Will Run for Wine

By Mary Cressler

A little more than three years ago, my husband and I packed up everything, rented out our house and moved to New England. The pandemonium of moving 3,000 miles away from family and community was not easy, especially when I was six months pregnant — with twins. 

We were leaving our first house, our initial attempt at composing a home that reflected our personalities, histories and goals. It was where I began my career in wine. It was also where I learned to love running.

During our first year on the East Coast, I put my wine education business on the backburner to focus on being a new mom. The vigorous routine of taking care of twin boys is not insignificant, to say the least. And yet, during that process, I decided to train for and run my first full marathon. The experience was intense and exhilarating. 

While I am grateful for the opportunities I had while living in New England — there were many — we decided to return to Oregon just a few short weeks ago. Back to the large picture window in the living room that lets in the summer light. Back to the trail leading to my favorite running path along the Columbia River. Back to the place where I began my business and plan to continue.

So when my friend Thomas Houseman, winemaker at Anne Amie Vineyards, invited me to race on his team for the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon on Sept. 1, I agreed without hesitation.  I couldn’t think of a better way to celebrate my return to Oregon and the wine community than by participating in this event.

Wine and running: Two things I find strangely similar.

It is difficult to explain what drives me to run long distances, just as it is often challenging to put into words why I love wine. And I don’t mean just the beverage, but the industry, the people and the community.

It’s not like I woke up one day and just ran a marathon. Like wine, running 26.2 miles takes time, patience, maintenance, focus and discipline. To do it well it requires passion and, above all, dedication. It means rising early and going on a training run, even though I might be too tired or sore. It means learning to enjoy the effort, enduring the hardships and building my skill.  I take care of myself and eat right because I know it will help my performance.

And even if weeks or months of training goes perfectly, things can always go wrong on race day.

There are always factors beyond
my control. Just as I could have a perfect training season and then suffer debilitating pain at the halfway point of the marathon, a vintage, after a perfect spring and summer, can be destroyed by fall rain or a single hailstorm. Like a runner, a winemaker is well aware of the potential risks. 

Skill, perseverance and community can help me to the finish line, just as a winemaker’s know-how, patience and a skilled crew is essential each vintage.

There are people in my life who don’t understand why I dedicate my career to wine education and writing. Others can’t fathom why I participate in long distance races — the latter often is compared to raw physical torture; the former, erroneously interpreted to all I do is hang out, drink wine and write about it.

I’m relieved and honored to be back in a community that understands.  

And I’m thrilled to be running the Oregon Wine Country Half Marathon on Anne Amie’s Team. Incidentally, winemaker Thomas Houseman is equally passionate about running, exactly as he is the very closures he puts on his wines — as reflected in the team’s name “The Stelvinators.”    

I don’t anticipate breaking any records on Sept. 1 — I hear the course is rather hilly — but I will be there, and I will run my best. More importantly, I will run to celebrate my return to Oregon surrounded by the two things that drive me the most.  

And when the race is over, I will rush back to Portland in order to catch an afternoon flight to Bordeaux, France, to visit winemakers in what is perhaps one of the most famous wine regions in the world — one that experienced some of the worst hail storms in recent history this past August.   

My friends and family think I’m crazy for attempting so much in one day. Perhaps, I am. Or, perhaps, some things just can’t be explained.

Mary Cressler is a certified sommelier, writer, wine educator, mom of twin toddlers, runner and founder of Vindulge Wine Education and Consulting. She resides in Portland.

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