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. 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. 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. 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. 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.