"Grape Expectations" is great

Written by Elizabeth Downer on


If you are among the throngs of wine lovers who have harbored fantasies of owning a vineyard and living the glamorous lifestyle of the chatelaine of a wine domain, then you might want to read "Grape Expectations: A Family’s Vineyard Adventure in France."

Caro and Sean Feely developed a love of wine as young yuppies in South Africa and that grew after they moved to Ireland. For 10 years they saved all available cash in their "vineyard" account while dreaming of owning a vineyard in France. The fact that neither spoke French nor knew anything about vineyard management or winemaking didn’t deter them. 

When they found a 25-acre domain with an 18th-century farmhouse for sale in Bergerac in Southwestern France, they felt their decade-old dream would finally come true. The fact that the estate was in bankruptcy should have been a clue for what was in store but this pair were determined! 

Within days, they sold their house in Dublin, quit their 9-to-5 salaried jobs, packed up a toddler and a newborn and set out for France. They left the urban rat race behind but were welcomed to their dilapidated farmhouse by more daunting dilemmas: mouse infestations, leaking roofs, outdated plumbing, broken-down winery equipment and no extra cash to deal with the multitude of problems.  Add to that the 24/7 work obligations of running a winery with no salaried help and it is hard to imagine how this couple maintained their sanity.

I had my own business in France for 15 years and am fully aware how maddening and unreasonable French red tape and bureaucracy can be. That the Feelys survived and today make acclaimed biodynamic wines from both the Saussignac and Bergerac appellations -- what a tribute to a determined pair of dreamers! Chateau Haut Garrigues is the realization of their dreams and "Grape Expectations" is the story of how they got there.

The new book, which lists for $13.95, is published by Summersdale Publishers Ltd. in the United Kingdom and available online, including, to residents of the European Union, copies that ship with bottles of wine from the Feely's website.

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