hope you go get yourself a pic-a-nic basket sometime soon.