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What Makes Fearrington Magic

It was almost ten years ago that I came to Fearrington Village for the first time. I had flown across the country to interview for the position of Sommelier at The Fearrington House Restaurant.  At the time, my wife, daughter and I were looking to relocate and it just turned out that I had met Fearrington’s General Manager Theresa Chiettini and Proprietor R.B. Fitch the previous year at a Relais & Chateaux Conference in Switzerland.  I remember being nervous the entire flight to Raleigh-Durham International Airport, not sure what to expect, or whether or not I would even like North Carolina in the first place.

Theresa picked me up from the airport and we drove straight to the Village Center. Driving up the main entrance with the Christmas lights in full form, I was taken aback by the understated beauty and elegance of the village.  It had not occurred to me that Fearrington was its own Village, with shops, restaurants, and back then even a plant shop! Almost right away I knew that I wanted to be a part of this company.

That night I had dinner at the restaurant with Theresa and Paige Greene, who was the wine director at that time. I remember meeting Joris Haarhuis, our maitre’d, for the first time, we clicked right away, beginning a long friendship.  What I realized is that everyone who worked here, felt like they were part of a family more than they were part of a company.

The next day Theresa took me all over the village introducing me to everyone, I was overwhelmed by all of the names, but felt so genuinely welcomed that it was like I had already been here for years.  When I finally met with R.B. Fitch and his son Greg for lunch, I knew that I could not turn down the opportunity to work at a place where there was so much warmth. The center of that warmth was R.B. himself, a man that I have gone on to learn a great deal from. Most importantly that it is always good to have a sense of humor and to never stop coming up with new ideas, they will not always be good, but it’s good to always be moving forward.

A month later we moved to North Carolina.  Every day I think of how grateful I am that Krystal (my wife), Saskia (my daughter) and I made that move, and how grateful I am for Fearrington.

Fearrington has given so much to my family, including the ability to grow as a Sommelier, a leader, and a hospitality professional. After a year here at Fearrington, I was promoted to Wine Director of the entire Village. A position I have held to this day, and one that I have grown in both professionally and personally. Having the ability to represent the Village wherever I travel, to train everyone who works in our food and beverage operations, to curate all of the wine lists, to mentor sommeliers, to teach wine classes, to work the floor and help create special memories for guests, has been one of the greatest honors and experiences of my life.

As many of you know, I have been attempting to pass the Master Sommelier certification for the past six years. I have been so close many times, and yes I have put in a lot of work. However, if it was not for the overwhelming support of R.B., Theresa, and all of my Fearrington friends, I most likely would have given up on that journey. My friends at Fearrington and my family have kept me motivated to keep pursuing that goal, and I will continue to do so. When I do pass, I know exactly where and with whom I will be celebrating with, because they have been with me through the whole thing.

My wife Krystal worked for a number of years in the marketing department at Fearrington, and when she decided to go on her own as a photographer, Fearrington believed in her talent and her work so much that they started recommending her, helping her develop and now she is one of the top wedding photographers in the Triangle. Again, every day I give thanks for Fearrington.

When we moved here my daughter was just a toddler, now she is in middle school. She has grown up in Fearrington Village. To her walking to The Goat or McIntyre’s Books feels like she is at home. When I talk to her about Fearrington she gets a twinkle in her eye. She knows how special a place it is, and how lucky we are to have it in our life. Fearrington Village will always be home for her, for me, and for my wife.

So, why the reminiscence? After much thought, I have taken a new position with a new company, Broadbent Selections. I will be working on another side of the wine industry, focused on one of my favorite import portfolios in the country. I will deeply miss working here at Fearrington and all of the friends I have made over the years, but I promise to come back for wine dinners and classes as a guest. In fact I will already be back on October 20th to help host Marc Hochar of Chateau Musar from the Bekaa Valley, one of my favorite wineries in the world, a class not to be missed!

Paula de Pano, who worked with me from 2010-2014 will be taking over the wine program. She is re-joining Fearrington after two years working on the wine team at Eleven Madison Park in NYC. She will bring a lot to the wine program and to the Village itself, we are all very lucky to have her join us. She will be assisted by Chetan Reddy, our Sommelier at The Fearrington House, who has been such an amazing addition to Fearrington over the past year, and Colin Williams who has been doing great things at The Fearrington Granary and The Goat. Stop by and say hello to them all, and don’t forget to ask for a wine recommendation!

So after this long post, all I can say is that Fearrington Village means more to me than I can really express. All of the great people I have worked with, served, and gotten to know, all of the friends I have made, memories, and experiences are so great and so deep that all I can say is that I have been blessed to work here for so long, and even more blessed to consider Fearrington home and family. Fearrington is truly one of the most magical places I have known, and I thank everyone here for letting me be a part of that magic for the past ten years.

– Maximilian Kast, Wine Director

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