Thursday, August 4, 2016

Five Years

By Becky

I never told you the whole story of how we found ourselves living on a vineyard. Here goes.

Five years ago in April 2011 I was bummed out.

I was always bummed out on some level that year, but on one particular day I was super bummed out because Justin and I had had an argument about throw pillows.

I wanted to buy new ones.

He said no.*

As a working mom who painfully and begrudgingly left her sweet little boy every day to go to a full-time job, it was beyond frustrating that I couldn't even afford to buy new throw pillows.

Shortly after the Great Throw Pillow War of April 2011 (which Justin tells me he has no recollection of), I ended up having to work a four-hour shift at a major community event for my job. I knew that students from a ministry school led by friends of ours were also going to be at the event praying for people. This particular group of students practice hearing God's voice and sharing what they hear with people as a way to bring encouragement and show God's love. I schemed a little bit on how to get my co-worker over to their booth for prayer because she had been struggling to get pregnant for more than a year. (I succeeded, we all prayed, and her daughter turned four earlier this year. Yay!)  

After praying for my friend, one of the students turned her sights on me. She told me that she felt like God was saying that He was going to bless me in regards to my home. (Ahem, throw pillows!) She also felt like God was saying that because Justin and I had been such faithful givers, we were going to move into a season where other people would want to give to us. She said that it would feel uncomfortable to be on the receiving end, but that God wanted us to not ask questions and just rest in that place for awhile.

After that I went home and told Justin what went down and his response floored me. He said, yeah, the market has been going down so I've been thinking about us looking for a new house and renting out this one. What??? We can't buy new throw pillows, but we can buy a new house? I was very confused, but I started looking at bigger houses in our general neighborhood in Stockton.

Everything happened so fast.

Three weeks later Justin and I found ourselves with an unexpectedly child-free evening. We also found ourselves unexpectedly without a house key. Oops. We drove to a neighboring town to pick up a spare key from a friend and Justin suggested that we drive into the country to check out some properties he had found online.

We drove up the long driveway to a foreclosed, basically abandoned, property and made our way through the tall thick grass (while I freaked out about creepy crawlies) and sat on the deck staring out at the beautiful overgrown vines and the trees swaying softly in the evening breeze. The waning light painted a pretty romantic picture of an idyllic country life. Could we? Should we? Can you imagine? How is this even possible? This is crazy.

Long story short, we did. You know that.

What you don't know is that during a painful three-month escrow the deal almost fell through several times and that our realtor asked us repeatedly if we were really sure about this..

We were.

And on August 4, 2011, we closed. Five years later, here we are.

People always ask us if this was a dream of ours. To live on a vineyard and make wine? I feel a little sheepish when I tell them no. Not even a little bit.

We have always known that God had a plan for us as a couple in business. We felt it even more strongly when we set foot on this property. Pretty funny that God would lead two non-drinkers to buy a vineyard. Even funnier that He would lead us to make and market our own wine. Quite honestly, most days I'm still bewildered by this life I'm leading.

These last five years have been the hardest, most confusing, and painful years of my life. They have tested us as a couple, and me as an individual, more than I ever could have imagined. And if I could have imagined, we probably would still be living in a modest house in Stockton.

We have sown in tears, disappointment, sweat, money, and ego. But we have also reaped to an uncomfortable degree (as my praying friend said we would) in major home improvements, furniture, car repairs, in wants and needs met for us and our children, meals out, unexpected checks in the mail, and most recently - investments in our business. We have been so uncomfortably blessed.

Today, I feel the tides shifting, and those same praying friends have been sharing new things with us. God is leading us into a new season. And I am moving into the next five years with confidence, faith, and hopefully a lot more gratitude and wisdom.

Thank you for sharing this journey with us.

*(For those of you wondering. Yes, I did finally get new throw pillows. My next request is grass. Please buy some Fete today) :)

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Inspiration on Scratch Paper

By Becky Perry

Inspiration finally struck at around 75 miles an hour on Interstate 205 in Tracy, California.
Justin had been after me for several days about putting some words on paper that would ultimately grace the back of our wine bottle and help carry our company’s message. I had scratched out a few drafts, but nothing was flowing. Finally on our way over to Richmond to meet with the bottle design company I took a deep breath, said a silent prayer, and let God write the words.

I was nervous to put it out into the world. I know it’s just a couple of sentences on the back of a wine bottle, but it felt really raw and intimate and I didn’t really want to share it with anyone, let alone take credit for writing it. What if people thought it was dumb? What if they rolled their eyes and found it a bit over the top?

Today our first wine bottle has been out in the world for 9 months and we are getting ready to start the design phase for our second bottle. Most of the time I feel grossly inadequate about this whole undertaking. We don’t fit the traditional mold of winemakers. Our wine is geared toward a very specific audience, and unfortunately that audience doesn’t have any “muscle” in the industry. We never had a deeply rooted desire to make wine, nor found the idea of living on a vineyard romantic and alluring.

Yet, here we are.

Today Justin went by one of the wine centers that sells our wine. One of the workers told him that she took a bottle home to her mom for her birthday because the whole concept of Fete seemed to speak to where her mom was at in life. She presented the bottle to her mom at her birthday dinner. Her mom read the back of the bottle and cried. Then her dad cried. Then her mom passed the bottle around the table so all her friends could read it. They looked up James 1:2-4*, the address of the Bible verse we had screen printed onto the bottle. They were all moved. By this silly little thing we put into the world hoping it would resonate and bring some light to those who need it.

What a gift.

This is why we have a wine brand. This is why we have thrown our humble product out there against hundreds of other wineries with family history and clout. This is why we have chosen to target a demographic that the wine industry believes is only good enough for cheap products. This is why I force myself to swim against the undercurrent of desperation that is so prominent in most wine marketing to women – especially on social media.

It is not just about the wine. It is about this message:

Life is a gift. YOUR life is a gift. Life, with its messes and letdowns and disappointments, IS a gift. Celebrate it. Fete today.

*James 1:2-4:  Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,  because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fete the Wine - Coming in September

posted by Beck

I'm not quite sure where we last left off in this space.

2015 has been quite a year. 

Back in March we started the process of creating our own wine brand. 

It is now August and we are finally in the home stretch of the production process. The bottles are scheduled to be printed next week, we pick up the custom-designed screw tops next Friday, and the wine will be bottled the week after that. Just in the nick of time for our unveiling party on September 6, where 100 wonderful friends, family, and friends of friends will get to see just what we've been doing all these months. (And hopefully buy some wine. Insert #smileyface #wineglass #partyhorn #redheart and #dollarsign emojis here)

Label design, capsule topper artwork, securing the wine, choosing the glass, beta testing our augmented reality app, finding a storage facility, waiting on government approvals, and selling wine gifts weekly at the Farmer's Market has filled our summer. And we are on track to harvest our grapes in the next 2-3 weeks. They are looking gooooood this year.

On August 11 we celebrated our 4th anniversary of living "this vine life." I always kind of knew this adventure would lead to something cool, but I don't think I expected this. JP and I look at each other every day and say, "Who ARE we???" 

Here are a couple of snapshots of cool stuff that's happened over the last few months.

-Sitting in a conference room at G3 Enterprises - Gallo's marketing arm - waiting for the director of innovation to come in and speak with us. I look at Justin and say, "Why are we even here? This is Gallo. Our project is small potatoes. Why would they even work with us?" (I'm such ray of sunshine, right?) He shrugs, "I don't know, I just feel like we're supposed to talk to them." We tell them what we are looking to do and that we want to be the first wine bottle to use augmented reality. The director of innovation looks at the sales guy next to him and then looks back at us and says, "I don't know what that is, but I feel like I should write it down." They ultimately decide to take us on and design the screw top capsule cover for us using their cutting edge heat-sensitive, coloring changing ink technology - even though it is a ridiculously small job for them.

-Sitting in a McDonald's parking lot Skyping with our augmented reality app builders "across the pond" in London. 

-Talking with a brand producer in Hollywood who found us on LinkedIn and wants us to bring Fete to a pre-Emmy celebrity gift lounge event in September.

It has been quite a ride and we don't even have the wine yet. We love our product, but most of all we love the message we are releasing. It seems that a lot of times it takes a tragedy for people to appreciate their life. What we want people to take from our brand is the notion that every day is worthy of a celebration.

More to come!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Wine, The Mob, & The Church

By Justin

One of the interesting facts about downtown Lodi, CA is that there is an underground tunnel system that connects many of the bars, stores and restaurants together. In studying the history of Lodi, I've learned that these tunnels were in place to move alcohol underground during Prohibition between 1920 - 1933. Today, secret sidewalk access points are still used to give easy access to delivery of goods to these bars, restaurants and stores. Pretty interesting stuff!

During Prohibition, Lodi was the supplier of grapes for wine that would be produced in Chicago. Lodi’s downtown area has a train system that transported grapes from Lodi to Chicago under cover. Chicago is where Al Capone managed a successful business called "the Mob" that imported and sold beer and wine during the 1920s. Capone's mob made $60 million a year. His mob was a source of great wealth and attracted violence from competing mobs who wanted in on the action.

History Lesson:
In 1893, Reverend Hyde Russell founded the Anti-Saloon League (ASL), a group whose motto was "the Church in action against the saloon." By the late nineteenth century most Protestant denominations, and the American wing of the Catholic Church, supported the movement to legally restrict the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages. These groups believed that alcohol consumption led to moral corruption, prostitution, spousal abuse and other criminal activities. By 1920, the 18th Amendment, deemed "the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States and its possessions" illegal. (Thank you Wikipedia.) Instead of drawing people into a closer relationshp with Jesus, this "religious" movement ultimately caused even more violence and corruption as "the Mob" gained power and influence.

Even though Prohibition has been over for nearly a century, in many conservative Christian circles, this negative view of alcohol consumption has remained. It is fascinating to me that this Prohibition-influenced perspective really only stems from one scripture in the Bible (Proverbs 23:19-21) that says: 

"Listen, my son, and be wise, and set your heart on the right path: Do not join those who drink too much wine or gorge themselves on meat, for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags."

Now, don't get me wrong. This passage is full of wisdom, because drunkenness can sometimes lead people to do stupid things that hurt themselves or others, not to mention, alcoholism is a real disease that can harm individuals and entire families, but when was the last time you heard an evangelical pastor talk about eating too much meat? Not me!

Why this matters to us?

The reason I'm writing about this is because Beck and I find ourselves in a weird paradox that I would like to explain. Beck and I are two people who went to college, are Christians, love Jesus, live in wine world, drink a little wine, have never been drunk in our lives (truly), and find ourselves living on a vineyard, growing grapes for one of the biggest wineries in the world, and trying to launch a gift and wine company. Given our conservative church background we have struggled with thoughts of "are we doing the right thing here?"

We decided to go to the Bible and see what it says, and not listen to a mediator, pastor, author or denominational views on the subject of drinking. Over the last few years our ears have become much more attuned to mentions of wine or vineyard-related parables in the Bible. We find them throughout the New Testament. As I really started seeking out wine-related scriptures, I discovered that many of Jesus’ biggest moments in life involved wine. Jesus’ first miracle was creating water into wine at a wedding reception. Jesus’ last supper with his closest friends involved eating bread and drinking wine. Jesus’ last moments with his disciples were in a vineyard where he said, “I am the vine, you are the branches.” He referred to his father as the farmer or “grape tender.” When Jesus was carrying his cross he was given wine. When Jesus was on the cross he was given wine vinegar. It says in Revelation that God is the "great wine maker" and someday we will have wine and celebrate with Him in heaven.

When I began to see how important wine was in Jesus' days, I suddenly became free of the thought that alcohol is "bad" and realized that this notion that I received growing up in the church is really the result of Prohibition’s influence, not anything actually rooted in Biblical authority. Despite this new revelation, I still had the question of, why wine? Why God am I in the wine business? Why is wine special to you? I believe God still speaks if we stop long enough to listen, so I asked Him this, and He answered me with another question, “What is wine?” I thought about this. “Wine is the derivative of rotten grapes made into a drink.” Then I got my answer. Jesus takes the rotten things in our lives and creates something delicious with it. Something worth celebrating. This happens when we come into a relationship with Him. God likes wine because it’s a reflection of who He is.

The Prohibition movement wasn't wrong, necessarily, but they were wrong in their approach. You cannot get people to become more "Christian" through righteous rules and Bible thumping. It's only when they get to understand who the righteous one is that transformation takes place. For us, we believe that happens when we get to know Jesus.

Have you ever thought about what God does for a living? I believe He is in the business of taking our rotten grapes and making us into delicious wine. Not because we deserve it, but because God is love and He loves us. Jesus is also the inspiration for Fête because He is our source of joy when we feel like we can’t choose it anymore. When the bad days or bad news comes, we still find comfort and a reason to celebrate, because we put our trust in Jesus. All we have to do is decide each day to choose Him. 

That's our heart, friends. We know that many of you have different philosophies on life and God, and we may not agree on everything, but I hope we can all agree on one thing - life is precious. Let's celebrate it!


-Justin & Becky

Thursday, October 23, 2014


Fête [fet] 
(n):  Celebration, party, or festival
(v): To honor or lavishly entertain someone 

For as long as we can remember we’ve found reasons to celebrate even the most mundane accomplishments. This has been a cornerstone of our marriage. When Justin was in real estate we would celebrate every stage of the transaction. We joked that by the time we actually got paid for a deal we had “celebrated” all of the money away. (Good thing our celebrations are always fiscally responsible.)

We also celebrate when times are rough. This philosophy has become so central to our family’s culture that every time we experience disappointment, our go-to joke is “how are we going to celebrate this?” We figure that if we can celebrate when things are great AND when things are bad, we can find contentment and joy in all things. We don’t always get to choose our circumstances, but we do get to choose how we respond to them.

 Fête is a gift and wine shop that we hope encourages people to live lives full of celebration and joy. We hope that you will choose to support this vision by purchasing some of our products and helping your friends, families, clients, and colleagues choose joy in the everyday.

We are not guaranteed tomorrow, but we can fête today! 

Here's how you can help!

1. Check out our website and product selection. Consider doing some of your holiday shopping with us! Since we are just starting out, this first run will be done on a pre-order basis. This will allow us to find out what products you like and which ones we shouldn't invite back. Orders should be placed by November 15th. We will ship everything the week of December 1st.

2. Tell your friends! Help us spread the word about Fête, You can earn rewards points by referring a friend. Once your points add up, you can score major discounts on products.

3. Like us on Facebook and Instagram. /FeteToday

4. Stay connected. We plan to roll out several new features after the first of the year, including item personalization. 

We are excited to launch this new adventure. We hope you'll join the party!

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stuff We Haven't Told You

posted by Beck

The Last Year

As you may have noticed, we've been a little MIA over the last year. Here's what you've missed:

We took out about 10 rows of grapes on the front of our property to make it easier to stage everything at harvest time.

We planted 15-20 fruit trees along the back of our property.

We took out 300-400 dead vines and planted new ones (they take about 3 years to produce).

We officially became growers for Mondavi's Constellation Brands.

We attended Woodbridge Winery's "Blessing of the Grapes." Mrs. Mondavi gave a brief address and a local priest gave the blessing while 100 or so growers and winery workers looked on. It was a surprisingly moving experience.

We built a barn.

JP made a really amazing garden that we pretty much forgot about all summer. We had some killer cabbage, tons of squash, tomatoes, and peppers and we didn't eat most of it because we are never home. Story of our life.

We had to put our cat down. It was really sad.

We had a major mice problem. (We killed 16 in the house over the course of the summer. This was almost as sad as losing the cat.)

We got two feral kittens who we "acclimated" to our family inside the house for about 6 weeks and then transitioned into outside cats. (They're still not totally happy about this.)

There was a drought in California. The main impact of the drought was that everything happened earlier. We pruned earlier and we picked earlier.

We found out that our grapes would be sent to Ravenswood in Napa. That means in about 18 months you can drink a glass of Ravenswood petite sirah and say, "I know where these grapes came from..." with some authority.

Due to a capacity issue at the winery, our grapes were picked about 10 days later than they should have been. This was super stressful because we watched our awesome crop get sweeter and sweeter (which also means lighter and lighter) and start turning into raisins.

We decided to try harvesting by machine. It was a significant cost savings and a very different experience because they started at dusk and worked until the early morning hours. There are pros and cons to this method of harvesting and we're not sure we're going to do it again next year.

And...drumroll please...the 2014 crop was... 17.4 tons. Kind of a disappointment. We were expecting twice that amount this year, but hey, that's farming! (Reference Point: Year 1 = 8 tons, Year 2 = 2 tons, Year 3 = 28 tons).

What does 17 tons mean financially? It means that we can cover our expenses, but not much else this year. (Aaannnnddd, that's why we have day jobs.)

We celebrate everything, even lackluster harvests, so we went to Chilis (because that's all we can afford...but it beats being on a Taco Bell budget, right?), went big and ordered dessert.

What's next...

The vines get a bit of a reprieve until January when we prune and the process starts all over again. Here's to a wet winter!

JP and I are launching a new online business! Something we are very excited about. We hope you'll like it and want to help us get started! We hope to tell you more about it by the end of this week when our site goes live. We can't wait to see where it leads us.

Stay tuned...

Friday, September 19, 2014

A Tale of Two Goats


posted by Beck

I've wanted to share this story for quite awhile, but thought it might come across as insensitive, so I didn't. Now that several months have passed, I've decided to post about it anyway because the story deserves to be told. I do still feel kind of bad and I apologize in advance if this story hurts the heart of the sweet friend who gave us the goats.

Goat #1:

Last November, (I believe it was the day before Thanksgiving), we woke up to find one of our goats dead in its pen. It was very sad and we weren't sure what had happened, but we didn't have time to really deal with the issue because we were headed to work and then down to my in-laws for the holiday. JP had to be back at work the day after Thanksgiving, so he left me in charge of figuring out what to do with the goat when we got home.

I began by researching my options online. Burial was an option, but the grave had to be dug several feet underground. Calling a farrier to take it away was another suggestion, but that one could potentially cost a couple hundred dollars that we didn't have, nor want, to spend on a dead goat. Then I discovered that I could take the goat to the local landfill if I followed certain protocols - double tarping the body before taking it over. I called my friend Sarah who grew up on a ranch and asked for her advice. She confirmed that the landfill option would be the best way to go and offered to come help me later that day if I needed it.

I tried to pretend that I could do it myself. "You'll be so bad ass if you do this Becky," I told myself. (Sometimes my mental pep talks involve swears.) I even pulled a tarp out of the garage and dragged it over to the goat and eyeballed the best way to get the goat onto the tarp with minimal hand to goat action. Ultimately I couldn't figure out how to do it without actually putting my body against the goat (which was super stinky and kind of oozy at this point).

I just couldn't do it.

I went back in the house.

I texted Sarah. Please come. I need some moral support.

Sarah pulled up in the drive way and got out of the car. Let me tell you, she was all business with this goat. I stood there tee hee'ing like a school girl while she grabbed a roll of duct tape and her work gloves, walked over to the tarp, grabbed the goat's legs, hauled it onto the blue vinyl and then started wrapping the tarp around the body without hesitation. "Grab that end," she directed, tightening the tarp and pulling off a strip of duct tape and wrapping it around her side of the goat. "Now hold it here," she said pointing to my end of the tarped body as she pulled off another strip of tape.

Tarping complete, we hauled the body into the back of JP's pick up truck, so I could take it to the dump.

*Side Note: Sarah just told me that when she got my text she was chatting with her Uncle (who happens to live around the corner from us.) When she told them she had to run and "help Becky with that dead goat," apparently they just nodded and took it as a perfectly acceptable reason for her to leave in the middle of the conversation. #farmlife

The next morning, I drove the goat down the road to the dump, paid my $11, went into the offloading area where two guys pulled it out of the truck bed, made some crack about me not hitting any more animals with my car, and threw it into the pit.

Mission accomplished.

Total cost $18 (This includes a $7 car wash because it left some ooze in the back of JP's truck and I wasn't touching that.)

We weren't sure what caused the goat to die. We checked the hay to make sure it wasn't moldy and then just went about our lives thinking it was a fluke.

Fast forward a few weeks...

Goat #2:

A few weeks later (right before Christmas) around 10pm we heard one of the two remaining goats braying (is that what goats do?) loudly. It was clearly in distress, but we couldn't do much for it at 10 o'clock at night and an emergency vet bill for a pygmy goat was NOT in our budget, so feeling kind of bad, we went to bed. The next morning we realized there was definitely a problem. JP called our neighbor who works for a large animal vet and she agreed to take the goat with her to work to be checked out. The vet wanted to do a blood test to determine the problem. JP agreed. Ultimately were were told there was no guarantee the goat could be saved, even if we tried treatment, so JP decided to have it euthanized.

Total cost:  $250

Merry Christmas JP.

Now that I write it all out, I know why JP did what he did, but I sure as heck haven't let him forget that my dead goat only cost $11 and his dead goat cost $250. Believe me, I'm going to leverage that bit of information for many years to come.

Conclusion:  If you are wondering how in the world we managed to kill not one, but TWO goats, here is the answer. It had to do with their feed. Goats are known for their strong stomachs and can pretty much be fed any old thing. We were treating our goats like royalty and feeding them alfalfa. Apparently castrated male goats should not eat rich foods, like alfalfa, because it causes a hole to develop in their urethra, which is all kinds of bad (I'm not sure of the details - Google it) and then they die. According to Sarah, even the farmers and ranchers in her life had no idea something like this could happen. That made us feel a little bit better about ourselves. The remaining goat (the female) continues to live on our property.