Wine On Purpose


Usually I start writing a VINFABULA article for The Calistoga Tribune with an idea. After the fires and the ensuing community trauma that so many have encountered, my light touch on the wine business and gentle humor felt inadequate. So, nothing came. I have been reading a book called ‘The Undefeated Mind’ by Alex Lickerman. One of the things he covers is when you are stuck, and how you should just do something, without worrying quite so much whether it is right or wrong. “Taking action, doesn’t only lead us to new solutions; it may also help ignite our desire to find them.” With that in mind this piece is under way with no forethought, no premeditated kernel of truth, or wit. 

After watching the fires rage through familiar neighborhoods, I wonder how many of us less directly affected are still feeling discomforted by this powerful event? We will all have our personal disquiets. Evacuating Calistoga was not easy for me; it felt weak-willed and impotent. No matter how prudent and sensible it was. I did have an epiphany on Limantour beach at Point Reyes. At least I now understand the long-lost childhood trauma that caused that feeling.

After life changing events we feel the need to tap back into the ‘why’ of who we are and what we do.  So, what do we do in this wine business that matters? Do you have a mission or a sense of purpose about what you do?  I participated in an event called ‘Wine Sales – A Fresh Perspective’ not long after the fires had been quelled. One of the thoughtful speakers mentioned how in the wine business we create moments around which people can hang thoughts and memories. How a customer tasting is about creating a space in their lives where they can connect with each other and whatever reason drew them to be here in the first place. My muse and I talked for years about how we were not really selling wine. We are selling a moment in time. The quality of the wine led to a pause for consideration. The story behind the wine led to a reason to pay attention. Our empathy led to a connection with the wine and why it could be important to them. The bottle, or bottles, purchased then become a memento, or like a ‘portkey’ in Harry Potter. An object that can transport our guests back to that moment where their connection to the winery, us, and each other, was made – ideally with a story to weave around it all. I love the quote: “The best way to spoil a really good bottle of wine is to open it with someone you don’t like.” It is the anthesis of what we hope happens. That our wine, opened in the right moment, will exalt whatever is important to our guests.

Some people come to the wine country to celebrate, some come to mark a moment in time, something achieved or something lost. Many come with hidden wounds, and we are there to listen and apply the salve of care, in the form of this thing we make called wine. We have become very adept at telling our own stories. But many of us have a long way to go in understanding that we must intuitively modify and sometimes amplify some aspects of these stories so that they become meaningful for our guests.

I was asked many years ago what my DTC (Direct To Consumer) marketing plan was going to be for a winery and I said, “Be nice to people and make them happy.” It was said instinctively and was met with a certain incredulousness – ‘not very sophisticated’. After almost two decades in the wine business it remains the simplest and most difficult thing to do consistently, honestly, and really, really, well. 

Adversity can be a catalyst. I hope that no matter how the fires affected you, it somehow brings into focus what truly matters to you, and that you will embark on the next step of your journey with a renewed determination to follow your purpose.

VINFABULA – “Improve your world with a fresh perspective story audit of your business. Then profit from selecting, aligning, and telling the right stories, powerfully.