I’m a Yankee, with really deep Yankee roots. My maiden name is “Clarke.”

  • Grandmother Gertrude Haines Clarke was the daughter of the late Governor William T. Haines of Waterville, Maine, my great grandfather.
  • Great grandmother Patience Blackstone Clarke, who married Josiah Clarke, was the granddaughter of the Reverend William Blackstone. Blackstone was sent to the new world by King James to preach his version of the Bible. Blackstone landed in New England and settled on a piece of property that today we call Beacon Hill and the Boston Commons. My great grandfather (11 generations removed) settled Boston, and then went on to settle Cumberland, Rhode Island.

How much more Yankee can anyone get?

In that tradition, I was a member of the Lewiston Rotary Club (perfect attendance) for two years. With this one I successfully created a community garden, working in concert with the Lewiston-Auburn Chamber of Commerce. Then, I became a member of the Portland, Maine Rotary Club (perfect attendance) for five years. With this one, in 1991, I set up a scholarship for immigrants and refugees through the ESL program at the University of Southern Maine, which still exists today.

Then… I moved to Sonoma County. OMG, what culture shock evolved from that move. I lived in business suits during my Maine professional days, and then joined a California Rotary where many of the guys came to the meetings in their shorts and tropical shirts. I didn’t last long.

My job as a district sales manager allowed for me to travel all around the US and into Puerto Rico, where people still wore suits. All of the casual living just seemed nuts. Although, as people came to Belvedere, when I was organizing and actualizing their National Sales Meetings, and everyone wanted to know what was appropriate dress wear.  “Wine Country Casual” always seemed to be everyone’s answer. It took me years to be able to wrap my mouth around that one, let alone my mind.

Now, it’s 25 years later… I’ve relaxed my mind, my mouth, and my Puritanical thoughts (but history is what it is).

Every single event that I put on I’m asked by at least one person, “What’s the dress code.” If find myself constantly answering, “Wine Country Casual” (WCC). It doesn’t matter what the event is, I just know… California’s wine country events have a relaxed state of mind. Being that this state is the sixth largest world’s economy, don’t let WCC fool you, though. People out here are very serious about wine country in an economic sense; but when they’re putting on a gathering, stuffy walls come down, and the casual ones go up.

When you’re planning to attend anything related to the wine business, if it’s black tie, you’ll be told… otherwise, dress down so you’ll blend into the WCC crowd, and not look you just arrived from Boston.