Exactly ten years ago today, our offer to purchase our little patch of paradise in Prince Edward County was accepted.
That Spring, after the deal closed, Micheline and I took a weekend trip to Prince Edward County. We trekked from the Lavender Farm B&B to our new property and assembled two Muskoka chairs. Then we sat with a bottle of Sugarbush Vineyards Pinot Noir on the hill overlooking the vineyard and watched the sun set as we swatted mosquitos and talked about our dreams. We imagined how we might someday leave our office jobs in the big city for the peace and beauty of the countryside. We might even start a winery someday. What a grand idea, we thought. I said to Micheline, that’s a big dream. It will take at least ten years to get a winery started.
Ten years later, here we are. Our vines flourished. We built a small winery and tasting room and wine enthusiasts flood our doors on busy summer Saturdays. Over that time, the Prince Edward County wine industry more than doubled in size. Those same two chairs sit in front of our tasting room and many people have enjoyed glasses of wine in them. The dream happened!
Back then I thought, if we can take little steps, tiny risks, and keep taking them, we might eventually achieve something big. I look back at accumulation of that journey and how much we’ve done and it’s pretty daunting. The effort involved has been far greater than I anticipated.
One thing I have come to understand is that it’s much more challenging to run a small winery than a large winery. There is a size of winery that you don’t want to be, and that is small. The main reason for this is that while profit margins on a bottle of wine are pretty good, there is a huge amount of overhead to cover in a winery. So in a small winery, either prices need to be sky high or the owner needs to work extra hard to keep overhead low.
My goal is to increase overhead and grow the winery size to cover it. By that I mean, I need to hire more people to do more things, or the effort of running a small winery is going to kill me. I can only handle so many 14 hour days in a row.
In the same time, our children have grown into teenagers. One has flown the nest to attend Queen’s Unversity. We haven’t yet made our transition from the City to the Country.
Creating a winery from scratch while working full time jobs and raising three children in another city is very challenging for normal folks like us. Far more challenging than I ever anticipated. Wine and vineyards are romantic things, but underneath the production of wine is relentless amounts of work for long hours throughout the growing season and tourist seasons.
Sometimes I look at my friends with their steady paycheques, appreciating homes, and steadily paid-down mortgages and self doubt grows. We’ve sacrificed a lot to get where we are and have a long way to go on this path. I hope it will be worth it in the end.