Growing wine can often present a difficult conundrum; one must be full of desire for the task but also caring enough to go through the everyday steps, upkeep and of course waiting that the making of good wine necessitates. These traits might normally be connected to a more mature, adult figure who has enough experience to both love wine and appreciate the steps to produce a great-tasting red or white. However, for junior Aidan George neither of these is a problem.
Having been introduced to wine at a young age, George has taken on the qualities of a well-aged Merlot: smooth and refined, yet
still ripe with a flavorful zest that cannot be denied. George’s father runs a winery that was formerly based in his native South Africa but is now based in Napa called George Family Winery. When George graduates from Redwood in 2019, he will take over the business, keeping the family tradition under the George name as it passes from father to son.
Dashing towards anything but college out of high school is certainly a bold and unusual step—only 16 percent of students in a recent Bark survey self-reported that they plan on doing so—but running a business is a whole other level. Most winemakers cultivate grapes as a side job or an avid hobby, one that is often left for later in life when time for such activities becomes available—but not George.
According to George, when he was a young child, his father took him to the family winery so he could see the entire wine-making process. He even introduced George to a Netflix documentary about wine production titled, “Into the Bottle.” This early exposure to the business shaped George’s love for the wine-making process, specifically the artistic side of it all.
“[My dad] exposed me to a side of wine I didn’t even know existed,” George said. “I never saw it as making alcohol, I saw it as making art.”
George awaits what some may consider to be a daunting task for a recently-graduated high school student, but that’s not how he sees it; for him, it’s nothing to “wine” about.
“I think my quality of life in general will dramatically increase when I go off and pursue wine making,” George said. “I’ve always been really interested in art and artistic fields so [taking over the business] will really broaden my world.”
Building off of his artistic intuitions, George says he is most interested in the intricacies of wine-making. He explained how aspects like the wood used for the barrels, the way the wine is stored and the kind of fungus that is growing in the cellar can all change a wine’s taste. In addition, George cited the wine’s visual appeals as one of his most compelling interests.
“The bottle, nailing the proper pairing, it’s really just about presentation,” George said. “I think nailing all those essential tools of having a great wine for the occasion is really important to showcasing the art form.”
George credits his Oral Rhetoric and Humanities teacher, Fiona Allan, for playing a key role in fostering his love for wine making and the arts through her humanities class.
“[Ms. Allan] exposed to me that through all forms of art there’s always a deeper meaning behind something, so that really turbocharged my interest in wine,” George said.
Allan was not surprised to hear that her Humanities class had such an impact on George, stating her belief that it is one of the most influential classes at Redwood due to its self-reflective nature.
“I think Humanities helps us step out of our own perspectives and lets us shine the light back on ourselves,” Allan said. “Students are thinking about things they’ve never thought of before: What’s their purpose? How can they make the world a better place? How to learn from others and take that knowledge into their own life.”
Furthermore, Allan said the lessons she tries to get across to her students have real-life applications, a key reason to why the class can have a profound impact.
“I try to make all my lessons applicable to the real world [because] you’re going to come across things you’ve never come across before,” Allan said. “That can be humbling and inspiring, especially in Aidan’s case.”
One trend that Allan observes with teenagers is closed-mindedness, something she attributes to a social pressure that requires kids to pick a profession early on and stick with it.
“I think we were a little more open when I came out of high school, but now it’s ‘you have to decide what to do with the rest of your life when you’re eight years old,”’ Allan said. “Most people don’t have one job their whole lives, so you need to be open to possibilities. We are very insular in the way we are existing these days and it’s a big wide world out there.”
George echoed some of the same sentiments, and he said that while he plans on going to Stellenbosch University (one of the top winemaking colleges in South Africa) mainly for wine-making, he also intends to pursue a liberal arts education with an emphasis on philosophy so as to get a full experience and keep his options open.
For George, the knowledge that his future lies in wine combined with his affection for the profession is both comforting and invigorating. Allan said that a love for what you do is arguably the most important factor in a successful life and career as it can vastly improve one’s quality of life.
“I think that is one of the most important things you can do [is to] be passionate regardless of what you’re doing,” Allan said. “When you do something that makes you happy, it really does [improve your quality of life]. If you’re passionate about something, you can find your niche and you can bring that passion into whatever you want to do.”