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 Filed as : Interviews

Q&A with Hume Vineyards' owner/winemaker Stephane Baldi

Jun 22, 2012
Q&A with Hume Vineyards' owner/winemaker Stephane Baldi
Making his vision reality in the Virginia countryside

humevidalblanc_01.How often do you sit gazing out your office window, dreaming of the chance to do something with your life that you really love? Ever look at someone and wonder, “how did (s)he get that job!?"

The good news is, you really don’t have to wait until you retire to do the things you’ve always wanted. Just ask winemaker and winery owner Stephane Baldi. Originally from France, Stephane pursued his PhD in the U.S. before becoming a principal at a research consulting firm in Washington, DC. But in 2007, far from retirement, he and his wife Andrea packed up their big city life and bought a diminished 1860s farm in the Virginia countryside. The property has since been completely remodeled to become Hume Vineyards. Proof that with hard work and a lot of bravery, you can live the life you’ve always imagined!

The Daily Sip sat down with Stephane to discuss his passion for wine, Virginia, country living and how he’s turning all of these into a dream come true.

 The Daily Sip Interview with Stephane Baldi

TDS: When did you first decide that wine was what you wanted to do with your life?
SB: It had been in the back of my head for a very long time.  First growing up in Burgundy and the Loire surrounded by vineyards and wineries, then into wine appreciation and wine collecting, then learning as much as I could about wine.  Then there was the appeal of the Virginia Piedmont area.  Andrea and I used to come out to the area almost every weekend after we first met in 2005, tour wineries, stay at B&Bs, go hiking, etc. and slowly we started thinking:  what about moving out here and pursuing something we love?  

What prompted you to take the leap?
SB: Like most professionals in the DC area that I meet through the tasting room, I kept thinking there's got to be something more to life than this.  I kept going back to the idea of becoming a farmer and being able to grow and enjoy the fruits of my labor.  My family also had a farm in Burgundy that was a huge part of my childhood and I really wanted to get back to the simpler life of the country.

After visiting many wineries and talking to owners, Andrea and I realized that almost everyone who owned a winery in Virginia was older.  I didn't want to spend my life doing something I was not passionate about just to be able to do something I liked in my older years.  My goal was to build something while I was young enough and then enjoy life while I was retired. There's also the appeal of raising children in such a beautiful, wholesome environment.

TDS: Why Virginia?
SB: I moved to the DC area in the mid 1990s, at a time when many Virginia wineries were producing a beverage one could hardly call wine.  Fast forward 15 years, when we started thinking about starting our own winery, and the situation was quite different.  Almost everybody was making decent wine and a few were making truly outstanding wine.  We started thinking wouldn't it be great to be part of a revolution rather than a mere follower (as in setting up in California)?  We saw Virginia as a huge opportunity to make a difference and be pioneers.  That, combined with our love of the area, and Virginia was a no-brainer.

TDS: What has surprised you about owning your own vineyard?
SB: How much work it is!  It's a good thing I love working, but a winery is like no other business I can think of. It's not just one thing. It's farming; then it's retail; but it's also part entertainment and hospitality.  To succeed, one needs not only to be able to make good wine, but also to be adept at marketing, as well as relate to folks.  It's quite an endeavor.

TDS: What’s your ultimate goal for Hume?
SB: Be the winery everybody mentions when they think about outstanding Virginia wine.  My guiding principle in life has always been: if you're gonna do something, then do it right.  Why put all this work into something just to be average? We're only on our third vintage at Hume but are already making some outstanding wines and each vintage has been better than the previous one, so there's great excitement.  My nature is to push myself to always do better and I won't be satisfied until our wines stand alongside the best in the world.

TDS: What advice do you have for someone working in one job, but dreaming of doing something else entirely?
SB: Just do it.  Quit the day job and follow your dreams.  But with one caveat:  start small and limit how much debt you accumulate. 


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