Emily Rosenberg writes that she ‘feels very fortunate to have an abundance of amazing people and great wine in her life. She has been known to pursue her passions head on, starting with imbibing everything she could about Japanese history, language, and culture. After receiving a Bachelor’s degree in East Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, Emily moved to Japan, where she worked in a local government office and explored the country for four years. Upon returning to New York City, Emily continued her US-Japan relations work while feeling the initial draw to the study of wine. She completed WSET awards 1—3 through the International Wine Center, and by the advanced level, she knew that it was time to dive deeper into the wine industry.In 2017, Emily took the plunge and left NYC to spend a year in New Zealand, getting her first taste of wine-related work in Hawke’s Bay and Central Otago vineyards and tasting rooms. After many incredible learning experiences in beautiful places, she returned in August, 2018, to where it all began (as you’ll read in her essay), Napa. Emily is currently working as a harvest intern at Cakebread Cellars.’ This is her (unedited) entry in our seminal wine competition.
My story does not begin with wine, but it does begin with a flame.
The delights of visiting a wine region, with its tours, tastings, and vineyard vistas, is rather lost on a six-year-old child. I was on a visit to the Napa Valley with my parents and older brother. My mother, a self-taught wine expert and enthusiast, had for a time been a freelance wine writer and maintained numerous connections in places like Napa.
We had come to the Hess Collection on Mount Veeder, and as part of our visit we explored its contemporary art galleries, which are freely open to the public, separate from the winery’s tasting options. There, we caught our first glimpse of the “flaming typewriter”, as we came to call it, which immediately had my brother and I entranced. The heavy Underwood typewriter stood on a white pedestal in front of a stone and mortar wall; in place of paper and the letters that should strike there to form words and sentences was a gas burner that sent flames licking up across the width of the paper table. It burned quietly, steadily, and inexorably. Why would someone light a typewriter on fire? And why was it burning in a way that the typewriter was never actually destroyed? To us children, it was the most curious and intriguing sight.
I don’t remember much else from that trip, apart from enjoying seeing a mechanized bottling line in action and being somewhat impressed by the grass-covered, bunker-like site that was Codorniu Napa (now Artesa Winery). But our family spoke of the flaming typewriter for many years to come. As time passed, and as our family made other visits to other California wine regions, I eventually began to understand that bearing witness to that blazing piece of art illuminated my earliest consciousness of the world of wine. Everything that followed seemed to build on that experience—the time I carried my littlest cousin on my hip through the damp darkness of the barrel cellar at Ridge Vineyards; when my mother popped the cork on a bottle of Pommery Cuvée Louise from my birth year for my 16th birthday; when I finally decided to pluck my first wine book (Oz Clarke’s The Essential Wine Book ) off of the family shelves.
Wine followed me as my life unfolded. The career path I chose took me far away from vineyards and tasting rooms, to New York City and Japan and back again. But even as I engaged in other pursuits, I came to understand some of the reasons why the adults of my childhood found such pleasure in the vinous stuff, and I felt the inevitable pull towards it. In wine there is a seemingly unbounded opportunity for learning, exploring the world, and making connections with a diversity of people. It marks the greatest occasions—celebrations, reunions, even farewells—with those who are dearest to us. We honor the uniqueness of vintage, place, and creativity of style in the irreplaceable moments of our lives.
Several days ago, as I prepared to write this, I revisited the Hess Collection, and for the first time in 25 years I stood before that flaming typewriter. As tour groups departed the atrium to enter the tasting room, the second-floor art gallery fell quiet, and I could hear the subtle hissing of gas as it fed the flame, rippling softly in the air conditioning.
The typewriter was unchanged, but I was no longer a six-year-old child standing before it. I know that, at the time of my first visit, I could not in any way have envisioned that I would come here again, many years later, to contemplate Leopoldo Maler’s Hommage, as the flaming typewriter is rightly known, as a first-time harvest cellar intern for an esteemed Napa winery, and as a career-changer who had finally come around to the fact that this was probably the path for me all along. And yet, somehow, it felt like a sort of homecoming, a long time in the making.
Now, on the cusp of the 2018 harvest in the Napa Valley, I hope to take into my cellar internship all of the inquisitiveness and openness of my six-year-old self, who once marveled at an old typewriter aflame, and there experienced what may have been the beginning of an awakening to the world of wine. When next I pay a visit to the typewriter, I will be able to say that I have made wine with my own hands, and hope to have further insight into how I can build on this experience along my career path, continue to learn, and make meaningful contributions within the wine industry. I am comfortable knowing that it is okay not to have all the answers right in this moment — as long as the flame, glowing ever steadily, remains to guide me.