Earlier this year, a coworker friend (Diana) retired and started putting more of her time into the winery her and her husband (Pete) own and run out of their home — serving wine made from the grapes on the vines in their very own backyard. They call the place Three Oaks Winery, in the charming town of Granville, OH, which is a sweet reminder of my hometown of Tipp City, OH.
I had been to Three Oaks Winery before because they opened their doors for our team at work several years ago. Since then, Pete has built a pavilion on the property and their weekend visitors can look forward to a rotation of musicians, food trucks, or menus.
When Diana retired I was so excited for her. It was neat to have had a sneak peek of what her life outside of work was like, and I kept thinking what a dream it must be to walk out your back door to a vineyard. So I found it a real treat when Diana said she was inspired by my former blog, Gals with Goals, . . . which prompted her to post on Facebook about the first 30 days of retirement. It was the talk of the office. We couldn’t wait to read Diana’s next post and hear not only what life was like in retirement, but also the latest and greatest happenings at the winery.
Last night, a couple coworker friends and I finally made our way out to Three Oaks Winery again and were thankful to have had the perfect weather!
Three Oaks Winery is a special place. The minute you arrive you feel like family. Customers (though “customers” feels like the wrong word here, it feels more accurate to say “friends”) greet you with a sense of pride, as if they are equally invested in you enjoying your experience. You can hear laughing before you even get out of your car. When I arrived last night, I felt a sense of secret joy and surprise when Diana introduced me to her friends as a writer and not as my typical corporate coworker identity. I walked inside feeling special — like she valued my passions outside of work in the same way I valued what she had built all around us.
When you arrive, Diana takes you inside for a tasting, to serve you a glass of wine, or to bag up as many bottles as your heart desires. She sways back and forth between uncorking bottles and asking each friend about something personal she knows about them while Pete refreshes the dark chocolate Hershey kisses in the little dishes spread across tables and the bar top. It’s clear that the people swirling about are regulars. . . and even if they’ve never been there before, they’re treated as regulars.
After about an hour or so . . . in comes Peggy. . . just as promised. Everyone knows Peggy. How could they not? Most of the friends are sitting on the deck under a white string of lights enjoying a glass of “Peggy’s pink” wine. Peggy lives down the street. Rumor has it she helps with the labels and various other things around the winery which is what has earned her a place on the menu. It seems similar with Mary. Mary also lives down the street but in the opposite direction, and if you say you want the fruit and chocolate tray — Diana makes a quick call and Mary arrives with the trays about 20 minutes later.
More friends start to arrive. They pull tables together and take the plastic off the cheese trays they brought. One lady offers German chocolate cake she thought others would enjoy. And anyone not gathered around a table are busy following Pete on a tour of the vineyard. A tour he’s probably given a thousand times, but does-so with a similar enthusiasm each time . . . telling those behind him which vines are Catawba grapes and which ones the animals ate last season. He shares facts about the land, their schedule based on the seasons, and sprinkles in the occasional compliment about Diana and how great she is at so many things. People enjoy his words and feel happy about the 60 mile trip they made because they had the wine once and just had to bring their wife back to see the property.
And as the sun goes down and all the new friends ask for more bottles of wine, Pete tears up boxes to start a fire. It’s clear he’s started that fire a hundred times before, and it’s clear the new friends know Diana’s joke about an empty wine bottle and how the bottle must have had a hole in it.
When the fire is roaring well enough that neighbors can smell the sense of community — Diana grabs her guitar off the wall inside. She just recently started playing — a hobby she was dabbling in while she was still in corporate America. All the friends move their chairs around the fire and the other musicians set up their music stands. Everyone is right on cue. Everyone knows what comes next. They strum their guitars in unison and begin to sing tunes like “Simple Man” and “Black Water” and Diana strums and sings unapologetically as if she’s done it all her life.
And somewhere in the middle of the community concert — Lupe walks in. Everyone knows Lupe. She works there occasionally, but is best known for starting the dancing each weekend. It is obvious who Lupe is based on her energetic spirit and it’s obvious this little community on the side of a gravel road in Granville holding glasses of Peggy’s Pink while Peggy herself invites people to join the circle of music is something special.
As the tunes come to an end and all that remains on the tables are the remnants of cheese boards shared over good conversation, Pete begins to escort people to their cars. As you thank him he makes you feel like he genuinely wants you to return. I start to head to my car as I think about how while in the vineyard Pete shared that he and Diana feel they should share this place they are so lucky to have. Selfish is not a part of their vocabulary. Pete says good bye after saying how he knew Diana was a special person when they met as teenagers. We all agree and begin to drive back up the gravel road.
They are left with empty bottles and leaves that have fallen from the October weather scattered on their lower deck. And tomorrow, they will do it all again. People will gather. Peggy will show up about an hour after the first customer. New faces will show up because they heard rave reviews on the glass of Concord. The night will close with the sweet sounds of a Doobie Brothers song. Everyone will smell like campfire when they go home and change into their pajamas.
Three Oaks Winery is a quaint place with great wine. But more importantly, it’s real-life community playing out night by night. It’s people who randomly invite everyone to stand for a toast to Diana and Pete . . . just because. It’s a place that half of the people feel like the place is theirs too. It’s a place that someone who just learned the guitar feels safe to strum and sing along. It’s a place with menus from local restaurants, and more importantly, local neighbors. It’s beautiful. It’s inviting. It’s an example of how much Diana and Pete love each other.
Photos by Kelly Rogers