Passion v. Arrogance
A Dana and Goliath Story of Wine, Women & Wrong!
If you've ever considered starting your own winery, then it's well worth it to read Passion v. Arrogance: A Dana and Goliath Story of Wine, Women & Wrong! by Margaret Broderick. The title pretty much says it all. This is a small-vs-large, legal battle set between a pair of female lovers and the banks that first help them, then turn on them when things start to seem tough.
In many ways, the story isn't just about wine. In fact in the important ways, it is barely about wine. It begins as a love story, where you learn how Angee and Margaret first meet, fall in love, and become life partners. It progresses into a story of small business triumphs, as Angee and Margaret begin buying grape juice and creating well-received wines in a city in Indiana. They hold parties, weddings, events, and sell volumes of bottles from their mid-city location. The bank loves them, their patrons love them, and life goes well.
You learn a lot of business-savvy advice from Margaret as she describes the various ups and downs the winery goes through, from the hiring and firing to the trials and tribulations of moving stock and keeping the supply flowing. Anybody who thinks owning a winery is a quick ticket to millions should really read this book and study it. Running a winery is hard work, and earns few rewards. As Margaret explains, in their last year of operation (when things were in full swing and doing well) they took home under $10,000 for the entire year's work.
The first half of the book is fascinating as Margaret and Angee find solutions to problems and are on a great path of expansion and dreams. About half-way through the book, though, things turn down. With the year 2000, an economic downturn couples with Angee's worsening health problems. The winery is expanding, but there's just not enough income to make things work long term. The couple's dreams of retiring to Key West with a dog and a Baileys / Grand Marnier combo cocktail are just not working out. After a great deal of angst, Margaret and her soulmate decide to fold the business. You would think this is where most books would end.
But Margaret is just beginning, and this is where the book changes from a story about the life and death of a winery into a diatribe against the evil forces that tromped her into the dirt. I can't fault Margaret at all. The bank was truly both nasty and blatantly illegal in its actions, judging from the book's records. Annoyingly, the book ends before the actual court cases do, so you don't get any sense that the bank was ever punished for its misdeeds. You do know at least that the FDIC was in the process of taking action against the bank. But in any case, a lot of the purpose of the second half of the book seems to be revenge against the bank and against the attorneys that mis-represented the winery. There are pages and pages of FDIC website printouts. Pages and pages of audio transcripts from meetings. Where the first half of the book was a joy to read and had me flipping pages quickly with a glass of wine in hand, by the time I got to Page 7 of the FDIC Complaint Printout, my eyes were beginning to glaze over. Did I really need to read Section 10-Dot-A with the exact percentage breakdowns of commercial real estate asset handling? At this point it seemed that the point of the book was to prove that the Gaia winery owners were in the right. Well, there was little doubt of that. They could have referred to webpages for me to read the extra information, if I really needed the proof. I didn't need to wade through pages of legal printouts and word-for-word transcripts of legal meetings to get that point across.
There are a few other minor issues. The writing style in general is great - very direct, forthright, honest, You really get a sense (or so I assume, not having met her!) of what Margaret is all about. Margaret isn't shy in revealing her problems, and says right out that some people have an issue in dealing with her. I appreciate that. But there are times that the writing makes it hard to know who is speaking, or who is being discussed, or where the participants are. It means you have to go back and re-read the paragraph once or twice to get a sense of what is actually going on. With the book in general being such a great, smooth read, the times that that happens do stand out.
I imagine that some readers will have a problem reading about two females who are so obviously in love with each other. The entire first section of the book barely mentions wine or wineries - but does tell how the two women dance, give foot massages and kiss. Some people will be wondering just what they are getting themselves into. But even if this isn't usually your cup of tea, I highly encourage you to stick with it. The love story is a critical set-up to the epic battle that is about to take place. Even if you don't personally approve of women loving women, think of it as reading about a mixed race couple if you lived in the 50s. Even while the pairing might seem unusual to you, the battle that they face - and the love and obstacles that are involved as they rise against all odds - is common to us all.
Author: Margaret Broderick
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