This is the view from my office desk since March 3, 2020. 239 days of working while looking out this window. In late 2019, the former winery (Balo) across CA-128 from us was purchased by Jackson Family Wines, one of the biggest wine producers on earth with vineyards and brands in 6 countries. Family founded and family owned. A family winery that I've had growing admiration for over the years.
March 3 was the day I arrived back from my last national sales trip of the year. I had no clue then how unreal/shocking/weird/tragic/uncertainty the following months would bring to the world. By this time this year, Smith Story Wine Cellars was suppose to have opened up wholesale distribution in at least 10 additional states while rocking hospitality back in our Anderson Valley tasting room too. Eric and I were planning on our very first real vacation in nearly 8 years in 2020, buy our first property, find Sandwich a little brother, oh was it was going to be such a great year ahead.
Then Covid-19 hit.
I’ve asked myself so many times “what is the meaning of this view of the new KJ owned winery now?”. “Is there a reason it sits smack-dab in front of my face every day?". I was happy to hear that KJW was going to be our newest neighbor here in the Anderson Valley knowing their legacy, resources and dedication to the environment. Added bonus of having friends who are among the KJW family too. Oh 2020 was suppose to be so fly!
Over the next coming weeks and months I had a front row seat to KJ’s exterior changes on the winery buildings and watched the hardworking vineyard crews come and go. The buildings were updated to mirror their fabulous Copain property in the Russian River Valley, a winery that made a huge impression on me years ago in particularly and was bought by KJF in 2016. But as Eric and I walk 10 miles a day in, out and around our tasting room doors, the new KJ property has sat empty all year long. Due to the pandemic, plans for their spring opening were delayed.
But I kept asking myself, (usually around 4am when covid-insomnia strikes) “what can I take from this, what is the view from my desk trying to teach me?”.
Eric and I are less than a 30-second walk across the road, busting it like fools, the two of us hosting, washing glasses, running online campaigns, completing taxes, weekly reporting, moving (custom crush) wineries, packing and shipping thousands of wine orders, taking press interviews, talking to wine buyers, sales teams, making hard as hell decision to NOT harvest all while dealing with the pandemic protocols and insane wild-fires ...and here’s that sleeping new giant across the way quietly staring at us. It’s like the late Jess Jackson himself is whispering “be patience young grasshopper”.
Patience, Determination & Dedication.
1974, when I was 2 years old, living in Baylor faculty housing in Waco, Texas with my young parents, Jess Jackson purchased an 80-acre orchard in Northern California. He soon planted grapes on this land to begin winemaking one day. Jackson Family Wines was founded in 1982, and its first vintage of Kendall-Jackson Vintner's Reserve Chardonnay was released in 1983. That’s EIGHT years after his very start!
Smith Story Wine Cellars was founded when I was 40 years old…nearly 8 years ago and not a single day has gone by without my focus and with every intention of leading Smith Story (along with Eric of course) as a world class winery. We are the “new old kids” in the wine game, but learning and being inspired by legends and innovators along the way give us hope. I have met & observed the Jackson Family next-generation(s) and they are dedicated to gobs of good, for the land and their communities.
It took Jess Jackson 9 years to release his first wine. We did it in under 2 years. Eric and I started our winery from dead-scratch, with a dream, determination and dedication. It was our inner circle who encouraged us to go for it...an inner circle of winemakers, wine buyers, wine retailers and sommeliers that believed in us all the way. We knew how tough it was going to be without starting with a fortune. Nobody predicted the first 8 years would be full of an earthquake, droughts, wild-fires, rolling power-outages, floods and now a pandemic. We march on… it’s history like that of Jackson Family that reminds us that IT CAN BE DONE.
Dream Big and with Dignity.
I’ve kept a Chinese cookie fortune in my jewelry box for nearly a decade now “A great pleasure in life is doing what others say you can’t”. We are so proud of what we’ve accomplished and where Smith Story Wine Cellars is headed! Life is hard and work really sucks right now, but things could be worse and we believe with all our heart that life for all of us is going to get better. As we head into the final months of 2020, our sense of pride outweighs the challenges this year has brought. Our big dreams continue to involve each of you. Whether you are new to Smith Story wines our have been cheering us on from day one, our dream, our story has truly grown because of you and your support. We are deeply honored.
Now back to my view from the office desk, it’s chilly tonight and those gorgeous-colored fall leaves across the road hold so much promise and hope. I’ve watched those same trees turn brilliant colors for many years now, not rushed, all in due time.
Peace and Love,
- Ali Story