It was the summer of 1969. "Hop out." Fourteen-year-old Eric Fullerton obeyed his grandparents, and climbed out of the car. Surrounded by steep slopes planted to grape vines, they approached a home. An unknown woman quickly stepped out to greet them. With hair askew and teeth missing, the mysterious lady addressed his grandparents in broken Danish, then hugged them both. She next turned to Eric, tussled his hair and said, "Looks just like Bodie" (Eric’s mother). She gave Eric a hug, while his adolescent mind wondered, "Who is this? And what is going on?"
Boppard am Rhein, where Eric's destined meeting with Annie took place. Vineyards line the slopes on the left side of the photograph. Courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
The gnarly-haired woman was Annie, a German-Jew. As a young lady, she had attended the school Eric’s great-grandparents had built in Haslev, Denmark. The family still ran the school when the German Gestapo took it over as a field hospital amidst the chaos of World War II. During the dark of night, Eric’s family smuggled all the Jewish refugees, about fifteen including Annie, to the church. For a few weeks, Bodie became the lifeline for Annie and her fellow exiles. While the refugees hid away, Bodie started a community choir, and held voice lessons twice per day at the church. The rehearsals served as a shield, enabling Bodie to bring food and other supplies desperately needed by the hidden refugees. Eventually, the community successfully smuggled Annie and the others to Sweden, where they remained until WWII ended.
Annie’s hug on that summer day in 1969 contained more love and joy than Eric could have imagined. Eric’s family, Annie, and her husband, August Lennard Winegutt, spent a memorable afternoon and evening together. August Lennard, whom Annie married after the war, was injured in the war while fighting for Germany, and now walked with a limp. However, on this day August made his way around the vineyards with Eric, showing him the winemaking process in his home and basement. Serendipitously, a few months later, Eric went to work for Annie and August at their vineyard and winery.
The work proved grueling. As the youngster of the crew, Eric often received the tough, dirty jobs. However, while working amidst the sweat, history, compassion, and grit, a seed had been planted. Forty-three years later, Fullerton Wines launched with 350 cases of distinctive and elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, born out of the history of World War II and a destined encounter.