2019 was our third vintage here at the vineyard. We are pleased with what we have acheived so far, but there is still so much more to come.
There is a lot to cover, so in this blog Tim talks about his experience of 2019:
I know it’s time for the Annual Retrospective Blog because we’ve just had our strategy day to lay out the challenges for 2020 and we’ve just started winter pruning (which is the beginning of the new year in the vineyard), so 2019 must be finished! Our second full year of living the dream!
By some measures, it has to go down as a really good year: visitor numbers – up; wine sales – up; trade customers – up; Chris & Matleena’s house – up.
By other measures, 2019 was a challenging year: weed growth – up; grass mowing – up (massively); harvest logistical issues – up; grape quantities – down (for more about the weather and its impact on the harvest, see my separate harvest blog.
But the most important measures of all: are we enjoying it, and are our customers happy? These both returned a resounding “yes”.
We no longer feel like imposters or risk-taking newbies. We’re comfortable with our allotted tasks. We trust one another (in a business way, as well as in a family way). We’ve probably now done every task at least once, and no-one has been hurt!
Notable firsts in 2019 included:
Chris’s blog deals with this. It was a huge hurdle to overcome, and (as Dad, as well as business owner) it was amazing to see him step up to this task and to produce some really good quality wines at the first attempt.
We didn’t anticipate how challenging this was to be (except Bev who sees everything!). Keeping the “wine cow” properly replenished, with manageable flow rates, keeping the bottles moving at the same pace was really difficult and took all 4 of us. And all of our patience, a high degree of energy and focus, and several restorative trips to the local pub. Bottling was an adrenaline sport! If you see some strange chalk marks on some of our bottles, this was from the weightlifters’ chalk Matleena brought back from the gym to help her grip the bottles flying past at high speed!
Never having owned a dog, I had no idea how cute and loveable they could be. I’m only “grandpa” to Chris and Matleena’s puppy, Otso, but I’ve been really smitten by the little chap. It’s great to see the joy he finds in simple things like a new stick, and to see his worldview that everyone is his friend and playmate.
In the wider estate, it was also a busy year. Daisy set up The Clearing (a community interest company – a type of charity) to manage and run events in our woodland. In preparation for this, yet more trees were felled, more timber extracted, more brash shredded for more paths etc etc. In a similar vein, I ended the year doing battle with the overgrown vineyard hedge – doesn’t sound too much, but at 100m long, 5m deep, and 5m high, and consisting mainly of small/medium sized trees, it proved to be a pretty arduous task. And the resulting bonfire lasted for 6 days!
On a lighter note, both Daisy and I took advantage of the hot summer nights (remember those?!) to do some wild camping in the woodland. It was a personal highlight for me, going to sleep watching the bats, and waking up to the sound of the owls returning home from the night shift. In other, wildlife news, Tarquin, our tame male pheasant, successfully coped with a harem of 11 wives and introduced us to his many new broods at the daily kitchen-door feeding sessions.
Sometimes, amid all the hurly-burly of our regular tasks, it is easy to forget just how lucky we are. But I’m also lucky enough to lead our regular vineyard tours, and it is fantastic to be able to see our vineyard through the eyes of these new visitors: they never cease to marvel at its beauty and tranquility, reminding me not to take for granted this hardworking but lovely life.
Now, back to the pruning…!