In the allegory of the cave, Plato describes a group of people who have lived their entire lives chained to a wall in a darkened cave. The only reality they know are the sounds and shadows that appear in front of them, projected by objects casting a shadow by the light of a fire that is illuminated behind the wall. The prisoners give names to these shadows as they see them dance off of the walls. They have lived their entire lives as prisoners, only experiencing life in a very confined and limited fashion, but they know nothing different.
I was born into a strict and somewhat fundamentalist Mormon family. In fact, my grandfather’s grandfather was the youngest brother of Brigham Young, the second prophet of the Mormon church. I served a 2-year french-speaking mission for my church in Montreal Canada, and as was expected of me, married my beautiful wife Molly almost immediately upon returning home. I went to work focusing on creating my businesses, raising a family and building up the kingdom of God on the earth.
Then my world came crashing down around me. You see, we are taught our whole lives to not read anything about Mormonism other than the approved sources give to us by the prophet and apostles. But while leafing through a Mormon history book that I found in my mother-in-law’s personal library, she came over, grabbed the book from my hands and told me to not read it or I would lose my testimony. Being the rebel that I am, I immediately ordered the book on Amazon which started my 10-year journey researching Mormon history. Little did I know that I would fall quickly down the rabbit hole of disbelief.
I won’t bore you with all the details, but eventually I was able to convince myself, my wife and my children that everything we thought we knew about the Mormon church, wasn’t what actually happened in the historical record and that we were living a false narrative. Three years ago, we made the decision to leave our religion together, despite the possibility of being rejected by all of our friends and family whom we loved dearly.
The allegory continues. One of the prisoners is able to escape from his chains. He walks to the other side of the wall and witnesses the fire and what was causing all the shadows that were the reality of his life. Discovering a ladder, he cautiously climbs up to the top of the cave, and for the first time experiences the warmth of the sun, the beauty of the earth, majestic trees, colorful birds flying through the light-blue sky and the wind whipping across his face. Overwhelmed, the prisoner descends back down into the cave to try to explain to his friends what he had experienced, even though he doesn’t have the vocabulary to describe what he saw. But rather than be welcomed as a hero, his friends tell him he is crazy, that they have no idea what he is talking about and that they are perfectly happy to remain shackled to a wall, watching the shadows of their reality in front of them. Sadly, the prisoner gives up, leaves the darkened cave and is welcomed into a new, beautiful world.
Over the past three years, Molly and I have traveled all over the world visiting the world’s most spectacular wine regions. Our travels have taken us to Italy five times, Portugal, Beaujolais, the Rhone Valley, Alsace, Rheingau, Washington, Willamette Valley, Napa and Provence – visiting wineries, creating friendships and tasting stunning, beautiful wines. Wine has become our life and our shared passion. We have experienced hundreds of life-changing experiences while touring wineries and becoming friends with the passionate people who make wine their life’s work. But one visit in particular changed forever the way my two daughters will think about wine.
During our vacation to Lyon France, a friend told me to book a visit with Chateau Thivin. The owner, Claude Geoffray, quickly responded to my request and warmly welcomed us into his home. Luckily my french is still strong enough to carry on conversations and that lead to a fascinating personal tour of his cellars and vineyards. Claude first showed us an old french truck that his grandfather used to deliver wine around the area in the early 1900s. He enthusiastically let our teenage girls sit in the ancient Citroen and energetically explained to us how the brake and gas pedals were on the opposite sides. Exiting the truck, we were lead to the oldest part of the cellars which were built in the 1400s. I can still remember the smells of oak, must and gamay that permeated the cellar and I loved watching the fascination on my daughter’s faces as they pondered the history of the cellars of which we were standing.
After the cellar tour, Claude lead us up to his personal home and offered us a seat around his dining room table. For over an hour, he shared story after story of his family’s history of making Beaujolais. At one point he excused himself, walked into the kitchen and sliced meats, cheeses and bread, delivering them to us along with some older vintages of his wine from 2009. Each of us were overwhelmed by his kindness and generosity that he showed to our family.
As we were leaving, our daughters started to cry as we thanked him for his time, his friendship and the love he had for his wine and vineyards. He didn’t charge us anything for taking two hours of his time. In fact, Claude didn’t even have any wine for us to purchase from him. But now, he has a loyal following of Chateau Thivin lovers that will forever recount this story when we talk about our love of wine and how it has changed our world view. Our two beautiful daughters finally understood in that moment, why wine is so important to their mom and dad, and I can thank Claude Geoffray for that. Wine is important because it is all about personal passions, sharing, generosity, friendships, and creating something remarkable from the earth that tells a unique story for that time and place. And it’s bloody delicious (isn’t that how they say it in London?)
My Mormon family and friends are still stuck in the cave, shackled to the walls, feeling comforted by the realities of the shadows in front of them. They fear the new life that we have created in a beautiful, colorful, wondrous new paradigm. I used to see the world through the confined lenses of Mormonism, and I thought I knew everything. Now I look at the world through wine glasses of reds, rosés and whites, and I realize I know nothing! Every day, I look forward to the aromas and drops of wine that shapes and opens my consciousness, to all the beauties of the world.