David Duncan wants to help you do good and drink even better.
Duncan, who runs iconic wine brands Silver Oak, Twomey, OVID Napa Valley and Timeless Napa Valley, announced that he is once again chairing Collective Napa Valley, a global auction focused on the goal of “protecting the agricultural treasure of the Napa Valley and the community that sustains it.”
Duncan answered Entrepreneur.com’s questions over email (and presumably a nice glass of wine) about how to build events that have an ongoing impact and why the wine industry is betting big on Millennials as the biggest wine generation ever.
Why do you think philanthropy should be an important part of entrepreneurship?
Any event is an opportunity to educate your audience on how your specific event is advancing an issue. In our case, the issue is protecting the agricultural treasure of the Napa Valley and the community that sustains it. We must clearly articulate where we are heading as a wine-growing community. How have we grown? How have we delivered on goals we set last year, and where does that take us next?
Collective Napa Valley is about advancing the Napa Valley brand globally while also making an impact locally. Our partnership with Sotheby’s allows for a truly global auction — while those who make the journey to Napa Valley are fully immersed in the community through small bespoke dinners at vintners’ homes and wineries.
Related: On Its 50th Anniversary, Silver Oak CEO David Duncan Explains How the Luxury Wine Brand Stays True to Its Heritage While Constantly Innovating
What are entrepreneurial trends we’re seeing in Napa?
Gen X is coming on faster with super-premium wines than boomers did, and millennials are going to be the biggest wine generation ever because they were the first generation to come of age when being a foodie was a thing. Older millennials are now a force in premium wines and luxury. As a result, the future is brighter than ever for ultra-premium auctions that feature experiential lots versus product offerings.
With regards to ecommerce, seamless gifting is a huge opportunity across many consumer industries, and since wine is the top gift to bring to a gathering, we’ll see the wine industry evolve in this space.
Where much of the wine industry had shifted its mix from restaurants to DTC, there’s a huge trend of premiumization happening at restaurants and bars, and wineries are embracing restaurants as a way to build new customers. It’s been fun to see Chef Christopher Kostow apply Michelin 3-star precision to family-style casual dining with Charter Oak, Loveski, and now Ciccio. He’s got the skills of the greats but the entrepreneurial fire of the new generation.
Sustainability has been a huge movement across all industries. How is it changing the landscape in wines?
To us, an important component of sustainability is scalability. If the innovations and technologies we develop at Silver Oak can’t be replicated industry-wide, then what is the point? Our definition of sustainability is also very focused on resource conservation, most notably water. It can take more than 6 gallons of water to make one gallon of wine, and our team in Alexander Valley now has that down to a 1:1 ratio through water reclamation and downcycling efforts.
Wine is the ultimate long game. The decisions we make today will play out over decades. We’re seeing vintners thinking more in terms of generations than the next vintage. At our OVID Napa Valley, we recently completed a vineyard planting with a 100-year vision in mind.
What’s getting you excited about the wine business these days?
There are a lot of data points to excite a wine entrepreneur. American wine exports are growing overseas and even making gains in European markets, driven by the efforts of the Napa Valley Vintners and California Wine Institute. We’re also seeing huge growth in Japan and South Korea, as wine drinkers learn how well California wines pair with Asian cuisine.
Related: The CEO of Silver Oak Wine Breaks Down a Winning Ecommerce Strategy All Entrepreneurs Can Use
Interesting American white wines are trending globally right now. Sauvignon Blanc was the “it” wine of summer last year and that only seems to be increasing. The Sauvignon Blancs we make in California are more tropical in their flavor profile than New Zealand or French counterparts, and wine drinkers are taking note. Napa is also eschewing varietal white wine analogues with top producers lasering in on light, mineral-driven, saline white wines. Our OVID Napa Valley Experiment White wine is one of my favorite wines we make, mostly because it is so different from anything else we do.
Lastly, we are jazzed on Oregon. The Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines from the Willamette Valley are stunning and we are just scratching the surface in terms of their potential. As an entrepreneur, any time you see a high-quality product taking off before it has a deeply-developed audience, bells should start ringing for you.
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