|Posted on May 16, 2013 at 8:45 AM|
We have heard it throughout this blog series - owning a winery is hard work. It is the life of a farmer, it is hard manual labour and it is very different from working in the city. Like a lot of the other family wineries in Prince Edward County, Kimball and Liz Lacey decided they wanted to move their family out of the city to raise them. In the process of finding a job out in Prince Edward County, Kimball, along with his Dad, Charles, attended a seminar at what was then Peddlesden Winery (now CasaDea Estates Winery). Norman Hardie was running that seminar and, as Charles and Kimball sat there and listened to what Norm had to say, they came to the conclusion that they could do that too. You see, a few years before, Charles had bought a family farm out in The County and it was only 7 km north east of where they were attending this seminar, located on Closson Road which has sort of earned the nickname of "winery row". Although there was only one or two wineries open on Closson Road at that point, there are now nothing less than seven wineries just on this one street and more than a dozen in this area of The County. Although it took some soul searching and a lot of discussions amongst the family, it can easily be said that Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery was formed that day and they have not looked back since.
Initially this was a complete family winery which encompassed both of Kimball's parents, Kimball and his wife Liz as well as Kimball's brother and sister and their spouses. Over the years, health and schedules have not permitted everyone to participate 100% in this venture so some family members have had to step away but it still remains a family business and a family passion. In fact, earlier this week, when Mother Nature decided to send some colder temperatures our way, it was Kimball, his Dad and his brother Andrew who pulled an "all nighter" in the vineyard burning brush & straw bales to keep the vines warm. You can see this in more detail by checking out "When Mother Nature throws a curve ball" found here: http://www.patriciadinsmore.ca/apps/blog/entries/show/26377058-when-mother-nature-throws-a-curve-ball. While Kimball and his family were starting their winery, Kimball needed to start learning all he could learn about owning and operating a winery, about being a winemaker and about being a vineyard manager. He started that process by working at Peddlesden Winery with Norm and then for a little bit at Norm's winery when he opened it across the road. He then moved on to Closson Chase Vineyard where he still remains today and is the Associate Winemaker there. Combining all of those duties at Closson Chase Vineyard with everything he does at Lacey Estates Vineyard and Winery makes Kimball one very busy guy. Today, Kimball's duties at Lacey Estates encompass winemaker, vineyard manager, treasurer and genereal manager. Considering this is not where Kimball started his working life, this has been a huge jump. When he and Liz lived in Toronto Kimball worked in the banking industry and, when they moved out to Prince Edward County, Kimball found work in a call center. It actually wasn't until years later that Kimball and I discovered that we both worked in the same call center at the same time but just on different contracts. It was definitely something to laugh about because we have both come a long way since our days working there.
When I asked Kimball what he thought the challenges and triumphs were that Lacey Estates faces, he summed it up in two words - "shoulder season". Lacey Estates does not have a large retail space like some of the other wineries in the area so trying to get people through their doors during the slow months is a challenge. They are not able to host the large groups that are touring at this time of the year and they do not see the drive by traffic that they would during the summer and fall months. As a result, social marketing and website sales play a huge role in their business at that time of the year. Kimball feels that the biggest triumph they have gotten is an increased recognition for their wines. He was at a wine tasting just a few weeks ago where he was approached by a gentleman that wanted to try his 2010 Baco Noir which is his current release. After enjoying the sample of the 2010 that Kimball poured for him he revealed that he had one bottle left of the 2008 Baco Noir which he fell in love with when visiting the winery. From just that small sample of 2010, this gentleman knew he needed bottles of the 2010 for his cellar. To Kimball, hearing that, fills him with pride because then he knows he is making wines that people truly enjoy. When Kimball shared this story with me, it started me thinking about what kind of back vintages of Lacey Estate Wines I have in my cellar - I found a bottle of the 2008 Gewurztraminer and my fiance and I still have bottles of their original vintage (2007) in the collection as well. Those original bottles will never be opened but it is a testament to the wines that Kimball makes and the fact that we are still enjoying his wines years after they have chose to release them. When I asked Kimball what Terroir Wine Festival means to their winery, he deferred his answer to Liz saying that she is the one who sees the real impact of their presence there because she is the one who you meet as you walk through the doors of the winery. Liz said that Terroir Wine Festival is their chance to give them some exposure. With seven wineries located along Closson Road, it is very easy to get lost in the shuffle. If someone is specifically on the hunt for sparkling wine they are stopping at Hinterland and The Grange. If someone knows the name Closson Chase they are heading to the intersection of Closson Road and Chase Road. Lacey Estates is right in the middle of these three wineries and, quite often, Liz hears "Yeah, we saw your winery as we were heading past but we didn't have a chance to stop in." It happens a lot; if you do not realize that they are there it is easy to miss Lacey Estates which is a shame because the wines are amazing. A festival like Terroir puts everyone together under one roof and it gives the truly small wineries the chance to say, "Here's your chance to try our wines. If you like them, please drop by after the festival or tomorrow when we will be featuring a special food pairing with our wines."
When I asked Kimball who he thought the "hidden gems" were in Prince Edward County, he had two jump to mind almost immediately. Not unlike their own winery, The Lavender Farm next door and LaLaLand Glass Studio over by Huff Estates seem to get lost in the shuffle as people drive by. Both businesses have great products and, in fact, with LaLaLand Glass Studio, they have a few pieces at the winery itself and are constantly asked where they got them from. Kimball and Liz's daughter did an internship there for school and the website has some great pieces for sale on there but Kimball says it is so worth a drop by the studio itself to find that unique piece of glass work for your home. The problem is that people just don't see the studio and go driving right past.
So, where does Kimball see the winery five years from now? Expansion is the name of the game in Kimball's eyes. They currently have 9 acres of planted vines and he sees the vineyard space being closer to 30 acres at that point. In terms of production, he feels they are working towards 3000 to 5000 cases annually. It is a lot of hard work to grow a vineyard to that size but the one thing that Kimball and his family has is a lot of drive and a lot of big plans. So, what does Kimball do to relax - he loves cooking and being outside. Spending time riding his motorcycle is a favourite always but he enjoys spending time behind the BBQ and enjoying a cigar while cooking for his family. Kimball says it is not something he gets a lot of time to do and, with two full time jobs we understand that one, but he loves the time when he can.