2020 sucked. I’m sure it sucked for pretty much everyone. OK.. maybe Jeff Bezos was skipping all the way to the bank, but for many businesses 2020 was a bust. Like many small business owners, I survived on savings, keeping things lean and working my ass off, which makes the success of 2021 all the sweeter. My sales have increased and are the highest they’re been since I took over the winemaking and began the Willful brand in 2011.
When I started the business with my then husband in 2000, he was the winemaker, and I was the sales manager and sometimes cellar grunt. It was after we split in 2009, that I took over the winemaking. My first vintage in the cellar full time was 2011 and I usually describe it as learning how to swim by being thrown in a swimming pool. I crushed 54 tons that year, went to enology classes at night twice a week to fill in the gaps of my education, and finally heaved a sigh of relief after the first wines were in bottle. But then I had to convince our distributors that the wines were still going to be saleable now that the person that they knew as the sales manager was in control of the winemaking. I’m pretty sure our bank manager thought that my ex-husband was still making the wines behind the scenes up until he died in 2013 (and who knows, possibly beyond that…?) I felt constantly apologetic, wanting it to work, and yet always wondering whether what I was doing would be good enough. Even when my wines started to get good scores in the press, I would brush it off.
Now, having just finished my 11th vintage as the winemaker, I finally feel comfortable in the cellar. Every vintage still provides unique challenges. Every year there is something new to learn, different things to experiment with. It’s one of the things I love about my job. Not everyone will prefer my style of winemaking, and there may be times when I will wish in hindsight that I had made a different choice about something in the cellar. There is much that I can still learn, but I am very happy to present my wines now. I’m exploring more single vineyard pinot noirs, and getting to work with new vineyards and varietals. And I’m selling more than ever apparently. Like the little bird on my logo, I am taking flight and it’s pretty exciting.