Good morning JohnOnWine readers. Yeah, I know that it may be afternoon or night when you find your way to this post, but it is morning, and a damn fine morning at that, as I sit here poking at my keyboard, my thoughts forcing my one finger  that does all the typing work to fly – if I can type at near 40 words per minute with one finger, would I be a 400 word per minute ten finger typist? – and I am awake early enough to wish you all good morning before I head off to get coffee and go to work.

By now, if you are a regular reader, you know that I was hired to be the Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator for McFadden Vineyard in Hopland. You would also know that all of the Hopland winery tasting rooms are gearing up for Spring Hopland Passport this weekend. If you are not a regular reader, consider yourself caught up.

When I started, I had two days with my predecessor, the previous Tasting Room Manager and Wine Club Coordinator. I was shown the big things, and I took notes like my life depended on it. At night, after work, I typed those notes into procedural checklists for those big things. I felt somewhat overwhelmed at the beginning, armed with only my notes, and was facing many days of work without relief as, coincidentally, most of the tasting room staff had also ceased employment shortly before I was hired.

Staffing was taken care of first. I inherited one incredibly capable person, Eugene, from before I took over. Eugene is my senior staffer. He knows how things were done and what worked in the past, has valuable institutional memory, and helps me determine which changes will improve revenue and aren’t made for change’s sake alone.

My first hire, Gary, was an easy hire, maybe the easiest ever. I had met Gary at a local winery event where I was invited to guest chef. I was in a conversation about the interconnectedness of Hopland area wineries, having just helped a friend with a PowerPoint presentation on the subject, when Gary joined in hitting all the key points. Over the course of the evening, I was impressed with Gary’s wine industry experience and knowledge, as it mirrored my own. Subsequently, I find that Gary I and I share almost the same social network friends. Everyone has ego. I do. I think I’m pretty hot stuff. When I say that hiring Gary was like hiring myself, although clearly full of myself, it is meant as a compliment. Gary shares my viewpoint, my fresh perspective, but was also the Tasting Room Manager for another Hopland area winery, so his perspective is especially valuable. Gary questions, respectfully, procedures that make no sense; often reinforcing my own questioning of previously established orthodoxy. Changes have been made, with more to come.

Ann is the final member of my team. Ann comes with plenty of experience, and a good palate for wine, but no previous wine industry work experience. That lack has meant nothing, as again, Ann is incredibly capable, incredibly valuable. Ann mastered the computer system quickly, and took her first solo day earlier than originally planned. Ann added yet another fresh perspective, and may have been my greatest agent for change. Ann, using her marketing education and past merchandising experience, changed the way we present items in the tasting room, making it more attractive, and making it easier for customers to find what they are looking for. Ann’s perspective and ability will lead to increased revenue.

I talk regularly with each member of my staff. I value their perspective, their input. Together, we will make our little tasting room the best it can be.

Spring Hopland Passport is coming this Saturday April 30 and Sunday May 1. Just as I felt a little overwhelmed when I started, but feel comfortable now, not knowing everything, but with time, able to do anything, quietly – maybe not as quiet as I could be – confident, and optimistic for the future; so too was I somewhat concerned about pulling off our first Passport just a month into the new job.

My predecessor told me that she did everything with Passport, and wished me luck. Others stopped in to let me know how much she did, and opined that I was in deep water.

There is another winery team member, and I work for him. Guinness McFadden has taken up all of the big work of Hopland Passport. Guinness went shopping yesterday. Guinness is bringing down picnic tables, a tent, cooking tables, cutting boards, knives, utensils, bowls, everything needed to cook up about 100 pounds of his own organic grass fed cube steak from his McFadden Farm, cooked with his organic Grilling and Lemon Pepper and Garlic Powder herbs grown on his McFadden Farm. My predecessor may have done everything in the past, but my boss, the winery owner, has my back, and I am grateful.

Ann’s husband Mark and my son Charlie will be working out back, behind the tasting room under a tent, cooking up beef, dressing Caesar salad – with our organic McFadden Salad Herb Blend, and serving up our McFadden Farm Wild Rice and artichoke heart salad. On Friday, we are heading up to Guinness’s house at the end of Powerhouse Road in Potter Valley on McFadden Farm so Guinness can show Mark and Charlie how to cook his beef, to prep romaine lettuce, and to make a super huge batch of McFadden Farm Wild Rice salad.

While Mark and Charlie are out back, Ann, Guinness, and I will be in the tasting room on Saturday and Sunday pouring wines and ringing up sales. Everyone I have talked to, without exception, has suggested I need more help, so yesterday I asked Shana and Janneé from the office at McFadden Farm if they could come in Saturday to pour, and I think they may be splitting a shift on Saturday.

Thanks to a real team effort, and a lot of work on my part over the last two days, I am feeling pretty good about Passport weekend, optimistic, excited even.

My work? I went through my computer, looked at inventory and pricing, and created new price lists for everything in the tasting room. Passport guests can enjoy savings of 15%-35% off 102 items, most everything in the tasting room, while Wine Club members will save on everything, all 120 items, at 15%-40% off regular pricing. This will be the biggest, most comprehensive, sale in the history of the McFadden Vineyard Tasting Room, so I guess I’m a change agent as well.

With Passport in front of me, I have End of Month reports to run Saturday night, I have to stay late Sunday night to take all of the special discounting out of our computer, and return Monday morning very early to run two of our Wine Club group orders, complete with shipping labels, then I will head up to McFadden Farm to meet with Shana and Janneé face to face on their turf so they can tell me what I am doing well, and what I can do better at the tasting room to help them do their jobs more easily at the Farm office. I will also take a bunch of pictures of the vineyards which will end up here and on the McFadden Vineyard Facebook page, and hopefully the McFadden Vineyard website. Oh, and I need to get out a blast email newsletter to all of our wine club members and winery friends.

I haven’t mentioned our wines, I’m not shilling for my winery, but I wanted to write to say I love my job. I get up early, excited to work. I get into work well before 9:00 AM most days, but write down 9:15 AM on my time card. I love being in my office, in the tasting room. At night, I think about changes, jobs undone, things I need to – or want to – do.

When things settle down in May, I will turn to my next big challenge, trying to increase revenue through increased sales. I may write here of my efforts, ask for your input, but I won’t ask you to buy my wine here. While everything I have in my tasting room is great, I will find other forums to say so, and limit my work talk to just that, talk of my work and not an advertisement.

Thanks for taking the time to read this morning’s sharing. I am off to get that coffee and to open up my tasting room for another great day of work. I hope you love your job too.

Cheers,

John