Delia Viader ~ Viader’s Daring

I once wrote of Delia Viader of ViaderHer Heart is in the vineyards; her soul is in the bottle!

Nothing has changed along those lines, but the fabric of her story has become more rich and vibrant with additional experiences, since we last met two and a half years ago.

Yesterday, I began a story with Delia, and the intro had only my first two questions and answers, that were approaching 1,500 words. I respect the fact that everyone’s reading so much each day, so I’m trying to control my word count to be between 1,000 to 1,500 words… Respecting not only your time, but also the people for whom I’m writing. A very long story in a very quick world would mean that words past a 1,500 count might not be read, just skimmed. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I’m doing this intuitively, and may be off the mark. In Delia’s case, our time was very special, and her insights are quite revealing. In yesterday’s blog posting, I referred to her as a citizen of the world. At a certain point in our Q&A process, Delia and I veered off in this direction.

Delia: I used to log on the miles, now I logs onto Facebook to stay really connected. The world has shrunk significantly. People that I’ve not connected with in years are suddenly communicating with me almost on a daily basis. Before the term “citizen of the world” became political, it was a more of a philosophical term. It meant we were all brothers and sisters in harmony, as we encouraged humanity in each other. It had nothing to do with anything political or a regional statement. It meant that that person was open and felt at home anywhere in the world. In that regard, I’m a citizen of the world. I’m a humanist.

Continuing from yesterday’s blog:

[Q]   I’d like to really focus this one in on a very successful woman in the wine business, you… What are some of the challenges that you’ve met along the way? [You’ll notice that her answer has nothing to do with being a woman, and everything to do with being a business person.]

[A]  There are challenges for everyone in  the luxury marketing business of making and selling wine in any economy, regardless of this present one. On top of knowing that, we also pray for more rain or less sun… Is the stock market going to crash, will that affect wine sales?

Wine is not a necessity. A luxury brand is not a priority brand. It’s not something you need to have. Commercial auctions are coming back. That’s a good indicator that the economy is reviving. Viader at $90 a bottle slowed a bit. The Dare brand sales then took off.. We had to slow that down and raise the price a bit to have it last.  It’s fascinating to play with the economy. There’s room for improvement in the economy, and the challenges sometimes translate into great wins.

The fire last year on Howell Mountain was also very challenging. We got kicked out of the house with our two dogs and our cat. The firemen came to the door and said, “You have to evacuate. Take anything you need, and you must leave.” I said, “Okay, we’ll get everything together.” They said, “No, right now, get everything and let’s go.” I grabbed the kids and the pets, and off I went to a friends for a few days. From their veranda, I could see the fire, and there was nothing I could do but watch. It was right at my gate’s door, then the wind shifted and it just went in the opposite direction.

We both looked at each other…. Divine Intervention?

[Q]  What are the joys you’ve experienced?

[A]  My greatest joy is that my kids are interested in continuing to make Viader better. This is more gratifying that anything else. I’ve never forced them to do it, but it validates the legacy that needs to be continued. Alan and Janet, and my daughter-in-law Mariela, who’s a chef, all contribute.

Mariela was working at Bouchon for Thomas Keller [also of French Laundry fame], when she met my son Alan, who was also living in Yountville. Thomas Keller trains all of his staff at any “Thomas Keller” establishment in doing things the way he likes…with utmost precision and technique. I love being turned onto her great food and wine with our Tempranillo. It’s patio fare… tapas, very informal for wine. It’s perfect for people beginning to enjoy wine (beginners).

My oldest son Paul works in a nursery and is connected to the earth and its beauty. My youngest son Alex is still in high school, and I have him working in the vineyards. He needs to know, like all my other children, where great wine begins.

[Q]  How is everything going for you with this season in your vineyards?

[A]  So far, so good. The crop level is normal. In 2005, 2006, and 2007 the yields were low. In 2008, yields began creeping back up a little, and in 2009 – in terms of quality – we’re back to normal. The temperature is constant – cooler springs and summers with less heat spikes.  In 2006 bud break was delayed, then the temperatures in October were mild. In 2008, we had a cool spring and a small crop. It’s cool right now, as I said, and then heat is much better during the peak season, which is coming. Each season is different and offers different challenges and its own rewards.

[Q]  What’s new with your brands?

[A] We have new releases of the 2006 coming out at the end of July or the beginning of August; the 2006 Dare Cabernet Sauvignon and Dare Cabernet Franc. Viader new releases aren’t coming out until next October.

[Q]  Tell me about this great event that you just did with the Royal Bank of Canada’s (BRC) corporate wealth management group, and Janet Engels from RBC (Senior vice president, director, private client research, RBC Dain Rauscher).

[A]  It’s mostly about 99 percent women who are corporate heads from all over the US, and an economic analyst who’s Harvard trained. We’ve learned that women are much more receptive with women talking to them and the delivering the news about the economy… with a glass of wine. Women come from all of the branches of the BRC. When Janet Engels says, “Well, I’m going to tell you news of the economy, but let’s have a glass of wine to go with that,” it just makes it so much more enjoyable. Then, we have a question and answer period, and sip more wine.

I’ve been doing it for two years now. The executives come to Janet. It’s a fiscally savvy audience. I’m more of a curiosity; but with a degree in finance, I may provide the perfect opportunity for this corporate wealth management group to hear the consumer’s perspective. We celebrate together, we know our work’s not done yet, but we sip our way through it.

There’s a counterpart affecting the industry. It’s so difficult to access capital right now. Banks can’t – in a way – lend any money. That puts small businesses in a task position, which is between a rock and a hard place. The pendulum went too far, from the lending spree that was giving to anyone with pulse money to now – which is almost like having to promise your first born child.

In this kind of a setting, it’s much more meaningful to talk to someone who’s financially savvy and in a perfect position to pay attention to your market. The wine industry is so capital intensive. The turnover for fine red wines takes so long. From someone just starting, it takes at least three years to seven years to begin to have any return on the investment. The industry has a very slow cycle, and demands a lot of patience. In order to be in the wine business, you must have a long term view of things.

The scores within the wine business are also challenging. I’ve been very lucky with my scores, but there are people who live by them from year to year. If one wine doesn’t get a score as high a score as the year before in some magazine, I might have someone ask, “Why isn’t this wine 100 Points?”

I just say, don’t change what you drink, just change what you read, because the same wine has been written up worldwide, and I can go from one periodical to the next until I find the desired score, whether it’s 100 points in one periodical, or 20/20 with anther, five stars in another, I can make you feel better about what you’re enjoying, if you need that.”

Don’t change what you drink, just change what you read. Is there any other more classic line? I loved “Live by the scores, die by the scores,” but this one takes the cake! Thanks, Delia!

When I told her what Costco is doing right now, only purchasing wines that have a score of 90 or above, she said, “Didn’t Costco learn from others?”

She’s a true classic.

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