The Dynamics of 'Family' Winemaking

I had been trying to come up with a blog topic when one just fell in my lap. It's definitely an “insider's look at the wine country life” but not in the way that you think.

It could be called, “why families should not do business together.” Or, “how feelings can get in the way of running a business.”  Or, how about this one: “hurting a family member's feelings is inevitable when everyone's egos are so darn fragile.”  Yep, you guessed it; someone in our family has gotten their feelings hurt again!

This seems to be a fairly regular occurrence in family owned businesses. So is stepping on someone's toes, feeling underappreciated, unrecognized and left out.  It's no wonder so few family owned businesses survive through multi-generations. (Imagine the Frescobaldi's, who are in their 17th generation!)

At our company, we are not immune to this. As a matter of fact, we've spent YEARS trying to make sure that everyone feels loved and appreciated, especially my father, now that he has chosen to retire. But alas, it's a delicate subject and a recent photograph that was used in a marketing project has stirred up some tender feelings. (Hint: the photo did not include a certain someone.)

It never would have occurred to me that this was a boo-boo.  But the resulting emails, meetings, and demands for this, that and the other thing, (no, we can't have a revised 25 year financial plan with an ROI of XXX% by a week from tomorrow!) have shed some light for me.

I am not alone in this quagmire.  A close winery owner friend, shares the same struggles with numerous family members working in the business and dozens of others sitting on the sidelines putting in their two cents worth. I have another friend who runs a restaurant with her husband. A couple of kids are involved as well.  Things will be going along just fine, when all of a sudden someone will get their feelings hurt. Unlike corporations and more professional organizations, where co-workers calmly confront each other to resolve issues, the whole family goes into a tizzy. Then they have to go home together and pretend everything is ok.

So as you sip that favorite glass of vino tonight, one that is hopefully produced from a family winery, think about all that went into its production. Think beyond the grapes, beyond the winemaking, and beyond the barrel aging.  Think beyond the scores, beyond the price and beyond the availability. Instead, think about those poor suckers who had to deal with countless family squabbles and hurt feelings in order to see the fruit of their vines come to fruition.

Then, raise a glass to them, cause let me tell you, it ain't easy!

| | Comments (3)


Cat Bismuth said:
January 5, 2010 8:46 PM

Dear Kim ~~ An adorable post (and PHOTO)! I love it! Didn't know you had a blog until now!

As a former multi-national employee who now owns a family business, I can say that folks aren't all that well-behaved in the corporate world, either, when they disagree, but at least you have some separation from the source of conflict when you climb into your conveyance at the end of the work day.

I get it. And I appreciate this poignant post. Your wines are among my favorites. Kudos on the "90" Sauvignon Blanc!

Peace, Cat

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
January 6, 2010 9:33 PM

Thanks for your comments Cat. Sounds like you can relate to some of these trials and tribulations too. It's a constant struggle, and one that is shared by nearly every family owned business I know. Thankfully, LOVE prevails and time heals all wounds. And, with family owned businesses, we can always kiss and make up which would be highly frowned upon in the corporate world!

Sharon Hobson said:
January 7, 2010 7:59 AM

Hi Kim. I'm Sharon Hobson, the Wine Director at Damariscotta River Grill. I'm unsure how to contact you directly via any other internet way. There is something I would like to talk with you about. Please email me at
I was just turned on to your blog and have spent about 90 minutes poking around. Love it! Sharon

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This page contains a single entry by Kim published on December 18, 2009 3:30 PM.

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