"intensity is the price of excellence" - Warren Buffett

“Intensity is the price of excellence” – Warren Buffett

I’m told I’m an intense guy. Even though I know that, I find myself trying to change the narrative because “being intense” can have a negative connotation. I’m dwelling on this as I’m mulling over where this newsletter is headed, and I’m analyzing my intenseness.

This compelled me to look up the definition of intense:

  1. of extreme force, degree, or strength.
  2. having or showing strong feelings or opinions; extremely earnest or serious.


What got me going down this path were two things. First, we just got back from our annual month-long stay at our cabin in Northern Ontario, and while there, Paula suggested I talk about our annual vacation in the fall newsletter. As I was outlining that version of the newsletter, I found myself getting caught up in the weeds of our history there rather than why we go there and the emotions it evokes.

Second, we just had a wonderful story written about kukkula in the Wine Advocate that came out a few days ago. RH Drexel, the writer, did a great job capturing the essence of kukkula and the seriousness of mission that I feel. The article has a picture of me taken a few years ago in Canada. I rather like this picture, yet of all the pictures I sent the Advocate to use for the story, they chose the only one where I wasn’t smiling. I suppose they were trying to capture an image of a serious winemaker.

So, while I was formulating ideas about our annual trip, it made me reflect on who I am in June (just before taking off to Canada) versus who I am during the month of July, while we’re there.

Many of you know I was born in Sudbury, Ontario, a city about 300 miles north of Toronto. My parents moved to Southern California before my fifth birthday in 1964. In 1968 they purchased some land on Lake Tyson, about an hour’s drive south of Sudbury.

Half of my larger family lives in Ontario, and nearby provinces. The other half live in Finland. My mom, like my dad, is Finnish, but Canadian born. She was raised in Sudbury, which at the time had a very high concentration of Finns. Many Finns moved there because it looked like home.

We visited our Canadian family a handful of times after we moved to California, and in the summer of 1968, my dad built a small cabin on Lake Tyson (Canadians call them camps.). Until I left home, all of our visits from then on were focused on staying in that camp at the lake. I loved that place!  

During college and early in my career, I took a hiatus.  Funny how school and a lack of money get in the way!  My first trip back in 1987 rekindled my love of the place. So in 2002, when my parents decided to sell the camp, I bought it. In 2004 Paula and I built a new, larger camp right on the lakeshore.

For those of you who have never spent time in that part of the world, it is situated on the Canadian Shield, which covers over half of Canada from the Great Lakes to the Arctic Ocean. It’s heavily forested and dotted with thousands of lakes; many are interconnected. Population is sparse, and wildlife is abundant. Many of the camps are remote, accessible only by boat or float plane, as is the case with ours.

Our daily mode of transportation is a boat. Our home is solar and propane powered. We have no electronic devices. We have neither internet nor phone service. Most mornings I fish early with my boys. Fishing there is as good as it gets! We sleep, read, play card games and board games, swim, kayak, canoe, hike, visit friends and family, eat great food, and consume plenty of wine. We have a wood-burning sauna, which is lit every evening and enjoyed after dinner along with swimming in the lake. Probably the best sleeping pill you’ll ever take!

This is our time as a family to reconnect, to rest, to re-center and take inventory of who we are, where we’ve been, and where we want to go. We’ve been making this trip as a family now for 23 years. It’s also a time for me to think and plan without the over-the-top distractions of our connected lives. Most of all, it’s that time when Kevin, the intense guy, perhaps disappears.

When returning to civilization I try to hold on to that mindset. I’m getting better at it, but invariably I find myself becoming that intense guy all over again. By the time we’re deep in harvest, the buzz is gone!

For better or worse, that’s how I’m wired. I choose to think it’s a reflection of my passion and commitment to farming and winemaking, and my desire to succeed at whatever I pursue.

Among the synonyms for intense are: extreme, acute, severe, exceptional, harsh, powerful, vigorous, serious, passionate, impassioned, ardent, fiery, and emotional.

This harvest I vow to focus on being exceptional, serious, and passionate, and try to not let the acute, harsh, and fiery side of me show up too much.