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  • Writer's picturePetite Weddings

Brickhouse Vineyard, Devon: Coffee and Cake

Updated: Dec 9, 2022

Do you miss coffee and cake?

I do! In these unprecedented times of social distancing we all have to be innovative in the ways we keep our all-important personal and business relationships alive and healthy. Humans are social animals, and isolation is hard for most of us. Not only financially, but from a well-being perspective.

But, thanks to technology, we have ways of keeping in touch. And perhaps a silver lining of the current crisis is the gift of time to reflect and in some cases, regroup and focus on the things that really matter in our lives.

We caught up recently with Jo, co-owner of Brickhouse Vineyard over a virtual coffee and cake to reflect on their journey and the wonderful vision that they’ve made a reality.

Photography: Lise Leino-Punwar

Tell me a bit about you and Matt?

Matt and I met in London where our paths crossed after both having lived and worked around the world.

I was born in Poland, then went to university in Cracow and the in Siena, Italy. I enjoyed living in Rome for a few years before coming to the UK. It was in Italy where I discovered my passion for wine and food pairing. The Italian approach to food and wine is something I love and it certainly was a wonderful part of my journey. Then London called…

Matt grew up in Gloucestershire and graduated from Edinburgh University. His work and travels took him in a very different direction, to Asia. He lived and worked in Tokyo and Singapore before settling in London.

When we both worked and lived in London, we both used to go to British Military Fitness classes in Greenwich Park. We met at their Christmas party in 2006 held at The Greenwich Tavern. The rest is history, we’re married now and have two daughters, Emilia 9 and Ellie 4. The latest addition to our family is Teddy, our 7 months old Cockapoo.

Photography: Lise Leino-Punwar

What led you and Matt to Devon?

We both loved living in London and everything that it had to offer prior to having children. Our jobs also allowed us to travel around the world which was a bonus, but, as soon as Emilia was born, it was difficult to combine work, travel and childcare. We were slowly beginning to realise that we needed a slower pace of life and a better work-life balance.

Matt was very keen to move back to the country and start a small holding, which was a long-held dream of his. Then, when Matt’s parents moved to Devon, we started toying with the idea of following them to the countryside. However, it was when we got pregnant with Ellie, we have decided that the time was right for a change.

Matt’s parents came across Brickhouse (which coincidentally had its own vineyard!) and we instantly fell in love with it and the potential that it offered. We didn’t know anything about growing grapes apart from being keen wine enthusiasts, but this didn’t stop us! We’d never intended to own a vineyard, but we decided to give it a go and learn on the job. It was a very steep learning curve, and through those tough times we’d still laugh that we’d bought the vineyard by accident just because it came with the house.

Photography: Tony Roddam

When did you guys establish your business?

Our business started with the wine. We created Brickhouse Vineyard Ltd in 2016 and launched our first vintage of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir Rose that same year. With a production of 1000 – 3000 bottles of wine a year, depending on the weather conditions, we soon realised that our 3 acre vineyard wasn’t big enough to generate sustainable levels of income, so we had to diversify. That’s when we started developing our wedding business.

Why did you choose to create a wedding venue?

This was my idea! I was always passionate about running a wedding business. We had lots of outbuildings and the most beautiful setting. So, after researching further, and consulting a few local wedding planners, we made the decision to create a wedding venue.

How did you go about building from nothing to what we see today?

We launched the wedding business in May 2018. Again, it’s been a really steep learning curve! We worked with a great team to renovate the Round House and landscape the terrace overlooking the vineyard. Bringing the old building back to life and then carving out a space in the land for everyone to enjoy has been really satisfying. We’ve also worked with some great business partners to develop our brand and presence in the wedding sector.

There’ve been challenges too. We’ve had a lot of sleepless nights when trying to obtain planning permission and get approval to adapt historical buildings to a modern use. It’s our determination and belief that we were doing the right thing that saw us through these difficult times. Also, this is the first time that we’ve run our own business and we had to learn on the job, especially marketing and financial management, which were critical to our success. We’ve both worked previously in executive, client facing roles so working with our couples and their guests came very naturally to us. We both really enjoy working with couples and helping them to shape their special day. It’s such pleasure.

Photography: Lise Leino-Punwar

Tell me about your best day since launching your business.

There have been so many of wonderful and memorable weddings, and each one is different and special in its own way. For me, the best day so far has to be our first bigger wedding in May 2019. It was a glorious day and everyone had an amazing time. This is because after all the hard work and planning, we were so happy that everything went so well, and our confidence in the business really started to grow. It feels very special to be part of our couples’ big day and quite often brings tears to our eyes, especially when we are the witnesses for elopement weddings. We feel blessed to be able to work with the wonderful couples whose weddings we host, playing a small part in their lives at such a special time for them.

What do you do when you are not working?

When you have your own business and you live where you work, you sort of work all the time… You really need to be passionate about your job to sustain it!

Both, Matt and I have always been quite sporty so we try to fit in exercise into our daily life as much as we can. It helps us de-stress and keeps us in good shape for our busy lives. We are both morning people: I run and go to spin classes regularly before starting work and Matt loves long distance cycling with his friends. Matt’s also a very good runner, he ran a few marathons when we lived in London, and this continues to be a great outlet for him. Matt is also passionate about growing vegetables and when he’s not in the vineyard, we can definitely find him in the vegetable garden.

The family life and spending time with our children are very important to us, especially when most of our weekends are dedicated to running our business. We make sure that we have plenty of family days with the girls, and Teddy!

We have also been very fortunate to find an amazing circle of friends in Devon and previously in London. We’re grateful for their support throughout our journey. When we don’t work, we make sure that we create opportunities for socialising with them as much as we can.

Photography: Tony Roddam

How is the Corona Virus impacting your business and how are you dealing with this?

This is something no one ever imagined happening. It’s been a shock to all of us and the impact on the entire wedding sector in the UK has been unprecedented. We’ve had to postpone the majority of our weddings this year due to take place before July and have worked closely with each couple to re-arrange to dates that are suitable. Everyone has been amazing through this period, particularly our suppliers and the couples impacted. We’re very grateful for everyone’s flexibility and support.

A huge thank you Jo for taking the time out and sharing your amazing journey with us. When I visit you at your beautiful venue, it’s hard to imagine it was not always this way.

If you’d like to find out more about a wedding at Brickhouse Vineyard take a look here.

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