However you put it, we are torn between saying that we are amazed at how much we have achieved here at Astley Vineyard in such a short period time...or that there is simply not enough time in the world to do what we want to do. Whichever way we look at it, though, taking over a working vineyard has certainly been the momentous, life changing event that we all hoped it would be.
So what exactly have we achieved so far?
Firstly, we have moved in, which this was a 'humongous' task in itself. The sheer amount of stuff that we all own, combined with the scale of the house and grounds we live in means that everything takes much much longer than you would expect it to. We are getting fit simply existing in this place!
The house move came to a tumultuous head when, on the day that Chris & Matleena's London possessions arrived, we were informed that Jonty had organised a tasting for a family who had booked several months back, and that we needed to prepare for it that day! Being the never-say-never, "it'll be fine" family that we are, however, we took the tasting on, and in fact had a wonderful time with it. The whole event lasted two and a half hours, we all had a lot of fun, and a lot of wine was drunk and taken home. A resounding, if stress inducing, success. Note to self: never move house again!
That's why we are here. And although it is the best, and most enjoyable element of our time here, it is also the black hole of all of our time. When you compare our vineyard to others around the world, we are quite simply tiny. Yet when it comes down to canopy management, especially if you've fallen behind because of a house move, the number of hours even a few rows can take (being the amateurs that we are) is staggering. Jonty gave us a huge 9 out of 10 for our very first completed row, but as we slowly realised how long it would take to do the whole site with the same dedication that we gave the first row, it dawned that we just didn't have time and that we needed to get a move on. With the timing of the house move, we have been flung into the deep end in terms of how much canopy management we have to catch up on, yet although there is this great pressure to hurry up and get it finished, we are regularly reminded of the joy of quietly working in the summer evening sun. Hard work, but nice work!
Business as usual... or not... or at least close
Getting our heads around cleaning, organising and operating the shop was the first task. Although huge strides were made on the surface pretty quickly, trying to sound calm as you are asked to deliver your first order was a bit tricky... as was the act of organising the delivery itself!
We have also been presented with a number of opportunities that have kicked us into action. We are thrilled at the reputation of our vineyard, love getting compliments about the wine, and will do everything we can to accommodate everyone, but it has led to many sleepless nights on Chris's behalf! Things are slowly getting slicker and more seamless, but it will surely be a while before we grasp true ownership of the business.
As we mention in our "About" page and tell everyone that comes to visit our cellar door shop, what is actually most exciting about this project is the scope for development. We are proud to be a small, family vineyard, and our plans don't intend to change that, but what they will do is make the experience of visiting us both more engaging, and more comfortable. Recent work has included: meetings with our local branding agency about our upcoming 'new look', cleaning and preparing a new location for our shop (until our main facility is built), constantly working on clearing our site of clutter, and editing our signage for better clarity. Little on paper, but big in reality!
A lot of work has also been poured into applying for various development grants since moving in. Although it has been painful and not what we have always wanted to be doing, it will facilitate our many ambitious plans. Bravo Tim & Bev! Bravo.
We won't do progress reports every month, but we did think it useful to communicate what we are doing behind the scenes in the early days! Come back soon to see what else we've achieved, or come say 'Hi!' if you are ever visiting in the area.
Until next time