Tasting Room Tips to Learn about Wine with Jaime Lewis, Host of the Consumed Podcast



How can tasting rooms help you enjoyably expand your knowledge of wine? Which experiences led me to perfect the art of the outsider at a young age? Why does capturing our experiences in words have such a profound impact on us? What can you learn from side-by-side tastings?

In this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast, I’m being interviewed by journalist Jaime Lewis for her podcast, CONSUMED.

You can find the wines we discussed here.


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  • Which experiences led me to perfect the art of the outsider at a young age?
  • How did my mother influence my love for writing?
  • What was Jaime’s inspiration for becoming a wine writer?
  • Where do writing and computer programming have a lot of parallels?
  • What role did California play in my love for wine?
  • How can tasting rooms help you enjoyably expand your knowledge of wine?
  • What can you learn from side-by-side tastings?
  • How did a bottle of Brunello transform my perception of wine?
  • Why is it so powerful to capture our experiences in words?
  • What it means to “call up” and how did that help me to kick-start my writing career?
  • How has the freelance writing landscape changed in the years since I started?


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About Jaime Lewis

Jaime writes, speaks and podcasts about the good life.

After an arts management career that included employment with Architecture New York Magazine, the San Francisco Symphony and the San Luis Obispo Symphony, Jaime chose to follow her nose (and palate) into the wine industry. Earning a Wine & Spirits Education Trust Advanced certification in 2007, she set off to eat, drink and write her way across the major wine regions of Italy and New Zealand, including stints in Barolo, Alba, Bolgheri, Chianti, Marlborough and Martinborough.

Jaime has participated in nearly every moment of a wine’s life, from planting and bottling to selling. In addition to blogging about her personal year-long journey through the world, Jaime has written product, promotional and web copy for acclaimed wineries including Robert Mondavi, Firestone, Tantara, Herman Story, Laetitia, and Sans Liege. She has blogged for Parker Sanpei Lifestyle Public Relations, Villa San-Juliette Winery, Spinaca Farms and Challenge Dairy; and her editorial work has appeared in publications that include Wine Enthusiast, Fathom Magazine, Life & Thyme, Vegetarian Times, ITALY Magazine, Santa Barbara Independent, The Tasting Panel Magazine, SOMM Journal, The Clever Root, and Edible Santa Barbara, among others.

Jaime is the former managing editor of Edible SLO Magazine; a food columnist for 805 Living and SLO Life Magazines, and the former Central Coast reporter for Wines & Vines Magazine. A fellow at the Symposium for Professional Wine Writers (2018) at Meadowood Napa Valley and the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, Jaime is a graduate of Vassar College, where she earned degrees in art history and music.

When not writing, Jaime podcasts at CONSUMED and teaches journalism at Cal Poly State University.




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Natalie MacLean 0:00
There’s such a great education to be had in a tasting room. Taste and ask the person pouring the wine what’s special about this or telling me about this. And the side by side tasting is so illuminating. It’s how things really jump out at you the differences. So educational.

Jaime Lewis 0:18
I think that a deep love of wine really comes from doing side by side tastings.

Natalie MacLean 0:23
Yeah. When we go out for dinner, like ask for two sample tastings and use that to choose. But I’m also learning at the same time. You get a little taste of that side by side when you do that.

Natalie MacLean 0:44
Do you have a thirst to learn about wine, the love stories about wonderfully obsessive people, hauntingly beautiful places, and amusingly awkward social situations? That’s the blend here on the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. I’m your host, Natalie Maclean. And each week, I share with you unfiltered conversations with celebrities in the wine world, as well as confessions from my own tipsy journey as I write my third book on this subject. I’m so glad you’re here.

Natalie MacLean 1:19
Now pass me that bottle please. And let’s get started. Welcome to Episode 213. How can tasting rooms help you expand your knowledge of wine? Which experiences led me to perfect the art of the outsider as a child? Why does capturing our experiences in words have such a profound impact on us? And what can you learn from side by side wine tastings? You’ll get all those tips and stories in this episode of the Unreserved Wine Talk podcast. This time Jamie Lewis, host of the podcast Consumed, is interviewing me.

Now a quick update on my upcoming memoir Wine Witch on Fire: Rising from the Ashes of Divorce, Defamation and Drinking Too Much. So last week, I shared with you why I changed some names in the book to protect their privacy. This week, I’ll talk about the people whose names I had changed initially but then reverted back to their actual names in later drafts. I really struggled with this issue. A big part of my story is about getting attacked online, both through social media and on various websites. At first, I thought why give these trolls a spotlight in my book when attention is exactly what they crave. My intention though was not to shame them or to seek revenge, it was and still is simply to tell my story so that others experiencing something similar will feel less alone. However, when quoting from various sources, whether online or in print, proper attribution includes the person’s full name and publication. I learned that the hard way back in 2012. So I’ve included the full names and sources, whether it’s a tweet, a blog post or podcast comment.

Here’s a review from Katherine Nichols, a beta reader from Carlsbad, California “Wow, what a fantastic read. I could feel myself getting sucked into the horrible drama and wanted to help Natalie kick some butt. This is a must read whether you’ve been trolled on social media  – who hasn’t – or just want to see how one woman handled her world crumbling but managed to just keep swimming. Brava. Four stars”. Thank you, Catherine. I posted a link to a blog post called Diary of a Book Launch in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/213. This is where I share more behind the scenes stories about the journey of taking this memoir from idea to publication. If you want a more intimate insider seat beside me on this journey, please let me know you’d like to become a beta reader and get a sneak peek at this manuscript. Email me at [email protected] Okay, on with the show.

Jaime Lewis 4:11
Natalie MacLean, my friend now, and my writing inspiration from so long ago.

Natalie MacLean 4:19
Soul Sister.

Jaime Lewis 4:21
I’m so glad that you’re here. And I really just, again, I can’t tell you how crazy it was to get a note from you saying hey you wanna do a podcast swap. And I was like, yes I would like to.

Natalie MacLean 4:35
You just made my day. We had such a great conversation last time on my podcast. And now here we are on your podcast.

Jaime Lewis 4:42
Yeah, so much fun. I really appreciate it. And you know, what I call Consumed is a podcast about casual conversations with eaters, drinkers, thinkers and makers across California. But you are in Canada and tell me again which city you’re in.

Natalie MacLean 4:58
I’m in Ottawa, our Capitol.

Jaime Lewis 5:01
Yeah, so I’ve been thinking how do I justify having somebody from Canada on and it occurred to me that a lot of the time Canada goes by CA and California goes by CA. So we’re basically in the same place.

Natalie MacLean 5:15
I love tenuous links that you just force to work, as a fellow control freak.

Jaime Lewis 5:21
Yes. Yes. And you did live in California for a while. So we can call it.

Natalie MacLean 5:26
Yes, I worked there. So I was frequently visiting the region, even though I was still living in Canada. But really, California was my whole entrée into the wine world. It’s how I got to know wine and all that good stuff. And I continue to drink a lot of California wine. So yeah, it’s all relevant.

Jaime Lewis 5:43
Yeah. Okay. Well, let’s back up. So you are Canadian by birth. Where did you grow up?

Natalie MacLean 5:48
Well, I usually say all over the place because we moved about 14 times by the time I was 10 years old. And officially, I was born in Toronto and then we soon moved back to Nova Scotia where all my relatives are from.  And that would be a lot of small towns in Cape Breton and the rest of the province. So I really perfected the art of the outsider or the observer, which has been profoundly great for writing. Not so much for birthday parties at the time. But I’ll still happy that was the case.

Jaime Lewis 6:21
Why did you move so much? 14 times in 10 years is a lot.

Natalie MacLean 6:25
It is. So my parents separated when I was two. My mom says we ran away from home. My father was an alcoholic, which my relatives find amusing that I now write about alcohol. Like a moth to the flame. It’s like what are you doing? But she was a school teacher. And so she had a decent job. But she, I think, was always trying to find her place in the world as a divorced Catholic in the 60s and 70s. It wasn’t an easy road. And so she moved around to various small towns teaching, taking me with her, of course. But you know we had a close bond. We did everything together except drink. Her beverage of choice was beer as was my father’s. But thank God, she was moderate. But wine back then was for fancy people. But that’s basically how we ended up moving so much before I turned 10.

Jaime Lewis 7:19
Did you have siblings?

Natalie MacLean 7:20
I didn’t. I’m so pleased with that now because. No, I’m not. We would have these great big Thanksgiving parties and so on, I’m sure. But as an only child, I’ve discovered there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. You know my mother, as I said she was Catholic, she wanted eight or nine children. She came from a family of eight siblings. And so she just didn’t get that chance because she never remarried. She dated occasionally but I scared all of them off. So I remained an only child.

Jaime Lewis

Control Freak from birth.

Natalie MacLean

Oh, absolutely. I remember coming out of church one day and she’s on the steps of the church talking to the priest. And so I ran over to the car. And then I realized her then boyfriend was coming to the car as well to wait in the car for her. And so I locked all the locks on the doors and then slid down the seat to make him look kind of crazy for rapping on the window and asking to unlock the doors. I did not.

Jaime Lewis

You are evil.

Natalie MacLean

I know. I know. But see, that’s what an only child is. Don’t come near my mother.

Jaime Lewis 8:34
But there’s something really sweet about that. Just how close you were. Is your mom no longer with us? I get that sense.

Natalie MacLean 8:40
She is. She’s still in good health.

Jaime Lewis

I’m sorry.

Natalie MacLean

No, no, she’s still with us.

Jaime Lewis 8:45
Okay, I’m sorry. You know, it’s always tricky when someone says she was this she was. You’re talking about the past tense, not so much like. You get what I’m saying.

Natalie MacLean 8:56
I do. I do. And so she’s in great health. She just turned 80. And she came up to spend Easter with us. She still lives in Nova Scotia. She’s in Halifax now. We’ll be going down there in August for a family reunion of hundreds of cousins. But, she’s still interested in what I’m doing now. And is my first eyes on anything I read. She was an English teacher.

Jaime Lewis 9:22
Oh, well that helps. Wow. So a mom who is an English teacher knows how to write and recognizes good writing, and a dad who’s an alcoholic. And then Natalie comes from that. Isn’t that interesting?

Natalie MacLean 9:37
It all came together for a great story in the end. But yeah, at the time, it did not make sense to me.

Jaime Lewis 9:42
Yeah, of course. Right. Wow. Well, so when you were little, did you have an interest? I mean, did your mom’s work influence what maybe you wanted to be as a grown up?

Natalie MacLean 9:55
To a certain extent in that I loved writing loved it, but I just didn’t have the confidence to think I could make a career of it. So I remember I did this one TV interview when I was eight years old because I was a highland dancer and it was the local TV station, you know, interviewing people in the community. And I’d won a competition. And so they asked me, what do you want to be when you grow up? And I said a brain surgeon or an astronaut. So it was obvious that I thought it was easier to get to the moon than to earn a living via writing.

Jaime Lewis 10:30
Shoot for the stars literally.

Natalie MacLean

Yeah, just don’t write about it.

Jaime Lewis

Okay, That is too funny. For me, with writing I was always a decent writer. I remember I even got an award in third grade for most creative writer. I actually have the award still, which is pretty cool. But I don’t think I had I mean I was not somebody who grew up thinking,I’m going to be a writer. I see children now. My son is 12. And I see kids in his sixth grade class who are like they identify as a writer. And that’s their goal. That’s what they want to do in life. I was never like that. I just was kind of casually okay at it. And it’s funny because my mom, speaking of great moms, my mom always pushed it just as like just nudged it a little bit. Like you’re such a good writer. Have you ever thought about, you know. And would just kind of put it out there from time to time or would encourage me to use that skill. And I did not consider becoming a writer until actually until I fell in love with wine. I did not.

Natalie MacLean 11:36
Oh really. What led you to it?

Jaime Lewis 11:40
I didn’t want to work in a restaurant. Like no way did I want to work in a restaurant. So if I wasn’t working the floor somewhere, like what’s the point of having this certificate? So I was like well I know how to write. And I love to read good wine writing. seriously yours included. And I thought, maybe that’s something I could do. That’s where it kind of germinated into the possibility of being a job for me.

Natalie MacLean 12:07
Oh wow, I love that. The later in life. I resonate with that.

Jaime Lewis 12:11
Yeah. And my mom is the first person I ask for advice about anything really. And just a shout out to good, loyal, encouraging moms.

Natalie MacLean 12:23
Absolutely. They are an inspiration. And she inspires me in the way that I am a mother to my own son, who is now 23. But the circle comes round, doesn’t it?

Jaime Lewis 12:34
What’s it like to have a 23 year old? I mean it must feel like yesterday that you had a baby.

Natalie MacLean 12:39
It was actually. Yes, I was just in my teens. No. No.

Jaime Lewis

I’m sorry. That never gets old.

Natalie MacLean

Yeah, no. hH followed his father’s path. He’s a science math guy so he’s completing his last year of computer engineering at Waterloo University. And so, you know  I’ve always tried to encourage him to write but I think once you find your strength and you’re rewarded for it – whether it’s marks in school, or praise or whatever – he kind of gravitate that way. But still I proofread everything he gives me. not that there’s a lot anymore. But the greatest gift he gives me every Christmas, and this was by request the first time, he did it is a letter. A letter to me saying, you know, his thoughts and feelings during the year, our interactions, whatever he wants to put into it. And I’ve saved those letters over the years. And it’s just I love it.

Jaime Lewis 13:38
That’s like the most precious gift ever.

Natalie MacLean 13:41
It is. It is because our words are our personality on the page. And you can save it. It means more than any other thing I ever receive during the holidays.

Jaime Lewis 13:50
Totally, we have something in common in that I believe his dad, a computer engineer as well, right?

Natalie MacLean

Yes. Exactly.

Jaime Lewis

And my husband is a computer engineer. And it’s so funny because you strike me as somebody who’s pretty right brain, meaning you know just and I could be wrong about that. But left brain I always remember what left brain is because it’s linear and logical not that you’re not linear and logical. But right brain is more big picture storytelling, nuance, and emotion a lot of the time. It’s the feeling side of the brain. Would you say that that’s accurate?

Natalie MacLean 14:27
It is. The only part where I lean on my left brain and I may not have this accurate but I also associate the left brain with words. And I find that women are drawn to words whereas men often, vastly generalizing here, are about the pictures. Or you know they’re also good spatially with math, and that is a very right brain thing. Or piano or whatever. And of course not everyone identifies as a man or a woman. There’s a whole mix out there. And so everybody’s a mixture. But yeah, what you’re saying I definitely would agree with. And wherever the words come from whatever side that is or maybe it’s just splintering down the middle, that’s also part of I think where I am.

Jaime Lewis 15:09
I mean I think that words are very much part of the left brain. I think that, especially if you’re telling a story that goes along with chronological narrative, that is linear. I mean you have to organize thoughts to be able to tell the story, whether you’re speaking or writing. My husband and I realized we very rarely can talk about what we’re doing for work. And like especially when he’s telling me what he’s doing,  he works on autonomous vehicles. And I’m just like I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, just really dumb it down for me. But when we talk, we very rarely can understand or meet in the centre and have like oh I did something similar to what you did today. But I realized recently, a lot of the time when I’m writing it really feels like problem solving in a very broad kind of way. Making a sentence that’s not you know as much as possible that’s not passive. That gets the idea across in the most elegant and efficient way possible. He’s writing code and he’s trying to do the exact same thing.

Natalie MacLean

How interesting.

Jaime Lewis

Yeah, it’s been kind of cool to see that maybe what we do isn’t on a global level, maybe it’s more similar than not.

Natalie MacLean 16:28
It is. That’s a great way to look at it. I’m gonna talk to my son about that. You know writing’s not so far off of what you’re doing with all that coding. So.

Jaime Lewis 16:38
I think a lot of the time we get very binary about that. Like, if you are a writer then there’s no way you could possibly communicate with a computer engineer and you must be so different. Like you said, I think there’s a broad spectrum there.

Natalie MacLean 16:53
Absolutely. When I met my husband you know I knew he was an engineer and I thought we’re not gonna be able to talk. But I was wrong. He was very chatty.

Jaime Lewis 17:05
Yes, as one can be. So you graduate – I’m so ignorant – do you call it high school or is it called like secondary? Or?

Natalie MacLean 17:12
It’s high school. Absolutely.

Jaime Lewis 17:15
So you graduate. And did you go to university right away?

Natalie MacLean 17:19
I did. I went to undergrad to Mount Saint Vincent University in Halifax for a Bachelor of Public Relations because my mother impressed upon me that I should always be financially independent. So don’t dilly dally with an Arts degree get something that’s going to get you a job. So I went for something very practical. Although you know now in hindsight,  I view Arts degrees is very practical, because they teach you to think, to analyze, to write, to express yourself. But at the time, I was like no what’s gonna get me a job. So I did that. And then I applied for a Rhodes scholarship at one of my professors urging and because I can never resist any sort of competition – that started like early on colouring contest, glitter glue. It’s like I’m all in it. Is there a price? Let me enter. It’s like. Okay. Anyway. So I got down to the finals, but wasn’t selected. So I decided to go to Oxford anyway and I studied the Romantic poets with Jonathan Wordsworth.

Jaime Lewis

Oh my goodness.

Natalie MacLean

There’s a brand name or a tourist trap. I’m not sure which. But he was great. And then went on to do or joined, enrolled in the LLB / MBA programme at the University of Western Ontario but dropped out of the law portion because I wanted to graduate. I met my ex husband at – well  he wasn’t my ex-husband then; he was still a potential husband –  so I met him in the MBA. And we were married for 20 years. But I wanted to graduate the same time as he was graduating. So we moved together to Toronto. He went to Citibank. I went to marketing. Procter and Gamble, Crisco, Duncan Hines Pringles, then AT&T, then finally Silicon Graphics SGI, which was the super computer company that Hollywood used to make special effects for movies like Jurassic Park. It’s now the headquarters of Google. So that.

Jaime Lewis

The building is?

Natalie MacLean

The whole campus is. It’s where Google is headquartered. So I developed a taste by going out with clients for dinner with. Developed a taste for wine and started arranging all my meetings on Fridays so I could drive up to Sonoma and Napa.  Thus my intro to wine was really California wine.

Jaime Lewis 19:39
Did you start with California wine, you know, especially when you’re going and visiting Napa? Driving what it Highway 29. I should really know that.

Natalie MacLean 19:48
Yeah, that’s a route and then there’s the 101 and then 29. And yeah, it’s been a while. It’s been a minute since I’ve done that commute. But, yes.

Jaime Lewis 19:57
Yes. And I’ve only spent really a little bit of time in Napa. I very much focused on. I’ve had far more international wine experiences, which it’s just that’s where my heart is. I love California wine, especially actually around where I live Santa Barbara County, Paso Robles.

Natalie MacLean


Jaime Lewis

And Edna Valley. Yeah. It’s lovely and elegant. But yeah, international wine that was my a-ha bottle. I’ve shared many times on this podcast that a comparison of Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a Sancerre. They’re both Sauvignon Blanc variety grapes but a vastly different treatment.

Natalie MacLean 20:36
So different. From the Loire in France. Wow.

Jaime Lewis 20:40
Exactly. Huge and just they were so so different. You almost couldn’t tell that they were related, but there’s this little thread of similarity that just it enchanted me. And it still does. I love that tasting actually, that side by side so much. But as you’re going up to Napa, I mean did you start by going to Opus One, Stag’s Leap, and the Chateau Montelena and all those biggies?

Natalie MacLean 21:07
Yes, I did because they were the marquee wines and brands, not that I knew a lot about wine. But they also had interesting tasting rooms like Francis Ford Coppola and you can see the desk of the Godfather and Dracula’s cape and so on. So I was in it for the Disney aspect of wine at first. But there’s such a great education to be had in a tasting room. As you know, Jamie, I mean you just sidle up, especially if they’re not busy and it’s a weekday or whatever, sidle up to the bar and taste and ask the person pouring the wine you know what’s special about this or tell me about this. And the side by side tasting is so illuminating. It’s how things really jump out at you the differences. Its so educational.

Jaime Lewis 21:51
Yes, the side by side is everything. And I forget that now because I don’t work in the wine industry per se. I mean I’m not working at making it or selling it. So I don’t have access to multiple bottles at the same time that are already open. Or you know I’m buying one or two bottles, maybe doing a side by side with two. But it’s usually one kind of wine from one bottle. And I really, really miss. I miss that aspect. There’s something really important. And I think that a deep love of wine really comes from doing side by side tastings. And I need to stoke that flame a little bit, I think.

Natalie MacLean 22:35
Yeah, absolutely. And the thing I do when we go out for dinner – we usually go out once a week for dinner; it’s kind of our family sport dining out –  and as often as I can ask for two sample tastings, especially if they’ve got a good buy the glass programme at the restaurant, and use that to choose. But I’m also learning at the same time. You know if they’ve got whatever and it doesn’t have to be two Pinots or two Sauvignon Blanc. It can be two wildly different wines. But still, you get a little taste of that side by side when you do that.

Jaime Lewis 23:07
Yeah. Did you have an a-ha bottle or an a-ha moment? Like it’s something specific? I feel like most people have that memory of something specific.

Natalie MacLean 23:16
Yeah. The first specific wine that was an a-ha bottle was before California that sort of got me interested in having wine when we went out to restaurants because neither of us could cook. We were a good pair. It lasted 20 years.

Jaime Lewis

So you survived.

Natalie MacLean

We had a good run. Yeah. My current partner cooks. So he cooks, I pull the corks. It’s a marriage made in gastronomic heaven.

Jaime Lewis

That is a good arrangement.

Natalie MacLean

It is. It was part of my criteria when I did the online dating. But back to your question. You know, the whole thing was we lived in Toronto in a small apartment. And we go out and we went to an Italian restaurant, which served lots of wines. And the server came up – he was the owner actually; big burly guy – and he said how about you try the Brunello? And we said okay thinking it was a pasta dish. And he brought it over with no pomp and circumstance. He uncorked it, poured it into two tumblers. There was no sniffing and approving. And I just remember bringing that tumbler glass up to my lips, but smelling it first and going whoa what is that? Was amazing. It was like all of these aromas but I had no words for it. And I tasted it and it even followed through even better. Like the oh my gosh I need to (A) I need to be able to identify what this is so I can keep having it over and over again.

Jaime Lewis


Natalie MacLean

And (B), it was a revelation because, as I said, I grew up in Nova Scotia. It was beer and whisky on the table. I had never liked either because they tasted too bitter. And even though Brunello does have a bit of a bitter taste, sometimes especially at the back, it was still far less bitter than beer or whisky. And I thought wow I finally found my alcohol. And you know I’ll just never forget that feeling, but the feeling, the wonderment but also the feeling of needing to capture it in words if I could.

Jaime Lewis 25:22
That’s so interesting that that’s where your mind went is just, I’ve got to, there’s something important about writing about an experience like that because it makes that sensory experience last to a certain extent.

Natalie MacLean 25:37
It does. And you know, we’re always searching to recapture that experience. Like that first. Nothing will ever taste like that first Brunello even though I’ve had better wine since. It’s almost like that Ratatouille scene in the cartoon movie where the critic is eating ratatouille and takes them right back to Mama’s ratatouille. Its like, as you know, our sense of smell and taste are tied directly to memory and emotion. And it will do that for you. But to your other point, Jaime, capturing experience in words, even though it may not ever fully capture it, there’s still something of a release when we can do that. You know and it doesn’t even have to be wine and food and writing a memoir. Now it can be a tough experience, but until you name and put words to that chaos or whatever it is you went through I find it just ricochets inside you. And just like what was it? But when you finally get some words around it, there’s a release and a relief, a feeling that you can partially recapture it or even move on f that’s the case.

Jaime Lewis 26:43
Yes. You know. Okay so to take it even further with the left and right brain. As a parent, there’s been a wonderful book called parenting The Whole-Brain Child, which is just about really weaving and integrating the left and right brain for kids. Because early on helps them process things that happen, situations, memories, that kind of thing. We all need that by the way. We also have to be able to bring our left and right brains together to be able to divine meaning from what we go through and let it you know jettison us into the future. But one of the best ways to process and integrate the left and right brain is to write about an experience because here you’re using your feelings, your right brain, and then you’re also using your need to linearly, chronologically tell a story. And when you do them together, I think that’s part of where that release comes from. It’s a feeling of like centeredness, wholeness. And the whole is related to health. I mean it does brings about a certain level of mental health I feel when I process something through words.

Natalie MacLean 27:52

Oh I love that. I’m feeling a little release listening to you now because I’m understanding why those two desires when they come together it’s such it like a joyous moment, you know? Yeah. Great. Thank you. This is great therapy.

Jaime Lewis 28:03
Yes, I’m very happy to do it. And it’s the evolved brain. The primal brain is the one that works from just fight or flight. And when you can link the right and left brain. Writers, what I’m trying to see is we’re far, far further ahead than any other kind of person. We are the most evolved. But we do have a leg up. That’s for sure.

Natalie MacLean 28:30
Absolutely. And I just was in on a session with the writer Anna Quinlan. You know who has written for the New York Times for several decades, has several international best selling books, and she has a new book out that is a partial memoir, partial how to do it. It’s called Write Your Life. And she aims at what she calls civilians, non-writers, and she doesn’t mean it in a snobby way. She believes everyone can benefit from writing and that we’ve moved away from writing.  Everybody used to keep a journal or people would send these long letters when we didn’t have the telephone way, way back. And she believes that the process of writing is not only cathartic but that it’s something that can help you make sense of your life and that everyone should do it or try it. And it doesn’t have to be writerly or published or anything, but that you will feel that profound sense of I don’t know peace I think.

Jaime Lewis 29:28
Yes. I’m going to look at that. Thank you for sharing that resource. And I’ll share that with your listeners, too. Well, we’re talking so much about writing. I want to know how, at what point did your work in Silicon Valley and you know all of this technical, it sounds like pretty technical marketing, how did you switch into believing that you could be a professional writer?

Natalie MacLean 29:51
I had to go without sleep for a month. I was on maternity leave. So nothing and everything made sense. So before I went on maternity leave, I become so enamoured of wine that I taken a sommelier course just for fun at night with no intention to write. But I did the whole programme. It was multiple courses. And so while I was off on maternity leave, I wanted to keep my brain engaged. In Canada, we’re very fortunate in that we have long maternity leaves. And being in an A type, I’ve never taken any vacation of course so I had six weeks accrued of that. And I was off for almost a year.

Jaime Lewis 30:30
So that’s amazing.

Natalie MacLean 30:34
It was glorious and it was great to be with my son and all of that. So my first article was pitching a local food magazine “wine on the internet”. This was back in the Palaeolithic Era, when that was actually a story angle. I know the internet. Tell us about it.

Jaime Lewis 30:51
What does that like ’98, 2000 something like that?

Natalie MacLean 30:55
Yes. So I did little case study stories about wine.com. And how easy it is to learn about wine. Look at all the blogs. So that led to a regular column in that magazine. And then I just got really old and started cold calling other editors at other magazines and newspapers. And one thing I learned at SGI was call high. Because it’s okay if you can get through to the top editor. It’s better if that person passes your referral or your query your pitch down the line rather than trying to go up. So I did that I would contact not the publisher or the editor in chief but I would contact the most senior person I could find.

Jaime Lewis

Deputy editor, yeah.

Natalie MacLean

Yeah. And that worked. I got assignments. I had fun. And by the time my maternity leave was up, I decided not to go back. I thought I could make a go of writing, even though really I was supported by my husband at the time, who was you know in venture capital thank God. But it just made sense from every perspective. I could be home with my son. I could do something that I really love to do. I finally got the vote of confidence I needed to actually do it and think I could get paid. So that’s what I did. I took the jump in.

Jaime Lewis 32:15
We need those breaks I think. We need those you know, whether self imposed or through something like maternity leave, a chance to separate from life as we know it. I think that really helps to kind of crystallize okay what do I want to do? And how could I go about starting a career? I really believe in that. I mean that is good advice I think for any writer. If you are able  if you’re trying to get out of something like a nine to five job or whatever it is that you do that you’re trying to get out of, I would say do the homework first. Like so you had already been studying for a sommelier course. And I did the same thing nights and weekends I was studying. So do your homework first and then either impose a brake on yourself. You know save up the money to be able to take some time and just pitch like hell. I will say it’s harder now than it was when you were starting. Have you experienced that? Well, you probably don’t have to because you’ve made a reputation for yourself already. But starting from nothing is very tough right now.

Natalie MacLean 33:20
It is very tough. So back then there were far more print publications and paying publications. These day a lot of folks just want you to do it for the exposure. But you know overexposure can get you killed if you’re out in the frosty Canadian north. It’s like that’s not going to pay the bills. So it was a different landscape back then. And these days, I write for only one magazine today because I focus all my efforts on my own platform, you know the website and that sort of thing. And that’s how I earn my living is through my own platform. I was fortunate to have that intersection between technology and the writing to understand that having a website was important, eventually mobile apps and the rest of it. So my timing was very fortunate. Today, it is much harder to break in. And I do have a number of women who I’ve tried to mentor and have put into columns that I used to write because it’s just so hard to even break in. And you know even a high profile nonpaying column sometimes it’s hard to get you know just so called exposure. So yeah, it’s a different world. Its a very different world

Natalie MacLean 34:31
Well, there you have it. I hope you enjoyed my chat with Jamie. In the show notes, you’ll find my email contact, the full transcript of my conversation with her, links to Jimmy’s website and podcast, and where you can find the live stream video version of these conversations on Facebook and YouTube Live every Wednesday at 7pm. You’ll also find a Link to my free Ultimate Guide to Wine and Food Pairing. That’s all in the show notes at NatalieMaclean.com/213.

Email me if you have a sip, tip, question, or would like to be a beta reader of my new memoir, and [email protected] If you missed episode 174 go back and take a listen. I chat about retro nasal smell when tasting wine as well as virtual brands with Jim Duane of The Inside Winemaking podcast. I’ll share a short clip with you now to whet your appetite.

Jim Duane 35:34
Pay attention to what’s the flavour coming in. And then what is the flavour as your mouth is closed and you’re slowly breathing out through your nose. You can get so much more of an experience of wine if you’re paying attention to that. You get more of an expression of the retro nasal flavour. When you have those secondary and tertiary characters of an older wine opening up, that’s really builds retro nasal on a big way, especially with your tobacco and your leather and things like that. Or sometimes microbiologically you can get flavours that come up that way. So if the wine has a little bit of brettanomyces, it’s a little bit that horsey sort of band-aid character that can be very nice components of wine but you don’t necessarily smell and feel so much that upfront. But in that retro nasal experience, you really can have that evolution of those secondary flavours, those microbial flavours.

Natalie MacLean 36:30
if you liked this episode, please email or tell one friend about it this week, especially someone you know who’d be interested in the wines, tips, and stories we shared. You won’t want to miss next week when we continue our chat with Jamie Lewis. Thank you for taking the time to join me here. I hope something great is in your glass this week. Perhaps a wine that you discovered in a tasting room.

Natalie MacLean 36:58
You don’t want to miss one juicy episode of this podcast, especially the secret full body bonus episodes that I don’t announce on social media. So subscribe for free now at NatalieMaclean.com/subscribe. Meet me here next week. Cheers.