Ingrid Bates is a 38-year-old wine producer and director of Dunleavy Vineyards who originally hails from deepest darkest Somerset. Like many of us she gravitated to London for a time, but the urge to return to the West Country was too strong to resist and she now lives in Bristol with her husband and two children aged 8 and 6.
Ingrid is something of a rare breed: a female, English, award-winning, artisan wine producer. But the journey to reach this point was a circuitous one and with two children arriving at crucial points it hasn’t always been an easy ride. Achieving the elusive term ‘work-life balance’ is something which Ingrid can claim as a victory however. What’s wonderful about her story is that she has managed to achieve success in a relatively short space of time (something which seems to buck the trend in an industry where establishing a wine producing vineyard can take years).
A biology graduate from Imperial College London, and former BBC Bristol researcher, Ingrid then become a self-confessed “lowly gardener in various places for around 6 years” before starting her vineyard. Alongside a love of family, friends and sharing her husband’s interest in wildlife (Stephen runs his own business Humble Bee Films), Ingrid’s always had a passion for wine and food. She has managed to achieve what most of us aspire to: “a great business that is fun, profitable and fits in with my family life”.
But it hasn’t always been plain sailing – starting the business when one of her children was a baby was “quite stressful”, perhaps a slight understatement. But it’s often the case that big life experiences clash at the same time. It happened to me when I was nine months pregnant, taking voluntary redundancy from my job at the Guardian and moving from London to Bristol all in the same month. So I can attest that these moments in life, whilst incredibly stressful at the time, are also great tests of resilience. Self-doubt is a common state of mind for most mothers, particularly when it comes to returning to work and Ingrid is no exception. “I spent the first few years wondering if I had done right thing but now I’m pleased I did it. Vineyards are different to a conventional business as you don’t see any return for first three or four years because you don’t get any grapes until then. Having your own business tends to dominate your life more than a ‘normal’ job and this doesn’t always fit in well with having a baby – people don’t realise this until they try it!”.
But she survived and the business is going from strength to strength. The new challenge is finding a work/life balance and so unlike most conventional jobs which revolve around hours during the week a vineyard is more seasonal. “In summer I go to the vineyard almost every day and in autumn or winter around three days a week or less. I share school drop offs with my partner. I do all school pick ups. I squeeze social media and wine deliveries in around school – the kids love coming on a wine delivery with me (not!). My busiest time is in the height of summer because the vineyard requires a lot of manual management and the wine I produce is a rosé so sales are at a height in summer.”
Like all of us trying to achieve balance Ingrid and her partner are honing their childcare organisational skills but the ability to work flexibly means she is “in control”, although sadly she can’t control the Great British weather! Ingrid’s top tips for achieving this is to “work out what you want and then try to achieve what you want. Sounds obvious but I think a lot of people can’t visualize what they want so don’t know which small steps to take to get what they want. Things don’t happen overnight but if you have an idea of what you want you can gradually push toward that goal”.
So, all that remains is for me to visit Ingrid’s vineyard and sample some wine. All for scientific research purposes of course!
Ingrid on social media…
“Having 4G on my phone while at the vineyard and access to emails etc means I can do things during the day and don’t have to wait until I get home to check correspondence. This works well with having kids.”
Ingrid’s daily digital routine…
“A necessary part of building the profiles of the business has been embracing digital technology and social media and so the day begins with “email, Facebook, online news sites etc. I check emails when I get to work then try not to do too much while I am at vineyard until lunch time when I try to post a picture to Twitter/Facebook/Instagram. I try and post at least one thing a day. I do emails at various points in the day and try not to do anything too ‘worky’ after five – I like to completely switch off in the evenings.”
Bristol Mum, Hilary: “We started our businesses at the same time so often chat about them together.”
Miller Design: “Helen Miller designs labels and logos for some of the most well known Bristol food and drink brands, we have worked together from the start. She has tolerated my obsession for the artwork of children’s laureate Chris Riddell who has contributed artwork (replacing Helen’s original logo) on our label for two years in a row.”
“Kate Hawkins is in charge of wine and co-owner of Bellita and Bells Diner (two of Bristols most popular restaurants). She advises and writes on wine too. She has been very supportive of our wine, which because her opinion is so well respected, has meant a lot to me.”
Harts Bakery: “Laura Hart set up the amazing Harts Bakery near Temple Meads and has become a bit of a Bristolian food celebrity as a result. I love what she does.”
Jenny Chandler: “A food writer, chef and very jolly grape picker. She has always been very supportive of what I am doing and has recently been appointed UN food and agriculture special ambassador for pulses!”
Interview by Amy White