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The Wine Monk Of Andalucía

You might recall back in January, when I was in Spain for the Benedict Option book tour, I met a young man from Baton Rouge, Scott Myers. [1] Scott is a winemaker in Andalucia, an adult convert to Catholicism, and a reader of this blog. I spent most of a very enjoyable afternoon and evening hanging out with him and some other folks.

The editors at In Register, a magazine in Baton Rouge, saw the item about Scott, and thought: Young man from our city moves to Ronda, a town in the south of Spain, to take up winemaking? That’s a great story! And so they sent reporter Kelli Bozeman and photographer Daymon Gardner to Andalucia to tell Scott’s story. Here it is. [2] Excerpts:

Ronda is resplendent in its postcard-worthy setting atop sheer limestone cliffs that drop 400 feet down into a gorge. From the town’s Puente Nuevo or “new bridge”—which was built in the 1700s—turistas can see centuries-old whitewashed buildings set upon a backdrop of verdant countryside and rolling mountains.

It is within this spectacular scenery that Myers now finds himself the owner of a winery and 8-acre vineyard. He spends his days among dirt rows and is anticipating the release of the first bottles under his Bodega Luis y Ana label in 2020. At first glance, it might seem an unlikely venture for a former finance major from south Louisiana, but for Myers, this adventure feels a lot like coming home.

The second of six siblings, Myers graduated from The Dunham School in 2000 and spent his college years at Ole Miss before heading to New York City to begin a career in the financial industry. For nearly a decade, he spent long hours working for a boutique investment bank.

“I had some great years there and I made some of my best friends there, but by the end of that time, I was burned out,” he says. “I didn’t have any balance in my life. I didn’t like the person I had become. I had other ideas in my head, and I wanted to break away and explore those ideas.”

The other ideas were winemaking. He took the money he had made in finance, and went back to college to study wine. As a Spanish speaker, he thought about staying in Mexico, but his sister Leigh offered another option. She had married a Spaniard, moved to Malaga, and started a family there. Why not come to Spain and see how they make wine here? she said.

He hadn’t been in Spain for long before he happened upon a 10-year-old syrah vineyard that was for sale in the Serranía de Ronda, the mountainous region surrounding the ancient town of Ronda. The vineyard was only about an hour’s drive from Málaga, the coastal city where Leigh and her family live.

“When I first drove up to the vineyard and saw the beauty of this place and of the views all around it, that hit me,” he recalls. “But I put a lot of thought and prayer in before I made the decision. It was really a leap of faith.”

Did I mention that Scott is a serious Catholic? And one who loves family. He told In Register (and me, when we met): “Being able to see my sister on a weekly basis and watch her kids grow up, that’s important to me.”

One more tidbit:

Meanwhile, he finds comfort in the many surprising similarities between the ways of life in south Louisiana and southern Spain. “Much of the culture in both places is centered around family and agriculture and food and drink and music,” he says. “Paella and jambalaya are not that different.”

The parallels don’t end there. The traditional Holy Week processions that recently passed through the streets of Ronda, for example, featured elaborately decorated floats and costumed participants who are members of longstanding brotherhoods—not a far cry from south Louisiana’s Mardi Gras krewes. “It really is fascinating to see how alike these two cultures are,” Myers says.

Read it all. [2] What a good story, wonderfully told. Makes me happy, because I know the man at the center of the story, how humble he is, and how serious he is about what he’s doing. One day, Scott’s going to have a great book out of this adventure. Here’s a link to the English version of his Bodega Luis Y Ana winery. [3] The first harvest is in the bottle now, and will be ready to drink by 2020, Scott says. The vineyard is small, and only can produce between 12,000 and 15,000 bottles. But it’s a start.

I really admire him for doing this, for taking that leap of faith. If Scott had stayed in finance, he would have been a lot richer by now, but he wouldn’t have been happier, or more fulfilled. He lives alone in his hermitage in the mountains of Andalucia, like a sort of wine monk, creating something beautiful, and learning about red wine, the good earth, his God, and himself.

That is a life well lived. It’s the kind of life I would have dreamed about as a younger man. It makes me so happy to see people living it out, and not just people, but a good person, the sort whose success makes you believe that there is justice in the world. I never would have met him if not for this blog.

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36 Comments To "The Wine Monk Of Andalucía"

#1 Comment By Fr. Frank On June 11, 2019 @ 5:17 pm

Thank you for this.
Luis Y Ana — I love it!

#2 Comment By Bob Loblaw On June 11, 2019 @ 5:20 pm

Ronda is unbelievably beautiful, we happened upon it on our drive back to Seville from Malaga. Next time in Spain, we plan to spend more time there.

What Myers is doing is great and all, but obviously available only to those with means. He’s very good-looking to boot. I don’t know, this comes across as a NYT lifestyle article.

[NFR: It’s a lifestyle magazine. Of course it’s available only to people of means. So what? He worked on Wall Street! But he took the money he made doing that, and decided to use it to go do something that fulfilled him. I admire that. — RD]

#3 Comment By Will On June 11, 2019 @ 5:35 pm

A good glass of Merlot is one of life’s little pleasures, to be savored and enjoyed. As you age, your tastes change. As a young Marine, I might throw down six cheap beers in a social setting, now as an old man, I enjoy a single glass of wine, savoring every small sip. This young man from Louisiana obviously has a good head on his shoulders.

#4 Comment By thomas tucker On June 11, 2019 @ 6:01 pm

Great story. Although, if he hadn’t been in finance, he wouldn’t have been able to afford to do what he is doing now.

[NFR: Why is that a bad thing? Why hold that against him? — RD]

#5 Comment By DaveNYC On June 11, 2019 @ 6:02 pm

Only slightly off topic, any discussion of intentional communities/BenOp should take into consideration that Spain and Italy are offering entire villages, long abandoned, in agricultural regions, for pennies on the dollar, or even cheaper, to parties willing to renovate them and bring a certain level of productivity back to these empty towns. The Spanish and Italian governments have tourist dollars in mind, but a committed group of investors could literally repopulate these towns and create what everyone in the states sees disappearing all around us.
Something to keep in mind for a highly motivated and able bodied group of people.

#6 Comment By MikeCA On June 11, 2019 @ 6:13 pm

Maybe all those single Catholic women should check this guy out- single,Catholic, good looking,self employed vineyard owner in Spain. A good catch by any standard.

#7 Comment By Bob Loblaw On June 11, 2019 @ 6:38 pm

Great story. Although, if he hadn’t been in finance, he wouldn’t have been able to afford to do what he is doing now.

[NFR: Why is that a bad thing? Why hold that against him? — RD]

Because people of means can always create an intentional space for themselves, often to isolate them from the common folk even more than they already are. I agree, what Myers is doing is just fine (although I wouldn’t go so far to say it’s “admirable”), but offering up his story as an example of a religious person living intentionally just rubs me (and from the comments, some others) the wrong way. Not a major criticism by any means, and as a wine drinker, Myers’ story interests me.

[NFR: Hataz gonna hate. — RD]

#8 Comment By Joyful Housewife On June 11, 2019 @ 6:53 pm

Rod,

Can you arrange a meetup between this man and your Australian friend?

#9 Comment By EarlyBird On June 11, 2019 @ 7:07 pm

Great story. I’m happy for this guy. He came to a realization that far too few people do at his age. Most get on the treadmill and then burn out later in life.

And he’s living in God’s country. A beautiful, charming part of the world.

#10 Comment By Caroline Nina in DC On June 11, 2019 @ 7:27 pm

Joyful Housewife at 6:53 p.m.–Yes, I was thinking the exact same thing!

#11 Comment By thomas tucker On June 11, 2019 @ 7:32 pm

@Rod: what Bob Loblaw said. Also, the implication somehow is that finance was bad and leads to unhappiness, but now what’s he doing is good because it’s crunchy and soul nourishing. Ironic that without the one, he wouldn’t be able to do the other. But hey, I don’t hate him. I’m glad for him.

[NFR: What an odd take. Did you read the story? He did well in finance, but decided in the end that it wasn’t the life he wanted for himself. I didn’t get the idea that he’s judgmental about finance. In fact, when I was around him, he seemed grateful for the opportunity his hard work in finance gave him to do something that was more fulfilling. Isn’t that what most of us dream about, but rarely have the opportunity to do? I have no idea how much money he made, but I know from what he told me that he works really hard now — physical work, in the sun — and he finds that so much more gratifying than sitting in an office wearing a suit and crunching numbers. He had that life, and did well with it, but it wasn’t fulfilling. He’s never going to get rich with that one little vineyard, but if he gets good at winemaking, the value of his product will go up, and maybe he’ll have the money to expand. If you read the story, he hopes that’s what will happen — he wants to build a business! — RD]

#12 Comment By Stabat Mater On June 11, 2019 @ 7:43 pm

I live just outside of New Orleans with a lovely daughter who is a very serious Catholic & would love to travel. Wants lots of kids. She is 20, and needs a shadchan. I’m just sayin’… 😉

I’m telling you this blog may be end up being the Benedict Option meet up for traditionally minded young people.

#13 Comment By Stabat Mater On June 11, 2019 @ 7:54 pm

And said daughter, “Do some math, Ma!”

#14 Comment By SEAN On June 11, 2019 @ 8:19 pm

I emulate this man and in the next next 12ish months will be retiring from the 9-5 at the age of 46.

Full disclosure – no wife, gf, kids life-long bachelor and minimalist with very low monthly expenses.

The rat race sucks!

#15 Comment By charles cosimano On June 11, 2019 @ 8:50 pm

I’ll drink to that.

#16 Comment By BF On June 11, 2019 @ 9:40 pm

Some people are spiritually fulfilled by finance. Those people should stay put in finance. There is absolutely nothing wrong with “finance” unless you think that there’s something wrong with being able to exchange goods and labor with each other. If you were a potato farmer and had no way of exchanging part of your crop for something else, you’d get pretty tired of potatoes.

People who work in finance and don’t find it fulfilling should quit and go do something else. Like this guy did. More power to him!

#17 Comment By Stephen cooper On June 11, 2019 @ 9:41 pm

Any of us, any day, can follow the example of this young man, with or without money. Just start praying more than you ever have before for all the people who have been unkind to you.

Yesterday, perhaps, you felt anger at all the bad people in your life – the old grandparents who were angry all the time at your parents who later took it out on you, the old politicians who were rich and ate at fancy restaurants and laughed at people like you when you were a kid eating beans and bologna for supper, and who are still , even in their 80s and 90s, bragging about their liberal goodness (despite the millions of aborted babies), your teachers who were just in it for the money, that priest who flirted with the teenage girls and had dead eyes whenever he talked to the boys, as if they were just a duty …. the people at your first job who got ahead by lying about you …. later, the people you worked with who were incompetent but did not know it, but who, to their credit, never lied about you because they knew they were not smart enough to get ahead by lying …..

well, today you feel resentment at those people, tomorrow you are praying for them because you know God loves them too,today is not as good as tomorrow when we pray less today than we will pray tomorrow —- PREACH IT SISTER, PREACH IT BROTHER …..

reflect on this:
if we did not have sinners to pray for we would already be in heaven, but we do have sinners to pray for, including ourselves, and that is how we build heaven as a place that remembers at least some of this world

praying like that is like owning a vineyard in the most beautiful country that ever existed, Beulah Land, or the country you lived in as an innocent baby before you knew how unkind people are, and before you knew that you were born to pray for them. as if you were born to be a faith healer, or a comforter in times of distress.

I would buy any bottle of wine that explained these truths on its label.

#18 Comment By Locksley On June 11, 2019 @ 10:32 pm

Enjoyed it. Thank you for your responses above.

#19 Comment By Promagistrate On June 12, 2019 @ 6:21 am

Great story, and DaveNYC is right.

#20 Comment By Andrew On June 12, 2019 @ 7:47 am

Good for him. I mean it.

But if Benedict Option is going to be real we will have to see examples of how it applies to the middle/working class. The wealthy are much more able to insulate themselves from the wider culture. Working class/middle class people do not have that option.

PS: everyone should be genuinely happy for this guy. He did nothing wrong by being in finance nor by purchasing his own vineyard. I hope he’s successful BUT these articles are irksome, especially for people working two jobs and struggling to make ends meet. The “look at me” millionaire genre of articles are annoying.

[NFR: Hey, guess what? This guy is not doing the Benedict Option, nor does he claim to be. Everyone in my book is middle class. Stop trolling. — RD]

#21 Comment By Sarah On June 12, 2019 @ 8:19 am

He’s Catholic. He makes wine. Okay….

#22 Comment By Alcuin On June 12, 2019 @ 8:28 am

Rod, if you care to do a follow-up story when his wine is available in America, I’m sure a number of us readers would be happy to buy a bottle or case.

I know from two different friends who worked in the wine distributorship business that many vineyard’s products, especially boutique/niche ones, can be difficult to find, but I’d make the effort.

#23 Comment By Khalid mir On June 12, 2019 @ 8:37 am

“Young man from our city moves to Ronda, a town in the south of Spain, to take up winemaking?”

Best of luck to him! Who hasn’t dreamt of giving it all up and starting again? But I don’t quite see how this fits with a previous post about corporations staying where they are?

I know lots of people who have left their job for a better deal or who have left their country to better their own lives and those of their family. Don’t begrudge them at all. But is there a difference between poor migrants doing that and someone with money doing so?

Anyway, haven’t read the full story but sounds fairly familiar: (relatively) rich person goes off to find inner self or get out of the rat race after experiencing “burn out”. Again, absolutely wish him all the best, but I do wonder about all the poor buggers who can’t leave the city -the people you wrote about in a previous post (Chris Arnade?)

[NFR: I swear, I never imagined the capacity of my readers for envy, in the sinful sense. If I write about a successful artist, does the sad fate of all the unsuccessful artists come to mind? A French friend of mine just sold the company he and three others started in a Palo Alto garage for over $400 million. I’ve known him since he started with nothing (we were at his wedding), and set out for America because the business opportunities in France were scant. He and his wife moved back to Europe a few years ago, after the company was stable, because they wanted to raise their children closer to family, and out of the craziness of Silicon Valley (they had seen what all that money does to family life, and wanted no part of it). Just recently, the company was sold. Now they’re fabulously rich, but you know what? They are the most grounded, humble, normal people I know. Knowing them, I am sure they will use that money for good, but even if they don’t, so what? Maybe now that he has established financial freedom, he can buy a vineyard and commit himself to winemaking, or something like that. He made his money honestly, through hard, hard work and his own creativity as a computer scientist. I bring this story up in this context to ask the question: why is it not permissible to celebrate this man’s success — he didn’t win the lottery, but literally worked his way up from the bottom — without saying that we have to pull a long face over all those who didn’t succeed in creating their own companies and cashing out with over $100 million? I’ll never be able to do what he did, or what Scott Myers has done, but their success makes me happy. I am always happy to see people rewarded for their work, and creatively fulfilled. It does not diminish my own happiness one bit. Funnily enough, one reason my French friend set off for America in the late 1990s is the French culture of envy. I can remember talking to him shortly after he arrived in America. He’s from Paris, and really, really loves Paris. But he said the situation was impossible there for a young, ambitious, creative technologist. He said that the mentality of the French was eaten up with envy. If you buy a car nicer than what your neighbors think you should have, he said, it’s likely that one of them will report you to the tax authorities as a suspected tax cheat. Then you will have to go through the hassle of an audit, even if you did nothing wrong. He said that mentality discourages risk-taking, because you were always having to look over your shoulder to see who was going to sabotage you out of envy. I see what he means. — RD]

#24 Comment By Sarah On June 12, 2019 @ 9:51 am

I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now. I am conservative politically (though not a Republican really), and much of what you write is interesting. But it seems that you only like people who are both conservative and actively Christian, preferably Orthodox or Catholic, and have no interest in anyone else. You are alienating readers and potential readers. The social issues you discuss are problems for all of us. The craziness in social discourse these days is a problem for all of us. Attempting to create a good, meaningful, productive life is a goal for all of us.

Sorry for the mini rant, but when once again you emphasize that someone is a convert to Catholicism, as if that is so much better and more valid than anything else, it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard. If this guy were living the exact same life, as a good and moral person, but wasn’t a convert to Catholicism, he never would have been mentioned in this blog.

[NFR: Why are you so sensitive? I mentioned his conversion to give context. He said it took a lot of prayer before he moved to Spain; I wanted people to know that he wasn’t speaking casually, and that this, for him, was not just an aesthetic move. I could as easily have said “Christianity.” — RD]

#25 Comment By Rob G On June 12, 2019 @ 10:40 am

“I’m happy for this guy. He came to a realization that far too few people do at his age. Most get on the treadmill and then burn out later in life.”

I’m a case in point. I came to a similar realization, but did so about 10 years too late. If I’d have realized it at 40 instead of 50 I might have actually been able to do something about it. I’m nowhere near burning out, fortunately, but my options are somewhat limited.

#26 Comment By Thomas On June 12, 2019 @ 12:09 pm

I am happy and proud of this guy. Work hard and then achieve your dream or slice of paradise on earth. Good for him. I am kinda in the same business of him. I run a small farm on the side and it is still growing every year. Not as picturesque as this place but still it is mine. I bet we would have a lot in common this guy and I. Wonderful story. I gave up drinking but would for sure gift this bottle if I was gifting a bottle to anyone. What grapes does he all grow?

[NFR: Syrah. — RD]

#27 Comment By Khalid mir On June 12, 2019 @ 12:29 pm

Rod,

to be honest I don’t think anyone here is envious (well, maybe in the good sense of: “Good luck to him but I wish it was me!”). I don’t know why you’re so sensitive to this.

I come from a lower-middle class family that thanks purely to the hard work of my parents and the grace of God now has a fairly comfortable life. I’ve seen a lot of people who’ve made the same transition look up to the rich and look down on the class they’ve come from. Quite sad, really, but about par for the course (in my limited experience).

Wine-making in Andalucia! Oh, man!

“If I write about a successful artist, does the sad fate of all the unsuccessful artists come to mind?”

Actually, that’s precisely the thing I would think about! I always say this when admin. hypes up the “achievers” at our university. I always ask: what is our average or the least successful student getting out of this? I think the mark of a flourishing and humane society is how it thinks about its least well-off citizens.

So, yeah, sure..”celebrate” the rich all you like. What was that thing about camels and the eye of a needle again? Do you have anything to say about the “mentality” of the rich and their contempt for what I think you in America call “losers”?

#28 Comment By Marie in IL On June 12, 2019 @ 12:31 pm

I think some of the envy stems from the photo and summary: southern Spain, evening, wine, etc

We’re friends with our farmer who sells us a vegetable share each year. He works full time at the nearby community college, which of course allows for the summer months off. But the growing (and planning) season doesn’t neatly fit with the school year, and the busiest time for both jobs in May coincide! I know he and his wife get up at 4 and go to bed after 11 during the busiest times of the year, May and August. Farming is no joke, so while pouring a glass of your homemade vintage while tanned and wearing a linen shirt looks pretty romantic and sexy, the behind the scenes is a lot dirtier and exhausting, even if you don’t have a second job. Also, the possibility season to season of failed crops

[NFR: That’s really true. Scott works *hard*, and long hours. Being a farmer is not relaxing. — RD]

#29 Comment By SEAN MCINTIRE On June 12, 2019 @ 12:54 pm

“I’m a case in point. I came to a similar realization, but did so about 10 years too late. If I’d have realized it at 40 instead of 50 I might have actually been able to do something about it. I’m nowhere near burning out, fortunately, but my options are somewhat limited.”

Rob G are you single and/or no kids or a big rent or mortgage?

#30 Comment By Anne On June 12, 2019 @ 2:14 pm

Seems Joyful Housewife and I think alike: What would Anna in Australia think of living in the Spanish countryside? Well, hopefully, she’s allergic to syrah, because I have a daughter I want introduced to this guy. No, really.😏

#31 Comment By thomas tucker On June 12, 2019 @ 2:22 pm

Rod, seriously, no one is envious. We’re all going “good for him.” And I would love to buy his wine. But, to reiterate, it’s ironic that the life in finance that he hated, financed his ability to now do something that he enjoys. Why is that so hard to understand, or accept?

#32 Comment By Matth On June 12, 2019 @ 2:31 pm

More power to him. I have a high paying job with long hours and a less-than-ideal travel schedule. It’s good to see that people do escape from the crazy world.

I don’t get your (Rod’s) criticism of your readers as being envious, however. For those of us on the inside of the machine, sitting pretty near or at the top of the highly inflated earnings racket, what Scott has done is admirable and desirable. But for most people, that world is not only inaccessible, but part of them even tries to avoid it. This is compounded by the fact you attract a readership which sees the big corporate interests as pushing anti-human philosophies.

In other words, I doubt it’s envy, so much as a combination of worry about the ethical nature of his money and recognition that it’s totally unobtainable to most of your readers. There’s almost nothing someone can do after the age of 25 to land a spot in that world, and who would want to anyway?

#33 Comment By Bob Loblaw On June 12, 2019 @ 2:48 pm

Rod, I’m surprised you’re being so defensive at the very measured and reasonable objections to this post. All of the commenters who’ve raised some, myself included, have wished this guy the best. It isn’t envy that motivates me to comment here, it’s how you offer up Myers as an example of a religious person living an authentic life and giving back. You even say what he’s done is “admirable.” But honestly, how so? I think most of us, given ample enough financial resources, would choose something like Myers has done. He’s living a dream. Of course he’s working hard at it, but it’s fulfilling work, as you mention, and again, is only possible due to his wealth. And it is wealth, because there’s no way he’s making money from the vineyard yet. My version of this would be to open a record shop, but I still have two teenagers at home and a stay at home wife going back to school. There’s no way I could do it and support my family.

So again, I wish Myers all the best. He just isn’t a relatable example of the BenOp or simply a religious person living an authentic life.

#34 Comment By DRK On June 12, 2019 @ 6:34 pm

So this man is wealthy, good looking, hard working, a devout Catholic and yet still unmarried at the age of, what, 37 (since he graduated from high school in 2000). Odd.

Still, I wish him well in his wine making venture, and I hope he meets a nice Spanish woman, or maybe someone like your Australian journalist, (if women are what he’s into), before he gets too old and set in his ways.

#35 Comment By Zach On June 12, 2019 @ 7:01 pm

Stabat Mater, I may not own a vineyard in Spain but I am a serious practicing Catholic who is definitely open to a large family 🙂 someone get on the idea of a BenOp singles meetup…

#36 Comment By Nestorian Christian On June 13, 2019 @ 9:50 am

To add to what some other commenters have said, I also do not think that it can be necessarily taken for granted that the “wine Monk’s” path to riches was moral or honorable.

The world of high finance is notoriously corrupt and criminal – just look at the 2008 financial crisis and read some of the books exposing its roots in criminality to see the evidence of this. One can make a strong case that high finance, as presently constituted, is little more than a parasitic drain upon the potentialities for the development of a real, “main street”-type economy.

The proposition that an individual who has been successful in this milieu is ipso facto admirable for it is therefore rather dubious. To be clear, the wine monk MAY in fact be personally honorable, but it is far from obvious.