Small Fortune Podcast

Small Fortune Podcast

Our podcast is about the wine business, how difficult it is to be successful and why. It’s also about the strategies that various participants in the industry have used to overcome the challenges inherent in making and selling wine. And it is simply about telling the stories of the wine business.

Episodes

June 11, 2024 28 mins

Occasionally the Small Fortune Podcast can’t book an interview. Everyone’s so busy these days! So host Carol Collison invited friend and founder of the wine industry accounting firm Tim Allen to join her for a wide ranging conversation on topics such as the current industry environment, demand changes and down cycles, do we understand the new wine drinkers?, how bad costing can tank a business, and Carol’s partner Mike Fisher’s tal...

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In its short life the Small Fortune podcast has talked to a number of professionals who were “there at the beginning” of the modern American wine industry and today is a wonderful example:  Fritz Hatton and Carol Collison talk about the history of the American wine auction, in which Fritz was a central player.  Early in his successful career at Christie’s, he helped to organize the first commercial wine auction in the United States...

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Jonjie Lockman caught the wine bug in her 30’s and decided to bring her passion for business operations to the industry when she joined Intervine in 2011.  Intervine provides wine as well as food and other beverage products to the airline industry.  A member of the “Association of Business Process Management Professionals”, Jonjie has an incredible drive for bringing effectiveness and efficiency to the complex effort of getting the...

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This is the first interview of an Oregon wine producer for the Small Fortune Podcast!  Carol loves Oregon!  Alex’s parents, Bill Blosser and Susan Sokol-Blosser were risk-taking entrepreneurs and among the pioneers of Willamette Valley’s development as an important American wine-growing region.  Alex and GWP partner Carol cover a wide range of topics, including B Corporations, second labels, bankers and more.  A very lively discuss...

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Today’s interview is with Dave Del Dotto, founder and owner of four wineries in the Napa Valley under various “Del Dotto” monikers.  Dave is a natural salesman, having made his first fortune in real estate and infomercials.  Listen in to hear how a natural pitchman makes the case for drinking wine.  He and Carol discuss his success, including his approach to cultivating collector relationships and creating enduring experiences at h...

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The remarkable thing to me (host Carol Collison) as a long-time advisor to business owners is how truly intentional and buttoned up Sean Minor is in his approach to entrepreneurship in the wine business.  He and his business partner and wife Nicole started their winery with a business plan based on identification of a very specific opportunity in the on-premise (restaurant) market and sailed through the terrible industry downturn i...

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Andy Hoxsey’s family came to the Napa Valley in the early 20th century and through successive generations have farmed and sold grapes, as well as taken significant entrepreneurial risks.  Andy tells the story of his (and the Pelissa family’s) acquisition of Napa Wine Company in 1993, with the expressed intention of creating the first high-touch custom crush business, certainly in the Napa Valley but quite possibly in the world.  Na...

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Carol invited successful Napa Valley Consulting Winemaker Jean Hoefliger to the Small Fortune Podcast to learn about what the job entails.  And finds out it isn’t just winemaking!  Jean and the team at JH Wine Consulting provide comprehensive business services to their clients.  Why?  Because as Jean says in this conversation, quoting his friend Michel Rolland, “Even billionaires get tired of losing money”.

Mentioned in this episod...

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In today's episode Carol interviews Michelle Muth Ausburn, partner in a major accounting firm, BPM, LLP.  As fellow women in senior finance positions in the wine industry, Carol and Michelle have a lively conversation about why pursuing a career in accounting was attractive to Michelle, what she values in her professional relationships, and an important lessons she learned from her entrepreneur father.  Through the conversation Mic...

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Fred Peterson is an American original and the most influential grape grower you may not have heard about.  From Mount Eden to Ridge Monte Bello, to Stagecoach and beyond, Fred has been involved with many iconic California vineyards. When he began his career in the wine industry in the 1970’s he worked with Riesling and Sylvaner in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Back then, the Napa Valley was planted primarily to Petite Sirah. Fred and C...

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Our interview with Russ Weis about his career as a senior manager in the wine industry (see Episode 12) took place on a day when an industry research firm (link below to their website) released data that showed a marked drop in winery shipments into the wholesale channel in 2023 (9% by value).  This has naturally grabbed everyone’s attention, and we didn’t have time to address it.  So, we recorded a second interview in which Russ s...

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Russ Weis is the President of Walsh Vineyards Management, a Napa-based farming services company. He joined Walsh after an 18-year run as President of Silverado Vineyards, and before that he worked for nearly ten years in senior management at Robert Mondavi Winery, during the go-go years of the ‘90’s.  Russ shares his experiences in the wine industry, beginning on his family farm in Madera County. He also answers Carol’s question:  ...

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“I am enthusiastic over humanity’s extraordinary and sometimes very timely ingenuity.  If you are in a shipwreck and all the boats are gone, a piano top buoyant enough to keep you afloat that comes along makes a fortuitous life preserver.  But this is not to say that the best way to design a life preserver is in the form of a piano top.  I think that we are clinging to a great many piano tops in accepting yesterday’s fortuitous con...

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Jeremy Benson, founder of Benson Marketing Group, joins Carol to talk about what marketing can do for a winery or wine brand.  He describes some campaigns for clients on small budgets, how marketing supports sales, and the need to integrate brand messaging throughout your business.  He also shares his own story as an entrepreneur: why he chose to start his own marketing agency, as well as some challenges and rewards of business own...

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Mark Freund was at First Republic Bank in May of 2023 when it succumbed to a banking panic that had taken down Silicon Valley Bank two months earlier.  As important lenders to the wine industry, the failure of these two banks had an immediate impact on business activity.  Fortunately, the contagion was quickly contained, SVB was acquired by First Citizens Bank and FRB was acquired by JP Morgan Chase.  Mark talks about his decision ...

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Every business owner or manager needs great attorney(s) on speed dial.  Nick Donovan, Partner at GVM Law LLP in Napa, California joins Carol to discuss a number of legal issues including business formation, raising equity and more.  He also shares his views on the keys to success as well as the risks in the wine industry.  Finally, undaunted by the challenges inherent in owning a wine company, Nick shares his story of creating a wi...

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Listen in to M&A advisor shop-talk, as Carol interviews Mario Zepponi, founder and principal of The Zepponi Group, a leading wine industry M&A advisory firm.  Carol and Mario talk about current market trends, what their favorite deals looked like, challenges in the wine industry, and why winery owners wanting to sell their companies should hire local.

The Zepponi Group:  https://www.zepponi.com/

Questions?  Comments?  small...

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Roy Cecchetti sold his successful wine company to O’Neill Vintners in 2014 with the help of Global Wine Partners.  In this interview, Roy comes out of retirement to talk to Carol about how he launched and grew his brand portfolio, which was selling several hundred thousand cases in the wholesale channel with only a skeleton crew (Roy + four salespeople) at the time of the transaction.  Roy discusses product development, building hi...

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Tony Correia is the preeminent real estate appraiser in the California wine industry.  Tony grew up in farming in the Fresno area and has worked in and around agriculture most of his career (except when he was a spy – we’ll cover that in another podcast).  Carol and Tony talk about his career and profession, but also about how the Federal Reserve rate hikes and problems at key industry lenders are affecting the market, from deal fl...

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Sam Bilbro is a 4th generation winemaker and owner of the brand Idlewild which specializes in wines made from Piedmontese varieties grown in and around Northern Sonoma County.  Carol and Sam talk about the business case for these niche wines, as well as his thinking behind his retail Italian wine and food shop.  They also talk about the business lessons he learned from his father, Chris Bilbro, founder of Marietta Cellars.  Both Id...

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