Finding a Life’s Mission in an Australian Wine Business

I wanted to do something that made me feel connected and grounded to something other than a desk,” Nicole St Pierre says. “I felt a need to build something tangible, and I wanted to get my hands dirty.”

It was a reaction to a corporate career that had taken its toll. When Nicole’s father passed away, his death prompted her to re-evaluate what was truly important in her life. So, she left her position as a Director with Walmart and joined a start-up education company that would ultimately relocate her to New York City.

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While she felt deeply inspired to improve the education system in the U.S., and she adored her second-story shoebox apartment in the West Village, working long hours from home often meant she could go days without venturing outside to enjoy her cobblestoned, tree-lined neighborhood.

I felt a need to build something tangible.

“The work I had loved for four years began taking a toll on me,” Nicole says. “I discovered I had gained over 60 pounds and blood tests revealed my body was ravaged by inflammation. I was concerned for my mental and physical health as I was no longer living in alignment with one of our company’s core values of mission without martyrdom.”

The lure of quitting her job and resetting in Bali, in the style of Eat, Pray, Love, eventually became impossible to ignore. “I wanted to try yoga. I wanted to drink a turmeric latte, to look out over rice fields, and eat healthy food. It sounds a bit silly now, but I just wanted to breathe and heal, and I felt like I couldn’t do that without leaving my life in the U.S.” Nicole says.

A confessed risk-averse, calculated nerd, she prepared spreadsheets to track savings and a budget for six months of travel before getting the courage to leave. She figured the worst-case scenario when she returned was that she could work as a waitress or barista if a corporate job didn’t present itself. “When the thought of being a waitress excited me more than staying in my current job, I knew it was time to take the plunge.”

After resetting her health for two months in Bali, Nicole ventured to Europe. During a wine tour in Portugal she remarked to a friend how her interest in wine was developing. Her friend suggested she register with a website that lists worldwide vineyards where travelers can stay with local people and gain practical volunteer experience.

She registered with a company called HelpX (see: helpx.net) and subsequently flew to Australia to shadow James Hastwell, a winemaker in McLaren Vale, in the state of South Australia.

McLaren Vale is an easy 45-minute drive south of the city of Adelaide. With a small population of 4,000 people, there are two supermarkets, two butchers, a bank, a post office, a visitor center, and a handful of retail stores. It is a friendly town with a warm sense of community, and people in the street stop to say “g’day” to each other.

Tourists flock to the region where an estimated 160 vineyards and 80 Cellar Doors (tasting rooms) combine worldclass wines and local produce from pristine seas and land. Bounded by hills to the east and 20 miles of coastline to the west, the backdrops of the sun setting over the gulf are endless. McLaren Vale is one of Australia’s prettiest, most progressive, and environmentally conscious wine regions.

In exchange for meals and a guest bedroom, Nicole agreed to volunteer four to six hours per day in a winery for three months during vintage (grape harvesting). But when vintage started and tractors pulling trailers loaded with grapes kept arriving, Nicole eagerly volunteered to work longer. Her stained purple hands and tired, aching body, unfamiliar with such manual labor, slumped into bed at 2 a.m. some days. However, she never felt mentally exhausted. Instead, she felt a renewed zest for life.

Nicole learned a lot about winemaking and James over the next few weeks. She realized they were both keen to leave their well-worn paths and swiftly bonded over a shared desire to forge new lives. James, a veteran winemaker with over 20 years of experience making wine for other people, craved freedom and a project he could make uniquely his own. Their shared sense of life and intellectual connection ultimately blossomed into a romantic relationship that would permanently relocate Nicole away from the U.S.

Two years later, they found a shared project that would leverage James’s passion for alternative grape varieties with Nicole’s passion for health and wellness. They decided to create their own sparkling wine together, which would be a celebration of their ideas in action.

Nicole had previously been an avid consumer of sparkling wine but was shocked to learn how much sugar was in her beloved bubbles. She realized there had to be a better way, as highquality sparkling wine didn’t need to have a lot of sugar.

A delicious sparkling wine from a unique grape.

“So, we decided to make our own,” she says. “A delicious, virtually sugar-free sparkling wine from a unique, alternative grape variety. Most sparkling wines are made from Chardonnay or Pinot Noir, but we wanted to do something fun and exciting. James’s family is one of the oldest growers of Tempranillo in McLaren Vale, and we thought this delicious Spanish red grape variety would make an incredible sparkling rosé.”

They named their wine Love + Glory because it represents the values that drive them both.

“James and I believe that a life fully lived isn’t a given,” Nicole explains. “It requires first discovering what it is you truly LOVE, then bravely, relentlessly, and intentionally pursuing those values until they are achieved. In short, a life fully lived requires action. It is a GLORY that must be earned.”

In an added pursuit of their values, Love + Glory invests 3% of their sales to Fitted For Work, a not-for-profit organization that focuses on finding meaningful employment for women. James and Nicole feel that one of the quickest ways to make the world a better place is by helping people build lives they truly love, just as they have achieved.

I love making small-batch, handcrafted wine.

Since moving to South Australia, Nicole has found happiness and fulfillment in her new life. She is proud and passionate about intentionally delivering a healthier sparkling wine option to others who prioritize health and wellness. She’s lost the weight she gained when her stress levels and diet were out of balance in NYC and has built a healthier life for herself Down Under.

Nicole now spends her days promoting their wine via social media and email marketing, with most sales happening on their website (see: loveandglory.com.au). “We don’t aspire to be the Walmart of the wine world,” Nicole says teasingly. “We love making small batch, handcrafted wine.”

While her roots will always be in the U.S., Australia is now home. She enjoys the weather, the sea, the Outback, the vineyards, and the laidback, like-minded people who love travel and exploring. When not making or promoting Love + Glory, Nicole helps out in James’s family cellar door on the weekend.

Most of the time though, she’s on their 100-acre farm property, 40 minutes south of McLaren Vale. It’s their sanctuary to relax and enjoy each other’s company, riding motorbikes and growing vegetables. Here, they relish being completely off-grid. There’s no electricity, just solar power. Their water is collected in a rainwater tank from the barn roof, and a wood stove heats the water for showering and dishes.

“We have a mezzanine in the barn where we store basic camping supplies. The funny thing is that storage area is larger than my entire West Village apartment in New York,” Nicole says. “I love it here! I can sit by the campfire and work on our business or just take in the absolute tranquility gazing over the hay field or up at the starfilled night sky.”

She feels a million miles away from her old life and takes pride in the fact she dared to leave it. She lives by the motto printed on a ribbon hand tied to every bottle of Love + Glory. “To pursue values loved. To toast glory earned. To celebrate life fully lived.

3 MUST-VISIT WINERIES IN MCLAREN VALE

With a climate to mirror the Mediterranean, the region of McLaren Vale, despite its “small country town” feel, punches above its weight when it comes to wine. There are plenty of wineries to choose from, but here are three of the best:

D’Arenberg: One of the most talked about Cellar Doors is the d’Arenberg Cube. Inspired by the complexities and puzzles of winemaking, the five-story building resembles a Rubik’s Cube and draws visitors worldwide. d’Arenberg produces an array of red and white wines, blends, dessert wines, and fortified and sparkling wines, so there is something to please everyone. This venue also has an Alternate Realities Museum and a Salvadore Dali Exhibition.

Hastwell & Lightfoot: So, you’re in South Australia but have a passion for Italian wine. Nessun problema! Hastwell & Lightfoot is a small, family-owned winery that produces the Italian red varieties of Barbera and Montepulciano. Try their Fiano, Vermentino, or Pinot Grigio if you prefer white wine. I did say this region has a Mediterranean climate, and Italian grape varieties thrive here. Enjoy these with a casually shared platter of cheeses, meats, dips, and fresh fruits for a leisurely lunch for two.

Gemtree Wines: Staff at Gemtree Wines, a certified organic and biodynamic vineyard, believes it is their responsibility to improve the land for future generations. Biodynamics is a method of organic farming and gardening with a holistic and spiritual approach to growing. Healthy soils lead to a healthy ecosystem, which underpins their grape-growing and winemaking philosophy. They also tend an organic vegetable garden and grow native Australian plants to showcase during the wine tasting experience in their Cellar Door.

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