“We fell in love over food and wine, but we never thought we’d be running a winery,” says Kimberly.
The story is that Kimberly met Ben through a mutual friend in his homeland of England, and started their lives together in Copenhagen, Denmark.
“We walked a lot, because that’s what you do in Copenhagen,” says Kimberly.
They got married and had a baby. They flew out to the Hudson Valley to Kimberly’s father, Ray, to introduce him to his grandchild, and stumbled on an opportunity. A honey farmer by trade, Ray had recently launched a small business called Tousey Winery to sell his Crème de Cassis, and had all the necessary licensing to make other wines, but didn’t have the capacity to run a full-fledged winery. Across the street from his farm, there was a vacant space, known locally as the “Blue Roof” building, that had previously been a bakery, hair salon and golf pro shop.
With the licensing in place, a tasting room, and an expanding appetite for local, Hudson Valley wine, they decided to take a leap of faith by taking over the winery from Ray. People called them crazy - 'what do you know about wine?' - but the Peacocks got out of their Copenhagen apartment, sold their car, and moved to Clermont, NY with eight moving boxes, a baby, and one more child on the way.
“We liked wine, we certainly drank a lot of wine,” says Ben. “We knew nothing about how to make it.”
They were certain about one thing: they wanted to produce compelling wine from locally-sourced grapes that they themselves would enjoy drinking. All they had to do was figure out where to get those grapes, and how to turn them into wine, and then market it, selling enough of it to support their family. “Yes, this was a rather daunting task we set for ourselves,” said Kimberly. “At times we wondered whether we could ever make it happen.”
We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” says Ben. “There was some grinning bravado in the beginning while we figured it out.”
While Ray’s Creme de Cassis attracted a lot of interest, the Peacocks wanted to branch out into grape-based wines. Their first vintage were gobbled up by turkeys; turns out, they love Pinot Noir grapes just as much as the wine community. After installing bird netting, Ben began a crash course on vineyards, soil chemistry, water drainage and sun angles. Kimberly took on the task of creating a brand identity and selling the wine to both individuals and wholesalers.
“We wanted to make delicious, food-friendly wines that we were fond of drinking in Europe,” says Ben. “We really wanted to showcase this part of New York and put our own spin on it alongside the established wineries.”
A consultant told them that it would be much easier and cost-effective to source wine from vintners in Long Island and label it as their own. Instead, Ben and Kimberly stubbornly worked through many sourcing hurdles to keep that from happening. Today, over 85% of their grapes come from vineyards in the Hudson Valley. That’s a big deal, since there are only 500 acres of vineyards in the entire region.
“Vineyards in the area are few and far between, and a lot of them don't grow the varieties that we use,” says Ben. “Our customers get the chance to taste the terroir of the Hudson Valley through complex wines.”
Our customers get the chance to taste the terroir of the Hudson Valley through complex wines.”
Thanks to hard work, perseverance and a newly discovered skill set, Tousey Winery started winning awards for quality. The Germantown tasting room began filling up every weekend, with weekenders rubbing elbows with wine enthusiasts and locals. Ben worked long days in the winery and vineyards while Kimberly became a fixture at local farmers markets and foodie events, pouring samples and meeting new customers often with a child or three in tow.
Have they accomplished their mission? The Peacocks remain humble; they now “know what they don’t know,” and they’ve kept their focus on the quality of their product.
“We’re in the winery or at a farmers market every day,” says Kimberly. “The kids are in the truck, trying to eat the grapes. At the end of the day, this is our family winery, and we’re building this for them.”