1 It’s just happenstance, I promise, but readers will see that our featured M.O.T.s have names that inadvertently, but suitably, fit their occupations.
People sometimes assume Eric LeVine changed his name to match his work, but his great-grandfather changed it a long time ago.
Eric founded and operates the website Cellartracker.com, where wine enthusiasts track their collections and post wine reviews.
It all started with a 1999 bike trip in Tuscany taken by Eric and his wife Suzi. They “fell in love with wine” and started collecting. The former Microsoft project manager, with a background in computer programming, says tracking that growing collection on a spreadsheet “seemed wrong,” considering his abilities. In 2003, he wrote a program and shared it with a few friends who immediately wanted to use it. Eventually it became his full-time job.
Originally intending only to create a community where “people could see what other people were drinking,” the site now has 1 million visitors every month with 170,000 registered users, and 90,000 more actively using the site around the world. Cellartracker lists 1.2 million wines and users post “about 2,000 different wine reviews” every day, Eric says. The site is free, with subscription options that give users higher levels of service.
Eric arrived in the Seattle area in 1992 figuring, “I’d be here about three years.” But then he met Suzi at a Microsoft
“The more we’ve lived here the more settled we’ve become,” says Eric. “When I go back to Boston [his hometown], I say, ‘why are you people so stressed?’”
A Jewish Family Service board member for eight years, he and Suzi have been involved with Hillel’s Grads Plus program (now known as Jconnect) and are founding members of the Kavana Cooperative.“Everybody knows Suzi,” says Eric, who prefers to volunteer “behind the scenes.”
Cellartracker keeps him busy almost constantly: “It’s the curse of the entrepreneur,” says Eric, who earlier this year was named by Seattle magazine as one of Nine Nerds of Note. He unwinds by cooking for his family, including son Sidney, 9, and daughter Talia, 6. Wine, of course, remains an “active hobby” and “when the weather’s good” he likes to ride his mountain bike.
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Cheri Singer Bloom, inside the Montlake Elementary School greenhouse. (Photo: Diana Brement)
It was a bit of controlled chaos when I visited the greenhouse at Seattle’s Montlake Elementary School this past June. The gardening program’s director, Cheri Singer Bloom, had invited me to the school’s annual Spring Harvest Lunch, a scaled-up version of Free Salad Friday — the weekly salad lunch at which student-grown produce is served, supplemented by greens from Full Circle Farm. Fifth graders zoomed around putting out food and organizing younger kids into lines, while Cheri doled out aprons and jobs.
In 2001 some parents approached Cheri about utilizing the greenhouse for education, rather than for storage. With degrees in horticulture from Michigan State, and special education from the University of Washington, Cheri welcomed this “goldmine” of opportunity. The Detroit native has extensive educational experience. She started her career teaching vocational horticulture to mentally ill adults first in New York, and then in Seattle.
She had recently closed her backyard business, the state’s “smallest organic farm.” Her kids were at another school, but she lives in the neighborhood and would jog by, noting the unused greenhouse. It was haunting her, she says.
She also wanted to be part of the school gardens movement started in the Bay Area by Alice Waters of restaurant Chez Panisse, and to be more involved in the community.
The greenhouse program dovetailed with a growing interest in eating locally grown food. Starting as part of the 2nd and 3rd grade science curriculum, she says, “within a year we were attracting grant money.”
Cheri credits Michelle Obama’s healthy eating campaign with amplifying “awareness and the support of the project within our community.” The weekly lunches are supported by Les Dames d’Escoffier, a philanthropic organization of women in the food industry, but parent support “really makes the difference.” The project is also linked to the school’s green team, part of the Washington Green Schools movement.
An avid swimmer who regularly dons her wetsuit to swim a mile in Lake Washington, Cheri, her husband Marc, and kids Sabina and Sam, are members of Temple Beth Am in Seattle.