Fri, Feb 08 2013 12:03 PM Posted By: Dave Schwab
Shira Bliss found love— and her future livelihood—in beer and wine tours.
The 53-year-old immigrant from Belfast, Ireland, who lives in the Village of La Jolla, was between jobs as a mergers and acquisitions consultant in the financial industry during the recent recession and running out of time and money when it occurred to her, during a neighborhood stroll, there were economic opportunities available to those willing to capitalize on them.
“I’d been out of work for one and a half years and all my savings were gone,” Bliss said. “I’d done everything, including some freelance writing, and nothing was sticking. I was quite desperate, I needed to reinvent myself.”
Bliss was walking along the beach in La Jolla, her daily practice, one day when it occurred to her, “Do what you love to do, and the money will follow.”
“I love to talk, eat good food, drink good wine,” she recalled. “So I birthed an idea. There were a lot of restaurants in town, some of which were struggling. I said, ‘I want to bring more business in to these establishments and create jobs.’ ”
That was in June 2010.
Fast forward two and a half years, and Bliss has found the means to satisfy her, and some of her community’s, financial needs: guided beer and wine tours in La Jolla and elsewhere along the San Diego coast.
Her rags-to-riches career search brought other unforeseen developments, including a business partner who turned out, ultimately, to become her life partner.
Needing money to invest in the wine tour business she was hatching, the cavalry came over the hill for Bliss in the form of an old friend, Paul Anthony Vild, who offered to provide the financial seed money.
The business — and their relationship — blossomed from there.
Paul Anthony Vild’s love for San Diego’s wines spurred the idea for tours to San Diego’s wine country. In July, 2010, together as partners in business and in love, Bliss and Vild formed La Jolla Wine Tours, now San Diego Winery and Brewery Tours, which hosts guided wine and beer tours.
“Every week we bring guests to San Diego’s vineyards,” said Bliss noting the county’s local wine industry was largely undiscovered with everyone previously going all the way to Temecula in Riverside County to sample the fruit of the vine.
Bliss and Veld are helping people far and wide “rediscover” San Diego’s burgeoning wine and craft beer industries from Carlsbad to downtown San Diego, guiding them in sampling some 50 of the finest wineries, and now breweries, that the region has to offer.
“We can accommodate two people to several hundred,” said Bliss. “We’ve done large groups, corporate groups, even doing things like grape stomping. We have wine and beer tasting dinners. We even have train tours visiting wineries and breweries within proximity of the Coaster. We have tours seven days a week, 363 days a year, every day except for Christmas and New Year’s.”
Bliss and Veld’s wine and beer tour company has grown and prospered and now boasts seven employees in two offices with headquarters in downtown San Diego.
“It’s hard to believe,” said Bliss of her newfound success. “When I think about the seven people that rely on us for a paycheck now — it’s a wonderful feeling. That and being able to bring more business to wineries and breweries and boost the economy: It’s so extremely rewarding.”
But running your own business comes with great personal sacrifices. Bliss said she stared out working 16-hour days, seven days a week. She now has that down to 12 hours a day, six days a week.
But it’s all been worth it to her.
“We get to share our passion for the finest wines, and best craft beers, of San Diego sharing gourmet food with our guests,” she noted adding, “It’s always a win-win.”
For more information visit www.lajollawinetours.com.
© 2009 The Star-News