EDITOR'S NOTE - A Family AffairMy best friend's cousin was visiting from California, where her family grows syrah. "Do you know anyone who wants to buy some grapes?" she asked, wishing syrah was chic.
It's the kind of challenge that grape growers face, committed to a perennial crop that cycles in and out of fashion. Her family farms syrah because it's what grows best at the site, whether or not it's the flavor of the month. She helped her father plant the vineyard and she'll work to sustain it as long as she can.
Her situation reminded me of a colleague who worked at a large corporate winery in Napa Valley, one that had recently reorganized its management team. The new CEO came from a packaged goods business and he announced his challenge to the winemaking team in the first company meeting: "We need to find a way to make wine without grapes."
Whether or not he was serious, the intention was to get the team to think beyond the long-term cycles of a vine and create more consistent profitability. There were investors to appease. We don't believe that corporate ownership is bad for wine, or that family ownership is always good. There are brilliantly structured corporations that make great wine; there are families that make bad wine.
But if you look around, many of the most successful wine companies are family owned. The long-term investment required and the intangible benefits that don't show up on a balance sheet are just two of the reasons why. We've devoted this issue to families in wine, to the sons and daughters of great winemakers who set their careers along the same path, to the family dynasties that rule in their own regions and beyond, and to the multi-generational family wineries that consistently perform at the top.
Families thrive on the contributions of each successive generation, so we asked Mark Borden, a technology reporter for Fast Company magazine to interview Gary Vaynerchuk on twentysomethings and wine. Plus, we scoured the world for the most talented new faces in wine, and present 30 of them, all under 30. We'd be happy to welcome any of them into the family.