Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Better Together

Our dreams are made out of real things...

14 days of travel through Austria, Alsace (well for 15 minutes to taste the worlds best croissant) and now Germany -  at least a thousand songs have blasted in the rental car as we've rolled along.  Jack Johnson's "Better Together" is the theme song of this amazing trip!

We've always known we could get along just about anywhere, but now that we've been challenged with very little sleep, foreign languages and being on the move near 18 hours each day, we are thankful to have each others company.  Today is the first day I've taken off to catch up on a little work and write while Eric is visiting a few wine producers from the Mosel in Germany.

Eric's wine career began over 15 years ago when he began working part-time for K&L Wine Merchants to earn some cash for a backpacking trip to Europe. Towards the end of his trip, he sent an email to K&L and asked for a full-time job with them in Redwood City upon his return, the wine bug had bitten.  I have to brag a bit here, he's been such a Rockstar over here among wine producers and importers. I'm so proud of the way he's conducted himself with a great mix of integrity for the business and passion for the winemakers, his work ethic and enthusiasm has made a difference to so many producers over the years.  We haven't met a single one who hasn't greeted us with a big smile and warm-hearted welcome. 

A gazillion highlights to record and chat about, but the one thing that has happened at nearly each stop is seeing husband and wife teams working hard together.  Whether they've sat with us in their living room and tasted with us over a home-cooked meal, or met us in the vineyards with their kids & dogs playing around our feet, their presence has been so inspiring to us.  Their dreams are also real things they've made come true.  We hope to so the same with Smith Story Wine Cellars one day soon too!

Our dreams, and they are made out of real things
Like a, shoebox of photographs
With sepia-toned loving
Love is the answer,
At least for most of the questions in my heart
Like why are we here? And where do we go?
And how come it's so hard?
It's not always easy and
Sometimes life can be deceiving
I'll tell you one thing, it's always better when we're together

Mmm, it's always better when we're together
Yeah, we'll look at the stars when we're together
Well, it's always better when we're together
Yeah, it's always better when we're together

  - Jack Johnsons "Better Together," from the album In Between Dreams (2005).

 It's always better when we're together.

This is Our Story.  - Ali

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Greetings from Vienna!

Nussburg & the city of Vienna
Need to make this brief, as we are on a tight schedule this week...Eric and I are attending the Vie Vinum International Wine Festival, over 500 wineries from all over the world showcasing their best wines.  It's the first time we've traveled together on business and we are having such a fun time seeing friends in the wine business here in Vienna with us.  It's about as close to Heaven on Earth work-wise as things get, the people, the wines, the food the history here...oh I could go on for days!

It's awesome to see Eric do his thing as the top Austrian wine buyer in California, it's a bit like having my own personal rockstar around here! Eric has such passion for the wines he is responsible for buying and promoting at K&L.

As for me, running TexaCali Wine Co. nationally and now internationally is thrilling, among our friends here are the top wine writers, importers, exporters, US distributors, inspiring wine buyers from the US and from all over the world.  Many of my top key accounts across America are in attendance, so needless to say it's been a blast to talk shop with this change of venue.  I'm grateful for my partnership with Winemonger Imports as this has certainly strengthened relationships and opened new doors these first few days of travel. 

It's also been great fun to hear all the excitement for Smith Story Wine Cellars from everyone! Soo cool. We've had a few "pinch me moments" in this short time, amazing how small our circle is within the wine business worldwide and the enthusiasm showered over us!  More from Austria later this week. Thank you for following our journey, we are so pumped to create this new chapter in our lives!

 This is Our Story. 



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Maya Angelou loved to party!

The Maya Angelou memorial service is televised this morning, the mood is mildly somber and incredibly joyful  - "Maya Angelou loved to party", this quote made the crowd join together in laughter.  There is much to learn about Maya and learn from as well... “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style" -  the beloved Maya Angelou.

This quote from Maya Angelou is timely and timeless...especially relevant to our mission statement and reasons why we've begun Smith Story Wine Cellars...

Smith Story Wines are made with respect for the land, kindness for the grower and love from the winemaker.  The wines show restraint, balance and integrity of the grape.  Our winemaking philosophy is to utilize classic, old world techniques and let the grapes and sense of place where they are grown both speak for themselves.   Our vineyards and growers are among the precious AVA’s of Northern California.

Passion for Smith Story Wine Cellars is keeping us up in the middle of the night! No, not with worry, but excitement about doing things well and how much we love this opportunity that our hard work over the years has created.

Compassion keeps us in check! Sustainability & fairness is our #1 desire in business dealings with our vineyard families, vendors, cellar team and our future buyers and wholesale partners.  In all conversations, dealings and plans - we remind ourselves to listen with compassion and understand needs from all sides upon making final decisions.  Compassion also extends to the precious vines...we are so very proud to know that each of our vineyards are watched over with great depth and vigor.

Humor - to know us is to laugh with us!  We're that couple that could find joy and laughter together in just about any situation.  Life is serious, we certainly are about building and running Smith Story Wine Cellars, but hey, let's all have a great time along the way! There's no room on our spreadsheets for anyone lacking humor. 

Style - whether it's the way we run the business modus operandi or the appearance we bring in person, on the label and create on the website, we hope our style exudes 1) unconditional love  2) razor sharp focus  3) really nice shoes.  Eric owns more pairs of swanky shoes than Ali by the way...

Each of these elements are allowing us to survive and hopefully thrive for many many years to come. Thank you Maya for summing this up so effortlessly for the two of us and for the world. 

This is Our Story. 

 - Eric and Ali

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Want to Watch the Birth of a Winery?

The best tweet yet came across my iPhone yesterday  "  Want to watch the birth of a winery follow . Drink what you love, love what you drink. #texacaliali"
Since announcing Smith Story Wine Cellars to the world exactly 14 days ago, the response, support and enthusiasm has been such a confirmation that we are on the road to living our ultimate dreams in this business of wine.  Giving birth to a winery - wow - this is our reality. Please read our first post if you've skipped over May 14...

This week I was asked by a banker  "based on your experience in this business, what's the number one mistake that wineries have made over the years in terms of sales and growth?".  Without any hesitation,  I told the banker "the lack of Best Practices put in place from the beginning. This coupled with not listening and/or empowering employees who bring real wine business experience to a team."

This business is like no other, just because you've become wealthy doing something else in the world, does not mean you have any chance of being successful in the wine business.  Yeah, those folks who start with a small fortune or big one most certainly think that they'll make it because they can buy things, chances are pretty darn good for a winery like us who's making certain every dime spent is for the right thing, every phone call is good business, each relationship is bound by integrity and egos remain outside our Best Practices.   The wine business is built on relationships, nobody wants to deal with assholes, nobody wants to deal with needy high maintenance emotional winery owners, nobody wants to deal with a disorganized business - period.

The banker quickly replied, "Indeed, you are only as good as your weakest planning, worst employee, worst client, worst vendor, I ask my winery clients often about their Best Practices. Many of the wealthy families I help made their millions by having A-team players surrounding them and holding court, once they step off into their new wine business frontier they often chase the romance and ignore (because of egos) what highly experienced & knowledgeable industry professionals bring to the table for them, often mismanaging these folks thus running in circles like a dog chasing their tail".

Watching a dog chase it's tail is always a good laugh, but "what an idiot" always comes to mind too. Both Eric and I know what our strengths are, we are happily & mindfully relying on others who bring killer talents to our team that we lack.  I say this often, we are all in this together, and I'm going to say it forever.  The birth of a winery...

This is Our Story. 

 - Ali