Second Acts: A Creative Entrepreneur’s Journey from Photojournalism to Winemaking
Anna Marie Dos Remedios had been in journalism her entire career, first as photojournalist and then as owner of a local newspaper in California. In 2002, seeking a relaxing pastime to counterbalance her fast-paced job, she planted a few grape vines at her San Benito County home. By 2005, that small vineyard was producing so much fruit—and so much satisfaction—that Dos Remedios became a full-time winemaker.
She transitioned from one creative career to another.
“I picked up photography at a young age from my grandfather,” said Dos Remedios. “I loved to take pictures of people doing things, and I was inquisitive by nature.”
But she was never interested in working in a studio, taking portraits of posed subjects.
“What came naturally was news and sports,” she said. “Journalism let me into other people’s lives, if only for a day. I loved the adventure and the chance to interact with people and tell their stories.”
In 1999, she and a partner purchased a small weekly newspaper. With the Internet in its infancy, small papers were still thriving.
“People looked to us for local news,” she said. “Our circulation exploded from about 15,000 to 54,000. We became well-known for how we were growing the paper, and we were even named Newspaper Executives of the Year by the California Press Foundation. But I never worked so hard. It was extremely stressful.”
The stress prompted Dos Remedios to find a hobby, and the hobby she chose was winemaking.
“I did not set out to start a winery,” she said. “I really had no idea about the world of winemaking. I just wanted to try it.”
Her hobby was fruitful. Soon she had more grapes than she could use on her own. Out of both necessity and fascination, she enrolled in UC–Davis classes to learn about the winemaking industry. She discovered that many wines are made through an industrial process that produces consistent flavor profiles from one year to the next.
“I didn't want to manipulate flavors that way,” she said. “I’m not concerned with making this year’s wine exactly the same as last year’s. I want to make great wines that reflect where they come from.”
So, at age 34, Dos Remedios left journalism to start a new career. She and her partner sold the newspaper, and that gave her the funds to open a winery.
Drawing on the creativity and curiosity she had practiced in journalism, Dos Remedios researched techniques that would protect a grape’s innate flavors. She learned to use a slow, natural fermentation process that relies on the fruit’s native yeasts and to ferment in small batches.
Today, these are hallmarks of Idle Hour Winery—the business Dos Remedios and her partner, Deb Payne, have grown in Oakhurst, California, that includes a tasting room, small inn and wine bar. They’re also added a tasting room in Carmel Valley Village in Southern California and have established relationships with vineyards statewide.
“I use the same grapes and growers, year in and year out,” she said. “But I still don’t look at last year’s chemistry in an attempt to make the same wine. That would diminish the influence of the vintage on how the varietals’ aromatic and flavor characteristics show for that particular wine.”
Her commitment to distinctly natural flavors pays off. Many of her vintages are award winners, and the company’s wine clubs are growing, year after year. Dos Remedios is pleased with this success. But she admits that it took several years before she felt confident in her second career.
“I have to make good wine in order to make money,” she said. “As a small business owner, it’s on me to fail or to succeed. At first, it was hard to start a business and not think about selling something for two or three years.” Wine does not happen quickly.
Even now, after eight years of consistent production, the work is unpredictable. Weather or oxygen or some other element can spoil a wine that’s been several seasons in the making. It’s not an easy living, but Dos Remedios braves the odds because she cares so much about her work.
“I can’t let fear control me, even though sometimes I think it would be easier to go somewhere and just draw a paycheck,” she said. “But I realize what I would be giving up, and I’m just not willing. I have to trust myself and my instincts. I never want to give up my passion for making wine the way I do.”
Reflecting on her two careers, Dos Remedios sees a common thread of trusting her instincts in the face of unpredictability. Reporting news and sports, she couldn’t control or manipulate the situation. “By reacting and relying on my intuition, I was good at capturing honest moments.”
In her second career, she uses that same strength in a different way. “Now I make wines that showcase individuality, where variety and location stand out,” she said. “I don’t manipulate the flavor profile. I let the grapes speak for themselves.”
Anna Marie Dos Remedios has found success in not one, but two careers. Her approach to both journalism and winemaking is a good model for anyone seeking satisfaction at work: Work hard, honor your strengths and trust your honest instincts.
This post is the second in a four-part series on women who have changed their lives through unexpected career moves. Previously: Second Acts: How One Woman Carefully Orchestrated Her Radical Move from Attorney to Teacher.