We are excited — really excited — to reopen the Villa this season. We’ve got something new; we’re told no one in the wine business is doing anything like it. That’s either good news or somewhat concerning. We’ll let our guests decide. Honestly, we’re in scramble mode to make all the pieces come together for opening day — and despite that, we aren’t doubting the plan or backing away from it. In fact, we are getting more committed to it.
Let me back up a bit and explain how we got here. The Villa, our “city” location, opened a few years ago and was intended to bring our experience and wines to our guests. The design and decor was meant to spoil guests — a treasure trove of texture and color, all completely different than that of the Winery tasting room. In many ways, the Villa has lived up to “the business plan,” but it’s been bugging us. Swinging at ghosts kind of bugging us. We couldn’t put our finger on it, but we just knew something wasn’t right. Now that we have a plan, we probably can articulate what was bugging us. The Villa was a pleasant guest experience but wasn’t a dense rich winery experience and wasn’t beating guests’ expectations.
So this spring, The Villa will reopen and guests will be invited to “Sniff, Sip & Sample”. With a scent bar inspired by a perfume department in New York, guests will be able to smell many of the aromas, be them floral, fruity, spicy, woody, nutty, herbacious, or caramelized, that are perceived in our wines. Another bar will be set so guests can focus on the five tastes we experience on our palates — sweet, sour, salty, bitter, and umami. (I think people will be surprised, as I continue to be, at how important your sense of smell is to experiencing food and wine.) To continue the sensory tour, different food stuffs will be sampled as suggested pairings for each of our wines. This is the piece we are focused on now and I suspect we will have completely exhausted our palates by Opening Day as we work through possible pairings for each of our wines. It’s a tough job, but someone’s got to do it. All said, the hope is that by pulling down the curtain on the pretentious wine world vocabulary, guests will be able to enjoy their wine tastings even more, navigate a restaurant wine list or wine store offering easier, or pair food and wines with more confidence. If nothing else, the discussions during wine tastings are sure to be lively.
We got the right people on the bus and then figured out where we should go; Jim Collins would be proud. A couple of classes at the Culinary Institute, a premise that the Villa could focus on food and wine pairings, a quick trip to New York, a little mixing and matching of ideas, and we’ve got “Sniff, Sip & Sample”.
It’s hard to believe but today, February 15th, marks the fifth anniversary of my buying Cellardoor. The fifth anniversary of my wandering out onto the ice like Bambi with no clue how to move beyond the safe walls of a Fidelity career and life in Boston. Admittedly, “life” and “work” are incredibly intertwined – maybe even more so than before, much to my Mother’s chagrin. In truth, it very rarely feels like “work” – tedious toiling just isn’t part of things here. Reflecting on five years, I am stumped to account for the time, to define what we’ve done, or to judge whether we are on track for some goal. As my dear Denise would say “every year is a transition year here”; Lani and I often joke “we have to start writing down all the stories” so we don’t forget anything. All said, it’s been an evolution – there are memorable milestones, definite regrets that we didn’t journal all the details, but, most importantly, joy that I appreciated the people part of this journey.
So five years in, I will say the highlights are all memorable because they were shared with people who mattered to me. The giggles are always louder and longer when Lani and RayRay are involved. Sharing late night clean up duty with Jasie is girl time; early morning garbage pick-up is time to catch-up with Lani after weeks of short-hand text messages and emails to stay on top of details; and Saturday mornings is “quiet” time with Janice in the barn gift shop. Daniela is always a note away from singing and dancing to music from any decade; Abby can remind me of the things I haven’t finished in the kindest way; Joel is the best reminder that thinking and speaking your mind is the way to go; Aaron and CC are inspiring with their team work; Aaron mesmerizing in his ability to consume water; McKenzie’s twinkle of enthusiasm and devilish perspectives on people make off-season special requests just a lot more fun; Jeremy, our newest team addition, is Maine’s MacGyver; and Tim and Josh the special intangibles that glue this thing together.
So if this is “work”, everyone should be so lucky. Paperwork is still tedious. I haven’t figured out how to make that one more fun – I just don’t spend all day doing it. Ever.