One Case At A Time

What is the metric for success in the wine business?  Is it making gobs of money, nationwide placement at Costco, or 100 points from Wine Spectator?  A winemaker I respect tremendously once told me, “Kerith, you’ll never make a lot of money in this business, but you’ll always have a good life.”  Smart words to live by.  When I practiced medicine, my goal was to be a happy pathologist.  My 2011 resolution is to be a happy winemaker.  But that doesn’t mean that I don’t dream big. At Bruliam, to craft and sell 500 cases of wine represents an achievable but lofty goal.  1000 cases feel implausibly huge.  Finding representation in big cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Manhattan, or Dallas is #winning on my yardstick.  Plus, I’d like to make a yummy rose, some more pinots, a Dry Creek zin, and a white Rhone.  It would be nice to break even, too.    

Two weeks ago, Seghesio, a Healdsburg-based, family owner winery was bought by Crimson Wine Group.  And its purchase has divided Seghesio’s legions of devoted fans.  Some posted congratulatory props wisecracking, “I knew you way back when…”  Others predict “selling out” to a large conglomerate surely heralds diminished quality and shoddy service.   I think it’s pretty exciting.  They are homegrown heroes who developed and marketed a brand of consistently delicious Sonoma wines.  I’m proud that such dedicated vintners from my neighborhood were courted by the big leagues.  I just hope Seghesio retains the same homey, cozy family vibe.  Last time we tasted there, we opted for the food/wine experience which pairs their zins and cal-ital vino with hearty comfort food like rigatoni with meat sauce.  Perfect for those 96 degree summer days.  Near the end of the fete, Grandma Seghesio played the room.  Warm and spunky, she told stories about the old days and prohibition and shared heirlooms like vintage photographs and handmade lace.  It’s compelling, and their zins especially are fantastic.

The Seghesio clan has been making wine since the 1880’s; Bruliam Wines was born in 2008.  I’m just a baby chick, but it’s a long, slow slog.  It’s difficult to be a teeny-weeny, family-owned winery.  Profit margins are slim, and French oak is expensive.  But I love what I do and look forward to the 2011 harvest.  We are relocating to Healdsburg full time, and I think big things are ahead.  Until then, it’s just I and my Toyota Sienna, hand delivering one case at a time.  Even if Bruliam gets huge, cranking out 1,500 cases a year, my greatest success remains ongoing dialogue with the people who drink and love my wine.

Frankly, with feedback like this I think I’ve already arrived:

“I wanted you to know that the autographed bottles of wine have been gifted to several CEO’s of companies in San Diego.  One CEO has a dream of having a winery…  And I have been sharing with people I connect with about you, your story and what I learned from the PGC200 event where we met.  Also, how great your wine is – the BEST!” … L.A.

Thanks L.A.  Right back at ya.