One was a hip-hop artist who saw his music career falter, then found a new calling as a wine expert. Another was a telecommunications executive who turned his lifelong obsession—making pickles—into a business. The people profiled on the following pages all made a switch in their careers to follow their love for wine and food—with remarkable success. Read on to find out what inspired these life-changing decisions, and how the bold moves paid off.
Ask Michael Polenske, 45, why he decided to give up an extraordinarily successful career in finance to start Blackbird Vineyards, his Napa Valley winery, and he’ll say wryly, "Why take a vow of poverty, you mean?"
Ask him again—because it takes some work to get past that wry manner—and you get a little closer to the truth: "It was driven by personal choice. You can’t really connect deeply with people through the financial stuff."