Category Archives: ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum

The Last Harvest, Your Exit Strategy

Michael Brustkern, Bob Betz, Mark Freund, Jesse Lyon

On Monday, ZINO Society hosted the ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum at Urban Enoteca in Seattle.  The room was filled with people who are already involved or interested in being in the wine business.  There were five expert panels featured as well as around 20 wineries who poured their wines during the day or during the Northwest Emerging Wine Awards tasting at the end of the day.

One of the favorite panels was the one titled “The Last Harvest, Your Exit Strategy” which featured revered winemaker, Bob Betz, who recently sold Betz Family Winery.  He was featured along with Michael Brustkern of Exvere who represented Bob in the sale as the M&A specialist, Mark Freund, of Silicon Valley Bank who worked with the buyer and Jesse Lyon, partner at Davis Wright Tremaine who also represented the buyer and facilitated the panel.  It was fascinating to hear Bob’s advice to other winery owners how to get ready for their own sale someday and what was most important to keep in mind.  What made this panel especially interesting is that Steve Griessel, the buyer, was in attendance as well and he ultimately came to the podium to answer some questions from the audience.

Steve Griessel

Bob’s short list of exit strategy advice about how to package a wine business for sale included:

  • Get your personal objectives figured out first.
  • Focus on wine quality most critical.
  • Decide whether your business includes a winery and/or vineyards.  (Bob decided to build a bricks and mortar winery and to buy his grapes from quality growers instead of investing in vineyards.)
  • Make sure your financials are in order.
  • Line up an M&A professional.
  • Maintain absolute confidentiality.  (He only discussed with his wife and not the rest of the family.)
  • Make sure there is a good fit with the buyer so each is getting a deal with which they can be satisfied. 

Five Years Old!

Andrea Baseler, Joanne Baseler, Bonnie Elgin, Peggy Reddy
Thursday night at the ZINO Society biggest party of the year, our 5 year Birthday and Magnum Party, we had a blast celebrating with over 200 members and friends. Our landlord, Terry Thompson of Urban Enoteca, brought a fantastic magnum of Cabernet Sauvignon from Pride Mountain Vineyards, one of my favorite Napa Valley wines. Have you ever made the crazy winding drive up to their winery? JJ McKay and John & Bonny Midby brought huge bottles of champagne which was a great way to get the celebration started. Dozens of very high quality magnums of wine were brought to share, though someone actually brought a magnum of Yellowtail! Ugh! I’m sure it was NOT a ZINO Society  member or wine professional who did that!

The party started early still missing our Wine Professional Member sommeliers who had agreed to help open bottles and pour, so Mary and I went behind the bar for the first 20 or 30 minutes and it was like a comedy routine that we think we may actually have to repeat next year!  Meanwhile Ken Hatch, nursing his bad knee, sat at a table all evening surrounded by his fans.  Someone said to me that, “Ken is like the Pope and everyone is going over to kiss his ring!”
Stacy Lill, Lorna Kneeland, Cathi Hatch
ZINO Society investors, Ron & Bonnie Elgin, brought a bottle from their cellar and ZINO Society brought a bottle too for the special toast of ZINO VINO Cabernet Blend 2005 which was a meritage of Cabernet Sauvignon that we produced at the ZINO VINO Blending Dinner the first year that ZINO Society existed with juice from Pepper Bridge, JM Cellars, Dunham Cellars, and Mark Ryan Winery. It was delicious!

Our esteemed event sponsors Berntson Porter and DeLille Cellars were there to help us celebrate and following a steel drum rendition of “Happy Birthday”, both Greg Porter of Berntson Porter and Greg Lill of DeLille Cellars proposed great toasts. You will have to ask Greg Lill about his toast that celebrates lying, swearing, cheating and killing!

The Z-Team led by Chief Marketing Officer, Mary Holmes, along with Director of Membership, Robin Moore, Events Coordinator, Elizabeth Larned and our unbelievable summer intern, Christine Gilbert were “Masters of Schlep” producing a thoroughly wonderful summer party. But after setting up all day and then standing and schlepping all night, we were all ready for pedicures and a foot massage by the end of the evening!

WSU competes favorably with UC Davis in Viticulture & Enology!

Over lunch yesterday at ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum, our ZINO Society sponsor partner, Washington State University, provided the content for the lunch discussion.  Dr.  Thomas Heinick-King, WSU Professor and Director of Viticulture & Enology spoke about the breadth of the Enology program offered at WSU.  I was not aware until yesterday that WSU now has a Viticulture & Enology program as large as the one at UC Davis!  Dr. James Harbertson, Assistant Scientist of Enology at WSU then spoke about the actual Science of Wine:  Tannins and Astringency, showing diagrams of cells and molecules and comparing the tannin levels in two different Chateau Ste. Michelle wines.  We had the chance to compare and contrast in the glass between the 2007 Columbia Crest Reserve Merlot and 2007 Columbia Crest Grand Estates Merlot.  When Dr. Harbertson asked us which wine did we think had more tannin, most of the audience seemed to figure it out correctly (but we did have a pretty sophisticated wine-drinking audience at the event).  What was especially interesting to me is that the Reserve Merlot had two and one-half times the amount of tannin as the Grand Estates Merlot.

ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum a Success!

I’m happily exhausted after a very full day of wine panels and wine tasting at the inaugural ZINO Vino Liquid Assets Forum which was held today at Bell Harbor Conference Center.  Thank you to ZINO Society member, Shelley Tomberg for helping to make this possible!  The panelists were impressive and had incredible expertise and knowledge to share with the attendees.
The most frustrating part of the day was that each panel had so much more they could have shared, but in each case the time ran out before we were ready to move on to the next topic.  We will be asking the attendees for advice for next year, but the best suggestion I have heard so far is to start the event earlier in the day and extend the length of time for each panel.
The Twitter stream was pretty amazing with dozens upon dozens of tweets occurring over the course of the day.  You can access it at #zinovino.
The ZINO Society team did an amazing job of bringing a brand-new event to fruition over a short period of time.  See photo above of set-up by the team.  Mary Holmes, ZINO Society Chief Marketing Officer (photo above at podium), gets credit for envisioning the opportunity and convincing the rest of the ZINO Society executive team to move forward and make it happen.
We owe a BIG thank you to everyone who was involved including all of our sponsors and all of the wineries that brought their new wines to pour as part of the Northwest Emerging Wines Awards tasting (N.E.W. Awards) at the end of the day.  A mammoth thank you to our Major Sponsors, Banner Bank, Columbia Hospitality, Stoel Rives and Washington State University.  See photo of two of the three Stoel Rives panelists, Chris Hermann and Jay Rafter above.
The panel pictured above is the Legends of the Fall panel which included Ted Baseler of Ste. Michelle Wine Estates,  Bob Betz of Betz Family Vineyards, Dick Boushey of Boushey Vineyards, Norm McKibben of Pepper Bridge Winery and Rick Small of Woodward Canyon Winery.  They are titans in the business of wine and the attendees hung on every word they shared!
See photos of most of the panelists and speakers who participated by clicking on this link.