February 25, 2024

Episode #634 – How a Foot Race Through the Himalayas Took Winemaking to a Higher Level

This story would make a great movie, if only the plot were believable. Michael Juergens is part Earnest Hemingway, part Ethan Luther (Tom Cruise’s character in Mission Impossible) and a hefty dose of Andre´ Tchelistcheff (Google him if you don’t know).

Michael lives the life most people dream of; a senior partner at one of the big 4 international accounting firms, a guy who runs foot races in places like Antarctica and an uber-serious wine enthusiasts who is delightfully unpretentious. He also builds motorcycles and hotrods but, despite his extraordinary knowledge of so many things, his knowledge of geography leaves something to be desired. That’s why he didn’t hesitate to enter a running race in Bhutan. Michael’s girlfriend has had a life-long obsession with Bhutan, calling it her ultimate bucket list destination. And for reasons Michael is unsure of, he had it in his mind that Bhutan was some kind of tropical paradise, complete with pristine white sand beaches, cocktails with umbrellas in them, parasailing and the smell of coconut oil and plumeria in the air. Well, that’s what he envisioned when he signed up for the race—an island paradise—and that would be correct if the Himalayas were an island rather than perhaps the most imposing mountain range on the planet.

Anyway, when Michaels girlfriend, who is also a competitive runner, gave him a little geographical realty check, the challenge was actually even more enticing and the couple focused their complete attention on high altitude endurance training. Yes indeed, the game was afoot, quite literally; and where that trail in the breathtaking Himalayas led Michael and Bhutanese officials is quite a story indeed.

Today’s episode of Grape Encounters chronicle the adventures of a footloose wine enthusiast who found himself uncontrollably mesmerized by the magical Kingdom of Bhutan; a landlocked Himalayan country bordered by China to the north and India to the South. Bhutan had everything that an adventurer dreams of… everything except vineyards. That was an odd reality in a country that couldn’t possibly be more fertile. And so this very remarkable and unlikely story begins. Well, it actually began at a dinner with Bhutanese government officials following the daunting race and you’ll need to hear what happened on the other side of the finish line straight from the horse’s mouth. Are you ready for one of the most amazing tales we’ve ever shared on Grape Encounters? Go ahead. Hit “play.”

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