This was a live interview with Sarah Walsh from Walsh Family Wine.
Hi Sarah , I hope you and your family are safe. How are you guys getting through this difficult time? Are you able to sell products online?
Yeah, first I want to thank you for what you are doing. I think right now highlighting all he local stuff that is happening and small businesses, is really important. I heard a couple people say that the businesses that you support right now are the ones that will be around when this is over. I think that there is some truth to that as scary as it sounds. Every platform that people have and in every way that people are supporting small businesses, small farmers and small producers makes a difference. It opens up the audiences and is really awesome. It feel so good to be supported in that way. Thank you.
That is why I created the website. We will add stories almost every day. We want to make a story book. Maybe we will make a real book out of it. I try to help where I can and have people find you online. I haven't been to your vineyard. I wish I did but probably in the future.
The word is yours, Please explain how you guys started the vineyard and what your product is all about?
My husband and I started Walsh family wine in 2014. It was just a side project. It was never really intended to become all it has become. We've been very surprised by it.
Nate, my husband, his background is in grape growing and wine making. He has worked in Central Virgina, in Oregon and in New Zealand. He came back to Northern Virginia and took a full-time wine making job. At the same time I was still working in the wine distribution. I just started that late 2011, early 2012. We met when I was doing wine education classes with the Capital wine school. They highly recommended that we reach out to a local winery and go out and get your hands dirty and really see the process. The winery that I reached out to, was the winery that Nate was working for. We were married less then a year later (laugh), it didn't take long.
So, we both had a passion for wine and saw wines from different perspectives. Him very much from a production side and me more from a sales and marketing side. He was introduced to a vineyard site in Waterford Virginia, between Purcellville and Leesburg in Loudoun County. It was just a farm, there was no winery there. A four acre vineyard site on a property owned by Mike and Theresa Wheeler and they immediately said, "we don't grow grapes, we don't make wine but we love to see this vineyard be maintained and be made use of". When he went out to look at it, he was immediately very impressed. Knowing that he sees a lot of vineyard throughout the state, and I saw him get really excited about that site, we knew it was something really special.
So, he asked the Wheelers if he could lease that four acres for a personal project and so it started. The first year that we farmed was in 2014 and we made almost no wine. We drank almost all the wine ourselves. It was just a nice place where we could spent time together, farming at the weekend. Just work together and kinda see what that looks like. So fast forward, we are now farming 50 acres on 5 different vineyard sites all in Loudoun. Everything that we make under "The Walsh" label, we grow and produce ourselves. So we are not bringing in any outside fruits, and there is nothing at all wrong with bringing in outside fruit, but I think for us it is really important to do it from everything around the bottle, at least at this structure. We opened our tasting room just over a year ago.
Did Covid19 change your daily schedule?
We just celebrated our one year anniversary and it is kind of weird with everything going on (covid19) but we have been really supported by the community, it's been very encouraging. Even in this time, we've felt so much encouragement from everybody who has reached out and joined in on the stuff we are doing. We are able to do e-commerce. So we are still doing online orders for shipping, and we ship to 32 states. We are doing curbside pickup and we are also doing free delivery. So it is keeping us kinda busy and we have just taken the stands that the better we can do at e-commerce and online events and online sales the longer we can continue paying our vineyard guys. The vineyard doesn't stop and it takes a lot of hands to maintain 50 acres of grape vines, so even so the tasting room side has slowed down, the vineyard start to speed up, so we are just trying to really keep it going in anyway we can.
Indeed, it is not like a restaurant that you can close down and walk away. The vineyard needs to be maintained, otherwise there is no wine next year.
Do you think everything is going back to normal?
That is a hard question to answer. At least for what it is going to look like. We hope it goes back to normal but the new model might be different than it was before. I think we have to take what we have learned over this period and implement it in our future strategies. The truth of the matter is that we should've been doing all of what we are currently doing before. It has forced us into e-commerce and our online platform what isn't something we were focussing on previously but we pretty much immediately jumped into that direction. And we started a weekly virtual drinking series called "drink well". Every Friday we showcase a bunch of wines. some are ours, some are from our neighbors, some are wines from other countries that we bring on with a panel from all over the world. So we talk about those wines and what is really cool is that people can go online and order the wines ahead of time so that they are actually drinking them with the panel while we are talking about them. It surprised us how many people have wanted to do that with us. The response has been great and truly that one free event has been keeping us afloat. We definitely have people saying, you guys need to keep doing this when everything opens back up. I have so much more respect for people who are working in the social media world and platform because it has been so much more work then I ever anticipated .
We are all in survival mode. Thank you so much. Where can we find your products?
Walsh Family Wine 16031 Hillsboro Road Purcellville VA 20132 (540) 668-6248