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Life Upgrades After 40: Patricia O’Brien

Woman in black dress.

Patricia O’Brien is the 54-year-old mother of three and Vice President of Sales & Operations for Danza del Sol Winery & Masia de la Vinya Winery in Temecula Valley, California.

"I’m no longer mercenary in my approach to my career. I used to only trust myself to get the job done, even if it meant working fifty or sixty hours a week."

What led you to do what you’re doing now? After eleven years of working in publishing, our family moved to Temecula Wine Country, where the plan was for me to become a stay-at-home mom after the birth of our son. Although I cherished the time I was able to spend with him, I realized I needed more adult interaction in my daily life. So, when a friend recommended me for a job at a local winery, I applied and was hired to be the wine club manager. From my first day on the job, I was hooked. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would end up in the wine industry.

Who or what influenced you to follow your path? Curiosity! As a child, I was that kid who loved doing book reports, research papers, and trying new things. When the opportunity to learn about a new industry presented itself, I jumped in with both feet.

Do you have any heroes or sources of inspiration? I have been blessed with two wine heroes: acclaimed winemaker Mike Tingley, who is one of the finest human beings I know, and the reason I love wine; and, Bob Olson, founder of Danza del Sol Winery and Masia de la Vinya Winery, who had the trust and confidence in me to appoint me the first African American female Vice President of Sales & Operations of not just one winery in Temecula Valley, but two, overseeing a staff of over 65 employees and producing over 13,000 cases of wine.

Patricia O'Brien's family

What has been the biggest change from 20-something to your current age as far as your approach to your career goes? I’m no longer mercenary in my approach to my career. I used to only trust myself to get the job done, even if it meant working fifty or sixty hours a week. After getting married and having children, that pace was just not sustainable, so I learned how to delegate and cultivate a management team.

What do you do to stay motivated and inspired? I’m an early morning person, so I spend the time between 5:30 and 6:00 a.m. doing mindful minutes of reading. I also have a daily to-do-list that has no more than six tasks on it. My younger self used to have ten to fifteen things that needed to be accomplished by the end of the day. Then I realized I was only accomplishing five and felt defeated. Listing six made it more attainable, and I would end my workday with a sense of accomplishment.

How would you describe yourself in one word or sentence? I’m a soccer Mom, married to her best friend, devoted daughter, sister, and friend who is hard-working and not afraid of a challenge.

Did the idea of aging and/or menopause scare you when you were younger? Growing older has never really bothered me. But menopause … it scared me. I remember vividly the summer my mother went through menopause! It was a summer of huge temperature and mood swings that made me think my mother had lost her mind. And all the older women in the family just kept saying, “Mama’s alright. It’s just the change.” The change? What change? Why was my Mama changing? I like her the way she was! Once it was explained to me, I swore I never wanted it.

How do you feel about it now? I can’t wait for it to come and be over with. I’ve been peri-menopausal for four years now and it has taken its toll. Spontaneous hot flashes, mood swings, weight gain, bloating, joint pain, and sleep issues can make it difficult to run two wineries while raising children with busy schedules.

How have you approached aging? You are as old or as young as your mind is. That is why I make a habit of stimulating my mind everyday by engaging in activities like crossword puzzles, reading, listening to music, and going for walks.

What advice would you give to women in their 20s and 30s? Travel. Do not surround yourself with people who make you feel small. Create memories. Make good friends and keep those who add value to your life, not subtract from it. Finally, our family mantra: Do the things you have to do … to do the things you want to do!

Devin Parr
Devin Parr is a leading personality in the wine industry. She is the Founder and Managing Partner of Devin Parr & Associates, LLC, a PR, marketing and content agency in the beverage, travel and tourism space. She holds her Wine and Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Diploma as well a certification in wine expertise from the Apicius International School of Hospitality in Florence, Italy. In 2017, she was named one of Wine Enthusiast Magazine's Top 40 Under 40 Tastemakers.

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