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Sunday, August 16, 2009

SO YOU WANT TO BE A WINEGROWER

I'm beginning this story a few years after its inception so that after you read a dozen or so entries you will be well on your way to understanding the trials and tribulations of taking this (insane) dream of having a vineyard, accompanied by a winery and restaurant, to reality. Hopefully I'll keep it in some form of chronological order, but I suspect that I will regress at times as I remember something seemingly important, or maybe entering specific data to technically support an entry so if you are really serious in following suit you can use the facts instead of dealing with only passing generalities.

I certainly will make at times some brash comments and conclusions, most of which would make a wine scholar's skin crawl, but so be it. You see, even someone who studies everything they need to study to begin a venture like this, and who asks a gazillion questions to all the experts out there , is going to find out that there isn't just one way of doing this. And most likely they are going to have to make a decision, since no one else will, to just get the whole project moving. You can nit-pick to death and never get moving, or just do something and learn from one's findings or mistakes.

IN THE BEGINNING.........

The decision to set up a vineyard and winery (I'm not sure which really came first, but most likely the winery) was way back in 2004. Sure, I tinkered with grapevines in my backyard a good 20 years prior, but I think it took the realization that retirement was in the not too distant future and my wife and I had to come up with a plan .

My wife Diane and I have been married for over 35 years now (that's alot of dog years !) and during this time, after going through numerous job changes and trying to learn what we both enjoyed doing together, we settled on drinking wine as something that made both of us smile just thinking about. We had tried cycling, but knees hurt, then we tried scuba diving, but the thought of all that water above us seemed generally hazardous. We were both qualified to sail 43' vessels, but sailing around the Boston Harbor over and over in a rental became rather boring after awhile.

I took up flying; even went so far as to get my instruments license. But entering another recession with a kid in college put the kabosh on that expensive hobby, not to mention never having a plane available when we needed it.

I took up running marathons, but after a fractured leg mid-way through the Wine Glass Marathon (Corning, N.Y.), building up again to run Boston which I eventually qualified for and ran on one of their hottest marathon days ever, I was pretty much limited from then on to short distances. My legs had been spent. And this kind of exercise didn't appeal to Diane anyway; it is a lonely sport.

All of this eventually led me to doing a financial review. Our kids were both out of college and more or less on their own. We had our house, and my business(think Dustin Hoffman in "The Graduate"), and some funds we had invested in. I came up with a number and with this, my mind spun with ideas on what to do for the 2nd half of our lives.

One of the reasons our marriage has lasted so long is that Diane and I have an unwritten rule in our house. It is the power of veto over whimsy ideas. We both have been "granted" this power, but I have to conclude that I seem to have more whimsy ideas, and hence more vetos, than Diane.

I made a proposal. Sell everything, buy a 40' yacht, and sail around the world for the rest of our lives (after up front boat expenses, it only costs around $15,000 per year to maintain this lifestyle), OR purchase land and start a vineyard, with the idea that a few years later we would build a winery and restaurant next to it. Even in hard times we would always have food and wine......what else do you need ??!!

Diane opted for the winery. She believed eating all that seafood would wear thin after awhile, not to mention having only me and maybe a stupid little dog or cat to talk to for weeks at a time might be a tad grueling. And besides, to find the right land to purchase would take some time, and maybe another great idea might replace it. Also, I was never one for vacations so to go on this land hunt gave us an incentive to pack our bags and travel.

2004 -2005 The Land Search

Our inital search for possible vineyard sites was focused on the mid-Atlantic. There were a few reasons for this. One, we didn't really want to be too close to any relatives. Far enough for a visit, not too close for continual path-crossing. This is probably more my idea, since half of Diane's family lived in the mid-West with the balance in New England in various townships. 2/3 of my family lived near Daytona with 1/3 on Cape Cod. Our kids were also spread apart, and were fairly independent, so no one needed hand holding. For this the mid-Atlantic states seemed like a good compromise. Take this with the fact that no one in my family truly enjoyed the snow and ugly winters , and tie it with the thought of an extended growing season as you traveled South, and the decision seemed a natural. Now it was time to zero in on a spot.

Needlesstosay my resident social chairman had thoughts on our first jaunt, to go to Asheville....

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