Today I’m excited to have guest poster Crystal Potter of Wine Workouts and Whippersnappers! This is Crystal:
Thank you Crystal for agreeing to write for my blog – take it away…
Yes, the title of this post is absurd. Welcome to my world. Absurdity aside, I think the title is appropriate for two reasons:
- Here at WineDineDIY Michelle does a great job of focusing on Idaho wine, in-the-kitchen experiences and tackling home projects. I thought my guest post today should celebrate those themes.
- I really do feel like my winemaker and I have built a winery in Idaho from scratch. We started with nothing but a vision and some sweat equity (we filter the sweat out of the wine before we bottle, so no worries).
So to honor this creative female’s blog I’m intruding upon, I’m going to teach you how to make your own winery from scratch!
Step 1: You become newly unemployed which gives you the time it takes to hone a new skill/craft such as winemaking.
This is where it all begins. It’s true what they say – one door closes and another one opens, you just don’t know it yet. My winemaker didn’t have the foresight to know that he would be good at making wine one day. All he had was time on his hands, a wino for a wife and a $!@# ton of grapes. Read, educate yourself, get messy, drink a lot of wine, make a lot of wine, watch a lot of wine explode in your garage…your spouse won’t even notice your lack of a job because they will be so thrilled they have unlimited wine to drink any time of day.
Step 2: You constantly think up insane ideas.
“Jalapeno wine? Seriously?” This was my initial response to my talented winemaker after he had made quite a few great batches of conventional wine already and he wanted to try something new. I couldn’t believe he wanted to go rogue on me. I couldn’t fathom what that would entail. Then I tasted this crazy idea nine months later and couldn’t wait to tell people about it. Dream it up, friends. People are manufacturing and selling powdered alcohol for crying out loud! Pretty sure your idea possibly has potential, not to mention a niche. Go with it until you know better.
Which leads me to…
Step 3: You don’t know any better.
One thing I believe every great entrepreneur has in common is the inability to think that they can’t do something. My husband is one of those people. He doesn’t know he can’t do something. He doesn’t think about that ahead of time, he just goes for it. Many of us think too much and psyche ourselves out – “I’m not going to be good at that” or “I’m worried I’ll embarrass myself.” One big step in making your own winery is to think you really will make it work. You don’t know the how or the when of it, you just go for broke (some years even literally!). As someone who owns two businesses, I can tell you that your stubborn gene (the one that’s too much of a jerk to admit it’s not good enough) will keep you afloat when the going gets rough. Plus, when the going gets rough – you always have wine!
Step 4: You enter competitions.
You start with amateur competitions at the state fair, for one. Maybe you win a few and shock the judges because they have no idea who you are. Then you move on to professional ones. You just immerse yourself into the competition culture because, quite frankly, why the $#@! not? What do you have to lose? You have everything to gain, especially as a lowly winery that started from the bottom. You let these competitions fuel your motivation, not your ego or your attitude towards other wineries. You win a few medals and put your head down and get back to work.
Step 5: You partner up with someone who craves entrepreneurship at all costs and maybe even majored in marketing and communications once upon a time.
So you don’t know squat about the business and marketing world. No biggie, just find someone else who does and make them your partner. For my winemaker, this was me. I’m a third generation entrepreneur-aholic. I don’t know any different and I hate working for other people. I will do whatever it takes to call my own shots. I’m a terrible accountant and I hate paperwork. Guess what I hate more – not being my own boss. Suddenly I’m a QuickBooks sponge and an expert at filling out a ridiculous amount of forms. (I do mean ridiculous – you should know now that if you’re planning to be in the wine industry that half of your time will be spent at the computer filling out silly reporting forms and you will hate it. But you will love that if you want to cry it out over a glass of wine before you finish that damn excel spreadsheet, you can do that without some anal retentive HR department firing you for drinking on the job.) As with all self-employment, you will find out what you are good at and what you are not. In the wine world, if you aren’t the one making the wine then know thy place is in the office, on the phone, and running the business side of things. In our case I gladly accepted this role because quite honestly, I stink at making wine.
Step 6: You work your arse off.
You will drink a lot of wine in this business but you will sweat it all out between crushing, fermenting, bottling, labeling, corking, selling, marketing, and reporting it. Doesn’t owning a winery sound romantic when you read the magazines or watch movies? It is romantic at times, especially when the Syrah you’ve been aging for two years comes out better than you could have imagined. But 80% of the time you will feel underappreciated and overworked. And you will wake up to do it all over again every day because somehow, this is exactly what you really want.
Step 7: You lean on others.
Because you have so adequately carried out Step 6, you will need to pay special attention to Step 7. You will need a super support system in place to be in the wine industry. You will need grandparents, siblings, friends, baby sitters, cousins, aunt and uncles, and neighbors. You will need to find like-minded entrepreneurs who completely get it. You will lean on farmer’s market organizers, industry associations and people who love what you do and what they do and want to collaborate. You will need to listen to your customers and know what they like, where they eat and what their hobbies are. You will build your own network of the right people, not the one that worked for your best friend who owns the carpet installment business. All of these people will fuel your fire, make what you do possible and many of them will be super fun to drink with.
Step 8: You educate yourself constantly.
I have no idea how my husband knows the things he knows about making wine. But I do know he’s constantly teaching himself things, reading things, trying new things and learning. Just as I am constantly figuring out procedures, learning how to do something more efficiently and fine-tuning my organization skills (always an area for improvement!). We both get to learn a lot about wine and most recently I attended a sensory seminar that just blew my over-active mind. You think you’ve heard all there is to know about wine? Keep your head in the game; you’re just warming up.
Step 9: You enjoy farmer’s markets and community events.
Even if you don’t know that you love these things yet, you will. These things will be your home base. They will be what lifts you up to get you where you want to be. You want to develop a solid customer base and community support? Head to the streets, my friend. Farmer’s markets and community events have been our tasting room for the last two years and it will continue that way until we build our own tasting room. The people at these events are quality and they’re looking for you. So love them.
Step 10: You remain humble.
I really do think there is a stigma when it comes to wineries – at least when I tell people we own one and they immediately tell me they can’t wait to see our tasting room and I’m wondering if in their mind they’re thinking dollar signs. That could just be my own stigma of what comes to mind when you hear the words “I own a winery.” Nevertheless, I actually am quite proud to tell people we don’t have a tasting room yet. We’re not rich. We’re making a winery from scratch. We don’t know everything about wine. We also like gin and whiskey. We’re just two business owners who are also raising two tiny humans, just like many of you. We’re going after the American dream much like everyone else. We are super humble (I have even been known to cry “uncle” now and then). Humility is the key to success, in my opinion. This is coming from the woman who has been known to change her son’s nuclear bomb of a diaper in the farmer’s market parking lot. Keep it honest, folks.
Crystal Potter lives in Boise, Idaho with her winemaker Von and two little humans, Lila and Luke. She owns Poise Health & Fitness, co-owns Potter Wines and when she isn’t building forts for her children she blogs about wine, fitness and child-rearing. Visit Crystal: