Handpicking is still practiced by the highest quality producer

Matt didn’t stay long. After I told him about lunch and the limo and my call to HR, he excused himself. I wasn’t sure how to read his response. I wasn’t sure if I still had my job and Matt clearly had no influence in the matter, so I placated my anxiety by focusing on the work at hand.

While I wait for dinner, I studied up for day three by reading Wine For Dummies. I love to drink wine, that doesn’t mean I’m an expert on writing about wine. After a few days following the winemakers, I feel like I’m enrolled in a sommelier school. I’m resorting to my old tricks with the closest thing in viticulture to Cliff Notes. It starts with picking grapes.

In the big box vineyards, around harvest season you’ll see giant machines working day and night to harvest grapes at their peak. The high-quality producers, like Noble Vineyards, still hand pick their grapes. I was raised in this firm to be handpicked for Managing Director. There are no guarantees in life.

The word fair is one most of us dropped in middle school after the teachers started handpicking teams for dodgeball. The kids thought it wasn’t fair that someone had to have a weakling like me on the team. The teachers didn’t play by those rules, and neither does Bryson Keller.

Our CEO picked Ridley Yarborough, the most hated human being in the Bay Area. He represents the old school – graduate of an east coast, less-than-ivy-league business school who took on a PR career as a consolation prize when he didn’t cut the mustard with all the B-school grads duking it out for top marketing jobs.

He cruised on out to the Bay Area thinking he’s God’s gift to business and that M.B.A. earned him all the entitlement that comes with someone who has settled for something less than they were groomed for. He wears his insecurity on his Brooks Brothers jacket like a badge of honor. Does he even own muck boots? Surely not.

A quality winemaker works as soon as he has the grapes in his hands. Right. Yes. Matt started grooming me as his successor as soon as he saw me crushing it as a junior account executive. I was destined for the MD job and raised in the firm to lead our accounts and to form our culture. I’ve spent the past decade creating trust with our team and….

Grapes begin to deteriorate as soon as they leave the vine. I should never have come here. I should have gone in to the office last Friday and confronted Bryson Keller. At the very least I could have told the story to Matt. Why did I call HR? All they did was warn Bryson so he could form a defensive in my absence. What was I thinking? With that thought, my throat tightened.  I needed to contact my teams right away. I called Brenda first.

“Where have you been?” Brenda whispered loudly when she picked up the phone.

“What? You know exactly where I am. I spoke to you on Friday.” I was stunned.

“That was before Bozo came into town.” Brenda, always the smart ass. I wasn’t sure if the clown she referred to was Bryson or Ridley.

“When did Bryson pull this stunt?” I fished.

“Yesterday afternoon. Matt announced his retirement and Bozo announced his replacement,” she explained.

“I though Bozo was Ridley,” I deadpanned.

“They can form a circus together as far as I care,” Brenda was pissed. “Keller told them you had declined the position. People are working on their resumes, Nora.”

I had to stop the flow of blood. “Brenda, you have to do what you can to stop people from jumping. Assure them I am coming back. Holy Duck, it’s only been three days.”

“Lots of things can happen in three days,” she reminded me of the Easter service we attended together. “Well, I’m not Jesus, but I’m coming back. Stem the bleeding, will you?”

With that I hung up and sent emails to my teams on customary account issues, assuring them it’s business as usual. I don’t have time to call every one of them right now and I don’t want to put them in the position of talking to me with the enemy present.

It’s time to prepare for war.

It’s also time for dinner.


A quality winemaker works as soon as he has the grapes in his hands. When you are going through the crushing, it might be easy to forget that you were handpicked before you were put through the process.  Life happens to you or it happens in you.

Have you been present enough to recognize the crushing as a process for refining you?