Leadership and Wineries –The Art and Science

Buoncristiani Family Winery (www.buonwine.com)


My husband and I share an appreciation of a robust and full-bodied red wine, so it only makes sense that we celebrate our anniversary in Napa Valley wine country.   (That’s the excuse we use to return to this gorgeous part of the country each Fall.)

Over the years, we have changed our “strategy” for the trip as we’ve learned more about wine, as well as our tastes.  In the early years of our marriage, our Napa trips included visits to wineries that most everyone has heard of.  Now, eleven years later (minus a few years dedicated to growing our family) our tour includes only small-production, mostly family-owned wineries.

Why the change?  It has to do with the wine-making and the personalized effort by the winemakers.

Unlike many large wine producers who leverage more automated processes and are able to taste only a fraction of each vintage, small wineries often leverage the talents of a wine-maker who gets very intimate with each and every barrel. 

Because the wine-maker can see and taste how each barrel has developed individually, they can nurture that particular barrel to produce more specifically-desired flavors.  They can leverage the art of wine-making a bit more than some larger wineries, which have to rely more on the science of wine-making.  That science tells them what actions will produce typical results, and they can follow those rules to produce a decent bottle of wine…most of the time.

Leadership can be similar in some ways.  There’s definitely a science; certain facts that seem to be absolutes for great leaders and their surrounding teams:

  • They have clear vision and can inspire and motivate others to bring it to completion.
  • They engage and empower their employees, even choosing to follow them when the strengths of others can be maximized for the greatest benefits.
  • They are honest and demonstrate their integrity and trustworthiness with both their words and consistent actions.

It’s hard to dispute any of these fundamentals of leadership.  What can often times be the great variables among leaders, though, are the aspects that may be more of an art; meaning there aren’t consistent “rules” on how you can accomplish these tasks.  They are more individualized to the leader and to each of their people.  However, when done right (and authentically,) they make a tremendous difference.

The art of leadership, like wine-making, often embodies the practice of giving more personal and individualized attention.  Some aspects of this art include:

  • Connecting with people at a meaningful level; versus just communicating to them.
  • Understanding value systems and individual motivators as a basis for building into, rewarding and celebrating your people.
  • Maintaining an “other-focused” view, serving the needs of your people instead of fueling your accomplishments

Of course, the goal for leaders is to master the perfect blend of art and science.  Certainly, we all value structure and consistency…but when blended with just the right amount personalization and flexibility, the result is always a best-seller!!

Now, for your input!  I’ve started the lists.  What would you add to the art and science of leadership?  What aspects of leadership do you think should embody a more personal approach?  Consider the difference it could make in your workplace.  The results could be more savory than any fine wine!

The photo included in this blog post is from Buoncristiani Family Winery and shows the four brothers, who are all involved in the art and science of the business!  They are one of our favorites!!  We especially love their OPC, Cabernet Sauvignon and The Core is amazing!!

Erin Schreyer is a certified Leadership Coach and Strengths trainer.  She is the President of Sagestone Partners and Founder of the non-profit group, Authentic Leadership Cincinnati.  Erin is passionate about helping leaders (even great ones!) maximize their effectiveness, as well as their positive impact on both people and business results.   Contact Erin directly at eschreyer@sagestone-partners.com.

13 thoughts on “Leadership and Wineries –The Art and Science

  1. Well Erin, I think you could add to this great list. I loved the blog…wine and leadership…

    1. Wisdom and passion and to love what you do.
    2. To “feel” the business and the customers desires.
    3. To build around you people who share the burning desire to do what you do.
    4. Have strength of character and faith that it will work out against any odds.
    5. To mentor and nurture the people as much as you nurture your own passion…
    I could go on you got me thinking!! Now where is my wine…. Cheers

    • Hi, Peter – thanks for adding to the list! I always enjoy leaving some on the table, so readers can add to it! It makes the list much more robust that way!!

      I love your additions. Character and faith are two very important ones for me as well!!

  2. Erin

    Three more, especially in our poor economic climate:

    1) Leaders who KNOW they will succeed and show it, without being agrrogant

    2) Stability – knowing that when some part of your team isn’t performing to not commiserate but to work on it.

    3) Understanding that a business is like a puzzle. All the pieces are necessary to make the complete picture. Not just the “pieces” that speak the loudest.

    Enjoyed the blog post…when will the one be posted on white wines????

    • Marty – thanks for adding some great flavor to the blend!!! You make great points, but I hope you won’t be holding your breath for the white wine post…..I rarely drink it!!

  3. Erin,
    Great blog post and great points from Marty & Peter
    A friend of mine and her family relocated to upstate NY, finger lakes region about ten years ago and I look forward to checking out the wineries there each fall myself it truly is an art.

    1) Active listener – actively listen to your employees and clients. Empower your associates to implement new ideas for your organization and listen to your client needs.

    2) Adding to Marty’s post about the puzzle – each member of your team has unique pieces they add to the overall vision to the organization.

    3) Natural marketer – your passion will show through in the passion you have for your products, services

    I highly recommend Miles Wine Cellars and their Cabernet Franc

    • Karen – thanks for adding to the discussion, and even including a winery recommendation! Bravo! I love that you stated “active” listening and not just listening!! Excellent!

  4. Hi Erin,
    I read this post and then landed on the Sagestone page where I read the quote by Peter F. Drucker. This stood out to me: “leadership is […] the building of a personality beyond its normal limitations.” That seems very powerful and to be an art.

  5. Nice post. Thanks for sharing it with us.

    Considering the dynamic economic conditions we are currently in, I like courage in leaders who are not afraid to lead in some of the least traversed path and a tinge of humor to make the ride a pleasant one.

  6. Taking the time to get to know your employees on a deeper level can bring their untapped talents to the forefront. Things you didn’t know you needed suddenly become something you can’t live with out- from this one person’s contribution.

    On a personal note- since you love those small family wineries. Take a drive a couple hours east of Napa to Camino, CA. They have some wonderful wineries there and if you are going in the fall- Apple Hill season is fantastic. Fall colors, great food, breweries & wineries and lots of charm. One of my favorite places from years ago.

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