The sun is shining bright and strong this morning on our Christmas tree as my thoughts go back to 2013. Oskar was a couple of months old starring at the lights of the candles and we had just filled our first three barriques with the first Heimat Silvaner and the Wanderlust. We still didn’t have a clear plan what to do with the traditional business of the winery. We were exhausted. Harvest had been way tougher than we had thought. A new home, a new job and the baby – we definitively got an idea how challenging it would be following our dreams while setting up our family life and helping the old business to not fall apart.
And now, six and a half years later we’re still here. Celebrating Christmas with my parents which are now retirees. Released from their duties and worries. And my dad preferring a no SO2 Auxerrois from Jean-Pierre Rietsch to a lightly sulfured and filtered Silvaner. The winery which used to employ more than 40 people in the 1960s has shrunk to Melanie and me (Victor will leave us soon to be closer to his girlfriend). It feels relieving but it’s also scary. If you’ve ever visited us you probably got an idea how huge (and partly fucked up) this place is. But it’s our place now.
2019 had a lot of ups and downs for us. Strictly speaking there were so many hurdles – it’s a miracle that we’re still married and all in this together. It started with my dad’s cellar master resigning with a very short notice last spring. Not all conventional wines had been bottled yet, the handover was way too short and hectic. He’d been in charge of all machines (neither my area of expertise nor what im terribly interested in). As a consequence I had to learn a lot of things from scratch and broke pretty much every machine I used (some twice). And I had to abstain from most of the handwork in the vineyards which was frustrating. Thank god we had Victor and Nick co-running the show and managing a wonderful spring crew – it didn’t work out too bad in the end. And it meant for me that all the production facilities started feeling a lot more like mine much earlier than I had hoped for.
Drought was a problem again last year and noticing its impact in 2018 down in the cellar we were super cautious and reduced the yield which was not promising anyway. On the upside we got better fermentations in 2019 but I remember sitting at my desk one night towards the end of harvest, doing the math and wondering how we should survive the next year with so few grapes. We ended up buying more grapes than we wanted.
The late fall brought my parents last sales season and just when it was in full swing the dedicated office assistant dropped out for the rest of the season which meant many, many extra hours for Melanie and my mom. And almost no time for our customers. My parents had set themselves the challenge to leave an empty storage behind and they succeeded admirably. It’s a remarkable feeling walking through the storages with pretty much nothing but our wine left.
Thank god there were more things to be happy about. We had a lot of wonderful wines to bottle. Our work with a Pinot Gris / Riesling vineyard finally led to a beautiful blend we’re looking forward to bottle in March. The vineyards got plenty of excellent compost and biodiversity is increasing steadily. A highlight here was a pond many people helped digging and setting it up. It’s going to serve as a home for insects which will contribute to the wild yeast population in the vineyard next to it. And we had again so many people from all across the world helping us.
The major accomplishment for both of us though was a cognitive one. I started diving deep into contemporary philosophy from a farming and wine perspective. There is so much remarkable work being done out there, a shift away from the dualism of body and mind, human and nature (and I’ll write a separate post on that).
In 2020 we don’t want to grow our business in terms of revenue or popularity. It’s about being content, implementing a better working structure, achieving a balance and accepting that things take time. After 6.5 years it feels like a new beginning again and we’re happily taking this adventure on. We have learned to rest not to quit.