For the past four years, Mark has hosted a Willamette Valley wine experience for small groups of family offices from around the country. These events have proven to be unique gatherings of amazing people who come together to learn, share, go deep, build new friendships, and support each other, all while tasting great wine and eating delicious food. This year’s event was no exception.
Last year was the first year we brought the girls along with us to the event. They were joined by two other sisters from Georgia, each a year older than ours. The four of them got along famously, and spent the limited amount of free time we had planned, between tours and horseback riding, making their own movie.
This year, the two sisters joined us again (along with their new baby brother and their mom). We also welcomed another set of siblings, a 9 year old boy and a 12 year old girl from Texas. The six of them got along famously.
The night before the event formally started, we gathered a few of the attendees along with other Portland families to enjoy an epic dinner at a pop-up restaurant that was paired with unique beer from a Danish brewer. Each item in the five course meal was outstanding, and there was so much food prepared, that by the end of the meal we were eating because it was so tasty despite having no additional room to put the food in our bellies. But as any kid will tell you, there is always a separate stomach for desserts! Despite being full, we all found room to sample the incredible ice cream sandwiches made locally while hearing the story of how the owner created and is growing her business.
This dinner was the first meeting for our girls and the siblings from Texas, and they jumped right into a quick friendship. They played cards at the table and took advantage of the giant Jenga and other games outside between courses. In between dinner and dessert, we also had a surprise singing performance by a college-aged woman studying musical theater in NYC, who was attending with her father. She sang “She Used to Be Mine” from the play The Waitress.
The next morning, the kids and adults started on a tour of a local company, run by two women who are creating a line of characters to help teach emotional intelligence to children. It was so gratifying to bring the kids along to hear the story of how these women started this business from scratch, including hand sewing the stuffed animals in the early years, and how big and impactful the vision they’re holding for their business being in the future.
Once the conversation turned from the story and vision, to detailed business questions, the kids got bored and so we escaped to the Oregon Zoo for a few hours. We covered a lot of ground, saw most of the animals, and stopped to cool down with ice cream and a ride on the merry-go-round.
We met back up with the adults after they finished the first tour and a subsequent tour of a biomedical company at a hotel in downtown Portland.
A large shuttle bus (followed later by me driving a 15 passenger van), took everyone down to Dundee, Oregon, where we’d all be staying for the next few days.
I got the kids settled into the house and they promptly launched into making a new movie. Using iMovie and other special effects apps, along with a bag of Halloween costumes we brought, they started developing characters, storylines, and went right into filming. I made a quick dinner, welcomed the babysitter, and joined the rest of the adults for an amazing four course meal and wine pairings.
The opening dinner is always one of my favorite parts of the trip, as Mark does an incredible job of encouraging people to get vulnerable, transparent, and curious right from the start. The question he posed, after everyone introduced themselves, was about a hypothetical scenario about a book about families and family wealth: what chapter would they want to write, and what chapter would they want to read? Everyone’s answers generated helpful questions, openings for future conversations, and illuminated connection points that the participants leveraged throughout the gathering.
After dinner, the group all gathered around the firepit, on a perfect summer evening, under a sky full of stars with a warm glow at their feet, to continue their dinner conversations. The kids slept in the house, while the adults talked the night away just outside.
In the morning, the adults had a full day of opportunities to connect. Breakfast conversations started deep and spilled into the morning when there was unstructured time to allow the dialogue to continue. Lunch was onsite as well, and the group spent the afternoon walking to three different wineries. We worried the hot weather would make the walks unpleasant or even impossible, but everyone enjoyed the exercise and the type of conversations that can occur when moving at the speed of walking.
While the adults talked, walked, and tasted, the kids were in active movie making mode. Stopping only to eat (which happened quite often), and a quick water gun battle in the heat of the afternoon, they remained focused on filming and editing their movie. Everyone had a role. Everyone contributed to the storyline. Everyone loved it. My job was to keep the food coming, to clean up the dishes, and to make sure that no sibling conflicts got out of hand. I was lucky the new mama and babe were around as it made the hang out time so much more enjoyable for me. I loved the good conversations with mama and delicious baby cuddles.
The babysitter returned for the second night, and I had to beg the kids to stop filming so they could eat their dinner while it was still warm. I left the kids and joined the rest of the adults at a gorgeous winery, with a beautiful view, and super seasonal and local menu prepared for the dinner. The evening was perfect for sitting outside, and early enough in the season that we weren’t pestered by too many wasps.
Everyone returned to the fire again after dinner. The constant electricity of conversation between new friends paused only briefly, when we were again graced with three songs from the musical theater student. As the perfect summer night approached midnight, people walked back to the rooms under the blanket of stars.
The last morning, the kids rushed to finish filming the last few scenes of their movie. The adults breakfasted and slowly got everyone packed up and on the shuttle bus as their work lives seeped slowly back in. We all stopped for lunch at a stunning winery that had a tire swing for the kids, and lots of lawn games. While eating and tasting their wine, we also got to learn about the growth in their business (including canned wines!) and the family behind the winery.
I left early to take our things home, and brought mama and baby with me, so the little one could nap peacefully in the car. Everyone else enjoyed the winery, and got private showings of the finished movie on the shuttle bus ride back to the city. The movie was 13 minutes long, included special events throughout, and even featured credits.
Upon returning to the city, most had to leave for the airport or to drive home. A few adults squeezed in one more tour with Mark of a cannabis beverage company after getting back to the city. The girls and I said goodbye to all the friends, and headed for home.
We’re still recovering from the late nights, intensity of planning and holding the experience for so many people, and the big energy of new ideas and exciting plans for the future. But we’re grateful we get to host this event. Grateful for the people we get to meet and know well. Grateful that our kids get exposed to inspiring companies, and new friends. Grateful that we can facilitate deep connection and friendships between people. Grateful for all we get to learn and experience.
We have big dreams on how to keep doing events like this as we travel around the US and the world. And we’re excited to have so many people who want to join us, support us, and who are encouraging us to make it happen. Stay tuned!