“It’s Not About the Dirt” – Set your Goals in Concrete

This week’s blog article is entitled Set your Goals in Concrete which is one of our #LeaderTips from Chapter 2 in my second book “It’s Not About the Dirt”. Here are some story excerpts from the book together with our first formally blogged #LeaderTips….

At the winery house in Cardan, when you are sitting on the small westerly facing terrace outside the kitchen, facing the magnificent orange sun as it begins it’s descent for yet another day and you have a glass of wine in your hand, then you know you are in a special place.

Early morning view from the kitchen terrace at the Paradise Rescued winery across the old and new Merlot vineyards.

Countless visitors over the years have attested to this – so I know it’s not just me. I can’t explain why or what – you just have to feel it. And to feel it you obviously have to be there!

Back in 1992, the Hourcat Centre block, as we now call it, was in its prime, growing a small one tenth of a hectare of Merlot (our existing and current ‘Old Vine Block’) and about three times as much Sémillon vines. It was a beautiful small block, running north south along the entire western boundary of our property and was effectively a green barrier shielding us from the rest of civilisation. It is the closest block of vines to the house and the vineyard one appreciates most when sitting on the kitchen terrace. It created a very special haven for all who dwelled there.

Prior to our purchase, the vines had been so called ‘cut to death’ and effectively abandoned during the 2010 season. As we signed the compromis (purchase contract) in April 2011, we included a clause that allowed Pascale and the Paradise Rescued team to immediately take over the viticulture and management of the block.

Paradise Rescued Founder Director David Stannard in the Merlot Block on purchase day 2011. Plenty of work to be done!

We had a very specific strategy, plan and goal.

Sometimes an opportunity presents itself that fits snugly with your overall business or life goals, values and direction. If the synergy or ‘fit’ is good, then you owe it to yourself to rapidly develop or modify your strategies and plans to accommodate that opportunity. This was what happened with the Hourcat Sud Cabernet Franc block. We had an overall plan as a family about where we wanted to be and what we wanted to do. When that block suddenly became a must-have purchase; the earlier energy and thinking was transformed into creating what is now Paradise Rescued.

Hourcat Centre was different in that we had effectively been debating and negotiating its purchase for the last fifteen years…… But we still had a clear strategy ready to go, which we then integrated into the main Paradise Rescued Vision and plans at the point of purchase.

The Merlot wine grape varietal is an excellent vine to grow on the so-called Bordeaux Right bank – that huge vineyard area that sits to the north east of the River Garonne and includes all the sub regions of St.Emilion, Pomerol, Fronsac, Blaye etc, as well as our own small estate at Cardan. Merlot can be fickle but it generally thrives in the climate and clay/limestone soil found across that area. It is by far the most commonly grown wine varietal in Bordeaux and has set a benchmark for the world in terms of top-class Merlot wines. In great vintages, when Bordeaux Merlot is on song, it is a world-beater.

I had always presumed that Merlot would be part of our destiny. When – at the last moment – we found out that our first vineyard block in Hourcat Sud was planted in Cabernet Franc, we were initially quite taken aback. Then I realised how we could turn it to our advantage and create something almost unique in the Bordeaux region.

Baby Merlot plant in the replanted Merlot vineyard

The strategy for Hourcat Centre was (and still is) quite simply to create a high quality Merlot vineyard and naturally produce an amazing wine as the result. From the outset, the vision, strategy, plans and goals were all aligned to create this small high

Within a week of having signed the compromis (purchase agreement), Pascale started work on the then 55 year old Merlot vines to prune them to our standards and re-invigorate them back to full health. Had we not had a clear direction, they might not have been recoverable and we would never have been able to appreciate the amazing small quantities of Merlot wine that this one tenth of a hectare block now produces.

With plenty of love and care, the Old Block Merlot recovered very well. 2012 was a challenging vintage in Bordeaux with significant mildew attack and damage in many parts. Our first Merlot harvest was a success – vinified in the redesigned micro cuvé based winery, proving the overall potential of the Hourcat Centre block. A new tradition was beginning…

It’s good to have strong strategies and to commit to a path. A clear direction is very empowering to a team and sends a clear signal to one’s customers about what to expect and what’s coming up. Endless vacillation and re-analysis of a strategy creates significant indecision, lack of momentum and internal cynicism. However, there does always need to be some flexibility in the detail and implementation to allow optimisation, adjustment and continual improvement. We need to set our goals in concrete and our plans in sand.

The book : It’s Not About the Dirt by David Stannard


  1. Build your goals in concrete; make your plans in sand. Decide where you are going, what you want to achieve. Hold those goals firm. Set a strategy, make a plan and get started. Be prepared to change the plan (not the goal) if the results aren’t fully working.

So Remember – Set your Goals in Concrete; Make your Plans in Sand. Read more in “It’s Not About the Dirt”. I look forward to hearing your success stories. Please share.

David Stannard is the Founder Director of Bordeaux niche winery brand Paradise Rescued and author of two books. David’s second book entitled “It’s not about the Dirt”, is available through Kindle on amazon.com. In this business story book David shares his #LeaderTips at the end of every chapter.

Paradise Rescued is the 2016 International Business Award Silver Stevie winner for Small Budget Marketing Campaign.

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