I’ve been in the wine business for nearly thirty-five years now, more than enough time to say with certainty that the two words “wine business” are an oxymoron. That was Sashi Moorman’s assessment when we chatted recently, and I had to agree. Sashi was my first employee in 1995, and he’s since become a star among Santa Barbara County winemakers. He pointed out that if one truly cared about wine it was at the expense of business concerns. Sure, with a few tricks up your sleeve you could produce commercial stuff that sells for more than it’s worth, but to take a craftsman’s approach and spend the time and money bringing something special to the market is often a fool’s errand. He thought calling it a “vocation” might be a better term for what those of us that care deeply for wine do with our time.
Yet, I have to admit that I’m one of the lucky ones that has had enduring success pursuing my dreams and aesthetic with wine. By keeping it small I’ve been able to avoid having partners or bank loans, and this has allowed me to more easily ignore commercial considerations, and that’s been liberating. Just think of explaining to a money guy that it’s a great idea to halve the yields of sauvignon blanc because of how gorgeous the wine will be in ten years. It’d take a rare specimen of a businessman to understand that!
It’s been an obsession of mine to craft wines that balance delicacy and power, and in many cases that passion has conflicted with what some would call business concerns. It has worked out well, but looking back at my modest start in 1983 I still can’t understand how I’ve made it this far. I’ve witnessed many talented winemakers that had to give up the ghost on their dreams, the “wine business” is tough! I can only attribute The Ojai Vineyard’s continued success to the employees I have surrounded myself with, and to you, our wine club members, who have allowed me to continue this search for perfection. You are all so appreciated—thank you so much!