Saved by Sips in ‘Blood from a Stone’

Memoirs of Adam McHugh blood from a stone | Credit: Courtesy

How does one go from the harrowing role of listening to the dying for a living to finding redemption and salvation through a new career in the wine industry? This unlikely saga is the journey readers will experience in blood from a stone. The newly released memoir by Santa Ynez-based writer Adam McHugh provides insight into the history of wine while shedding light on unique twists in one man’s tumultuous life.

Earlier this year, McHugh approached me with a draft in hopes of getting an approval. I wasn’t sure what to expect – even though we move in very similar circles, I only know McHugh through the social media posts and articles he writes for Edible Santa Barbara – but I found the book quite fascinating.

“For an avowed introvert, Adam McHugh lets it all hang out in blood from a stone, a highly personal and intriguing tale of a dying career, a difficult divorce, and ultimately an inspiring rebirth through Santa Barbara County wine country,” is what I wrote for the cover of the book. “Along the way, McHugh educates the reader in an engaging and accessible way about the great sagas of wine, both those of Old World antiquity and more recent histories of the Santa Ynez Valley. This book should entertain wine neophytes and experts, or simply anyone looking for the underdog.

The book ends near the end of December 2019, when McHugh’s life was in full swing as a professional guide and wine educator. He decides to put the pandemic aside, explaining, “I felt like we were all pretty tired of it.” Today, he lives on an equestrian property along Stagecoach Road in Santa Ynez with his wife, who teaches at Dos Pueblos High School in Goleta.

We hit base again recently to discuss the book, and the following is a simplified version of our conversation.

How long has writing been part of your life?

It was part of my academic training, and I always enjoyed it a little more than anything I did in school. I had teachers who encouraged me. As a pastor, I started writing a lot of sermons and enjoyed that much more than the other roles I held.

I lost track of time when I did and lost track of where I was or what time of day. I would be so wrapped up in the writing process. It’s still excruciating, just torture, and yet at the same time I can’t stop doing it. It took me four years to write blood from a stone. I consider it the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done.

Are you still involved in ministry?

Honestly, I completely left all of that behind me. It has been eight years since I fully immersed myself in the world of wine. I am perfectly happy to be on the fringes of religion at this point.

What are your hopes for the book?

It’s like a golf ball sized snowball on top of a hill. This is the third time that I have published a book. In my experience, it’s like an old steam engine coming out of the station. It’s really slow, very organic, very popular.

Do you have another book in preparation?

Not immediately. Give me a moment. I spent so much time and energy. It took four years to write and I had to live this life, which lasted about 10 years, so it was basically 15 years of my life that led to this book.

What do you like about Santa Barbara wine these days?

It looks like the golden age of wine in Santa Barbara County. Not only are there so many more vineyards than 20 years ago, but the bar has been raised to such high levels.

I really like small family businesses like Story of Soil, Dragonette and Future Perfect. These kind of places tend to be my bias.

It was like 20 years ago, there were some good wines and maybe a good restaurant or two. Now you would be hard pressed to find a wine you don’t like. And the culinary scene has finally risen to the height of wine quality. It’s an embarrassment of riches at this point.

Adam McHugh | Credit: Courtesy

Have your family and friends been surprised by these changes in your life?

The reason I became interested in wine in the first place was because I grew up in a house with a large wine cellar in Seattle. I always knew that wine would be part of my life. I had no idea I would end up doing it for a living. They’re all honestly a little happier for me than working in a hospice in the middle of the night. My parents always thought it was weird, which it was. I think people are definitely celebrating this new era in my life.

Do you find something in common between your work in palliative care and the wine industry?

The line I use when people think it’s such an amazing change is, “I used to listen to people on drugs for a living and now I always listen to people on drugs for a living. my life”.

In the book, it’s really the religious part of the wine – the pilgrimages, the history of the church, the monks of Burgundy preserving great vineyards in the Middle Ages – that made me see the coherence of all this with my ministerial career. In fact, it felt like a very natural step for me to take one way or another. Of course, there was a lot of loss and heartache that I had to go through giving up my identity as a minister. I am truly a different person than I was.


Adam McHugh will sign copies of blood from a stone Nov. 2, 5-7 p.m., at the Future Perfect Tasting Room in Los Olivos; and Dec. 10, 3-5 p.m., at Solvang’s Book Loft. Follow him on Instagram at @adammchughwine.

Support it Santa Barbara Independent through a long-term or one-time contribution.

Comments are closed.