Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Father’s Day 2021

By Doug Fabbioli

Father’s Day 2021

Over the years, I have developed something of an eye for the father/son relationship. I am fortunate to have had a good man as a father. Not perfect… but he certainly tried time and again to do the right thing. I’m sure he gained that from his own father. I have those moments where I feel my father’s teachings coming out in my words, actions, or attitudes. And I have tried to be a good father to my sons; not perfect either, I know, but I hope they will retain some of what I have tried to teach over the years.

The author with his son Sam

In a small family business, the father/son relationship is quite prevalent and clear. As I work with clients, suppliers and fellow business owners, I get to see the dynamics of that generational dance again and again. One of my suppliers is a fourth generation apple farmer and packer. Four generations is quite impressive if you think about it: we give our kids so many options to choose from for careers, but to have your children follow in your footsteps shows a real commitment on their part. Each of us gets to choose, at some point, if we want to do as we are taught or try a different path.

Many of our farms do not survive the generational succession because the kids see firsthand just how challenging it is to make a farm pay for itself. As my friend and his brother work their part of the apple business, they have enough autonomy from their dad to make their piece succeed, but it could fail without hurting the main flow of the operation. Maybe that is a key to success and succession: autonomy and room to work. Many times, it’s the grandkids who take over the reins, skipping a generation. That certainly takes away some of the parenting baggage that can clog up a family business. 

I also recognize that much of being a father is being a mentor. Having been involved with our local Boy Scout troop for two decades now, it’s easier to me to mentor other people’s kids some days than my own, and sometimes kids hear better when the lesson comes from someone who isn’t their actual father. A “father figure” can teach you about relationships, commitments, priorities, decision making, and so many other life skills, and having mentors and father figures can be so important in a young person’s life.

Although winemaking is taught in universities by professors and scholars, it is truly learned and practiced on the cellar floors. Cleaning tanks, dragging hoses, washing barrels, setting up equipment, and breaking it all down again in order to set up the next job is where the real lessons happen. I have been very fortunate to have learned from great mentors and father figures along the way. I have been even more fortunate to be in that mentor role with so many younger folks over my 40 years in the industry. I have been privileged to make wine with my sons of blood as well as with so many great sons and daughters of the vine, young folks interested in working and learning.

I’m so glad I had a good man for a dad who taught me a few things. We don’t all inherit a career from our fathers, but the working and teaching skills we learn from them pass on very well! So this month let’s raise a glass of great Virginia wine to our fathers and our father figures, to our mentors and our teachers. Happy Father’s Day!

TAGS: Wine, Father’s Day, Virginia Vineyards

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