Both my parents are from Oklahoma, and at my mom’s behest, our family would travel there every summer to visit our family farm. Mom called this a “vacation,” but to a kid growing up in Southern California, with its beaches and eternal sunshine, this did not sound like much of a vacation to me.

            The summer before I started second grade, Mom decided to try and get me excited about the prospect of our next Oklahoma trip by introducing me to a film called – what else? – “Oklahoma.” I had no faith that a musical about singing and dancing cowboys was going to inspire me, until “Laurey” appeared on the screen. Suddenly, I couldn’t wait to get to Oklahoma, because “Laurey” of course was Shirley Jones and I had just fallen for MY FIRST CRUSH! (Seven years later I would meet Miss Teen Oklahoma, Laurey’s only Oklahoma rival, but she turned out to be a cousin. (We’ll save that story for that another time).

            Much to my surprise, Laurey (Shirley) would soon turn up in a TV role as the perfect hip mom, Shirley Partridge, on “The Partridge Family.” My own mother was, and is, an amazing piano player (still at 90), but alas the family band I watched every week on television never materialized in our house. Still, I went on to USC to pursue a degree in Musical Theater and Communications. Simultaneously, I performed in a band and wrote soundtracks for television before going full time into the wine business. Wine became an obsession, the only passion that rivaled music, and I sank myself into it as deeply as I could. Ironically, my time working on the family farm as a kid suddenly made sense once I started growing grapes here in Santa Barbara County. Even the meals I’d shared with my beloved aunts, uncles, and cousins now bring inspiration to the food and wine I prepare here for others.

            Today, travelling full circle, I find myself working with another music and entertainment icon, Shaun Cassidy (Shirley Jones’ son!), on our Life can be so magical sometimes. This Mother’s Day, I’m grateful to my mom for introducing me to Oklahoma and “Oklahoma,” and I’m grateful to my first Crush, Shirley Jones, for telling me that our My First Crush Pinot Grigio is the best she’s ever tasted. Happy Mother’s Day indeed!


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