In wine one beholds the heart of another” — Anonymous
Today is a special day because I have the opportunity to introduce you to one of dearest friends Michelle, who I admire and love for so many reasons. She is wickedly smart, creative, funny, and kind, and oh yeah she is Australian so she has a great accent. Although she now lives in New York, we still have the chance to do the things we love together when she visits, such as, create new business ideas, plan our children’s futures (she wants to send them to FInance Camp ( I am still on the fence about this one), shop, eat, laugh, reminisce, and all of these preferably over a glass of wine, her wine.
Michelle’s ability to overcome obstacles and challenges continues to inspire me, and so, 2 years ago as we talked about her leaving her highly successful career in marketing to pursue her passion of committing full time to her new wine label, I didn’t hesitate to tell her to jump, run, fly, whatever she needed to do to make David Family Wines a success and to fulfill her dreams. As expected, she has been very successful in a short amount of time based on so many of her wonderful attributes but also because of the quality of her wine.
As she has gone on her journey, I feel like I have walked with her on some legs as we flew to Napa to hand apply her patented leather labels for her first allotment. Anywhere we can support her on her journey, we do, not only because she is our friends, but because we truly love her wine.
Lest you be deceived by her external loveliness, it cannot go unsaid, that Michelle has made sacrifices and things were not always picture perfect as she pursued her dreams, so to me, it’s especially wonderful and satisfying to introduce you to, my friend, the vitner, Michelle from David Family Wines.
Shannon: Did you always want to be a vitner?
Michelle: At 14 I was adamant that my future lay as an entomologist (bug scientist). At 16 I was certain I would live in Europe and one day own and manage the premier league football team Manchester United. Yet the actualities of life are quite different, far more interesting and surprisingly more rewarding. By the time I was 21 I had left Australia and I was living in the US building my career in sports and entertainment. At that time, wine was something I was curious to know more about as a personal interest. I had no idea then that 10 years later I would be in the thick of owning, building and running a wine company of my own.
Shannon: Where does the name of your wine come from?
Michelle: Ah, there are two answers.
The short answer:
My father’s name is David. I named it after him and my small but very close family, all of whom are in AUS today. My mother, Susan and younger brother, Michael.
The long answer:
Courage, gumption, and a man named David.
My parents weren’t winemakers and there’s no family history in wine. Instead of taking over or inheriting family vineyards, I inherited something else from my family; courage and gumption.
On the heels of our family mantra “If you want to discover new oceans you must be prepared to lose sight of the shore” I took that advice quite literally and I left Australia for the US 10 years ago. Building my career in the sports business I was excited to thrive in my chosen career. Knowing just two people here, I worked hard to be successful and make a life for myself in this new country. I worked on some of the most interesting sports properties in the world, Major League Baseball, PGA, The Olympic Games, Rugby World Cup. Working in New York and then moving to San Francisco I represented global brands like Visa, MasterCard, Microsoft, Gap.
I thoroughly enjoyed my work in the sports business, but looking for new challenges I decided to try something new. In addition to my corporate job I took a part time job, for free, at a wine company in San Francisco. At John Walker & Co, the city’s oldest wine company I started at the bottom of the company and shipped out wine, delivered wine, took phone orders. Day by day I learned more about wine and soon found myself tasting the best wines in the world. Analyzing, evaluating and recommending wine to others. Learning about and managing the en primeur (wine futures) program. Buying wines and standing next to critics, wine makers, Masters of Wine, people like Stephen Tanzer, Emmanuel Kemiji and Bartholomew Broadbent. Asking all the ‘silly’ questions over the next two years I put myself out there to explore this new world and threw any assemblance of ego I had out the window. I owe much to the great minds and palates of people like Bartholomew Broadbent who were gracious and willing to share their incredible knowledge with me as I took on my own personal journey of education and discovery.
Courage to start at the beginning, enter an industry rich in history and educate myself was the key to my success in making the transition from the corporate world to the wine world. Courage to develop and trust my palate came next. It was clear early on that Pinot Noir was my palate. Customers would come into the shop asking for Cabs and leave with Pinots. In my corporate job I created sponsorship deals marrying brands with the right sports teams, in the wine store I believed there was a Pinot for every palate and my mission was to find the right one for them.
After a few years I found myself contemplating opportunities to build a wine of my own more and more. A conversation with my father on an early morning run in San Francisco while the family were visiting me planted the seed from which gumption grew. Yes, gumption the real, old fashioned kind. He asked me what was holding me back from starting my own wine and quickly I answered “Money of course”. He said ” You can always make more money, you can never make more time.”
From that run I resourcefully, methodically, practically and innovatively brought the vision for David Family Wines to life. To create a focused portfolio of Pinots showcasing the incredible spectrum of flavors this one grape variety can have. To evolve the next generation of vintners and offer modern wine connoisseurs something new to experience and enjoy. To be bold.
David Family is named after my father and my family.
Shannon: What was the first step you took to make your dream come true?
Michelle: Saying it out loud. The simple act of articulating the words “I’m going to start my own wine company” to a few friends held me accountable to my own word. From there I didn’t want to let them or myself down. Never mind that I didn’t know in what capacity or how I would actually do it.
Shannon: How did you make the choice to pursue making wine full time?
Michelle: After that fateful run with my father in San Francisco I started, very cautiously, to build David Family. I kept my full time corporate job and put the plans in place for David Family Wines as an “after work project”. Then the life change came… I left my husband after 5 years of marriage. I turned my life upside down trying to figure out A) how it got to such a place and B) how to get it back on track. For the past 8 years I had wholly trusted my husband and rightly or wrongly gave him the reigns to direct the path we were on in life and as a couple. Along the way I lost the ability to take the reigns at all. Moving out of our home and into a small apartment I remember sitting outside one night and thinking “if not now, when?”. I left my corporate job two weeks later and dove head first into building David Family and giving it the attention it deserved full time. Creating, building and perfecting my wines is a tangible representation of what I needed to do to for myself also.
Shannon: How do you feel now that you have taken this step?
Michelle: Very simply, incredible.
Shannon: What makes your wine different?
Michelle: Hmm, I think sometimes it’s less about what makes it different and more about what makes it great. We focus all our attention on Pinot Noir. We use the lush, flavorful grapes from the best regions in California but apply a more old word, approach in making the wine. It creates a wonderfully balanced wine of rich raspberry and stewed berry flavors with lovely earth and ultra subtle tea, tobacco, leather notes.
We have the industry’s only leather label which we hand cut, hand stamp and hand apply to each bottle. Thank you to my amazing friends who come out each year to help do this!
Every bottle is numbered and every bottle counts. If you type in the number from a bottle on our website you will meet the family from Habitat for Humanity that proceeds from that very bottle are going towards building a home for.
Shannon: What are three things you would want people to know about you and David Family?
Michelle: 1. There’s something sexy, powerful and intriguing about a person who can navigate a wine list. Especially at a group dinner in a restaurant. I do everything I can to remove the mysterious, aloof attitude that sometimes excludes people from the wine world. I want to help everyone find their palate and make fine wine accessible. I’ll gladly answer everyone’s ‘silly’ questions when it comes to wine.
2. People always assume this is my husband’s company or my father’s vineyards. I wish, oh how much easier that would have been 😉 The reality is there was no rich uncle or fairy god mother. No family vineyards to inherit. I put my head down, trusted myself, made mistakes, did a whole bunch of stupid things and did the odd great thing along the way to make this a success.
3. The leather label is unbelievably beautiful.
Shannon: What is your pearl of wisdom that can inspire yourself and others to make today ‘anewfavoriteday?’
Michelle: I love wine, but that’s not why I started David Family Wine. If that were the case then heck, I love high heels, why not make high heels instead? When it comes to starting your own company people always seem to advise you “do what you love”, or ask “what are you passionate about?”. I think the better question is “what are you good at?”. To really answer that question takes guts. Because when you are truthful about it, a light goes on in your head that will not go out without a fight. It will ignite a new inner motivation to pursue it. Start with today as an opportunity to answer the call for what you’re good at. If today isn’t going to be your new favorite day, then when?! You can always make more money, you can never make more time.
If you are interested in learning more about Michelle’s wine and even buying a bottle or two for you holiday festivities you can learn more by following these links or visiting these retail outlets. You can also look for her on winelists as some of the best restaurants in the US!
Thank you to you Michelle. I love you. You are an amazing friend, auntie, and woman. I am excited to see you in a week from now and until then I raise my glass of David Family to you. Cheers.
Venokado in LA
Columbus Circle Wines in NYC
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