Hi, Adam. First off, thank you for finding the time in your incredibly busy life as an always-on-the-go guide to chat with us. To begin, could you tell us about how you discovered your fascination with wine?
It all happened by accident, really: I just kept stumbling across world-class wine regions throughout my travels, and the charming, peaceful, and just generally very pleasant atmosphere of the wine country kept luring me back for more. I’m sure not going to complain though; there are far worse places to get sucked into!
When did your palate for wine develop, and did you take an immediate liking to it?
My grandma’s to blame for this one: she poured through countless boxes of Franzia Chillable Red throughout my childhood (with ice cubes in it), and I got hooked. That said, it was probably my dating life that helped me to develop my palate.
How did you manage to turn your passion for wine into a profession?
I had fun working on cruise ships for four years and leading camping tours around the USA for five years, but I’ve always known that the world of wine is where my heart is, so I decided to step away from the camping and into wine country. Plus, it helped that I reached a point in my life where I wanted to settle down and finally make a home — I was basically homeless for nine years while I worked on the cruise and did my camping thing — and I naturally chose the Bay Area since this is where the wine is great (oh, and maybe because I have many friends in San Francisco too, wink wink). In regards to how I got involved for Green Dream Tours, it basically came down to having great friends already working for the company who were able to put in a good word for me.
In working for Green Dream Tours, what has been the biggest highlight?
Working for and with great people; Green Dream is a very small company run by a group of guides who are mostly long-time friends. Mostly, I appreciate that the owner strongly emphasizes quality and detail, key aspects of business that he has instilled in the rest of us too. I love working for a company that strives to create a great product, and that prioritizes top-notch customer service. I also enjoy that our tours aren’t run-of-the-mill: the touches we add that make them extra special mean the world to me.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I wake up at 6am, and, after preparing myself and the bus for the day, I pick up my clients from their hotels (usually between 8 o’clock and 9 o’clock). We then drive an hour into wine country, visit three wineries and enjoy a nice wine country lunch from 10-3:15pm. After that, it’s back to San Francisco to drop the clients off at their hotels. By the time I get home, it’s usually well into the evening, but the long days don’t faze me since they’re spent with interesting people — the clients and the winery staff.
What is the best part of your job?
Local San Franciscans will appreciate that one of the best parts of my job is that I can escape the fog that rolls thickly into the city on a pretty much daily basis! Other perks are that I get paid to enjoy the beauty and sunshine of wine country, and that I get three days off per week to play freely in San Francisco or some other awesome spot in the Bay Area; if there’s one thing this part of the world does not have, it’s a shortage of fun things to do, be they outdoors (for example, in the form of hiking in Marin) or indoors (to name just a few activities, there’s museum-hopping, as well as a slew of amazing restaurants and food carts to try). Besides those, on my tours, I enjoy seeing groups of strangers become friends as the day progresses.
Have you ever had a bad guided trip?
Fortunately, not with Green Dream Tours, but there are certainly bad moments from time to time, such as people who throw up and traffic jams. That said, in one and a half years, I have only had 2 pukers on our public tours (knock on wood!).
What’s the most bizarre experience you’ve ever had on a guided tour?
One client started a 2 week camping trip with Mononucleosis, and when we learned she had it, we obviously needed to get her off the trip before she infected other people (and because she was ridiculously tired all the time). However, the lady refused to leave the trip, and instead got a note from a doctor stating she was OK to proceed with the camping trip. Needless to say, she continued to be miserable the whole time. On a separate occasion, a woman grew mad at me because I said it was unlikely she’d be able to swim in the water at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Note: it was 5000 ft. elevation below us!
As an experienced guide, can you think of any tips that people should know about before going on a guided tour?
When day-drinking (for example, on our wine tours), always have a good meal in the morning. Also, since alcohol is dehydrating, make a pointed effort to drink more water than usual throughout the day.
What does it take to be a good tour guide?
The bottom line is that not all people or tours should be treated the same: a good guide is one who can personalize a tour and separate it from the pack. Rule #1 for being a good guide, however, is to learn everybody’s name; knowing your group’s names makes an unbelievable difference, primarily because it makes you all feel more personally connected.
This may be a toughie to answer, but which is your favorite vineyard and wine?
Robledo Family Winery on our Sonoma Tour has a great background story (let’s just say it all began when Reynaldo Robledo left his home state of Michoacan, Mexico, at the age of 16 in 1968 to work the beautiful vineyards of Napa Valley, and, having worked up the ranks, he now owns his very own gem), and we often have one of the founder’s sons lead our tastings (his other sons are the vineyard manager and the wine maker!). Their wine is also excellent and varied: I am particularly fond of their White Port and Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
What’s your ideal wine scenario?
I would take a bottle of good Cabernet on a back-country hike with my girlfriend to enjoy on a mountain top while we watch the sunset!
If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go?
I have traveled extensively already, but Southeast Asia is perpetually #2 on my to-do list. Right now, Africa is #1 because it is mysterious and gritty, and thus is the most likely to provide me with unexpected adventures and revelations, both of which I crave on my travels; they bring another level of excitement and satisfaction to the trip.