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Words do this to us. They feed us even before we see. They build expectations. They are things too. And they lead us to see other things in a certain way. Words activated like and paired with the visual are the message.

Filtering by Tag: wisdom

Go To Eleven

Andrea Chesney


This is the story of how the design on the capsules over the corks in bottles of Cliff Lede Vineyards wines came to be. It’s also the story of how some Napa wine reminded us that it’s good to strive to exceed goals, even if you only do so for yourself.

In the 1984 movie This is Spinal Tap, rock band character Nigel Tufnel is giving the director of the faux documentary (that the movie pretends to be) a look at his band’s equipment. He points with pride to their Marshall guitar amps. One has been customized just for them with a knob that has 11 as the highest setting, versus the usual 10. Nigel believes this new painted-on “11” setting really makes the amp  “one louder” than the former 1 to 10 dial. It’s a classic joke in the movie and one that jumped off the screen into popular use in real life. The phrase “up to eleven” still refers to anything that’s reaching its highest capabilities, or going beyond the known “best” possible example. Real musicians loved the idea of being somehow better than the best and reaching out for a magical state of more. They liked the movie’s hopeful whim so much that they actually created a real-life demand for equipment with knobs that went up to the fabled 11 mark.

The use of this “11” story at Cliff Lede Vineyards is a nod to insider wit. Okay. But it’s also a serious statement here at the winery: it’s a promise that this wine is going to be a note better, a tone better, a finish better than what you’ve decanted elsewhere. The place may welcome you with California casual warmth, and a smile, but the wine is as serious as it gets.

Looking at that “11” dial capsule design as we savor an elegant cab during a tasting, we are reminded that impossible standards can be reached. We’re standing in a charming country-style California winery while experts guide our experience precisely because someone knew that dreams matter, that constructing a goal of this size is a worthy task. We liked that the way the place says, in essence, that you can have some fun while retaining your belief in meeting the highest standards. Why not “11” from an old cult flick as a talisman for this very modern establishment? Why not a top-flight vineyard tasting room manned by guys with a distinct roadie vibe but who nimbly educate us about the vintage (score another level 11 for service: wise, and super charming). Why not a vineyard cat, a super-cool orange tom, ambling in from the sunny terrace to make sure things are going well with the guests? Why not? It all works, so let it blossom.

Thing is, on that Monday, we realized that sometimes a glass of wine is more than a goblet of happiness on a perfect California afternoon. Sometimes it’s also proof that choosing to go beyond one’s best is a tangible art form. It’s a reminder that the desire to try harder connects so many us over time, across industries and beyond rules or logic. It’s evidence of a next act, and deciding to go for a bigger game. We could see green hillsides and the roof of the vineyard-associated five-star Poetry Inn as we sipped our five-star (to us) Cliff Lede treasure. We looked again at the 11 topping the bottles, and raised our glasses to those who keep raising the bar, nudging the dial, trying a little harder than the rest.

Note: “Established in 2002, Cliff Lede Vineyards encompasses 60 acres in the famed Stags Leap District of Napa Valley. Owner Cliff Lede, viticulturist David Abreu, winemaker Kale Anderson and consulting winemaker Philippe Melka form an unrivalled team, making the most of this remarkable property. The winery produces Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon. Their flagship, Poetry Cabernet Sauvignon, is crafted from the steep hillside portion of the estate.” Read more on the Cliff Lede Vineyards site.

Commas Are Not Salt

Andrea Chesney

Some people love commas. LOVE them. They put them everywhere they can put them!  Like this:

Some people, love commas! LOVE them, they, put them everywhere, they can, put them!

We have worked on projects for individuals who have PhD credentials, articles and books under their belts. These individuals, some of them, loved to put commas, everywhere. 

Never put a comma between a subject and its verb

Commas are not salt. You should not sprinkle them in as if you’ve had too much wine. People will talk. You can probably go comma-crazy if you are writing humorous dialogue for a space alien and wish to indicate many pauses. You can also sprinkle away if you are developing a code for your secret bunker home school’s new cult language. Just remember that reading a sentence embroidered with commas can cause the acid gases of exasperation to build up in the reader’s veins.

What is okay? 

That comma some people use before the last and in a sentence (“The 8" high heels, the whips, and the almond oil were ready.”) is also called an Oxford comma, or a Harvard comma, or a serial comma. Use it? Don’t use it? It’s largely up to you. You can also check the preference listed in your organization’s style guide.

A comma before a nonrestrictive appositive. (“We will always adore Paris, the golden goblet of true style.”)


Wear Your Weekend Shoes.

Andrea Chesney

What would happen if you could bring the energy of Friday and Saturday nights to Monday morning? The swooping, great thoughts, big goals and dreams and passions. Is there value in being the person in the tall heels, the marathon number, devoted volunteer, flawless stylista, amazing parent, passionate observor on Monday? What would happen? What new insights would be available for your life? Your relationship? Your job? 

Anyway, booties we love for fall, while you are thinking about that.


What She Did After She Quit: Allegro

Andrea Chesney

Things You Really Can Accomplish when you say "see ya later, guys" and pack up your shoes and earrings and cashmere sweaters and take a year off and move to the south of France and make friends in chic cafes and zip around the hillsides to parties in your sportscar, and write. This non-cloying romance novel should be filmed. We salute you from our desks and cubicles, Adora Bennett, as the "Ha-I-did-it!" author of the modern romance titled Allegro. And we hear that life's love actually does imitate art. ;-) 


When To Jump

Andrea Chesney

It’s not wrong until it’s wrong, said my first mentor, a brilliant man who had also invented a retail entity that has become one of the world’s ways of thinking about life. It’s not wrong until it’s wrong. 

Think about it and if you still are like, all, YES, then you know what, try it. Because otherwise we can’t get there from here. Jump.