We had the good fortune of connecting with Kristin Shute and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kristin, how has your perspective on work-life balance evolved over time?
Finding a balance between work life and personal life is challenging for most small business owners. We oftentimes work 8 days a week, sacrificing significant milestones with our loved ones. My role here at Lechuza was presented to me by my workaholic father, giving me a practical window into the life of not only a business owner but a parent as well. My husband and I worked without staff for the first 4 years, learning all of the ins and outs of the business. Although it was hard to understand at the moment, we were being groomed to be better leaders for our growing business. In 2017 we unexpectedly lost my father, pulling the rug out from us all. Suddenly, I went from the role of the student to instantly the sole decision-maker. Over the next year, we had hard family discussions to which we needed to decide how we were going to thrive independently, without any outside investors. Eventually, we made the hard decision to bring on staff allowing us to extend our tasting room for full-time hours. This meant that we now had to be responsible for a hard schedule, rather than just by appointment. The idea scared me. Now were we not only responsible for our pay, but also for the employees we were hiring. Additionally, this meant that we could no longer leave on a whim, days would be longer and in return, my availability for my growing family was going to be more limited. I made the vow to my children that no matter what is on the plate for the day, my husband and myself would always be at the dinner table. This may seem like a small detail to most, but for us, it was something that was important. Being together at the dinner table meant that we needed uninterrupted time with each other to review our day, discuss what was on our minds, and most importantly play. In 2018 we had our daughter, mid-harvest. On paper, the timing couldn’t be worse, however, it taught us to trust in each other to support where we could and encourage when we needed to be away from the hands-on of harvest. We became more organized, talked more transparently, and learned how to set healthy boundaries. We moved back to the ranch allowing us to be more available for both the business and our family. With time, we have figured out what works best to keep that balance. It might not be for every family, but it works for our dynamics. We currently have a staff of 7 that show up every day so that we can continue to pursue our dreams. Our staff has become the family that we trust implicitly. During the initial Covid19 closure, we had to make the decision regarding keeping the staff on without any income or letting them go. The decision was obvious to us. We needed to reciprocate our accountability to them as they have provided to us. For 3 1-2 months, they all earned sweat equity, working in the field, blending wines, and strengthening our bond with each other. Having the ability to hire smart and trust our team has allowed us to expand our expectations way beyond what we had set 8 years ago. In short, finding the balance is a task that we have to face every single day, assess the more urgent needs at the time, and most importantly, keep an open mind as the business continues to evolve.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Being a winemaker is a fun challenge in which there needs the influence of artistic flare and science. One can not exist without the other. I have the distinct honor to have learned about wine as both a consumer and a student. My time in Santa Barbara had allowed me to fall in love with the role from an outsider’s perspective. I heard their passion, saw their dedication, and experienced their craft. My father offered me the opportunity to study at UC Davis, but at that time, the first-hand schooling I was receiving seemed to be a better fit. Instead, my father went to the program and eventually became my professor. With the guidance of one of Mexico’s best winemakers, Sebastian Suarez, these two men tirelessly taught me almost everything I know. Learning in the setting is a bit unconventional, however, I was able to be trained in ways that can not be taught in books. Being that we are at the mercy of the crop, every year is presenting new obstacles. Fortunately, I live in a community in which failure is not an option. I am surrounded by so many winemakers that go out of their way to teach me. Here in Valle, ‘A rising tide lifts all boats.’ I don’t think that I would be as successful anywhere else in the world as I am here. This is my place. A place where diversity is not only embraced, but also encouraged. This is a place where you can be a female transplant and still be recognized amongst the best.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
Accommodations/lodging Bruma Casa 8: http://www.bruma.mx/casa8.html There is a reason this spot has won many architecture awards for best hospitality builds. Embracing the land, respecting the surroundings, the team here knocks it out of the park. Centrally located, this spot is beyond impressive! Villa Matilda: https://www.facebook.com/villamatildamx/ This cozy spot is so meticulous to details that there isn’t a need not met. The hosts are incredibly kind and considerate, making you wish that you could move in! Small in size but grand in the delivery. Cuatro Cuatros: http://cuatrocuatros.mx/cuatro_cuatros.php If you are interested in ‘Glamping’, here is the place to do it. They have Luxurious tents that will exceed all of your expectations. There are so many amazing attributes to this stop that will blow your socks off! Hacienda Guadalupe: http://www.haciendaguadalupehotel.com/vineyard Very comfortable, moderately priced location. Classic Spanish architect with one of the best panoramic views of the valley. They are making their own wine and worth checking out. As well, they have a wonderful restaurant that has some of the best breakfasts in town! Family-friendly day trips- Las Canadas: http://www.lascanadas.com/index.php This spot has every adventure you could imagine from zip lining to quad rentals. If you are interested in camping at all, they do have lots to pitch a tent. This spot is fun for the whole family! La Bufadora: http://www.ensenada-baja-vacations.com/la_bufadora.html This is a great spot for shopping & soaking in a little ‘Mexican Culture’. The small little drag is covered in stores that sell anything you can imagine with their specialty being Pina Coladas! Keep in mind, they do hustle a bit, so be prepared to have everyone call you over for the best deal in town! Tasting Rooms- Bruma: http://www.bruma.mx/vinicola.html Lead by female winemaker and Ensanda local, Lulu Martinez Ojeda, Bruma is one of my favorite vineyards (not just in Mexico but in general.) Lulu is classically French trained with the influence of her family heritage here in the region. Her wines got me through the first quarantine! Vinicola Solar Fortune- www.solarfortun.com Ensenada born, winemaker Santiago Lopez is truly knocking it out of the park. He has a classic approach highlighting some of the region’s best varietals. The service here is always warm and welcoming. Don’t pass up eating at his wife’s on-site restaurant, named after the chef herself, Dulce. Relieve Vinicola- https://tinyurl.com/Relieve-VINICOLA Winemaker and Architect Wenceslao Martinez and his family have created a beautiful space that is accommodating for both small and larger groups. With a sprawling outdoor patio, there is plenty of space to have an intimate experience. The wines are carefully crafted, embracing the fruit-forward characteristics of this region, this balanced line up makes you want to come back for more! Las Nubes- http://vinoslasnubesbc.com/ A Valle classic, Las Nubes is nestled into the hillside giving a whole new view unlike any other in the region. Winemaker, Victor Segura is not only a talented winemaker but also an all-around great guy. Victor has a spectacular way of making you feel right at home. Always available to those of us smaller producers, Victor has allowed us to utilize his team and expertise in times of need. Mogor Badan: http://www.bajabound.com/destinations/bajawinecountry/mogorbadan.php Natalia Badan is another great neighbor with an amazing story. They are making delicious wines and have a farmer’s market at their ranch that has amazing organic veggies and all kinds of great preserves. If you get the chance to spend any time with Natalia you should. She is appropriately referred to as the Godmother of el Valle. Vinos de Garza: http://vinosdegarza.com/index_EN.html Amado Garza has developed another superb winery that has delicious wine and a commanding view of the valley. We call it Amadolandia because he has all the toys a winemaker wants. Nice guy as well that walks around with a smile that looks like he knows something the rest of us don’t. Tres Mujeres: http://www.bajabound.com/destinations/bajawinecountry/tresmujeres.php Tres Mujeres is right down the street (dirt road) from Garza and real close to Mogor Badan. Yvette is a fun French lady and they have a fun story and worth the effort to taste their wine. Sol y Barro: http://www.bajabound.com/destinations/bajawinecountry/solybarro.php Emie is a groovy guy that lives a bohemian lifestyle and makes a fun wine. They only offer a few wines at their tasting but is definitely worth a stop. I recommend that you make reservations for the wineries BEER – Agua Mala – http://aguamala.com.mx/ Exceptional beers, fantastic bar menu, and great staff with an ocean view. If you are unable to join them in Sauzal, order it off of any menu you find! Consistently good beer from an amazing family operation! Wendlandt Cerveceria- https://wendlandt.com.mx/tasting-room/ Always a go-to for our family. They have great diversity in their beers that appeal to many palates. With an impressive brewing facility on-site, I highly recommend looking into a tour. Cerveceria Transpeninsular- https://www.facebook.com/cerveceriatranspeninsular If you are looking for a spot for Artisanal Beer, burgers, and wings, this is the place. Transpeninsular is always rotating through innovative new brews while highlighting some consistent favorites. This is a place that is Mom and Dad’s choice when we are out with the kids as they are very family-friendly. The Wine Museum is right in front of the Hacienda Guadalupe and is a quick tour but gives a good history of the area. Food – Deckman’s in El Magor – https://www.facebook.com/deckmansenelmogor?fref=ts Drew Deckman is an Allstar chef with a Michelin star awarded in Germany. His restaurant is located at Mogor Badan (local farmer’s market) allowing him to have only the freshest produce available. As well, Drew is a huge activist for Slow Food, Slow Meat & Sustainable fish. All of his practices reflect his dedication to the product. That being said, this is one of our favorite spots to dine, providing the best sunset in Mexico! Fauna Restaurante en Bruma- http://www.faunarestaurante.mx/ Pinned as one of top Latin America’s top restaurants to watch, this place really hits the mark. Chef David Hussong and his wife Chef Maribel Aldaco create some of the most incredible flavor combinations that I have experienced. Never shying away from bold flavors, I am always impressed with every visit. The view is beautiful, the architecture is stunning and the staff is top-notch. Resturante Tre Galline – https://www.facebook.com/osteriatregalline If you are looking for a change-up in cuisine and authentic Italian sounds like it will hit the spot, I recommend Tre Galline. Angelo & his wife Magda are based out of northern Italy. They have transformed the front patio off of their house into one of the most enchanting spaces in the area. Everything is locally source and made from scratch. Their heart is felt in every detail. Cool fact- Angelo is one of the original signers of the slow food movement. Finca Altozano – https://www.facebook.com/FincaAltozano?fref=ts Javier Placencia has proven to be one of Mexico’s top restaurateurs. Most popularly known for Mission 19 in Tijuana, Javier’s cooking is always impressive. Additionally, they do have an incredible pop up fine dining restaurant, Animalon that is worth the visit, a coffee shop, and a quaint ice cream shop. Between the food, service & view, you can find our team here at least once a week! Lunario Resturante – www.resurantelunario.com/ Headed up by one of Mexico’s leading female chefs, Chef Sheyla Alvarado, curates a unique dining experience appeasing all senses by combining familiar flavors with refined techniques. Her revolving tasting menu always highlights some of the best ingredients in the area. Manzanilla – http://www.rmanzanilla.com/ Located towards the entrance of Ensenada Harbor, Manzanilla is spearheaded by two of Mexico’s top chefs, Benito Molina and his wife Solange Muris. Together this duo expresses the beauty of both land and sea while highlighting the impact of local cultures in their cuisine. This is definitely a place where you can easily lose track of time. Don’t skip out on their house cocktail special (if you are a gin and tonic fan, this will be right up your alley.) Muelles Tres: http://www.muelletres.com/ David is a cool cat that makes stupid fresh simple seafood dishes. This is right next door to the open seafood market that is a great Kodak moment for folks that love that sort of this. Insurance- Baja Bound is who I carry my Mexican auto insurance with and is a good option. They are also a great source of information. I am a big follower of this blog – http://www.lifeandfoodblog.com/. I suggest reading up and finding little gems that I may not have mentioned!
The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
Although there have been many people who have groomed me to be the person I am, there are a few that are beyond deserving of the shout out. To my father, the constant in my life that always taught me that being kind and working with integrity would open all doors. My character is a direct reflection of the ethics he has instilled in me. Because he had faith in me, I am able to live a life that many people dream of. To my moms, the women that show me that it isn’t all about work, it is about loving at the moment. To my brothers, the two men that know all facets of my personality, what makes me react, what inspires me, and how to best put me in my place with grace and authenticity. There are so many times where the world seems to be off-kilter, but after talking with them both, the biggest mountain seems achievable. To my sister in law, one of the strongest women I know, always seeming to thrive in motherhood in the most imperfect circumstances. To my cousins who could very well be my brothers. Their creative approach to life reminds me to always think outside of the box. To my staff, the ones with whom I spend most of my time. They have seen me at my best and my worst, however, they continue to show up every day so that I can be successful, Anything is possible with them by my side. To my children, the little pieces of my heart that exist outside of my body. These two have taught me the ability to have an innocent approach to challenging situations. They are the true definition of hope. And lastly, to my husband, the one person that has been on this entire journey with me. Day in and day out, we are able to balance each other and find fun through the chaos. We are able to crush through goals, expand our dreams and set new standards.
Cintia Soto Photography