The Dreaded Family Meeting

We just had the dreaded “family meeting.” These are monthly sessions to review the winery's overall financial performance, i.e., THE NUMBERS.  We look at sales, revenues, expenses, ratios, etc. Sometimes these meetings go well, sometimes not. It all depends on the general mood of the group and…just about everything under the sun that could possibly affect our attitudes.

I've sat through hundreds of these comical gatherings and often wonder how on earth it is that we can still go home at the end of the day with love in our hearts and a smile on our faces.

Today I realized the whole scene reminds me of the animal kingdom. (I used to love those TV shows that depict the traits and characteristics of various species.) The meeting starts off fairly typically. Everyone is well behaved and reasonable. Then slowly, each one of us transcends into our animal self.  My father starts acting like the peacock that puffs up and gets very BIG.  This usually occurs in moments when he is reminding us that he started the winery and knows a thing or two about a thing or two. Naturally, this puts The Husband on the defense. His face turns red. His ears begin to steam. Much like a bull getting ready to charge. Or, a wolf circling around, getting ready for the kill. As for me, I'm like the duck--paddling like hell, prepared to take flight at any moment. Just trying to stay out of the way of the gunfire and any fall-out.

Seriously folks, these meetings are extremely stressful!! Because no matter how well things are going business wise, it is NEVER ENOUGH. The first generation is just never satisfied with the second, third, fourth, etc. That is one of the unspoken rules of the family business. (They simply do not tell you this in business school, but trust me on this one.) Rule # 2 is this: if somebody is pissed off about something completely unrelated, expect that it will come back to haunt you. For example, if I've committed some wifely faux pas, I can be sure that four hours later, it will resurface in some fashion at the dreaded family meeting!  Or, if Grandpa is frustrated, bored or lonely, irritation and annoyance will mysteriously crop up while discussing the complexities of depreciation, amortization and cost control.

Thankfully, we've all done this for so long that we end up laughing at ourselves before too much damage has been done. That is key to surviving the dreaded family meeting. 

And, the occasional glass of wine helps too!

| | Comments (10)


Cheyanne Jordan Author Profile Page said:
March 12, 2008 8:42 AM

Too funny! It's amazing how whether we like it or not, we revert to our animal insticts in stressful situations. Fight or flight, right! It's great how you always seem to describe things in such detail. You are so animated!

LadyDi Author Profile Page said:
March 12, 2008 8:51 AM

Your agitated female duck image is terrific. Maybe your meetings would go more smoothly if Mrs. Mallard walked in shaking a very long stick to whip those boys into shape?!

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
March 12, 2008 12:02 PM

That is a great idea! I have an old pair of crutches that would do the trick...

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
March 14, 2008 4:03 PM

What a courteous and friendly winery, with tangy sauvignon blancs, and warm zinfandels for the aficionados of tinto. I wonder what Dave the grand-dad thought of the weather in the surf off Santander, Spain several days ago; locals calculated the conditions were perfect for waves 25 meters height, estimated to occur only once in 500 years. Maybe it is the thrill of wind stretched sheets that can hope to match his skill and bravery. I, too, helped with a few cellar tasks and other projects a long time ago at your winery, and always appreciated his daring AND his executive vision. Got to give credit to the chair of the advisory board. I need to visit you all again soon. Last I recall, there were those fascinating Australian enology student interns returning like the planets on yearly transit, and we were welcoming them all with our best hospitality. But it is a choppy pond some days. I think the three of you have negotiated the quality waters admirably, still bringing us affordable products, with that special family Dry Creek zest which keeps our shared experiences valuable, and the work worthwhile.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
March 15, 2008 11:05 AM

What nice comments. Dave doesn't do much sailing anymore but we were lucky enough to be in Valencia this past June during the America's Cup. What a thrill that was. It was windy but waves were nearly non-existant...25 meters a few days!

We still have interns help us out every crush- a program we started over 30 years ago. Used to get a lot of frogs (french kids) but these days, we usually have South Africans. They're strong, speak english and are loads of fun. What year did you work here?

Romy Author Profile Page said:
March 17, 2008 8:46 PM

Very funny and so true! Great picture too.

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
March 19, 2008 6:28 PM

Hi, Kim, It was probably crush 1982, there was a new Wilmes press, I helped move some RA Young AVV chardonnay, and even participated in an oak extraction tasting in the lab in those times before the French tonneliers had subsidiaries on the US' shores. I found a photo of one of the waves The text says 17 meters surf height. Valencia is inside the Mediterranean, but Santander faces the open part of the Atlantic Bay of Biscay.
Those ducks are amazing the way they gain takeoff velocity, quick as a flash; a few visit the ranch ponds near Cloverdale, where I have lived a while now.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
March 20, 2008 11:03 PM

You must have worked for Larry Levine.

Thanks for sharing the photo!

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
March 22, 2008 12:10 PM

The second tier cellarmaster who hired me was zinfandel experimenter John Jaffray. I was a viticulture and enology student. Since crush was approaching some fume had to migrate from aging to bottle to make room for the harvest process to begin anew; after overseeing the gentle filling of fume, and, as you observed, doing just about everything else in the then small winery, I remained thru crush until fermenting dry many varieties in primary fermentation and then for some varieties inducing malolactic fermentation.

Gary found us months later in the barrel racks one morning when he and Dave were sampling the first fume cuvee. Gary presented the aliquot as a blind tasting.

About boating, there was a better photo, and taller waves more oceanward by 35 km along the coast, on the website of the Santander Mountain Daily, my translation of their moniker, where I used to swim in diversion from studying; however, the Santander paper took the photo out of the article, though I saved a copy of the photo; you may view the wilder article sans photo in the Santander press there:

panama said:
March 12, 2010 7:04 PM

Wonderful post on

The Dreaded Family Meeting - Wilma's Wine World

- and good domain by the way!

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This page contains a single entry by Kim published on March 11, 2008 2:04 AM.

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