Starting at the Top and Climbing Higher

Objections… We hear them all the time. We have choices for how we’ll react. When we don’t like the objection, our human nature is to instantly react defensively. If we can get over that knee-jerk reaction, by realizing that this is an opportunity to provide more information, we can move that “cause” one step forward to a place of understanding, maybe compromise, maybe even to enlightenment.

I just had to remind myself of that when I read a story in Wines & Vines by Tina Caputo entitled, Top Editors on What Makes A Great Wine Story.

I’ve heard the objection below, and there it was within the second paragraph… in print… for the world to see…

“This may come as a surprise to some of you, but a ‘great story’ in the eyes of a winery owner or PR director is not always the wine media’s idea of compelling copy….’rich-guy-buys-winery’ ilk. ‘Wealth doesn’t necessarily make a good story,’… What does, is a winemaker with a legitimate passion that leads to success.'”

Okay, here’s more information on that one from a PR director…

In the days of old, kings and queens commissioned artists and scribes to keep them and their courts entertained and informed. They even had their own in-house mead and wine makers. They financially supported everyone with a unique talent that enriched their lives.

As much as things change, they also stay the same.

We’re in a very interesting period in California’s viticultural and winemaking development. We’re experiencing a tremendous influx of money that was made outside of the wine business, and being brought into it by a group of individuals who are leaving one career behind to reinvent themselves in another one that will bring them more satisfaction. (Is that so boring?)

That infusion of new money is economic growth. That’s allowing many artists of today to have a new platform from which they can bounce; i.e., winemakers who would have not found an employer in a saturated market, vit people with vineyard expansion in their mind’s eye, people with marketing expertise, and writers/journalists/PR people who want to tell stories. [REMEMBER: this includes the media, who’s very subsistence depends on advertising that will come from these rich guys, in order for your publisher to make payroll.]


  • What’s to become of all the enologists who are graduating from UC Davis, Fresno State, those importing themselves from other countries in the hopes of making it? Are any existing wineries going to expand, just to give these people a job, to keep them off the streets?
  • Same for those graduating with viticulture degrees… Are they going to be hired by a vineyard crew that’s already got enough people who know how to direct a vineyard planting, just because…?
  • How many times can you cover the same story about the same person before you (or your readers) become bored to death?

We’re all making a living from the infusion of new money. The myriad of tales right now is copious… Frankly, I’m enjoying the opportunity that this is affording me for personal growth and understanding. With all of these people who have entered the market, it’s allowing me to get to know some pretty brilliant people, all of whom are adding an interesting layer to the stories of wine… Like the first African American neurosurgeon to graduate from Johns Hopkins University as a man of ethic diversity (Dr. Ernest A. Bates); or the man who is President Emeritus of Middlebury College and President Emeritus of the Salzburg Seminars (Olin Robison); or the man who grew a business from one – himself – to a business that employed thousands of people, took it public, then bounced into this business, so he could give each of his three sons their own businesses (Ron Donati).

For me, wealth does not equal a yawn. It equals people who can afford to come in and give people a break. We all know that it takes a large fortune to make a small fortune in this business. These new kings and queens support our future stars, and are also a key component behind why a winemaker can make good wine… That’s why PR people tell their stories, and understand how important these “rich guys” are.

It’s called starting at the top and climbing higher… They give us all a platform from which we can spring.

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