2021 may be a new fresh start for many. After surviving 2020, the global pandemic and navigating the tier systems, many might be looking for a new path, one that reconnects with nature and offers a totally different, exciting and sustainable future.
We went through this a few years ago when we made the decision to expand the vineyard. We planted our first vines in 2009 simply intending to enjoy ourselves outside in the fresh air and to sell the crop at the end of each year. Having fallen in love with the wacky world of English wine we decided to jump feet first into the whole process, bringing the winemaking onsite for the first time. Over the last 5 years, we have spent countless hours planning exactly what our next evolution would be. We had already established a successful small shop but we knew we needed to make it more of an experience when you visit our vines. So we decided to open our own kitchen, build on our knowledge of wine to make our tours even more educational and extended our shop to stock a much wider range of fantastic products from Devon creators.
The one thing we didn’t plan for (I don’t think anyone did) was a global pandemic. No more than a few weeks after breaking ground on the build, past the point of no return, we started seeing more and more news reports about this scary uncertain future. We were incredibly lucky in lockdown 1 with me (Tom) and dad (Mike) being in the building trade. We were already building our new home ourselves, so all we really had to contend with was delays in building supplies. This pushed us past our hopes of a spring/summer opening but meant we were ready to go full steam ahead by September.
Opening really did surpass all our expectations, even with the strict covid rules we had to follow (another hurdle in itself) we were delighted to see lunchtimes and tours booked out for the weeks ahead. We really were and are living the dream, getting to share our love for wine with everyone who walks through our doors. We also started to grow our team with Vicky joining us in September too! What would we do without her? Not least that she shaped the soundtrack to the cafe, chilled, soulful music, inspired by her days at uni studying music.
We are incredibly grateful for the help and support we received throughout the last year. From the bank managers who believed in us to the local builder’s merchant for keeping us supplied with all the necessary materials and most importantly all our fantastic customers who joined us along the way.
Opening any business is no doubt a stressful time for its team, even without a pandemic weighing on your shoulders. The restrictions we were placed into from the start kept us and our customers safe and despite all the uncertainty in the crisis, we managed a fantastic two months before the lockdown 2.0 in November. Our wonderful customers rallied around us and our online sales grew dramatically and the month flew past. Once open again, Christmas saw a new buzz around the vineyard and especially in the shop. Shopping local seemed to be a big focus for many this year, which as a new small business was lovely to see and also builds on our plans to keep growing our range from local creators.
We are also grateful for the furlough scheme, as without that we would have received no external help from the government or the local council. Having opened during the pandemic, we somehow managed to fall between the cracks, not being eligible for any grants out there and as we enter yet another lockdown we are still uncertain as to whether we will be eligible this time around either. We may have grown as a business over the last 12 months but so have our outgoings, a concept that sadly the current financial support doesn’t take into account.
For us, the next few months whilst being locked down won’t be totally wasted. The vines need lots of attention as we really get stuck into pruning. All 5,000 vines need to be made ready for the new season, giving them a good tidy up and getting rid of old growth from last year. In the winery, last years’ wines are developing nicely, ahead of bottling later in the spring. We are also looking ahead and getting some rather exciting plans in place for 2021 and beyond.
We really have to say a massive thank you to everyone who has visited us or bought online this year. We couldn’t have made it through without your support and words of encouragement. We will be back soon, better than ever with the prospect of a great summer ahead. We have been saying all along, “If we can survive 2020, we can survive anything”. Wishing everyone a happy and healthy lockdown 3.0.
See you again soon.