When people visit Realm Cellars today, they don’t see what we see.
To them, Realm is an established winery in the Stags Leap District, with vineyards stretching from the Silverado Trail to the top of Wappo Hill, a modern wine cellar with shiny new equipment, and wines served in elegant glasses by a staff of professionals. They see something that’s smooth around the edges, they see success...
We see the road that got us here.
A rough road with potholes and unexpected turns. A grand experiment in risk taking, a string of fits and starts with more than its fair share of setbacks. We see going into debt, begging growers for fruit, working with borrowed equipment, harvesting until three AM, selling bottles one at a time. We see losing an entire vintage to fire, divorce, debt, more debt, near dissolution, and then finally, finally... a break, a rebirth. Even with our successes, we’ve never been short of challenges, and we’re certain that more lay ahead.
When we look at Realm today, we see it in its entirety, and that’s the story we present here. It’s not short and it’s not fluffy. It’s real. If you want to understand how we got to where we are today, this is the place to do it.
Realm Estate: Year One
We closed on the Hartwell property on December 30, 2015, and a new chapter began for Realm Cellars. After thirteen years of making wine, we had a home. A winery and a vineyard -- an Estate! It kind of blew our minds. Benoit had worked on this property for over ten years, so it wasn’t exactly new to him. What was new to him - and to us – was the concept of owning the place. We went from renters to owners overnight, with all the responsibility that entails. When the reservoir got clogged with leaves from a heavy rain, Andy and the team went and shoveled it out. When the front gate wouldn’t open, Eden figured out how to get it fixed. When a falling branch knocked out the electricity, Juan called PG&E. There was no landlord, no property manager. And to be honest, there’d been some delayed maintenance.READ "REALM ESTATE: YEAR ONE" (11 MIN READ)
February 2, 2016. The day of our Spring 2016 release. It was not a good day, to be honest. The wine sold out in three hours, but a lot of our long-time customers weren’t happy. We had never been a wait-listed, high-demand brand that sells out in a few hours; it caught us all by surprise. We knew there was momentum, but we didn’t anticipate how quickly people would be on the computer to order wine, and we didn’t allow enough time for the customers who would normally place an order. Talk about growing pains. We felt terrible. We did a video to apologize. And we changed our allocation approach.
With Gratitude to our Growers
In the winter of 2014 Realm held its first annual Grower Dinner. It was the first time we were able to formally recognize and thank the growers who supply us with grapes. Some of these growers had been with us since the very beginning. They’d stuck with us through some pretty tough times. Without them, there would be no Realm.
Starting to Get Noticed
Success in the wine business is often incremental, and the milestones can be as varied as convincing a sought-after grower to sell you wine grapes to getting a placement on a Michelin three star restaurant’s wine list. In February 2014 Realm’s showing at the Napa Valley Vintners’ annual Premiere Napa Valley gave us reason to believe we were on to something.
Developing a Vision
As the harvest of 2013 got underway, there was shared excitement at the new vision for Realm, but also a realization that there was a long way to go. The bar only got higher.