I’ve decided to start a new series of writing called Hard Knock Lessons: …
I’ve never actually been someone who claims to know it all, often times I’m just so confident that it seems like I do. Please don’t take this to think I won’t argue my point, particularly when faced with a pompous ass-hat who knows less than dick about business and has just made it by on pure, dumb luck. But I digress…
Working with other business owners I see both great and terrible ideas and actions; each of them is something to learn from . Those things that are intelligently thought out and enacted make their way into my own lessons from the field, so to speak. Meanwhile the craptastic concepts and devastating failures are neatly packed into my vault of don’t try this at home! I am hoping, in some small way, that these lessons can enrich your life as much as they have done mine.
So without further ado, I bring you the first installment of Hard Knock Lessons: Daedalus Winery.
I am a wine snob. Not in a terrible way, unless you’re the person who made the rot-gut-shit wine I am making stink face about… but more in the way that I like to drink the good stuff and am more than willing to pay for the experience.
One of my favorite Pinot Noirs on the planet is made by Daedalus Winery, a family owned and operated vineyard that uses more nature and nurture than they do chemicals and additives. Anyway, back in October of 2011 I had the privilege of being invited to take part in the stemming and sorting of a new batch of pinot grapes, soon to be poured into the Jezebel label.
How could I say no? I mean, anyone can drink wine… how many people actually get to make it?
The only thing Pam Walden (owner and operator) told me about the day was to “dress warm” and to “wear something you don’t mind getting sticky.” Decisions, decisions since I am not, by nature, adverse to sticky.
I rolled up to the huge facility where the grapes were going to be processed around 9 am, outfitted in my clinic sweatshirt, jeans and a pair of old hiking boots. It didn’t take long before Pam found me in the parking lot and escorted me back to the chilly warehouse, passing the stacks of wine barrels and into the area where the big de-stemming machine sparkled against the wall.
Feeling out of place, I looked around for some way to get involved… there was some cleaning going on by a couple guys who knew what they were doing, but for the most part everyone just kind of walked around, listening to music, and throwing the occasional ball for Buddy, Pam’s dog. I didn’t understand. I was here to help with the grapes, but there weren’t any grapes!
It turns out that the grapes are something you wait for. And this was where my lesson started with Daedalus.
Our grapes were still waiting to be loaded onto a truck and then shipped over to us because they had just recently been harvested and crated! I was blown away that something so integral to making grapes into wine was not planned better. Why are we waiting until the last minute to move the grapes? Wouldn’t this have been a better use of time if the grapes were delivered and then sorting and stemming was scheduled?
In a perfect world, perhaps.
In business planning is everything. We set our goals, make our dates and establish benchmarks along the way to ensure progress. With wine there are many benchmarks; when the grapes are ready you harvest; when the grapes are delivered you sort and stem; when the grapes are ready you start fermentation; and when the wine is ready you drink. But time is an abstract here. It changes from harvest to harvest, and grape to grape!
Wine is art, some would say, so of course it doesn’t subscribe to the standards. But I would hasten to argue that wine is life, and it doesn’t get any more business than this! Grapes are the life blood of a winery. To lose a crop for any reason would be devastating: think then how much more devastating it can be when human error and trying to force time can be.
An important part of goal setting is making sure that your desired outcome is time specific. And I still believe that, to an extent. But spending that Thursday back in October with Pam, Jennifer and 20 odd cases of pinot grapes taught me that sometimes, every so often it’s okay to let time be the unknown. To take things as they come… and not be so worked up over that Friday deadline. Rushing things is never a good idea. And with wine, well it’s downright terrible.