He’s a winemaker, she’s a matchmaker. Together they are living their dreams in The County.
Mike started in the wine industry in 1997 and moved from Ottawa to Prince Edward County in 2000. He worked and managed other people’s vineyards, and was the first employee at Huff Estates Winery. But like every chef wants their own kitchen, Mike dreamed of his own winery. “I had an independent vineyard management company, but actually I was just a young guy in my 20’s that wanted to make a go of a dream I felt flourishing inside me. After purchasing a property here in The County, I had to get into other business opportunities to make the vineyard from a hobby into a sustainable business. I moved back to my hometown of Peterborough for diness anda few years later I met Rebecca.” He landed a great position overseeing operations at Canada’s fastest-growing organic poultry farms, which allowed him to work ahrd at financing his dream. “Rebecca had never actually been to The County before she met me. She’s always been an urban girl, so at first it was a big culture shock! She knew what it was like to be passionate about a dream so she was on board to help me obtain my goal of opening the winery”.
Rebecca grew up in Toronto. She founded her matchmaking company in Peterborough and in 2012 acquired another one in Toronto. “Mike was always having to be downtown Toronto anyway so we moved to the city. My company is Match Me Canada and our office is still on King Street. I spend half the week in Toronto, the other half here at our house on Lake Consecon. It was just a cottage when we bought it, but we gutted it and did everything, plumbing, wiring, insulation, to make it a year-round home. It’s a beautiful location. I work looking out over the water. I work just as hard here, but with none of the stress I feel in downtown Toronto. I do a lot of Skyping with my staff and our clients.” Mike says they have wonderful neighbours who are always there for Rebecca if there’s a mouse – or a bat – in the house!
“I bought the property in 2008 and planted 6,500 vines by hand, because we couldn’t afford a tractor. We really have bootstrapped it, doing everything ourselves with help from friends and family. We built the trellises, put up the building ourselves and have taken the time to get where we are today, but, hey, we’re young. We can do it. It was physically challenging, but it would have been even more of an economic challenge not to. I’ve had opportunities to bring in partners and outside money, but every time it came up we thought, what will we have to give up? What compromises will we have to make? We prefer not to answer to anybody else. Of course, it also means we have only ourselves to blame for any mistakes!
After spending time in New Zealand I came back enthused about sauvignon blanc. I have the largest planting of it in The County and it’s performing well. Our sauvignon blanc did well at the All Canadian Wine Awards, and this year we’ll have our first solid Chardonnay crop to bottle. Some people say you’re crazy to think you can make money from a winery or vineyard. But they tend to be people who would come in with $10 million and want to build a big dynasty all at once. By doing it our way we don’t have a big debt burden – and I think we make a comfortable living.
This summer drought has been hard, but we focus our systems on flexibility. Actually, we focus our life on flexibility. Things change all the time. Things are changing in The County. People ask me if I think we can sustain the new growth and all the new businesses. Are they kidding? The more, the merrier. If more small wineries are starting that’s great, same with the breweries. With more people come more variety, more expertise and skills. It makes us all better.” Mike is a great marketer, a fact not lost on his colleagues who voted him in as president of the Prince Edward County Winegrowers’ Association.
“I am seeing a lot more awareness of The County in my work, too,” says Rebecca. “I work with a lot of downtown professionals, and they all see the potential here. They’d love to be part of it. Some friends stayed in a B&B in Glenora recently, and they were shocked at the size of The County. I don’t know what they expected, but they remarked it’s hard to imagine it ever being overcrowded.”
Mike sees Traynor Family Vineyard as a manufacturer. “I like that wineries are a mix of agriculture and manufacturing, we’re kind of like feed mills. We take a raw agricultural ingredient and turn it into a finished product. It’s classic agricultural value-up. Meanwhile, Rebecca is running another business here via emails and Skype and the Internet. We’re practical. Last year we were making food to offer on weekends. Every Saturday and Sunday making tacos – a ridiculous amount of work. Our friend Lance Calvert wanted to buy a food truck to set up here, but we said forget the expense of a food truck, start small and make it work. Now he runs Guapo’s Cantina right here at the winery.”
“We just want to rock our businesses!” says Rebecca. “We’re young, we’re growing our family, we’re growing our businesses. I say we’re both in the love business – wine and matchmaking. And it’s all going very well.”
For startups or businesses looking to expand or re-locate to The County, you can fill out this Business Inquiry Questionnaire, and the Community Development Department will respond in 48 hours.