Another One Bites the Dust

My jaw dropped about 3 feet last night. I was attending the annual Wine Spectator Big Bottle party (a schmooze fest of mass proportion!) and learned that our good friends and longtime neighbors The Seghesio's, have sold their family winery. To hear that this historic, 4th generation winery of Italian descent, which has survived some of the toughest periods in American history (World Wars, the Depression, a Recession, the Civil Rights movement, and even a catastrophic fire that nearly destroyed the winery in 1996) has sold out to yet another corporate entity whose name I can't remember because they all sound alike, is well...rather sad. On the one hand, I'm happy for Pete and Cathy, Ted, Camille, Cousin Dave, and all the other family members I've known over the years. They have worked tirelessly to modernize their winery and become a leader in our industry. Their turnaround from a mediocre jug wine producer in the 70s and 80s to an upscale and elite producer of some of the most respected wines in California is nothing short of miraculous. I admire them greatly and have enjoyed watching their success. But, I can't help wonder if selling the family business had more to do with a growing dissent among the family than a desire to retire rich or live the good life after so many years (and generations) of extremely hard work.

It makes one realize how RARE the mid-sized family winery (like ours) is becoming. A dying breed, really. And, it's one that if not honored and supported by loyal wine enthusiasts could become even rarer. Because this business can slowly suck the life out of you. While there's a notion that it's all fun and games (or sipping and spitting as the saying goes) the truth is that making and selling great wines year after year, is very difficult. Take the growing cycle. That alone can make grown men weep, as I've seen a few do lately with the late season rain storms we are having. Then there's always the threat of phylloxera, eutypa, and a host of other farming maladies that can occur. Once the grapes arrive at the cellar, there's a plethora of winemaking and cellar practices that can go awry if just the right person isn't shepherding the process every step of the way. It takes enormous attention to detail and a meticulous approach to winemaking right up until the time of bottling. Actually, even the bottling process can foul things up if a bad cork is used or the wine is stored or shipped improperly. Then think about the marketing and selling of wine. Try finding a distributor these days that will make your brand a priority. Good luck! The four P's of marketing (product, price, place, promotion) are just the tip of the iceberg for seasoned marketers. Throw in public relations expertise, social media, hospitality, special events, e-commerce, online marketing, consumer direct sales and endless amounts of sales and promotional travel all around the country and you are only lightly scratching the surface of what is required to sell wine. Of course, you can't forget about the day to day operational challenges: financing, planning, forecasting, environmental and political issues, staffing, human resources, etc.  Quite simply, the work is never done.  You just hope you have the energy to keep on going and the right people to help take you there.

Did the Seghesios just get fed up and burnt out over time? Did they get an offer they simply couldn't refuse? Or did they get to a point where they were tired of the family squabbles (known as FAMILY BS) and wanted a break. Whatever the case, I'm driven more than ever to assure we don't end up in the same boat.

Long Live Dry Creek Vineyard!!!  

| | Comments (6)


Mike Duffy said:
June 1, 2011 5:31 PM

From the press release, it seems that Pete, Ted and much of their team are staying on...

Is there anyone in the family coming up after Pete and Ted? If not, then this seems a good exit...

The release makes it sound like access to capital for growth was a driving factor, but who knows?

June 2, 2011 8:41 AM

sounds like FAMILY BS to me. Also needed capital.

Mike McCracken said:
June 2, 2011 10:56 AM

You probably intended to say that the "dissent" within the family led to the descent (fall) of the family.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
June 2, 2011 10:22 PM

Mike M., you are absolutely right, I meant "dissent" about a freudian slip!

Access to capital to fund growth plans,improvements in plant and facility, replanting of vineyards, etc. is indeed a challenge for many of us family wineries. Perhaps it was a factor in considering the sale, although I would think that their success and longevity would have made them very attractive to prospective lenders.

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
June 7, 2011 11:59 AM

I will be appreciative for a long while, that the Seghesio family bought a substantial part of the herd of cows sold by the ranch where I live, back in my cattleman days in the early 80s. Just chasing those dogies and coaxing the herd to where they were needed most, probably encouraged the S's to jump into the already blossoming world of premium quality soon thereafter; I can vouch for the energy required to accomplish that, with the cows. Actually, already at that time, it seemed clear the S's had made the decision for excellence, which was a new concept in the northcoast; clearly, DCV was among the leaders at the time, too, a smart beacon illuminating the future of the possibilities for the region.

When these sales occur, however, I think California regs ought to make the glomerate outfit with the nondescript name admit boldly on the label that Nondescripteo actually owns the label. People like Farrell, Arrowwood, and others, might have an easier time reinventing personal labels if the law made Nondescripteo be more forthright. It would improve public understanding of what happened when the contents begin to resemble, well, bulkwine, but with the label which won so many awards for excellence while it was truly family owned.

Kim (aka Wilma) Author Profile Page said:
June 7, 2011 11:20 PM

John, I couldn't agree with you more. When "Nondescripteo" masks around like everything is the same at said purchased winery, it is misleading to say the least. Gary Farrell is a perfect example and there are scores of others. Hmmm, that might be an interesting blog post: Who Is Really Behind All These labels?

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kim published on June 1, 2011 4:07 PM.

Please Nominate Me! was the previous entry in this blog.

Rain, Rain Go Away, Bring Me Fumé Any Day is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine sit back, take a sip and enjoy!

about me

our wines

our winery

our events

contact me

privacy statement

favorite posts

A Lifetime in Wine

Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery

The Dreaded Family Meeting

Board Meeting Jitters

Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?

The Case of the Overweight Bottle

Wine and Dementia

Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery

A Sea of Wine

The Heroes of Our Industry

monthly archives


Hopes & Dreams

Owning a Coastal Cottage

Sailing for 6 Months

Getting a 100 Point Score

Favorite Haunts

Coast of Maine

Dry Creek General Store

Dry Creek Kitchen

Healdsburg Bar & Grill


Sonoma Country Antiques

Baci Cafe & Wine Bar

The Farmhouse

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Bad Ass Coffee

Bistro Ralph

Bits of Press

Food & Wine Magazine

The Wine News

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Spectator

Press Democrat

Sunset Magazine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences

Cruising World Magazine

Oprah Magazine

The Washington Post

Coastal Living Magazine

Wine & Spirits Magazine

People Magazine

SAG Awards Magazine

Forbes Magazine

Favorite Magazines

Coastal Living

Down East


Country Living

Quarterly Review of Wines

Wines & Vines

Wine Spectator

Wine Enthusiast

California Grapevine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Practical Winery & Vineyard


Vineyard & Winery Mgmt

Blog Buddy List


Hip Tastes

Pinot Blogger

All The Best

Julia Flynn Siler


Winery Web Site Report

The Pour - Eric Asimov

Dr Vino

Steve Heimoff

Start Up Ladies

Good Wine Under $20

Blind Muscat

The Wineroad Blog

Gabe's View

Wine Peeps

Vici Vino

Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk

Uncork Life

WineVine-Imports Blog

The Wine Witch


Honorable Mentions

Wilma Hits The World of Blogs
Most Intriguing New Wine Blogs of 2008
Midwest Wine Guy
Winery of the Month
Julia Flynn Siler
Meritage wines - and a fascinating glimpse into family business
Winery Web Site Report
New Winery Blog: Wilma's Wine World
Start Up Ladies
Insider's View of Family Owned Dry Creek Vineyard
The Glue that Keeps the Whole Thing Going
Atlanta Dish
Blog of the Week
Blind Muscat
The Merits of Meritage
Boston Wine Expo exhibitors, and the reason why winemakers are so darn happy