Creating an Iconic Brand With Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Wines

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Mar 2, 2023

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Creating an Iconic Brand With Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Wines

Last Updated on March 2, 2023 by

Clay Mauritson
Creating an Iconic Brand With Clay Mauritson of Mauritson Wines 11

Clay Mauritson is the sixth generation in a family of grape growers and is the Owner and Founder of Mauritson Wines. Born and raised in the Dry Creek Valley, Clay was destined for the wine business. He graduated from the University of Oregon in 1997 with a degree in business administration, focusing on marketing with a minor in economics. Equipped with his degree, Clay came back to Sonoma County to officially enter the wine industry.

In 1998, Clay created his first bottling of Dry Creek Zinfandel under the Mauritson label, and in 2002, he started dedicating his efforts full-time to the Mauritson Family Winery project.

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Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn: 

  • Clay Mauritson explains why family and community are paramount for Mauritson Wines
  • The progression from selling wines to owning a winery
  • What Clay would have done differently over the last 25 years
  • Clay talks about the difference between Mauritson and Rockpile
  • How does Mauritson Wines give back to the community?
  • Clay shares how he has stayed motivated over the past two decades 
  • Clay’s advice for building an iconic brand

In this episode with Clay Mauritson

How do you create an iconic brand that can persist for generations? For Clay Mauritson, the answer is identifying your winery’s distinct characteristics and imparting this into every bottle sold.

However, building a renowned brand is easier said than done. Clay suggests you begin by knowing your purpose, conveying it to the public, and telling a unique story about your brand.

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon sit down with Clay Mauritson, Founder and Owner of Mauritson Wines, as he talks about the value of family and community for the brand. Clay also shares the winery’s secret for compelling storytelling that yields lasting connections.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.

At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.

Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.

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Episode Transcript

Intro 0:03

Welcome to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast where we feature top leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry with your host Drew Hendricks. Now let’s get started with the show.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 0:19

Hi everyone, Drew Thomas Hendricks here, I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. On the show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry, exploring their stories. Today, we have Clay Mauritson on the show, but before I introduce him, I want to gotta get the sponsor message in today’s episode, sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one of a kind marketing strategy. When that highlights your authenticity tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story, unleash their revenue. Go to today to learn more. Today, Bianca Harmon is joining us again, she’s a DTC strategist at How’s it going, Bianca? 

Bianca Harmon 1:02

Going great, Drew. Looking forward to this conversation today with Clay. 

Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:06

Yes, I’m super excited to talk today with Clay Mauritson. Clay is a sixth generation grape grower and the founder of Mauritson Wines. Welcome to the show. Clay.

Clay Mauritson 1:15

It’s great to be here. Thank you all for having me.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:17

Well, thanks so much for joining us. We’re right in the middle of harvest. So this is a real treat taking your time.

Clay Mauritson 1:23

Yeah, trust me, it’s a nice to have an excuse to get out of the cellar for a little bit.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:27

Oh, yeah. So let’s see six generations in the Dry Creek Valley. That’s amazing.

Clay Mauritson 1:33

It is, you know, it’s something that I think is really difficult to truly appreciate until you gain some perspective on it and are removed from it. Growing up I certainly had no appreciation for what that meant. A very little appreciation for what my family did to put food on our table. But now as an later in my life, let’s just say that it is so special to have that history here and a lot of assets that help our winery succeed you know, great access to fruit and

Drew Thomas Hendricks 2:05

oh, yeah, so your family how many? See before you started the winery, your produce grapes and sold them to other wineries? Yeah,

Clay Mauritson 2:13

always had just been grape growers sold our fruit to other wineries, my siblings and I like to refer to our childhood more like indentured servitude than a normal childhood. My parents believed in the adage that the more kids you have the cheaper the labor force. So

Drew Thomas Hendricks 2:29

yeah, I’m the oldest of 10. So I knew you get it, you know

Clay Mauritson 2:33

very well. Yes. So yeah, I spent the better part of my childhood picking grapes in Poland leaves and tie and vines and learned at an early age and I did not want to do the rest of my life. So that definitely made me the black sheep of

Drew Thomas Hendricks 2:45

the family. See you soon escaped to Oregon.

Clay Mauritson 2:49

I did. You know I went to Oregon. A combination of the opportunity for education but I went there to play football. Yeah. studied Marketing. minored in finance, I mean absolutely nothing to do with wine when I left Sonoma County. I thought that I never wanted to see another grapevine but as the well used adage goes sometimes in life you just don’t know what you have till it’s gone.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 3:11

You know, that is so true. So you’re you’re bound determined not to return what what drew you back.

Clay Mauritson 3:17

You know, without going down too much of a rabbit hole. I got hurt playing football. And literally, I came home with my shoulder and a sling post major surgery and hadn’t been home in four years because you know, division one athlete you stay and you train year round. There’s no such thing as summer break or spring break and sitting on the couch. I think it must have been a Saturday morning. I think I drove home on Friday. sit on the couch hadn’t seen my dad in six months and he walks in and the first words out of his mouth were not welcome home. So it’s great to see it. The first words out of his mouth where I sure as hell hope you don’t plan on sitting on my couch all summer long. Nice to see you too, dad, great to be home. So he made it very. He made it very clear in no uncertain terms. If I was going to live under his roof, I was going to have a job that summer. And God’s honest truth. I thought to myself, What is the most spiteful thing I can do, but still have a roof over my head. And what’s silly are kind of crazy is that the most vital thing I could have done was to go to work at a winery because up until you know I started the winery 25 years ago we had always sold our for each other wineries. And it was, you know, and not so much today. But back then it was a fairly contentious relationship. So I had listened to my grandfather and my dad growing up talking about now the wineries were the evil empire you know, they’re beating you up over pricing or canceling grape contracts. And so what did I do? I went to work at a winery just to piss my dad off and it opened my eyes to the side of the industry that I didn’t know existed in again. I know that sounds crazy and especially when you consider when you walked into my parents house growing up. They had a plaque on the wall that said at dinner without wine is like it Hey, without sunshine. And trust me, we lived and breathed that. But I had never connected the dots to what we did in the fields what we did as a slave labor as kids. And what we enjoyed on the dinner table, there was this huge void in between. And all of a sudden, I’m working at this winery, and I’m like, Oh, my God, this is amazing. There’s art, there’s science, there’s creativity. And there was a connection to my family without being you know, out the vineyards and without being directly tied to it, if that makes sense. Yeah, it definitely

Drew Thomas Hendricks 5:32

sounds. Just like you said, connecting the dots to see the product of all the efforts in the field. Actually see that your parents, your dad, and your grandfather never really got to see that part. They only saw them hammering them down on price. Are you working at one of the wineries that your family sold grapes to?

Clay Mauritson 5:52

I was so it’s pretty funny. I did the internship at a winery that my dad was selling grapes to and then that was what sparked my interest. It was like, wow, I really enjoy this. And back to that notion of perspective. Being away from California for you know, four and a half years, gave me an appreciation of what an incredible place this is to be born and raised. And there’s also nothing like being in the rainy Northwest and makes you appreciate sunny California. But at the same time, you know, I knew I didn’t want to go to work in the vineyards. I knew I couldn’t work day in and day out with my dad. And so being at this winery, you know, and let me back up my degrees were in marketing and finance. Let’s not forget that. So I thought well, maybe the sales side of the industry maybe the marketing side of the industry is more geared for my my skills. So as a 21 year old college graduate, I applied for all these Director of Sales and Marketing vice president of marketing jobs, and got laughed out of every interview that I went to finally like why is that that the only reason I was ever given interviews was because my family was selling and grapes. And so I kind of thought to myself Well, maybe being a little bit overconfident still if I can just get my foot in the door to winery that I’ll work my way up into that dream sales and marketing job. So I ended up taking an entry level position and I mean entry level I’m talking dragon hoses around the cellar for $11 An hour job at a winery that back to your question the aka that yes, my family sold a lot of fruit too. So you know that first harvest I was getting to see you know, firsthand, you know, not only you know winemaking but also my family’s fruit being processed what blends it was going into, and I would come home and be like dad, you know, the trip Cabernet makes up like 30% of the reserve, Kaplan. He’s like, Are you kidding me? They just cut my contract by 10%. It was kind of like being in the belly of the beast, or I should say behind enemy lines.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 7:49

That’s That’s great. That’s That’s funny. So you’ve started being a seller out and Holland hoses. Talk us through the progression like there’s there’s a few steps that needed to take place between now then and downing your own winery?

Clay Mauritson 8:03

You know, I think I’ve always had a fairly entrepreneurial mind. And it didn’t take very long for me working at that winery to start to look around and go What the hell are we doing? And meet weed meaning my family, I was seeing firsthand where all of these grapes that were selling this wine were going into and making the reserve cots and known in the reserve blends. And so I started, you know, kind of thinking about the idea, why aren’t we making our own wines and so, like literally, you know, months out of college, I like asked my parents and kind of like, you know, planted the seed and timber like hell no, are definitely the black sheep of the family. Maybe it was a head injury that ended your plane or not a shoulder injury. During that time, UC Davis used to have what they call their certificate course. And enology, so it wasn’t an accredited course. But it basically is. So this is I’m dating myself now. If you sign up for the course, they would send you the biggest box of VHS tapes that you’ve ever seen no CDs, no flash drive, no online VHS tapes. And so I was doing their, you know, certificate course. And learning, you know, an incredible amount about technology. And the great thing about that course is it allowed you to basically, you know, it was the kind of the precursor to online schooling because you could stay working in your job, it was meant for professionals that were already in the industry. And so, you know, I just kept kind of, you know, planting that seed and watering it and fertilizing it with my parents. And next thing you know, you know, some consolidation happened in industry and we prefer to say commoditization, or corporatization a couple of the wineries that my family was selling fruit to got purchased by large corporations and sad but true one of the first things that happens when large corporations buy brands is they canceled break contracts for a variety of reasons, you know, and again, it businesses business and if you are, you know, constellation or another publicly traded company, and you buy a brand, you know, you don’t want you want just in time inventory, you don’t want, you know, the burden of all these great contracts, you’d rather buy bulk juice. If you’re Kendall Jackson or Dallow, you know, the two largest vineyard owners in the state of California, if you buy a brand, you don’t need, you know, the contracts, you have your own fruit, you know, you’re trying to leverage that brand. And so, again, it made business sense. But when you’re a family that has just grown grapes, and sold them to other wineries, for five generations, and all of a sudden, you know, that business model is changing because of corporations entering the business, you start to think about, you know, changing your business model. And so, all of a sudden, my crazy idea of us starting to make our own lines didn’t seem carts quite so crazy. And I mean, literally, this did not dawn on me until Friday, when we are crushing grapes, and trying to, you know, be a modern marker, which I’m terrible at. I was gonna throw a Facebook post up. And that’s how old I am. I still say Facebook, not even Instagram or Twitter. And so I was gonna put a Facebook post up, and I’m like, counting on my fingers on the CrashPad. What is this? I’m like, holy shit. This is our 25th harvest. Well, for our brand. So yeah, we just celebrated our 25th harvest, when we crushed grapes on Friday was just crazy.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 11:20

Wow. 25 years. So over the course of 25 years, we’re just gonna jump to the question. Would you have done anything differently over the last 25 years? Oh, god, yes.

Clay Mauritson 11:30

I mean, anyone who says they wouldn’t be lying? Yeah. I think that everything in life happens for a reason and all of the, quote unquote, mistakes that, you know, I’ve made have been great learning opportunities. And that’s the only reason I know that I would do things differently, right, is that, you know, you learn from those things. But there’s a lot of things I would do differently, I probably would build a different facility. And God if I knew what would what was going to transpire in the last 25 years in terms of how wines were taken to market and, you know, DTC opportunities, we would have done something totally different, you know, we would have had 70% of our facility dedicated to hospitality and 30%, and winemaking. And that’s really

Drew Thomas Hendricks 12:12

evolved over the last 25 years, the hospitality aspects really, really evolved

Clay Mauritson 12:17

a tremendous, I mean, when we opened the tasting room, you know, and the tasting room only opened in 2004. Even then, you know, not every winery had a wine club, or some type of mailing list, there was still, you know, one charge for tastings that was like unheard of not even in Napa people didn’t charge for tastings. And there weren’t these just true hospitality centers. And so again, there’s a lot of things that I would have done differently. And some of the things that we did that maybe didn’t make sense, we have amended and changed, so you just evolve and grow with your business and grow with your customers.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 12:54

Yeah, when you started was your primary distribution, DDC, or was it through the three tier system?

Clay Mauritson 13:01

You know, when we started in 1998, we released our first one we may just infidel. And those first couple years, though, the first Timpano was released in 2000. And we were basically, we had built a mailing list of friends and family like every interview does, you know, I rely heavily on aunts and uncles, and cousins, and, you know, high school friends to buy those first cases of wine. But other than that, I mean, it was all three tier and a lot of it was because of, you know, my understanding of the three tier system, working at those other wineries and having the opportunity to do some marketing. So we really built our brand, from a marketing perspective, very differently, almost the exact opposite of what you would today. And so to pay. Our sales are probably 70% DTC, and 30% wholesale, but we have a really strong distribution network. I mean, we’re distributed in 30 states. And a lot of those states get very small allocations, but it never ceases to amaze me how many people come through our front door into our tasting room because they had our wine, you know, at a Ruth’s Chris in Kansas, Missouri, you know, I mean, it just blows your mind.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 14:13

Yeah, I love that is one of the things that we’re everybody talks DDC, everybody talks about Celebi, the three tier in the wholesale definitely helps get the word out. It gets you it gets people gets you noticed.

Clay Mauritson 14:26

Without a doubt it and we look at three tier and again, this was part of the business model from day one. And you know, without sounding like I’m not recognizing NATO pound gorilla in the room. We didn’t have a tasting room until 2004. So for those first five and a half years, it was really our only option to sell wine and we built a mailing list as we went but I didn’t come from another winery. I didn’t have a mailing list that I you know, pilfered off someone else’s.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 14:50

Yes. In 2000 reminds me I was working in a wine store in San Francisco back then. And the mailing list was it was almost a fax list like that. come out with the with the phone numbers and fax in your, your stuff to the, to the different wines wineries to get on the allocations, and then they send you back whether already

Clay Mauritson 15:10

much. So we built it, we built it, three tier and, and part of that philosophy was without a doubt, looking at our long term goals. And, you know, one of the things that has made, you know, running this business, I think, easier than some other wineries maybe an easier time than they have is that we’re willing to leave short term profitability on the table, if it’s the right long term decision. And so that takes a lot of pressure off me. And don’t get me wrong. I mean, we were typical farmers were land rich and cash poor, my parents didn’t have a penny to put into this. So this was all done with borrowed money, we put up our prop, my parents put up some property as collateral to secure a loan. And it was either sink or swim. But my point being is that, you know, we can make decisions, like, go into distribution first, and really make a commitment to that. Because I do believe that that is a longer term focus, that we’re constantly cultivating new customers through that we’re building a network that is going to benefit future generations. And yes, the industry is going to evolve and it’s going to change. But we always need to be cultivating new customers, we always need to, you know, build this brand. And I think it’s not saying it’s short sighted to be 100% DTC, I just think that there’s opportunities, you know, to get brand exposure, you know, through the three tier system. So, what are you doing these days, ratio wise DTC to three tier these days, we’re about 73. And again, I say these days with a big Asterix next to it, because we lost so much of our red wines and 2022 Smoke taint, that if you were to look at our sales so far this year, I mean, it’s probably like 9010 90%, etc, because we just made so little wine so of course, struggling not struggling, but making good business decisions to make sure that we can live to fight another day. We pulled most of our wines out of distribution, just to recoup a little bit of profitability from DTC. But with the full intention when we return to our normal production, we will absolutely, you know, resupply our distributors with wine.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 17:26

That’s good. Talks about talking about the brands like what’s the difference between Mauritson and Rockpile? Totally. So,

Clay Mauritson 17:33

I know as a marketing, you know, major, a lot of people are like, Why would you have three different brands? Yeah, because, on some regards, that doesn’t make sense. But for me, we really wanted to, you know, it all started with rock pile. Interestingly enough, we wanted to put rock pile on a pedestal so I started the brand in 1998. There was no rock pile a BA in 1990. And we were planting our first vineyards up there and while we had high hopes for the quality, we didn’t really quite understand just how good Rockpile was going to be and how commercially viable it was going to be because of the challenges up there. turns to find out there comes to find out that you know, the challenge is up there make it one of the best places in the world to grow grapes and, you know, some of the the wines made from Rockpile grapes are in the conversation for some of the best in the world. But go back to 1998. We didn’t know that. So we started with the Morton brand because that was our family name. The focus was always going to be on Appalachian wines. So rye Creek Zinfandel, dry creek Sauvignon Blanc, and we started out with dollars in a valley Cabernet and then kind of expanded that to Sonoma County Cabernet just because we wanted some diversity of Cabernet source and but the point is is appellation focused wines. When Rockpile started to when the potential of Rockpile really started to, you know, come up and we’re fermenting these wines and just going like oh my god, this is amazing and looking at the marketing, you know, perspective that we are the largest vineyard owners in the Rockpile appellation. It is our sixth generation family estate. We really wanted to put those wines on a pedestal. And so the natural evolution for that was to make a commitment to make single vineyard wines from Rockpile. So you go from an AAA focus to a single vineyard focus. And then with our, you know, loam wines, those are the continue of that elevation. Those are our single soil wines. And we’re just narrowing the expression of place from the best vineyards in Appalachian to the, you know, single vineyard that has the unbelievable balance to stand on its own to isolating singular stratas of soil within those exceptional vineyards. And with the loam series, you know, we hold all the variables constant, so they’re all 100% Cabernet, and then the same broodstock same clonal selection, same fermentation practices, exact same barrel regime. So we’re really, in a sense removing winemaking from the equation and saying this is is bar none the absolute best soil to grow Cabernet in Sonoma County? And we feel so strongly about it that we can isolate that and put it on the top of that pedestal. So hope that makes a little bit more sense.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 20:11

Well, it makes a lot of sense. That’s a great explanation. Now, when did Brock Powell get its Appalachian status

Clay Mauritson 20:18

And my dad, along with the Florence family and the park family, were the three families that signed the petition. And you know, everyone, you know, Rod Park was an amazing historian. He was a former chancellor at UC Berkeley. So he did a lot of historical work and he had bought a historic ranch up there. And same thing with a Florence family. They had purchased some property up there. We were the only family that had been up there since the word go. But you know, we’d like to say to Florence is did most of the groundwork for the application. Rod Park did most of historical work for the application. And my family is the largest vineyard owners in the Appalachians. So I know we were kind of instrumental in helping to create the guidelines of what the elevation requirements would be, what the geometric geographic boundary was going to be. And yeah, it was the fastest ABA ever approved by the BHF or now TTB because it had such distinct and easily understandable guidelines of what made it unique. Wow. That’s fascinating.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 21:26

That is, that is for sure. So the Rockpile is only available to club members not available online. So yeah, that’s 100% D2C.

Clay Mauritson 21:35

We, out of all those Rockpile lines generally we make on a normal quote unquote, normal year we’ll make 13 single venue Rockpile lines, we try to make sure that two or three of them are available to some wholesale and those are like, you know, restaurants that have been long standing customers of ours, but it’s in really limited quantities. All of the other ones that we make from Rockpile are 100% DTC and as you see, I’m sure you’re perusing the website right now. Yeah, we’re actually sold out of everything we make. And that’s a good problem to have, especially in Rockpile. There’s just such a demand for the the wines from up there that they just

Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:14

go pretty quickly. Yeah, no idea that it was around for so long. So you made a conscious decision way early on to segment all your brands?

Clay Mauritson 22:23

We did. That was a very unique approach. I’m just texting someone upstairs because we had some customers just pull in. And I don’t want to have an interrupt.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:34

Oh, absolutely. Take

Clay Mauritson 22:37

the fun of being a small business. Yeah, from the word go. We segmented our brands. So when we introduced rock pile, our first vintage rock piles from a 2001 vintage and it wasn’t even a VA. So like I said, we started to see the potential really early on and just went Oh, my God, I mean, these grapes were fabulous. And again, the question was is, is it going to be a viable business? Like in meeting, the planting expenses were so high up there? We didn’t know what our yields were going to be we expected them to be very low, would we be able to either sell the grapes for a high enough dollar amount to make financial sense? Or can we sell the resulting wines for a high enough dollar amount for it to make financial sense? And the question the answer to those questions is both Yes. And yes. And I say almost unfortunately for me, because the more success we have with Rockpile lines, the more my brothers raise the price of the grapes

Drew Thomas Hendricks 23:33

will symbiotic relationship there. That’s funny. Spending no see, with all the success they’ve garnered over the last 25 years, you’re really now in a unique position to actually give back to the community and you’re doing some pretty fantastic charity work.

Clay Mauritson 23:47

We are I our charity work is such an important part of who we are and what we do. And you know, again, we’re with very selfish reasons. My oldest son was born with Down syndrome. And when he was born, there just weren’t a lot of services available to individuals or families, you know, on the north coast. And, you know, it was a challenging time for us. And, you know, through the grace of God, we had these amazing families that, you know, wrapped us in their arms and helped us get through that. And, you know, we started to realize what an incredible blessing my son was, and everyone liked him and just wanted to give back to the community. And you know, I think in business, you know, one of the best things you can do is stick with what you know, and I feel that risk of sounding arrogant, we know Zinfandel pretty damn well. And so we started an event called projects in with a thought being to gather some of the best Symphony oil producers in the world. And they say best you know, we know best is a subjective term, but, you know, I think we all have that list somewhere in our mind of who the really good people are out there. And that list is defined a lot by Mi with balance and longevity. And we tend to think of any of the framework that you judge any other great wine of the world. We want to apply that lens to Zinfandel, it’s got to be right up direct, got to be balanced, got to have structure, got to have some longevity. So I started picking up the phone calling these people and just said, Hey, we’re trying to come up with this idea for a charity event. Would you support us if we did something and it is one of the most humbling and gratifying experiences in my life that this community the way they support one another is unbelievable. And that first year, we had 13 wineries, and every single winery I asked, said yes. And the next year, we took it to 21. And we’ve held it at 21 wineries. And the reason being is that Down syndrome, the medical definition is Trisomy 21. So 21 is a very prominent number in the Down Syndrome Community. So we all we hold it to only 21 wineries per year. And we have a waiting list of about 40 wineries long that want to participate in the event. And I think that’s the ultimate sign of success and those 13 wineries that said yes, that first year, they’re kind of locked in place. We keep them you know as like the Oh gee 13 founders circle, rotate other wineries in and out just to kind of keep new, exciting, fresh blood. And it’s been amazing. We actually just had our event this past weekend. I was joking when I was on stage that we had more Michelin stars in the room than a frickin constellation. You know, all these unbelievable chefs from Charlie Palmer and single thread Dustin bellette are at Campo fina, the Stark family. I mean, just these unbelievable restaurants, the Avila spinster sisters, I mean, it just goes on and on and on. And it’s what makes this event so special as you have like I said, 21 of the best infidels in the world. Peled, paired with some of the best food in the world, and all these incredible auction items, you know, whether it be wine country stays exotic stays around the world, or, you know, the Van Winkle family or been great friends of ours. And, I mean, we had more pappy Van Winkle, the auction off this weekend, in most states, it is an allocation. So it was pretty cool. That’s awesome.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 27:15

And then all the proceeds. So where’s where? Where was the event held?

Clay Mauritson 27:21

The event was held at Rico lower vineyards, which if you haven’t been out there, I mean, what a stunning, stunning facility.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 27:27

I haven’t been there. He was on my I talked to him on the podcast about a year ago, though. Yeah, really, kind of fantastic experiential tastings and stuff.

Clay Mauritson 27:38

What they’re doing with food and wine pairings is just phenomenal. I mean, when you have Charlie Palmer is your consulting chef for your food and wine pairings at a winery and you’re doing something unique and something right. But their facility is just stunning. And, you know, in 2020, like so many charity events around the country, we had to cancel the event because of COVID. And then in 2021, we were able to hold it, but we couldn’t hold it at our traditional location, which was hotel Hillsboro, because all of the events needed to be outdoor at that time. And so we moved it to break a lot because they have to This Just amazing outdoor space. And I mean, it was the best event we ever had. And so this year, we obviously wanted to go back. And we absolutely shattered the records that we set last year. And you know, so much of success is the mood of the room, right. And when you have a beautiful facility, and you’re out in Russia River and the temperature is perfect on a relatively hot day, and you have great food and wine, people just open up their wallets and open up their hearts. And that’s what happened this weekend. And how many people attend this event, usually, that we have sold out every single year, which is amazing. We have 250 Tickets available. And so that’s divided up amongst the people that buy the packages. And the packages are usually for out of town guests or people that are coming from a long ways away. So the package includes, you know, your hotel stay includes a special lunch here at the winery a meet and greet with my son Brady, and we open up some library wines. And so it’s a two day affair for the package holders. Other people can buy ala carte tickets, and this year we introduced the VIP ticket, which got you in our early got you preferred seating for the auction. And that was a huge success. So we sell out I mean, this was our fastest sell out ever. I think we sold out about three weeks after the tickets went on sale, which was about six weeks before the event actually took place. I mean, even my mom was calling me last minute. I forgot to get a ticket. What do I really feel like a celebrity when he’s out there? He is an absolute Rockstar. I mean, I am a nervous wreck when I have to go on stage and you know, make the introductions and give my dog and pony show spiel. And he’s just chomping at the bit. I mean, I don’t know where he gets it from but it is just it’s absolutely unbelievable. The confidence that that kid has and how well spoken he is. I mean, he just really knows how to connect with the crowd. I mean, it was it was incredible. He was he was great. And yes, he feels like a rock star. We he was honored earlier this year as at an event back in Utah for the National Ability Center. He was there honored athlete for the year. And he went on stage, and they started playing a Katy Perry song, I forget the name of the song, but that’s the one that you know, I am a champion, you’re gonna hear me roar. Maybe it’s called Barbara. When, when Brady was learning to ski through the National Ability Center, which is just such a blessing. One of the first times I was skiing with him when it was just he and I. So no hula hoop. He’s not tied into any device. And he’s just flying down the hill. And I’m freaking out as a dad trying to catch up to him like, Oh my God, he’s out of control. And I come up behind him. And I hear him talking or first my thought was like, Oh my God, he’s screaming, he needs help. But as I get closer to it, I’m pulling, I’m trying to catch up. He’s singing, and he’s singing. I’m a champion. You’re gonna hear me roar. But he changed the words to Brady as a champion, you’re gonna hear me roar. So at this event back in Utah, they knew that story. So Brady goes up on stage, and they start playing the carry Katy Perry song, just kind of as ambient walk up music. Will Brady’s got a mic on? Like, you know, one of those headphone mics on, he gets up on stage and start singing and dance. And that goes nuts. I mean, the most spontaneous thing that no one had ever planned. That was just amazing. And let’s just say that they broke a record that night with their paddle race. Oh, my gosh, it was pretty cool.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 31:53

That’s, that’s, that’s great. So oh, sorry, choking on something here. So Clay, I mean, going, charity, everything. How do you stay motivated? Aside from all the charity work and all the other work that you’re doing with the vineyards in the winery over the last 25 years? You know,

Clay Mauritson 32:17

that’s a great question. And it’s something that I think we to an extent, we talk about a lot. I always say that no marketing 101 is that every product has a what. And every product has a how, what differentiates products is the why. And we spend I’m a marketing guy, that at least that was 30 years ago in college. You know, we spent a lot of time, you know, kind of refining and tweaking and working on our mission statement, our vision statement. And we’ve refined it down to one word, one singular word that encapsulates our quest. And that word is iconic. That is our goal. Plain and simple is to create an iconic brand. And the brand means that our family name means something that a bottle of wine means something that everything that we touch, mean something. And the beauty of that word is that there is no complacency involved in that, because it to be iconic, you have to have legacy, you have to have staying power, you have to have continuity. And so he keeps us motivated. And you know, we really just kind of keep coming back to that. And it doesn’t matter whether if it’s a blending decision where God we would sure love to, you know, make that extra 25 cases by squeezing this barrel into the blend. But if it’s not going to make an iconic line, if the decision isn’t going to help our brand live for generations to come. You know, if you look through that lens, it makes it pretty easy to make some really difficult decisions.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 33:59

That’s, that’s really great advice. Like I’m building it. What so building an iconic brand, I love the fact that you really gotta have your why so many people just they do it. They don’t really know why they’re doing it. They kind of feel like it’s, it’s good that you’ve pinpointed it. And I think most wineries need to find that why? What advice would you give a winery trying to search for that? Wow.

Clay Mauritson 34:26

You know, our all of our wines are going to be different. And I don’t think that wise least, they don’t have substance and they don’t have staying power when the Y becomes a financial equation. You know, we’ve never ever set financial goals, goals for ourselves. You know, we want our growth, whether in case volume or dollar volume to be organic, because there’s demand for it. So, you know, I think it’s just understanding you know, why you get up in the morning. You know what, what drives you and sometimes our Y can be our children It may not be that you’re doing something that you, you know, it’s it may not be your dream job, but you do it because of your family, you do it because you know, you want to support them, you want a better life. And I think it’s just being honest with yourself, and really peeling back those layers to understand why it is that we wake up every day to do what we do. And I wish I had a more succinct answer for that. I wish I could create a roadmap for people to get to that answer. But I think many I mean, there’s there is no one way and there is no right answer. And Wine is a funny thing. You know, I think there’s a lot of romanticism surrounding it. And thankfully, people do take wine really, really personally, they connect with bottles for various different reasons. And that’s what gives small wineries like us, you know, a fighting chance, because let’s face it, if it was formulaic, then it would be Coke versus Pepsi. And whoever happens to have the cool ad slogan of that season is going to win, you know, and the Nielsen ratings. So you know, find out what it is that makes you tick, and impart that into your brand store into your bottle into every decision that you make. And that’s what makes your story. I think, connectability, it gives you a connectability to your story.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 36:24

It’s very good. Yeah, as if you found your wine, you’re definitely building an iconic wine brand. But we’re in the last four years, there’s been the rise of all the the sensors and the Kombucha is and all the all the other types of beverages. Are you guys face to confront that are ignoring that or what? Where do you see how it how has that affected your business over the last four or five years?

Clay Mauritson 36:49

Yeah, that’s where there’s a lot smarter people in the world than me that can analyze all that data and tell me, you know, how much market share how much you know, potential sales, I’ve lost to, you know, a seltzer brand or kombucha. And so it’s not that I don’t know that it’s there. But I don’t let that factor into my decisions. I mean, one of my favorite prayers in the world is called the Serenity Prayer that says, God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference. So there’s nothing that I can do about the proliferation of, you know, hard seltzers and calm Bucha, I can’t make them stop making, I can’t make them make a bad product. But we can only control what we do between these four walls. And so that’s what we focus on. And I’m a big believer that no one starts out drinking Grand Cru burgundy or first growth Bordeaux, we all need that gateway drug into drinking wine. And so, you know, sometimes it’s a little bit loose and connecting the dots, I’m not saying that someone that’s out there drinking white claw is going to evolve into, you know, drinking, you know, Russian River opinion or, but I think, you know, if it’s a gateway drug that, you know, kind of maybe tests their appetite or test their, you know, aptitude for wine, that’s a good thing, if it makes them curious, stay curious about wine. You know, I think that there’s that everything has its place. And again, if you follow the data, which you know, I do try and you know, stay aware of what’s happening seltzers and hard ciders and all that kind of stuff are falling off, you know, they had this meteoric rise and, you know, kind of like mirlo and serraj if they’re finding their balance, and so you’re a little competition never hurt anybody to Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I am a competitive sob. I know.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 38:46

And when we’re you sit on the, like the wine when levels, you’re firmly at the top of the top of the industry there. I think that conversations like the Constellation Brands have to figure out how they’re gonna get their 9 million cases to compete with white claw. And trust me, I’m

Clay Mauritson 39:02

thankful for the constellations and everyone out there because like I said, you know, most people are not going to their first glass of wine or their epiphany moment is probably not going to be a rock piles him no, they need to start on something else. And whether that’s Kendall Jackson, Chardonnay, or 25 years ago was sent her home like Zinfandel. I mean, those those brands, those SK use have been so critical in a growing wine consumption in the United States. And they absolutely, not only do they have a place but they’re they are somewhat iconic, you know, and we all can find our niche, you know, in this in this industry, and, you know, don’t get me wrong. I’m not sitting here trying to talk about how easy it is because I challenge people all the time to name another industry that’s more competitive than wine. I mean, I have yet to find someone that can even read remotely, you know, justify, or, you know, come up with an argument that something else is more competitive. And, you know, just simple math, right? There’s 10,000 Wine brands in the United States. And there are 22,000 brands imported into the United States. So think about another consumer product that has 32,000 brands, that is essentially considered a luxury item that no one truly needs in their life.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 40:29

That is a that that gets me thinking, Man, I thought about it, I always need the competition, but you’re looking at your competing one of 42,000 It would be books.

Clay Mauritson 40:41

Yeah, it’s crazy. And yet, people enter the wine business every day, because it is a an amazing lifestyle. And we joke that, you know, it’s very different between trying to make money in the wine business, and making money in some other business and getting into the wine business. You know, and I think a lot of the people that enter the wine business are the latter category that were extremely successful doing something else, and now have, you know, a little bit more flexibility in their life. And so they can do chase this dream. And you could that can frustrate some people, but I choose to look at the glass half full perspective and say, Gosh, people that have been wildly successful and have more money than they know what to do with. They’re choosing to do what I get to do, as my passion is my livelihood is my multigenerational business.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 41:33

That’s, that’s, that’s an amazing, amazing gift to have there to be able to do that. To someone that’s getting into the wine industry, given the strict comfort, all the all the competition, all the barriers to entry, save the fact someone that maybe didn’t exit an IPO. What advice do you have to someone that just, it’s in their heart, and they want to get into it,

Clay Mauritson 41:55

I think that you hit the nail on the head is that you have to have a passion for it. Know your why understand your why. And, you know, do something that you truly love. And again, there’s a lot of really smart marketing people in the business and are looking for the next niche, right, they’re looking for, where is their opportunity? Is it going to be Gruner Veltliner is it going to be whatever esoteric bridle and if that’s where your passion lies, then awesome, but if your passion is in pain in a war, no matter how convoluted we may think that that market space is, you know, make Pino you know, go work at a Pinot Noir winery work in the cellar at a great Pinot Noir producer, because that’s what’s going to make you happy. You know, and, you know, there’s if we’re trying to, there’s a lot of different avenues to that question. But, you know, we have a lot of interns that come through here. And, you know, we tell them all the time, like, you know, be very selective about where you work, you know, because I look at that on a resume. And we like to think that, you know, when someone puts more than on their resume that they were just just a harvest intern, that when they leave here, you know, they learned a lot about making great wine, they learned about attention to detail, they learned about, you know, hard work, they learned about, you know, life values that are applied to every aspect of our life, not necessarily just making rock piles and

Drew Thomas Hendricks 43:21

that’s very wise. That’s very good. Well, Clay as we’re as we’re wrapping down here, where can people find out more about you and Mauritson Winery?

Clay Mauritson 43:29

Our website is Yeah. And check us out. My email’s So email me there’s nothing more I love than getting questions from customers. And, you know, my my business card as my personal cell phone on and my email on it. We are a small family business. My wife best title in the industry because her business card simply says the woman because basically anything that Hi don’t do she kind of picked up the slack and Emma, our winemaker at the winery is just a spectacular winemaker. And Emma loves to engage with customers that have a crazy question about, you know, the 2016 harvest and the longevity of this specific Zinfandel. So we love that engagement.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:25

That’s fantastic. Clay, thank you so much for joining us today.

Clay Mauritson 44:30

It is my pleasure, Drew and Bianca, thank you for having me. And I can’t wait to see you guys.

Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:37

Yes, I’m making a trip up soon. Thanks. Awesome.

Clay Mauritson 44:40

All right. Thank you all.

Outro 44:49

Thanks for listening to the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. We’ll see you again next time and be sure to click Subscribe to get future episodes.