Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Learning never ends for Boordy's Deford

Our only trip from York to Boordy Vineyards in Hydes, Md., happened to be a Saturday late last spring that coincided with what we were told was going to be the final wedding that the winery was planning to host.

Who could blame anyone wanting to bring their ceremony and subsequent reception to the 230-acre farm, with its rolling hills and fences and vines as far as the eye can see? But Rob Deford, owner of the oldest family-owner winery in the state, said earlier today that the marriage with the wineries facilities just presented too many hurdles to overcome.

“We’re trying to get out of the wedding business, well, you know, we just want to redirect our energies, that’s all,” he said. “There is an infinite demand, it seems, for wedding venues, and we could make money that way, but it’s not really what we want to be doing. We do an awful lot of public outreach and we’ve found that weddings are just a little too far out on a . . . they’re one generation removed for why people should be here.. It’s because maybe it’s a pretty barn, I mean, you can draw the dotted lines and say it makes for great marketing and you’ll win lots of customers, but unless you’re really, really set up for it, you just plain don’t want to be in that business. What I mean is turnkey perfect. Otherwise it reflects poorly upon you, and I just don’t want to be doing things where each time we have to worry that it’s not going to be right. We’ve spent a lot of time trying to make the winery right for casual visitors and for the events that we hold that are more wine and music focused.”

Those will continue, Deford said, including the continuation of the Good Life Thursday concerts tomorrow at 4 and 8 p.m., and then the next installment of the Summer Evening Concerts on Saturday night from 7 to 9 p.m. The gates open at 5:45. By the way, check out the Web site to acquaint yourself with the detour you might have to take because of a bridge that’s closed for the summer. “The real sufferer is the hardware store down the street,” Deford said. “People find their way to get our wines, but they don’t seem to think they have to go there to get that lag screw they need. Now they’re going to Home Depot. Poor guy. He’s suffering.”

Boordy perhaps would be if it didn’t supplement its wines with the entertainment. Told I’ve encountered several wineries this year that have ditched its activities altogether with the intent instead of focusing on making wine, Deford sang out with a “don’t we all wish we could do that,” then expounded on the thought. “There are three aspects to sustainability, there’s the human aspect, the environmental aspect and then there’s that economic bit you got to sort out. For the first 10 years of my existence I . . . had two of the three figured out, but the economic part just kept haunting me in the wee hours of the morning. I have a lot of respect for people who can make a living out of farming generally but winemaking in particular. I think right next to being a playwright . . . it’s… tough. Everyone assumes that you’ve come in with a lot of capital and that you’re there to do the old thing of turning a large fortune into a small one. That doesn’t necessarily apply to all of us. So I feel what we’re really trying to do is learn as we go along what works and what doesn’t . . . continue to have a viable business while getting better and better at the things you really want to do.”

Still learning, he was asked? “Still earning, and this is why it’s multigenerational, why it’s so important. My son [Phineas], he’s 30 years old, and he’s going to come back and join the business, and that’s the future. It’s refining and passing along and then you start to feel more like a carrier of a message instead of the end user of it.”