Wine Business Mentors—Thanks You!

The first Thanksgiving was something meant to thank God for having survived the harsh elements of the New World. Personally, the past twelve months have seen a number of things in my own personal orbit both survive and fail. It has been a tumultuous year, to say the least.

But, as the Thanksgiving holiday comes upon us (seemingly out of nowhere since just a few days ago I think it was March), I start to think about those people for whom I'm thankful for having helped me and my career survive another year. I start thinking of my mentors

Bill & Sandra MacIver
Some of you may know or know of the former owners and founders of Matanzas Creek Winery, one of America's long-time great wineries. They were also mentors to me, which is strange because they were my clients and do this day it seems the other way around. Both Sandra and Bill are and were tenacious people in their own ways. But had it not been For Bill McIver's relentless pursuit of fairness for in the wine industry and his willingness to voice his view of the state of affairs within the wine industry and his willingness to call out those who sought to hamper the industry and its participants, I would have had no idea how to respond to the ongoing wine shipping controversies that I've been involved in. Bill's constant efforts and voice on behalf of a level playing field in the wine industry was both inspiring and, for me, professorial. Sandra's influence stays with me today in equal measure to Bill's. No other person taught me the value of of giving equal weight in business to one's intuition as well as analytical abilities. Watching her come to decisions of great importance by balancing these two qualities was disconcerting for me at first. Overtime, as she would explain herself and how she made decisions and as I watched her project (Matanzas Creek Winery) continue to gain in stature and profitability, I actually learned on the spot how to combine my two most important assets into a powerful force.

Gracelyn Guyol:
I pursued Gracelyn with a vigor that should have embarrassed me and given her pause and concern. But eventually, she took a chance on a guy with no wine experience who just graduated college and through him into her Wine PR firm, Gracelyn Associates. That was nuts. I knew little or nothing about wine or the wine business or Public Relations. But I must have show other qualities—maybe tenacity was enough. Over the next three years, Gracelyn was firm and encouraging with me and introduced me to people who would help make me competent at helping clients succeed. She was ruthless with a red pen, but also encouraged me to bring to her ideas that were well beyond left field. I never had a better boss who taught me more and prepared me better for a career.

I have many more reasons to be thankful and there are many more people who have helped my career as well as made being in the wine business a remarkable experience. But today, on the eve of Thanksgiving, I'm thinking about those people who actually made me substantially better than I ever would have been had they not come into my work life.


9 Responses

  1. Ian - November 26, 2008

    I have fond memories helping out during crush at Matanzas Creek when Dave Ramey was there. A recent visit confirmed my fears that the spirit of the place has suffered under new ownership.

  2. Kathy - November 26, 2008

    We must honor our mentors and Thanksgiving is a good time. So I again and again honor Roy Aarons (Wash Post, Oakland Trib) for trusting me and for our walks on the ridge he finally called home in Sebastapol.
    And, just today, I hope I continued the honor by mentoring an Argentine I met in Italy who now works in Spain.
    Giving thanks.

  3. Dale Cruse - November 26, 2008

    I want to honor my mentor Matthew Guilford, who got me started out “right” on the wine path. Because of him I’ve become more of a Rhone Ranger than I care to admit, but I am mightily thankful!

  4. Dylan - November 27, 2008

    I find this an appropriate spot to honor some of my wine mentors as I began this journey only 5 months ago; Daniel, Ben, Tara, and The Fosters. I wouldn’t know as much as I do today without your welcoming attitude to my endless questions.

  5. Bill McIver - March 31, 2009

    Tom, I was looking at your blog yesterday, “Shaken or Stirred.” Your handling of the language is impressive to say the least. It is exciting to hear from so many of my wine industry friends that you have the best wine blog on the Internet. You have grown so much in the past 10 years since we worked together to rescue wine from the clutches from the booze distributors. You’ll be pleased to know that I have started writing a book on wine industry history and politics since Prohibiton. You are, of course, a player in that story, and I’m looking forward to working with you again — I’ve got a lot of catching up to do and will need you to mentor me.

  6. Bill McIver - March 31, 2009

    Tom, another comment: You by way of Gracelyn? How did you come to us? In those days the most important things you brought to MCW were ideas galore. You were relentless producing story angles that we could pick and choose and work together in refining. Your blog shows that you still haven’t run out of ideas. Keep it up, pard!

  7. Sandra McIver - April 6, 2009

    Thanks, Tom! Your kind words were just brought to our attention and certainly made my day! Had no idea I’d inspired you to appreciate your own considerable intuitive strengths, but I’m glad I did as we certainly benefitted from some of your best ideas. Funny now to think back to all the discussions we once had about whether this internet thing would ever amount to much…
    PS you may notice that we’ve dropped the “a” in MacIver since the wine days. Guess we’ll never tire of confounding the world with the spelling and pronunciation of our last name.

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