A message in a (wine) bottle from Andrea Johnson of Pepper Bridge Winery

From Washington Wine: In early April, Washington Wine launched #SipGlocal, which is a global movement that rallies around a local bottle of Washington wine. Because this situation we’re in today is bigger than any one body, industry, state, or country. And if we don’t do what we can right now to support our local communities, like wineries, restaurants, and small businesses, there won’t be a global community when this is "over." So we’re doing what we can to show the world how we, Washington Wine, are rallying around our industry to encourage others, near and far, to support whatever local means to them.

One of our #SipGlocal projects is called, "Message in a (Wine) Bottle." If there's one thing we need right now, it's to keep "in touch" with each other, and the handwritten letter is the language of distance. It is how we slow the world down, sift through the chaos, and come out the other side in peace, and one piece. It's also a chance to connect with someone else. To share the deep forces that are keeping you buoyant.

Today, we're sharing with you a letter from Andrea Johnson, Tasting Room Manager at Pepper Bridge Winery, who wrote this letter last week. Her letter struck a nerve for us. It reached bone deep. There is something so very beautifully human, so very Washington, so very Walla Walla, and so very wine to her words, letter, and perspective. This is the kind of thing that keeps us going, so we're sharing it with you today in hopes that this message will reach you, too, and inspire you to write your own.

Pepper Bridge Winery, Walla Walla, Washington

"I’ve been questioning my purpose lately. This chaos makes me wonder why I’ve been drawn to work in the service industry.  This doubt creeps in and I think, “I’m just a tasting room manager,” “I just pour wine for people,” “What good am I doing for others?” For most, wine is extra—wine is luxury. So, am I needed? Is what I do necessary?

Strictly speaking, the answer is no. 

No one needs wine—no one needs to be served wine on a beautiful patio overlooking the vineyards towards the Blue Mountains. No one needs any of that.

And yet, considering the opposite is breathtaking. 

These past weeks, and in the ones to come, we are being forced to look at life in a completely different light. We’ve been asked to be prudent, to avoid excess, to only do what is necessary. We’ve been doing just that, and we’re okay. We’re fine. But this time of leanness and constraint and distance has brought into bold illumination just how much the extras, the little luxuries of life, mean to us.

The other day, a guest visited our tasting room who, of course, wasn’t able to taste with us, but he was looking for something very particular. He had tasted with us months before but couldn’t remember exactly which bottle he had loved so much. After sampling off-premises, and upon his return to the tasting room, he skipped and jumped and danced across the parking lot. With a YIPPEE! he exclaimed that this was the wine he had been looking for. I would not have believed it had I not seen his pure, unabashed elation with my own eyes. His wild abandon touched my heart. Laughing with him as he took his prize, I realized that his joy is why I’m here.

It is why we create art—why we write poetry—why we make wine. We’re all looking for an expression of what we’re feeling, whether that be on painted canvas, in written word, or in a sip of wine. The beauty is, that with all our different tastes, there are myriad ways to find this joy and passion—the real magic is when we find someone who sees it too.

I have found my place so perfectly in this world, sometimes I have to pinch myself. I work in a tasting room with such beautiful wine—I’m always excited to share it with anyone and everyone. And we are in this incredible valley with so many fantastic wineries—when people ask where else they should taste, I have to take care not to overwhelm them with recommendations. 

Then there’s the community—the tasting room crew, production, our sister winery, the partners—all checking in on each other to make sure everyone has what they need. 

And the whole Walla Walla Valley—I am continually amazed, both before and during this pandemic, by the generosity and selflessness with which everyone operates.

The road ahead is not an easy one. We have all experienced setbacks we could have never imagined. And, of course, there will be those who ask, “Why are you doing this?” “Why do you pour wine for strangers for a living?” 

My answer is and will always be, “Come and see.”

Andrea Johnson
Tasting Room Manager
Pepper Bridge Winery"