Ode to a Wine Teacher

Vinted on July 1, 2010 binned in commentary, wine appreciation

I could tell that I wasn’t quite myself based on the number of business cards in my backpack.

There were dozens of those little cards left, staring back at me when I opened my pack.  Cards that I should have given away to friends old and new at the Wine Bloggers Conference in Walla Walla.  The “normal” Joe would have been handing out those cards left and right. Instead, they were practically shouting their futility – after all, what good are they to me? I already know who I am.

It wasn’t the fact that I had been in a new place for the first time, seeing new faces (I’m well used to that scenario); it also wasn’t the fact that back home one of our 100+ year-old trees came down on our neighbors garage in a fierce storm, cleaving it nearly into two (no one was hurt, apart from the trees).  The reason I wasn’t myself was that my teacher was dying.

My teacher was my dog, Sam.  He passed away while I was at the conference (if you were in attendance and I appeared out of it or seemed dismissive, please understand that it wasn’t you, it was most definitely me).

Sam was pretty sprightly for a guy in his 80s (people years, of course), still weighing in at 85 lbs. of mostly muscle.  Still fairly strong, too (he had once accidentally broken my left hand when we were out for a run).  Stubborn, too – in fact, I used to joke that I could sum up Sam’s thoughts in one sentence (“Hey guys – this is what I want to do now”).

Our experience with Sam was more Marley and Me than Lassie – he had a penchant for stealing bread, licking the icing off of cakes on the kitchen counter, eating through metal cans of dog food, and practically destroying the house during thunderstorms.  BUT… he was one of the sweetest souls I’ve ever known.

Sam taught me a lot about how to really appreciate wine (yes, I’m serious – read the post).  But his greatest lessons were in teaching me compassion and patience – the latter being something that I’ve often cited as the ‘secret sauce’ of wine blogging (and life in general, really; yes, I’m serious – watch the vid).

My only real regret is not that I wasn’t there to say goodbye when Sammy passed – it’s that I wasn’t the quickest study when it came to fully grasping all of those lessons in compassion and patience that Sammy tried to teach me.

Here’s to a friend, a sweet soul, an old teacher – long may his lessons be remembered.






  • Sasha

    This is lovely. And I'm so sorry to hear he's gone. Loved comparing dog "notes" and pics with you at TasteCamp…and hope you'll think about getting another guy (or girl) when the time is right.

  • fredric koeppel

    I'm so sorry. One of our dogs — one of the GOOD ones — died two weeks ago and there are spaces in the house that feel vacant.

  • Jenny

    I am sorry for your loss. Animals are a part of the family and losing them is like losing a best friend at times. Also 9 seems so young doesn't it? We lost our lab mix a few months ago at that age and it still hurts to walk in the door and not have the big tail wagging to greet you.

  • 1WineDude

    Thanks, all. I know I'm in good company on this, and I've got a new appreciation for dog owners. Cheers!

  • Brian

    Damn dude! That is sad. Well, let's raise our collective glasses to the passing of your greatest teacher, may he rest in peace!


  • @karmeno

    Chills dude- this gave me chills. Dogs are such an important part of our lives; I'm so happy to have a very unruly, misbehaved one of my own.

  • Joe Power

    Sorry to hear of your loss, Joe. Unfortunately, I had to write a very similar post last year. Sometimes it's the incorrigible ones that get to us the most. Maybe we can raise a glass to our bad dogs next week, if that's not too maudlin.

  • 1WineDude

    Thanks, all!

    Joe – deal, let's toast the pooches next week!

  • WeeRee San

    As I hope you remember, all are dogs have been rescue dogs. Max the little poodle/bichon was first…thought he was a Jack Russel. Then Belle, the stately wonderful Dalmation that always amazed us at her composure and beauty. And now Maddy…a destroyed English Springer Spaniel we have slowly taken back from the abyss and is now a happy, and recently joyful member of our family. I only tell you all this so you know I feel your pain deep inside. We had to put Max and Belle down…the worst moments of my life. I only hope Sam went peacefully.

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Bill – Sam did go peacefully. And Belle was an AMAZING pooch!

  • WeeRee San

    I forgot to add…the pic of the family with Sam is awesome….I know you will cherish that forever.

  • Chris

    Beautiful tribute to Sam, Joe. I'm sure Sam would have loved to have eaten your trophy for Best Wine Blog. Gnaw on it a little for him.

    • 1WineDude

      HA! Thanks, Chris.

  • @suburbanwino

    No fun. Dogs are the ultimate givers of endless affection (unlike those bastard cats). No arguments, no emotional roller-coasters. Having a part of the family who does nothing but bring loyalty and love is a really tough one to lose. Sorry, dude, and totally understand the melancholy disposition. Hope to catch you in a more chipper mood down the road someday!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks, Joe – great meeting you at WBC10!

  • @GrottoCellars

    So sorry for your loss :( We recently put one of our dogs down and it was heartbreaking. May he live long in your memory.

  • @k2whino

    So sorry bro. I can totally see where you are coming from – my wee beasties are the only ones that can keep me sane in this hurried business, even my wife can't pull that off. I've had to put two down in recent years due to bad health and it tore me to shreds. Our animals are pretty amazing beings.

  • Vinogirl

    I am so sad for you.
    I think the first time you ever commented on my blog was on a post with a picture of my Vinodog 1…I knew then that you had good taste in wine and dogs. I hope that you will soon just remember all the fun times you had with your poochie.

  • bigfatwine

    Appreciative, faithful, unabiding commitment…….common qualities in our pets, not so common amongst people. Thanks for sharing your heart.

  • eaglesnestwine

    Dang! Joe well that explains the funk. One of the certainties ALL dog owners face is that you will outlive SEVERAL dogs in a lifetime. Do you allow yourself to the endure the eventual pain – again, with another dog – with his/her unique personality never-quite-the-same? Most folks do. Enjoy the memories of Sam. Bro hugs to you.

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