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ADVOCATING FOR AMADOR

Former political strategist Jack Gorman wants you to raise a glass of Amador wine.

WRITTEN BY SHANNIN STEIN
PHOTOS BY CANDICE VIVIEN

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Jack Gorman of Amador Vintners Association stands in the vineyard beside his home in Amador County

Take a quick read of Amador Vintners Association Executive Director Jack Gorman’s résumé and you’ll realize that unlike most of the more than 40 winemakers he represents, Gorman is a relative newcomer to the Amador region — and to wine.

With a bachelor’s degree from the University of California, Davis, in political science, six years as the director of government relations with the nation’s second-largest student loan provider, and as a member of Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s senior staff and advisory team, Gorman spent almost 20 years honing his prowess as a government relations professional and political strategist before pursuing his love of the grape.

Raised in Lodi in the ’80s, Gorman was not completely unfamiliar with life in a wine region, but he didn’t start to find his passion for it until the mid-2000s when a co-worker introduced him to the wineries of the California foothills. At the same time, Lodi was experiencing its own wine revolution, and weekends often found him wine tasting in Lodi and across California. Gorman says that as his appointment with the Schwarzenegger administration was coming to an end, he was becoming increasingly disillusioned with the country’s leaders in Washington, D.C., and he found his focus was shifting. Though he’d grown up around vineyards, he hadn’t really known or cared much about wine until he started hearing stories about the people who made it.

“All of my extra time was being spent on wine,” he says. “I was really excited about California wines.”

A leap of faith

In 2012, Gorman and his then-fiancé (now husband) Kyle Peppers moved to Maryland so Peppers could attend graduate school. Unenthused about the potential professional options for Gorman in D.C., the couple agreed it was time for Gorman to follow his new passion for wine full time, starting with a $10-per-hour job at a wine retail shop, so he could start learning everything he could about the industry from the ground up.

“It wasn’t exactly a midlife crisis,” Gorman says with a wry smile, “but I did make a total career change in my 40s.”

One of the two brands of Amador County-made wines represented at the wine shop where he worked in Baltimore was Scott Harvey Wines. So when a tasting room manager position opened up at the actual winery in 2014, Gorman knew it was his opportunity to officially get his foot in the door of the California wine industry. Out of more than 90 applicants, Gorman was selected for the position and almost overnight became an Amador County resident.

“The plan was for it to be a stepping stone to Napa or Sonoma,” Gorman says. “Bay Area was the goal.”

After only a few short weeks, though, Amador began to work its magic on the couple, especially Gorman.

“I didn’t just get excited about the wine,” he says. “I got excited about the people and the passion that drives this small community.”

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A glass of Amador County wine

Ama-where?

After three years with Scott Harvey Wines, Gorman decided to take on an even bigger role in growing the success of the wine region and accepted the job of executive director of the Amador Vintners Association in June 2017. The last year has been a whirlwind of activity for Gorman and his small but mighty team, overseeing the logistics of Amador’s biggest events, such as Amador Four Fires and the Barbera Festival, while working to create greater awareness of the locale in general.

Gorman’s focus for the association in the year to come is to share the enthusiasm he and so many others already have for the region, to help it continue to grow and thrive in an increasingly competitive wine industry. He believes this will require maintaining a deep respect and appreciation for the traditional ways of winemakers while embracing the energy and inspiration of the new generation of vintners.

“It is possible,” he says, “to honor our 1860s heritage while providing a 2018 experience.”

Shannin Stein spent more than 20 years as a restaurant and agricultural industry general and operations manager. Most of her professional time is now spent working with the Habitat for Humanity of Greater Sacramento as its operations manager. She does, however, still enjoy writing and sharing stories about the people in the food, wine, and ag industries who continue to inspire her.

For details about planning a visit to Amador County or about Amador County wines, visit Amadorwine.com.

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