Friday, July 27, 2007


In the Aprill 2007 edition of The Chatham Press, Dominique was invited to write a piece about our new venture. Here's how it appeared.

To view the current issue of The Chatham Press go to the following URL:

Tuesday, July 24, 2007


My wife doesn't like Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House. On the other hand, its one of my favorite movies. I asked her once why she despised it so, and she responded, “It’s just absolutely ridiculous. Everything that can go wrong, does. No one would continue building in that situation. It’s unrealistic and silly.” Meanwhile, our current house, even reappointed, isn’t much more square than the one General Gates watered his horses at in the beginning of this Cary Grant/Myrna Loy feature.
It turns out I am Mr. Blandings. I was sitting there, day dreaming of the time when I would walk the vineyards in my tweedy coat with my fine baronial hunting dogs, surveying my vineyards like Jefferson at Monticello. It would end violently different from that. For her part, Dominique player her role as Myrna Loy to the teeth, rolling her eyes and ignoring my out bursts.

There is nothing that really prepares you to build a winery. Yeah, you’ve made an addition to your house, you built a new home, you renovated your old one, you added a garage. But so many people have their say in the building of your winery, that it's hard to remember sometimes its yours.
The building inspector naturally has his say. The architect has his say. The builder makes his points. The farm manager weighs in. The consultant tells you what’s wrong. The winemaker tells you that we forgot this or that. A friend asks why did you do it this way? A friend’s wife says she doesn’t like the color scheme. The electrician thinks its all wrong. The government has definite ideas that you must adhere to. And somewhere therein, you and your wife try to squeeze your vision in as to what you want to convey to others when you are building a winery.

In the meantime, we had to contend not only with this hurricane of forces. We also had to deal with Mother- Mother Nature. After the slab was laid down, it was covered over with a couple of large tarps and a thousand used tires - to cure. I thought suddenly some film crew was going to show up and start filming the Blue Collar Tour right at our house. The only thing we were missing was an old Cadillac up on blocks.

Then came the first snow. It was lovely. And we were assured the snow would melt. It’d been a mild winter. Then came another snow instead. And suddenly, the slab was covered with a solid block of ice. It was now a skating rink with submerged tires, like the Meadlowlands swamps had frozen over.

Then the pretty drifts of snows piled up to the point where we could not open either of the house’s two front doors. This went on for a while. And when it all melted, and we were ready to begin work, another snow fell that was just as bad.

If you’ll remember, the snows finally melted when we got hit with heavy rain showers. Now the foundation was back to just being cement. The ice was gone. But suddenly the slab was submerged in a foot of water. We would be the first winery with a moat. There was a veritable stream running down my drive way.

Ralph, our farm manager, showed me by hitting one of the hills with a pick axe, he had started another stream, and then another, in an effort to relieve the earth of the water is was holding. Each puncture in the small hill sprouted another artesian well. The farm was fully saturated. And the water could not be absorbed. As a result we had ponds and running streams.

Finally, by the end of April, the snows and the waters had receeded, and finally work could begin. We were no further behind than ever - and it had been no one’s fault. Tim and his guys worked like crazy. And I showed up from time to time nodding and shaking my head, trying to look smart. While I was indeed impressed, each conversation cost me a little more money. Did I like the 3 inch molding or the 5 inch molding. Did I want the cross beams covered in pine or cherry? Raw outside paneling or pre-primed timber? Dimmers on the lights? Lintels on the trim work? The plumbing had to be completed. Then a burst pipe had to be replaced.

To complicate matters, I wanted to add a coupla. This frustrated the farm manager and builder because it was just another impediment - but they were good natured about it. And many people have since complimented me on it. But that is another story.

And this was just for the building. This wasn’t everything else that was going on inside. This was just the building of the winery.

When it was finished, my wife was barely speaking to me, I had made such as ass of myself, and the building looked wonderful But there was nothing either Cary Grant or baronial about me and my position. Only more mistakes and hard work lay ahead for me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007


One of the most difficult parts of building a winery is construction. As any one who has ever built anything knows, whether you are building a model airplane or a garage or a home, anything and everything that can go wrong will go wrong. I hate cliches. I really hate cliches that are true.

The first thing was to fix up the small shack that had a bathroom and electricity. The entire thing needed to be revived from beginnign to end. We painted it inside and out. We put more than 1 case of caulk into it, and coated the walls three times. We also up-dated all the fixtures in the bathroom and had the walls replastered. And we installed a new working sink. It went from this red shack to something a little nicer. That was the first summer. This would go on to be the blending room.

It went from this red, peeling shack, to soemthing a little nicer. This would go on to become the blending room.

The inside of the blending room contains our bottling machine, blending tanks, filters, pumps, and hoses.

Our first plans for a new building were completely kiboshed by the local town building inspctor. We had intended to use a very large shed for our tasting room, something 32 x 14, which we intended to link up with the small blending room. But the roof was not up to safety standards for a commercial building for retail traffic. If it were an office it might have passed but as a place for the public to come in and out of, it was a no go.

By the time I had found a seres of engineers who would not or could not help us for varying reasons, we finally found an excellent architect in Bill Wallace from Wallace Design. Bill addressed all the worries the local building inspector had and get us finally moving forward. Not including Bill's fee, which was very reasonable, our building costs trippled.

This was great news if you didn't take into account that we already lost five months of building time. And it was now January.

Ralph and our builder Tim began by setting up an Alaskan slab and set it in January.

If there a thousand things comical about Dominique's and mine attempt to open a winery, the one bit of seriousness amongst all the comic relief was provided by Tim. He alone among us seemed to know what he was doing. The slab went in and we were thrilled. It was the last time anything went smoothly.

The weather was now about to change everything.