How to succeed in the wine industry? It is the people.
What does 54 have to do with Brooks? There are 54 years of hard work from the three of us to get Brooks where it is today. It has been a long road of ups and downs. At the end of the day, we all say mostly ups! It is the people at Brooks that have made us successful in the wine industry.
We came together through different circumstances
Chris met Jimi by answering an ad about Italian Moto Guzzi motorcycle parts. They both had motor bikes and after a long phone conversation that led to an in person conversation, Chris and Jimi quickly became friends. Chris, a stay at home father, started working wine events at WillaKenzie with Jimi. He quickly saw that people out drinking wine were fun, friendly, and interested in wine. He then became Jimi’s assistant winemaker when Jimi took the lead winemaking and vineyard role at Momtazi/Maysara.
Heather grew up around wine. Heather’s dad, Don, planted what is now our Estate vineyard back in 1974. Heather remembers putting “vitamins” in the holes where they planted each vine when she was just 3 years old. Her dad wanted to move to the vineyard but honoring his wife and three girls, he did not move them from Kaiser to live his dream of living on the vineyard. It was in the early 2000s that Heather and her husband, Doug, decided to build a house on the vineyard and raise their family in Amity.
My story? My only sibling, Jimi, the founder of Brooks, passed away at the age of 38 on September 4, 2004. I got involved in the winery because I was the only one to manage his affairs. I quickly fell in love with the industry, the wines, and his friends. I met “big Chris” just prior to Jimi’s memorial service. He was a quiet person with a huge heart. In the Spring of 2005 after he blended the wines from 2004, he offered to be the winemaker at Brooks if I wanted to continue the legacy. Not having a clue of what it took to run a winery, I said yes. For the next 3 vintages, we ran Brooks together making the wine in custom crush facilities.
It didn’t take too long to realize custom crush was wildly expensive so Chris and I decided to lease an old prune drying facility in the Eola Hills. At the time, A to Z used that facility, and, back in the 1970’s, Don Byard (yes, Heather’s dad) made wine there from his (now our Estate) vineyard. We opened to the public Memorial Day weekend of 2008. Heather came as a guest, and soon started working for wine. In November 2009 when we were bombarded with people because our 2006 Ara Riesling had been poured at the White House for President Obama’s First State Dinner, she started on the payroll.
A bigger space
Our growth continued and the three of us realized we needed a larger space. We decided it was time to build a space of our own. We built a home for Brooks. Chris would have more space to craft wine and a place where people could gather with food and drink and be together. Our current home is a reflection of how Jimi lived his life and how we like to live ours.
The best companies are about the people
The Huffington Post will tell you for small businesses to succeed, you must attract, engage and retain top talent. I feel fortunate that these two are top talent. While I cannot take credit for how they came to Brooks, I can tell you that I am extremely fortunate, as is Brooks, to have them. Between the three of us, we have served 54 years (Chris at 23 years, myself at 17 and Heather at 14). To say we have been through a lot is an understatement but with all experiences, wisdom is gained. A snapshot of the industry and Brooks since 1998:
|Year||Wineries in Oregon||Brooks Case Production||Brooks Employees|
We have the integral keys to success
I would define them as heart, integrity, agility, and relationships. When you have those first two traits, the rest is much easier. But I don’t want to underestimate agility and relationships. Those became ever apparent during COVID, too. Agility, the ability to make fast decisions without a lot of bureaucracy has been key for all three of us. I trust the decisions that Chris and Heather make and am not involved in many of them. They have the independence and autonomy to make the decisions they deem best for Brooks. Relationships come with the long game, those 54 years. We all truly value not only each other but the relationships we have with our guests, Wine Club members, trade, suppliers, farmers and coworkers. We know it takes the broader community to make Brooks work. We certainly could not do it alone.
When I look at the years the three of us have put into Brooks, heart and integrity truly define us. The wine industry is not easy. Many see it as a glamorous living, but like any job, it is a lot of work. We have approached it as much more than a paycheck. We live and breathe it and care so much! You cannot quantify our passion nor put it into words. It is reflected, though, in everything we do: the wines, our space, our interactions with others. We all three have committed a significant part of our lives to Brooks. That in itself is quite the testament.
I am grateful that our business is built on the heart and soul of great people. Heather, Chris and I are a sturdy foundation but so many others have contributed to building a company that is anchored in realness and real people. Thank you for believing in us and being a part of the Brooks family legacy.