Gerry & Rosie Wilson - Risk takers turned wine makers
Friday, February 14th, 2014
Issue 07, Volume 18.
The year was 1952, Rosie was ahead of her time, a recent college graduate turning into a career woman setting up a center for Easter Seals in Boise Idaho. Gerry was a fresh-faced member of the Air Force ROTC program in town. The two shared some social circles but did not officially meet until they shared a train ride back to their hometowns to celebrate Christmas. Rosie was heading to Iowa and Gerry to Minnesota.
"He was tall and blond and charismatic," said Rosie. Rosie said a friend wanted to introduce her to him earlier and when she saw him on the train, she introduced herself. After the holidays, the two by chance happened to be on the same train heading back to Idaho.
The two struck up a friendship, hung out with friends, played cards and skied.
"I didnít know how to ski," said Gerry, "but I was told Rosie loved to ski so I pretended."
"I found out Gerry couldnít ski when we got to the top of the ski lift and he didnít know how to jump off," said Rosie.
Rosie said she stayed with him for a while before skiing ahead and waiting for him at the bottom.
Gerry did not let Rosie get too far out of his reach – six months after they met the two were engaged and married in August of 1953.
Gerry was being deployed to Korea and like many military couples today, a pending deployment speeds up a romance. Gerry was deployed to Korea during 1953 and 1954 due to on-again, off-again armistice negotiations of the Korean War.
The first year of their marriage the Wilsons fell even more in love through daily letters written back and forth.
"Gerry was a great story teller. I felt like I was right there with him in his tent with the pot belly stove and fellow military friends," said Rosie.
"Oh, I lived for those letters," said Gerry. "Those letters were what kept me going."
After Gerry returned from Korea, the couple moved to Minnesota and both continued to work – Gerry in banking and Rosie for a power company before having children. The two were ahead of their times.
Gerry was thrilled and proud his wife made more than he did and braggedto his friends. Rosie also supported her husband helping him rise through his own career.
"Like Ronald Reagan said about his wife Nancy, I married up," said Gerry. "I was so lucky to have found a woman not only smart but beautiful on the inside and out."
Gerry said he and his wife were friends and did not compete with each other. If they had disagreements, they put it on the table, "so not to turn a brushfire into a forest fire."
After being married eight years the Wilsons adopted a child and then Rosie gave birth to three more children.
It was in Minnesota that the Wilsons started to dabble in wine making, using dandelions and rhubarbs. But they never thought of turning it into a business.
In the 1970s, Gerry and Rosie picked up the family and moved west to South Pasadena.
Gerryís oldest son Bill remembered the dandelion and rhubarb wine making and when Gerry was looking to retire, Bill suggested they move to Temecula and open a winery.
Like the young man who had no business being on a ski lift years ago, Gerry took the risk with no real background in vineyard management or winemaking and took a chance opening a winery with his wife in Temecula Valley.
"It was a new lifestyle for us," said Gerry.
Rosie said the early days were rough but they always had each other and their family and that is all that mattered.
Rosie and Gerry never planned nor dreamt of having a winery that would become as successful as Wilson Creek is today. The winery is famous for their Almond Champagne and has won many prestigious international awards.
However, despite all their success in wine making, the couple is most proud of their family and marriage.
"Life is about the precious moments," said Gerry. "The evenings to ourselves [with] the fire going – you donít have to go out every night to have a good time."
"Rosie is a very capable woman, and a hell of a lot of fun to be with," said Gerry.
"Marriage is not 50/50, it is 80/80," said Rosie. "He spoils you and you spoil him."
Rosie describes her husband as a wonderful father, someone who is thoughtful, honest and loves people.
"We wait on each other. Rosie anticipates my needs. I am not as mobile as I used to be so she puts the paper down for me, gives me a scotch at night," said Gerry. "It really is the little things, like in the morning putting toothpaste on each otherís toothbrush, just to be kind."
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