Festina Lente, the Langley-based winery and meadery, is named after an intriguing old saying: “Make Haste Slowly”. This saying reflects their philosophy of taking the time to accomplish things with diligence the first time and taking pride in the simple things done well.
But perhaps the story of Festina Lente Estate Winery itself will shed a little light on the matter. That story begins with Teresa and Bill Townsley deciding to acquire a 5-acre hobby farm in 2010. At the time, it was a forested property “without a stick of fencing on it”, according to Teresa. It started out as a hobby horse farm, but the Townsleys were soon cultivating a wide array of fruits and vegetables on the land.
Then their neighbour, the winery Township 7, proposed a collaboration. The Townsleys could make jams and jellies featuring Township 7 wines and artfully paired produce from their land, and the winery would sell them.
That sparked something for the Townsleys, a latent passion for the art and science of translating the land’s abundance into fine food and drink. And winemaking was in their blood with three generations of winemakers in the family.
Suddenly, it all came together: what had been intended as a simple hobby farm would become a respected winery. Specifically, Festina Lente is known for its mead or honey wine.
During those years while the Townsleys had been working hard incrementally moving toward their master plan, they were inching closer to reclaiming the lost art of mead-making. Make haste slowly indeed.
Mead or honey wine is a white wine that ages like a red. And as Teresa explains, “surprisingly dry, even though when people hear ‘honey’, they expect it to be syrupy.”
The tradition of mead-making is 6,000 years older than winemaking—and more difficult. “Honey is anti-bacterial, so it resists fermentation,” says Teresa. “The key is to keep the yeast happy, because when it’s stressed it brings out all the undesirable elements of the honey and makes products that taste like jet fuel.”
Given the niche nature of mead, the Townsleys never expected the success they met with. Teresa says, “We thought people would be interested but we didn’t expect this explosion. We met our sales goals right away and had to expand sooner than we expected. Fortunately, Great Little Box Company (GLBC) gave us the branded packaging that could carry us into new channels without adding extra costs.”
That branded packaging includes wine labels with embossing and foil detail that left space, from the start, for additional details as the brand grew. That meant when Festina Lente began appearing on liquor store shelves, buyers who weren’t getting a winery-level education about the mead could still understand it.
“We always felt that GLBC had our bottom line in mind,” says Teresa. “GLBC helped us create something that brought out our brand in an elegant way and didn’t lead to increased costs as we grew.”
As Festina Lente continues to make haste slowly, they are certain to grow. But the biggest threat to this unique winery’s existence is environmental.
“We are very tied to the environment and we always try to put in more than we take out. But when the bees struggle, so do we.”
From the start, the Townsleys have been meeting nature’s strong will with patience and humour. “We began with horses, so we know you can’t tell Mother Nature what to do. A 300-pound animal isn’t going to do what it doesn’t want to do. The best you can do is work with nature, not against it.”
Working with Festina Lente as they work with nature is an honour. As we help them grow their brand, we try to remember: you might get somewhere quickly, but still take the time to do it right.