Stepping foot onto the fragrant soil of Willamette Valley, home to the small, family-owned vineyards of the pinot noir grape, brings me back to earth. Just 45 minutes from Portland, Ore., and east of the mountains, the valley is a century away from the technology demands of my work life.
Strangers are welcome: "Stop over this afternoon. We'll be in the barn." The talk will be of grapes and how the weather will affect this year's vintage - that smoky, ruby-red liquid that tastes of raspberries, cherries, currants and plums. These people, most of whom have left their city lives behind, are devoted to the jewels that hang on their vines.
As a CPA, I find the orderly rows of trellises as appealing as the beauty of the valley and this quiet way of life that relies on nature. A rosebush, planted at the end of each row of vines, while exquisite, is there to signal danger. When the bush mildews from the rains, it's time to spray the vines. No beeps, no alarms - just the silent powder on leaves.
-Barbara Piehler, Senior Vice President, CIO, Northwestern Mutual