What does it take to build a winery? This is a question we should have really considered BEFORE we started. But, as with so many things our family does, we just knew it had to happen- so we leaped.
Although the net had some holes in it, so to speak, we landed, hand in hand- mostly undeterred.
The thing about this venture is that it was/is a family experience- maybe not like going to Disneyland or a summer road trip but like the Four Musketeers- all for one- and so on.
The goal of the winery was to have a working space where we can actually make and store the wine. A little bonus is having a small tasting room that will be open on the weekends.
We found a space in an industrial park in Ventura. The location is close to many of the other small wineries in the area, so it will be perfect for our “starter winery”. Matt, the visionary, took the lead on the what, how, when and sometimes, when we were all a little unsure, the why of it all.
There were months of navigating government, state and local permits; licenses and personalities. There were negotiations with contractors, architects, neighboring businesses and each other.
And that was before we even started the demolition.
We became demo experts; dry wall demons; sanders; painters; patch pros; flooring specialists and plumbers. We were truly weekend warriors- Mike and I driving up to Elissa and Matt’s every Friday night after work. We learned that Saturday’s were the hardest to get going. Matt and I are the early risers and Elissa and Mike have the late- night burst of energy. Some mornings none of us would be talking to each other but once we got to the winery, there was too much to do to not be a team and, after all, we are always a family.
Honestly, we couldn’t have done it, though, without the help of our extended family. We want to thank Brett and Jen Howard - the powerhouse couple who made our demo fly and Jen who also made our website a reality; Todd Van der Kruik who created our label and brand for us; Tammy Konieczko who did all our label work (again and again); Mike Vicencia who was our legal eagle; Lindsay Hollister and Matt Heffner of The Pie Hole, who gave us unlimited access to their experience and knowledge and never got tired of our questions; Karen Smurthwaite, Marsha and Robert Newton who were our paint patrol team; Matthew Abbe who spent an afternoon helping us build our racks; Rob Moon who gave up valuable project time to tile our beautiful bathroom- not to mention advise us on how to even get the tiles; Paul Smurthwaite for tirelessly helping us finalize the plumbing; Zack Carey for being our advisor when the contract work got a little sticky; Michele Wascavage for her constant creative inspiration; Steve Plato who helped with the daunting task of hanging the most important element of the winery- the flat screen TV; Sherry Dreger who bequeathed to us her beautiful antique corbels to help make the space whole; Jennifer Swank and Gregg Smith for holding up our barrels, literally (by donating barrel racks to us); Mom and Dad who watched the money go out but never once told us we were crazy- even though they might have thought it deep down somewhere; Mike, Jessie and Chris at Cantara Cellars for giving us our true beginning; and all of our friends who are still giving us unwavering support. It really does take a village – especially when wine is involved.
So now that we are on the other side, worrying about when the glasses will arrive and what T-shirts to order, I can have a look back and see that I learned a lot about myself and my family.
I know that I can count on my better halves for anything. I know that even when we are all being jerks- we still love each other. I know that my sister and I definitely married our opposites. I know that I am a lot tougher than I thought I was and that I complain a lot more than I would like to admit. I know that there were many times when I took a moment- in the midst of the sweat and dirt and turmoil, when I looked up to see my family there working with me and it felt good- really good. I learned that we all have different things that we bring to the table and that we respect that about each other. I understand that compromise can hurt but it is necessary. I discovered that we are truly blessed with an abundance of friends, well- wishers and supporters and people do want us to succeed.
So now, as we come to the beginning of the real adventure and the cycle of harvest just around the corner, our hope is that you will continue to take this ride with us and know that we truly do mean it when we say- from our hearts to your glass.