Last Updated on November 10, 2022 by
Chris Brundrett is the Co-founder of William Chris Vineyards, leading the team with his good friend, Bill Blackmon. Chris acquired experience in the winery and the vineyard while earning a bachelor’s degree in horticulture from Texas A&M University. Aside from managing his winery, Chris is the Co-founder of Texas Winegrowers, a former board member of Texas Hill Country Wineries Association, and a Yes We Can Wine Co-partner.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Chris Brundrett shares his beginnings in the winemaking industry
- The experience William Chris Vineyards gives to its customers
- Chris gives a walkthrough of their virtual tastings
- Why is intent essential when building a winery business?
- Chris gives advice to people who still haven’t found their intent in the industry
- What separates a good idea from a good intention?
- Chris talks about the importance of transparency when leading a team
- What made Chris decide to expand their vineyard?
- How segmentation is done across Chris’ several brands
In this episode with Chris Brundrett
Finding out what a win is like for your business will pave the way to discovering your intent.
Your intention guides you toward your goal, no matter what it is. For some, it can come in the form of high profit, while for others, it is to give raises and benefits to their employees. People confuse a good idea with an intention. Good ideas are easy to come up with, but without a plan to put them into action, they are meaningless, and it’s not an intention.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks hosts Chris Brundrett, the Co-founder of William Chris Vineyards, to share his experience from serving tables to running his winery. Chris also talks about their vision of sharing with people what the amazing areas of Texas taste like and having a welcoming environment for working people.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Barrels Ahead
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Jenifer Freebairn on Legends Behind the Craft podcast
- Chris Brundrett on LinkedIn
- William Chris Vineyards
- William Chris Vineyards on Instagram
- Chris Brundrett on Instagram
- Lost Draw Cellars
- Lost Draw Cellars on Instagram
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.
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.
So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!
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 0:20
Drew Thomas Hendricks here I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one at a time marketing strategy. One that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we’ll wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue, go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more.
Today, I’m super excited to talk with Chris Brundrett of William Chris Wine company. Chris is a graduate of the Texas A&M Horticultural School. And in 2008, he founded William Chris Vineyards in high Texas with Bill Blackmon. Today, they farm 90 acres for William Chris wine company, which produces about 60,000 cases for its five brands, and supports more than 130 families. Welcome to the show, Chris.
Chris Brundrett 1:13
Thanks so much for having me, Drew.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 1:14
Thanks so much for being on. So Chris graduated from Texas a&m Back in the day. How’d you get your foothold in the industry?
Chris Brundrett 1:22
Oh, gosh. Well, I think it’s important to start with, you know, it’s like a lost soul at Texas A&M. And I had no idea what I wanted to do. And I was, frankly, like, a little stoned and entomology class one day, and I was like, This sounds great. And, you know, decided, like, oh, entomology is the way to go. And so the study of arthropods and bugs and really loved it. But I quickly after a year and a half, I was like, this is not, for me, this is not what I want to do with the rest of my life. And I was I was waiting tables through college, to put myself through school and one of my tables, like all tables that are waiting on every week, they said, Man, do you ever go to the wineries in the hill country? And I was like, what, what’s No, what’s the hill country, you know, and I’d been driving through Fredericksburg, I grew up, you know, to two hours away two hours west, in cotton country, and sheep country. And, you know, I knew what Fredericksburg was, and the Hill Country, kind of, but I didn’t know there was wine there. And I visited a couple of wineries. And it was about the third it was three out of all five, right? There was only about five wineries in the whole country, probably like 20, and all in Texas. And if you could call wineries at that point, I don’t know. But there was a guy had just opened up and he took us in the back and we tasted out of tanks, and it tasted awesome barrels, and he showed us how, you know, the real like, just, you know, five minute tour of the wine industry. And this light bulb popped in my head and was like, You should quit partying so much and do something with your life. And it was like, it was like a lightning bolt that struck me and I’m so grateful for that moment. And I tried to do even my business today, I really try to think about that a lot. Because, you know, potentially we could be the next spark for somebody to really have that jolt that moment. And, you know, you get to see folks in their 30s 40s 50s 60s 70s that have never had that moment that, you know, finally get that moment late in life and say, Hey, I really want to, I really want to do this. And I’m really grateful for that, that that shock, if you will,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 3:30
what was it about it? What was that aha moment that really struck you?
Chris Brundrett 3:35
So I thought a lot about farming. I don’t come from a farming background. My parents are farmers, my dad’s a he was a Delta Force helicopter pilot and a US Customs pilot after that my mom’s a nurse practitioner. And I had always done a lot of gardening and tractor work and ranch work growing up in, worked for a bunch of ranches and worked for some big gardens and picked watermelons. And I was just I was really fascinated with that team aspect of farming and like taking something and feeding somebody with it, which I think is why I loved the restaurant business so much and not that it’s a bad thing. I thought very seriously about doing doing culinary as a living and maybe going to culinary school, you know, but I saw like or the family that I worked for, you know, random several restaurants and throws a floating wager, you know, going and waiting tables and managing people and all that good stuff and and you know, at the end of the day, I’m still like serving people’s food and not that that’s a bad thing. It’s just I wanted something a little different and and I do the same version that I still serve wine to all the time and get to share that experience. But for me, I think it was just finding that right thing that really sparked my interest, that kind of wonderful blend of science and art and history all in all wrapped up in the one and that you know, I think that what The coolest things about wine is they’re like baseball cards for adults, and you can drink them. And I think that’s the coolest shit on the planet. You know, there’s there’s different seasons different vintages, right? And then you can, you know, like, there’s one arguably like what the best restaurant in the world is maybe in Mexico City, right, but he can’t take all that shit and bag and like ship it to you and have that experience. But you can do that in wine, which I think is like one of the coolest things ever. And then you get a very presentable package that is really represents and expresses the year that it was grown, and the people that grew it, and the people that were on that team that year. And I just think that’s so fantastic. And for the most part, we get to make people’s lives better with wine. You know, and I think that, that is such, I’m so grateful for those times. I mean, I don’t, personally, you know, I appreciate all the the press and the accolades and all that other crap that comes with it. But I shouldn’t say crap, it is great. And I love it. But you know, the stories that I get from our fans that are like, you know, your wine is something that we love to open up with our family, and it brings our family close together. And we, we have it on, you know, Thanksgiving and Christmas and on Tuesday when I have a bad day, or when I have a great day and I want to really do something special and I get to open up some of your wine and it makes our life better. I mean, that’s that’s the shit that I love. Man, it’s it’s such a gift to be able to do that for a living, I just really cherished it.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 6:34
Absolutely. I like the the experience, you’re emphasizing the experience in the bottle, and the fact that I can Mexico can’t transport the whole restaurant over. But you can actually carry the expression of the vineyards through the bottle last week, or a couple of weeks ago, I was talking to Jenifer Freebairn. It lasted her and she was it was kind of an aha moment there for me because she talked about how last year is really a travel company. A winery is a travel company, when you have people visiting to the winery, but also that the juice in the bottle is it’s an experience. It’s like a bottle travel experience, you’re taking the vineyard to the person. And I’m talking
Chris Brundrett 7:11
about that big time in our company. And that is so important. You know, and the experience doesn’t start with the wine, right? This experience starts when somebody latches onto our brand, and they make a reservation to come and see us and how our website looks and feels and how the person answering the phone reacts to that person and makes them feel welcome. I mean wine that look we do this for a living, right? I people like Tom and he knows so much about wine. Well outside of wine and food. I don’t know that much, right? Because this is what I do every single day, you know, and you asked me about apples and like, oh, I you know, I got I got about five varieties for you. That’s about it. But you know, with wine, that’s something that is my passion of my life. And but if we can build those experiences for somebody, when they come on our property and when they leave. And then also the huge challenge is like, How does somebody have an amazing experience that’s remarkable with your wine on a restaurant list or on a show, you know, at a retail shelf or in a wine shop. And we work very, very, very, very deeply with our outside sales team to really make sure that all of our folks handling our wine, have some tools that they’re equipped with to better sell, or better, not better sell, but better tell that story. And help give that experience you know, and ultimately, you know, we want them to come to Mecca, right? To come to the winery and be able to share that experience. But then that happens virtually to I mean, we do so many virtual tastings, connecting with our fans. And that’s been a wonderful experience as well.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 8:49
Yeah, how often how have you crafted your virtual tastings was curious about
Chris Brundrett 8:54
well, we crafted them out of necessity because I started we started our company with $40,000 in American Express and that’s their bullshit, you know, and we didn’t come from money I would have made a great trust fund kid. But unfortunately it was not that I was lucky enough to meet my one of my best friends Bill Blackmon in the William part of William Chris. And in a way we went we were making wine for other people and growing grapes for other people and quite frankly, we didn’t think that the people were selling grapes to or or the folks that were making wine. I was making wine and replace it didn’t always have the opportunity to share the best experience with people and and also the places where we work sucked our bosses were kind of hassles. You know, we thought we kind of said we want to start this company for two reasons to share with people what the amazing areas of Texas tastes like and to have a badass place where people work. And those still ring true that is that is our mission. You know right now our mission is continues to be grow a good life and the grown the good life. For our fans and for our team, and for our investors, too. And I mean, I’m an investor, right? I mean, so that’s something that’s really important for our community and for our fans and for our team to grow the good life.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 10:16
So we appreciate we kind of talked about intent, and why people really why they would want to start a winery. A lot of times you see a lot of times it’s thinly veiled hubris. And they just wanted to get their name on the label, but wouldn’t talk to me
Chris Brundrett 10:28
about intent for a minute. So intention is something that I firmly believe in, is really guided my life. And I’m so grateful, I ran into intention at a young age and started to understand it more and more, and we try to be very intentional with every action that we do. And we try to create more intentional people. And I feel like through the wine business, like, you know, people have said, Oh, you should get into politics and like, Absolutely not, I’d be terrible politician, you know, and they’re like, well, don’t you want to change the world, like, I feel like we do every day, when we can teach people about where their food comes from, and why they when they spend $1. With us, what we do with that dollar and reinvesting in our community, and investing in our team and reinvesting in the land, and having good practices that can help our state, help our community help our world be a better place, by intentional purchases, right? If we can have, we can share with somebody, Hey, every bottle, knowing where that wine comes from, and knowing how it’s made and know how that company treats that value proposition. And seasons is huge, and we can create intentional people through our company, which is kind of sounds a little crazy, and it probably is a little crazy, but it’s something that I really love. And I think that, you know, as a business owner, it’s really important to have intention and know what you want to happen that day and know what you want to happen that year and with your business. And I think it’s really important. And a lot of business owners, in my opinion, don’t see that, you know, they were like, and I quite frankly, I didn’t really either at the very beginning and I just like people say what do you wanna do? And I’m like, Man, I want to make badass fine. What does that look like? Well, we take badass grades, put it in a badass barrel, and like, put some badass packaging around it, and we got a badass one, right? You know, quickly, you kind of like, okay, I checked that box that did it. And so then what now what and, you know, I think I think for us, it’s about change and making the world a better place through our wine. And, and that includes our team, and that includes our, our, our fans. And, you know, that’s that intention, starting off with what you want the end result, unfortunately, with businesses, you either die, you sell it, or you give it to your kids, or you take it BK, right, one of the hopefully one of those three happens and you’re not escaping, selling or, or giving it to your kids or selling it to your employees or, or we’re dying, right, that one of those three is going to happen. And and so building a company, in my opinion, what we strive for us to build a company that’s going to be around for the next 100 years. And that’s how we make those those decisions. And, you know, like you said earlier Drew, I’ve seen so many companies are so many folks, you know, they get back from France or Italy. And they’re like, doctors and lawyers and engineers, and they’re like, I want to start a winery and how it happens sometimes in Texas is, you know, people buy a really cool piece of property. And then they then they get with a label designer, and then they design their, you know, what their brain is gonna look like. And then they look at hiring some people and at the very end, they’re like, oh, we gotta have some wine. It’s kind of backwards, right? And then they’re like, you know, they don’t understand what success looks like, you know, and that hubris piece really plays into it. And I think that those brands are typically shorter lived. And some of them find intention and, and success and but most don’t. And I think ultimately,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 14:20
what advice would you have for somebody that really hasn’t found it? They may think they have it, but they’re striving to find it. Where? Where do you look?
Chris Brundrett 14:29
Find out what a win looks like, you know, I have so many businesses and I get to consult in other areas and deal and consult with wineries and vineyard partners like what is the wind look like? Then they’re like, you know, so often the wind is like cannot die, right? I have a solid business. Okay, well, what does the solvent business look like? Well, you know, we want to break even Well, do you really want to break even is that really what you want? Or do you want to be able to make money and be able to reinvest it in your people in your team, you might find a bunch of people that will work For $12 an hour for, you know, for six months, but that’s not sustainable, right? You got to be able to give them raises, you got to be able to give, give people a path to grow. And you got to be able to provide health insurance and all that. All that takes planning. I mean, five years ago, we said, we really want to have health insurance. Right? Great. What does that look like? Holy shit, that’s $250,000 a year. Now, it’s like half a million. But you know, at that time, you’re like, alright, well, how do we make $250,000 more? Well, we put together a plan. And we started running our business with the intent to be able to afford health insurance, not this year. But next, like in three years, let’s do it. And we started with paying a piece and then now we pay a bigger piece. And now we’re starting to pay for family’s health insurance. And it just takes a plan and sticking to that plan with intention. And then making sure that every decision we make in the vineyard, okay, well, we are in we are all our company has always not the, we always don’t make the most economical decision, right, but it’s a balance. So we understand that this is a hot vintage, and we are actually going to remove some of our crop. But you know, we’re really trying to break into that spectator top 100 list, we’re really trying to to be able to get national recognition and continue to compete in the world. So what does that take, we’re really gonna have to treat this vintage with intention and make sure that we’re we’re making the absolute best decisions possible in the vineyard. So we can then make the absolute best possible decision in the winery to make produce the best possible wine, and then we’re going to have to have to provide our team with all the tools and the resources in our tasting room to be able to share that wine with intention. And that’s all important. It’s all a cycle.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 16:49
Yeah, I, I think I saw I had a little another aha moment, you’re bringing out a lot of that. So we’re, I think a lot of people confuse a good idea with intention. Good. Guy, Good ideas are easy, but without a plan to actually make it happen. It’s not an intention
Chris Brundrett 17:05
will drum great at the good ideas in my team, they shoot down about 95%. And they’re like, Wow, that sounds really cool. But how are we going to act put that into action. And, you know, now my job is to not always be the guy with a great idea, but to foster a team that can create actionable, actionable items, that based on our strategic objectives in to make sure that they know how to get there, to know what that strategic objective looks like. And make sure that they have the tools and if they don’t have the tools, my job is to find the tools and help them find the tools to be successful. For sure, we essentially run five different businesses, you know, between the farming team, a winemaking team, we operate, you know, three different production facilities, two different tasting rooms too soon to be for, you know, a whole whole wine club team in our hospitality team is pretty, pretty extensive. And we have a whole culinary team as well, that all of our locations.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 18:07
Oh, wow. And I mentioned in the intro 130 families are supporting now I mean, target. So really a good theme over the last like, least seven episodes, last seven episodes has been on sustainability and employment state sustainability. And the fact that you’ve got 130 families all with a pathway towards sustainable wages is is very,
Chris Brundrett 18:30
Thank you. It’s been it’s been a long time coming, you know, and it’s just, like, it’s me, stubbing me, I say, or be our company, stubbing its toe in, you know, me being at the helm. You know, have you hired, we hired a bunch of people that we’re, you know, early on, we started with one employee and then have three and then, and then we figured out well, people don’t want to just work on Friday, Saturday, Sunday, and want to have a full time job. So okay, we’re gonna have to make a little bit more wine. So we can be open five more days, you know, five days a week. And then soon, you’re like, Okay, you have to buy better equipment. And then now we’re gonna be able to make a little bit more wine, and we’re selling wine, so it’s good. And then like, all of a sudden, you’re like, wow, we made a little bit more wine. Now I have to be open seven days a week, and then oh, my gosh, it’s just like a vicious cycle. You know, they’re just just mushrooms and mushrooms and mushrooms. And but I think it’s really important to look at your team and a ask them what they want. And if sometimes they don’t know what they want, it’s important to sit down and write it all out and look about look at what a win looks like. And, you know, unfortunately, sometimes that is that is your team growing out of your company. And that’s okay. And I think too many, too many times student centers, and we’ve definitely been guilty of this of like, you know, trying to keep somebody that wants to go be a taster, a manager or a winemaker somewhere else or continue climbing that ladder. And, you know, sometimes we can provide that next step for them. But sometimes we can’t, and being able to take care of our team not only financially, which we we are, you know, one of the best paying companies in our area, but we’re not the best. There’s plenty of people that have gotten nice salaries 30 40% 50%, Trump’s working outside of our company, and more often than not, two, three years later, they come back and say, hey, the grass is greener on the other side, because it’s been fertilized with bullshit. And we also haven’t, you know, we haven’t always made the world class decision with some of our team members. And as far as giving them the coaching and the mentorship and the tools, they need to be successful. And that’s really my passion is to make sure, you know, not only to make the best line in the world, but but to support our team as well and giving people a living wage, and that’s a moving target, especially with inflation. And another piece that we recently rolled out to our company and advice that I would give to the rest of business owners is real financial transparency throughout the company. And that was a big pill for me to swallow. Because I felt, you know, like, oddly about that, that I wasn’t sure that, you know, all of the company had maturity to be able to handle our our business goals and our financial goals. And I recently reached out to a mentor of mine, I was talking to him, and he was like, What do you think they think your team doesn’t make up numbers in their head. I’m like, fuck me, I never thought you might as well give them the real numbers. And we recently, we recently did a pie chart and showed where every single penny out of every single dollar goes. And we have this little bitty sliver that said our growth, right. And then this huge part of the pie. It’s more like that, that is our payroll, right? And so I recently did that in our company, and was just like, with every single person in our company, they’re just overjoyed to see that. They’re like, wow, we, you know, we thought that, and I’m like, You guys have been in my house. It’s not like, I built the Taj Mahal. I love the little, you know, the humble house a little bit. This
Drew Thomas Hendricks 22:14
is so much on the internet, like Visa students and CEOs and guarantee that they have, it’s better just to crystallize it. What was what was some of the general like, the kind of the misconceptions and the response after you became transparent with the finances.
Chris Brundrett 22:32
People didn’t know that we’ve spent so much money on payroll and like what health insurance costs, and then I think that people didn’t understand how much wine production really cost. And, you know, they hear numbers floating around in the hallways, but now we’re like, hey, anytime you want to look under the hood, it’s here for you. Like, you know, we try not to, like, we’re not like printing these out. So everybody can look at our, you know, financial statements, you know, however, anytime somebody wants to look under the hood, it’s, but it’s important to also know, like, Hey, we’re trying to make this goal happen. And that financial piece is just one leg on the stool. It’s not everything. But it is a very important leg on the stool. And then, you know, this is with this money, this is how we’re growing the company. And that includes, you know, right now we pay 50% of somebody’s health insurance for their family, not just the individual. Well, I chose I’d like to get to 100% Here’s the steps in doing that. Here’s what we’re gonna have to produce as a company. You know, a big part of that is on our last engagement survey, which I highly recommend every company doing that as an engagement survey, in you can do that outside to hire consultants, do an engagement survey, and figure out how engaged your your team really is. And there was about 15 responses out of, you know, 100 that we’re like, man, our company is so so dialed in on reoccurring revenue on wine club membership, well, pulling out, hey, you know what, our tasting rooms actually aren’t that profitable. Just with the bottles that we sell, and the level of experience that we provide, we have a full suite of education where WSET certified Testing Center. We have classes that we’re teaching, we invest so much in education, well, that that helps us create better, more educated, more qualified people. Well, all these pieces go into this bigger pie of when we have reoccurring revenue that we can project and hold on then that helps our company grow. And it was like, Man, I had no idea and now I see it now I get it. Now I understand why it’s really important that we especially take our wine club members into extra extra consideration every chance we get, you know, from the winemaker walking across the parking lines, saying hello or asking if the people want to go on it. were, you know, at three o’clock when you said the same shit over and over and over again in the tasting room like dig deep and figure out how can I give the best experience that I possibly can or, you know at all it all counts?
Drew Thomas Hendricks 25:13
Absolutely. Shifting the topic from growing out your staff to the choices you had to make to in your vineyard expansion up to 90 acres. Did it happen just by chance? Or was there a deliberate plan for that growth?
Chris Brundrett 25:27
So one of our big, we call it the bee hag the big, hairy, audacious goals is, you know, we want to we we know that our farming team is the best in the state. And, you know, our production team has over 100 years of experience growing grapes in Texas. And while we buy grapes from 33, other Texas families that present some of the best quality year in year out is the vineyard that we farm. And in addition to that, a big part of our strategy is value creation in our assets. So we are doing a great job at supporting the marketing efforts of our vineyards that we buy grapes from and also our vineyards and house. Today we only we only farm about 30% of our production. And you know for the William Chris’s vineyards brand is about 45 50% of the of our own production goes into talk to our brand William Chris vineyards. But last straw is a little bit less than that. But we’d like to get to a point. So we’re farming 70 or 80% of our own production. And the reason we want to get there is to create value and long term assets. We want to be not only holding that land, but also being able to control the whole process from front to back to really drive quality. And that’s not to say that our growing partners are great because they are and we we do a deep dive every vintage and looking back at a number of different factors in grading all our vineyards and determining, you know, do we want to continue with this vineyard partner? Or do we want to move to a different direction. And a lot of it has to do with efficiency. You know, five years ago, we had 30 partners that were spread out all over creation. I mean, we we farm in four counties, and then we buy grapes from all edges of the state. And that’s a lot of travel time. That’s a lot of logistics. I mean, we buy half of our production from greater than four hours away. And so managing that is super expensive. Obviously this year is going to be a real kick in the pants because of fuel costs and transportation. And just in we’re in our vineyards, I mean every every week
Drew Thomas Hendricks 27:48
fuel costs in California in the US dollars again,
Chris Brundrett 27:53
no, no but 550 for diesel, I just filled up my truck for $172 yesterday. So it’s like oh my gosh, and it used to cost $72. So But all that is like a grater. And it’s been hard. I mean, I was actually talking to a wider a winemaker this morning, who’s going out to a farm that we used to buy grapes from who I love these people like so much they have a great part of our story. However, you know, three acres in the wrong direction of in Oregon by about seven acres into loss. But like, even though the grapes were good, even though they’re very nice people, we had to start making the decisions around efficiencies, and economics. And just because you’ve done something and it’s worked in the past doesn’t mean you need to look forward, you don’t need to look forward and then try to tie everything together. So we’re trying to farm, the more centrally located areas and the highest quality areas setting us up for success, whether it’s a bitch in Texas, so you know, being able to put our farms in the best spots possible, you know, as is really important to grow in the right varieties.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 29:01
Sure. Now, as far as the varieties in the vineyards, talk to me a little bit about the five brands and philosophy behind segmenting them is it. I’m always curious on some of these wineries that that do choose to segment with brands. Talk to me about that.
Chris Brundrett 29:17
So a little bit of that was was not out of happenstance. But we we merged or acquired another winery a couple of years ago, one of my best friends brands and he rolled all his interest into our company. So we’re all one big happy family and that was for a couple of different reasons. The biggest one is sustainability. At the time I didn’t have I was not quite half owner in the company and I had an aging partner who’s amazing. It’s still one of my best friends to this day. We have a great relationship. But he was looking at every vintage we take everything we’ve had and put it back into vintage and he was 66 at the time and And, you know, and he’s like, Hey, at some point, I’d like to see, you know, a little bit of return on this investment, you know. And so we looked at what are those? What is the possible inroads? Well, if we grew, if we kept on growing at the rate we were growing, you know, in five years, the cost to buy the company, if he wanted to sell would have been crazy, right. And I don’t think I could have got the financial support in order to do that. So there’s really important that we started talking about how, how we could buy him out, and how we could create the future to where if, if I couldn’t buy them out? Well, what happened? Well, we would have put the company up for sale, or had to take on another large investment from a lot of other people. And then the question mark start to rise and like what happens to the company and to the people of sustainability, are they going to have jobs if somebody’s going to run the company like we anticipated, it just creates a lot of ambiguity. And so we started putting together a plan. And then I looked at Lost draw cellars, which is one of my best friends and your sides. And I had a little canned wine company, canned wine brand on the side, a little side hustle, if you will. And we love working together. He’s one of my best friends. And we looked at, he’s in the same boat, his father in law and his uncle, for his two partners. And what happens, you know, if they can continue to grow, he’s in the same boat, he might have been a couple of years behind where I was, but not very far. And so we started putting together a plan, we started being very open and transparent with our partners. And then they’re like family already. So the deal was very complicated, but it was, it had to be a win win. It had to be a win win for everybody. And I’ll give my hat’s off to all of our partners, because they were very gracious in putting together this deal that works for everybody. And so, in a single instance, we had lost draw cellars, which is a heavy direct to consumer brand. And then they had a secondary brand called grower project, which is really cool. And they had, Andrew had started that with Ray Wilson is an awesome winemaker down the road too. And so we and we also had a secondary brand called skeleton key, which is how we had planned to get health insurance and skeleton key you can you can buy on property, if you know about it, but mostly it’s sold to retail. And it’s a way it’s kind of that 500 series. In our in our portfolio, it’s kind of that starter wine and retails for 20 to 25 bucks, and is on restaurant lists across the state in New York and Chicago, all that other good stuff so. So that those are the brands that we’re really expanding on the wholesale footprint. Well, William Chris vineyards brand, you know, it’s kind of it’s kind of at its peak, if you will, we’re not trying to shove it 10,000 more cases, in production, you know, we’ve got a lot of really great old vineyards that are producing really great wines. And so we’re kind of the sculpture is almost done there, if you will. And then last drop sellers, we’re actually building a new location right down the road, and another one of our farms, they’re somewhat landlocked, in a very urban winery. So we’re, we’re going to be retrofitting the old facility there into maybe a more portfolio tasting so where somebody can go and visit and taste all of our portfolio and then be directed out to our tasting rooms and wineries out kind of a little bit more in the rural areas.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 33:45
Now the different brands are they all made it a common production facility. I know you’re building another one philosophy, but are they separate are all under a common facility when it comes to this
Chris Brundrett 33:57
we work? It’s all convoluted. We have one seller team that is you know, has a GM of the of the seller or a director of production, who manages all of our seller activities. However, William Chris vineyards has Tony Caufield, who’s our winemaker, you know, and I’m definitely super involved in the winemaking process still open up the executive winemaker position that I always had a lot of disdain for but that seems to be seems to be where I live these days. Tony is leads all of our production we’re definitely collaborate on so many different aspects on the way in Chris vineyards brand, but he and I do the William Crispin news brand and in skeleton key and then Brad and Andrew Brad Buckelew. Our director put up production is also the winemaker for lost draw cellars and hitting Andrews kind of in that same position I am I don’t you know, I provide some sort of collaboration on on the last straw brands but that’s not my baby. That is definitely Bradley Andrews baby In so the seller team has a whole host of different work orders. Totally separate production, but it could some William Chris wines are made at the last drop facility, just due to lot size. And then suddenly some lost our wines are made at the whim Chris facility. We have one bottling line with the whole company at present. So everything comes back to roost and gets bottled that way, we have William Chris. And then we have an offsite barrel facility a couple miles away, that has tanks and barrels, and we manage about Oh 5500 Barrels these days. So it’s a it’s a big job.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 35:36
Absolutely. Well, ya know, they always seem to need some sort of convolution, when you deal in multiple locations, multiple brands did have one one guests they had was building an entire facility in Reno to consolidate their Oregon, Washington and California production, where the land was cheaper, it was just easier to get it all over there,
Chris Brundrett 35:57
I could definitely see the benefit of that. And, you know, right now we pay almost $400,000 a year at the branch, you know, and some of our facilities. And, you know, as soon as we’ve got the plan to, you know, really build into to our own, you know, we’re kind of thinking like a 50,000 square foot location, where we can centralize at least all of our read production. And then we may put light production at a different facility. But right now it works the way we do it. Sometimes it’s being in our head against the wall, how to how to make everything fit. But that hasn’t changed in 10 years. So I figured we had a 50,000 square foot facility in one place, we still would be begging
Drew Thomas Hendricks 36:40
that kind of leads me into growth. And here’s a chance to kind of open up your crystal ball. And the whole country has grown so much in the last 15 years from when he started. Where do you see Texas? grape growing and winemaking going in the next 15 years? Or where would you like to see it go if you could craft
Chris Brundrett 36:57
Those Those maybe do different. You know, I just I gotta take my hat off to all of my, all of my buddies out there. There’s so many, you know, 10 years ago, and even maybe five or six years ago, when my friends would come into town and they’re like, man, what, you know, where are we going? Where should we go tasting, it’d be like, Alright, go to these three places need to try this wine here. But at this place and try this wine here. And, you know, because that, you know, half half the wineries six, seven years ago would have like maybe one or two, you know, pretty awesome wines and then a couple of dumpster fires, you know? And and now I tell you why. Like, if you come to the whole country, there’s so much great wine to taste. Of course I love our brands, but man, our neighbors are doing a great job. There’s so many cool brands out there with astras dagger vino Lewis wines is killing it Sandy Road, Ronnie, I mean, the list goes on and on and on. There’s so many good brands within a 20 minute drive of the hill country. And, and there’s more coming in and what is kind of, I mean, I’m not the wine police, I wish they would ask me to be the sheriff. You know, I really do. You know, there’s a lot of West Coast companies that are coming in, and starting to come in and, you know, just literally open up a tasting room, which I think is so stinking dumb. It’s like, so you’re gonna just take a tasting room and plop it in the middle of Texas wine country and do nothing but sell your California wine or your Washington law and order. Weird. I had no idea. Yeah, and so but for every one of those people, there’s two or three really good families coming in. And let me let me preface this whole thing. There’s some people that I really respect that are. There’s another guy right down the road untamed. He’s worked in California for a year. So he’s bringing grapes in and producing almost all California wines, and they’re really nice and good business. So I’m not like, I’m not dogging on him. I just think that unless you have a plan to actually farm grapes and make wine here, or at least make Texas wine like what the heck are you doing here? Like, like, seriously? You know, I mean, we have some places that sell South African wine. And I’m like, Who the hell wants to come to Texas to drink South African wines? Like why don’t you just start a fish room in downtown Austin or something? You know. And of course, that’s just my opinion. So I don’t want to speak for all of the Texas wine industry. And a lot of the industry 10 years ago and even five years ago was predicated on bringing a lot of bulk wine in and just you know, slapping a picture of a Longhorn on it, you know, call it a Texas wine, which is bullshit. But I think where I’d like to see the industry go and where I think the industry is going. There’s a lot more folks that are planting grapes. And we’ve got to, we’ve got to I think for the Lord for the industry to grow in the direction that I think is most beneficial for sustainability and longevity, we’ve got to connect more winemakers with with growing grapes, which I know is it sounds so simple. But a lot of folks started with very little money or it started with nothing. And you know, we’re buying grapes three hours, four hours away and go in
Drew Thomas Hendricks 40:22
with a label instead of the vineyard. Exactly. The raw materials.
Chris Brundrett 40:29
Exactly. And that’s my sincere wish for the whole industry. And not only in Texas, but everywhere, but especially in Texas because my home is that more and more winemakers and winery owners find that intentional piece and, you know, I think it’s always fascinating to like, you know, some people go take a weekend course, and then be like, Well, looks like we’re making wine now. But then a vineyard and it’s like, your fucking cardiologist did that was like, I took a six week course. And I’m feeling pretty good about it. How about yourself? Let’s cut you open. The first. Yeah, right. Right. But, you know, ultimately, I I’m just commending I need to commend all of our area. There’s so many great wineries opening up. I tell you what some of them do, I got a taste. And when the ship was we got to get to turn it up a notch guys on our heels, man, they’re making great wine and let’s go let’s compete. Because I when I go to New York and carry my bag around, I want 10 of my buddies there to you know, let’s carry the torch. And we’ve got to be able to share more Texas line, not only in Austin and Houston and Dallas, I mean for the biggest markets in the United States. But we’ve got to own those markets, and then continue growing out to New Orleans and Kansas City, San Francisco. And are we going to own the wine list in San Francisco? Oh, but we should build the Texas wine section there. You know, and we’ve got to do that by making super high quality Texas wine. We’ve got something to prove.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 42:06
Absolutely. As we’re kind of winding down here talking about shout outs. Shout out to a lot of people who, who’s doing it right right now, or who do you want to give a thank you to?
Chris Brundrett 42:17
Oh, man. You know what? That’s a great question. I think a couple of a couple of years ago, you know, our goal is to be the best lender in Texas. And and I feel like, we arguably got there and right and all of our teams like Okay, now that we’re somewhat in that top realm, what what is that next? Where are we going? And I had a business advisor at that point or mentor and, you know, he said, Well, what companies do you really respect? You know, what companies if you had to go look at what company did it right, and Jinho and I kind of came back when I went to the lab and started writing you know, and I kind of came up with this, this version of the companies that I respect the most like if you can take Tablas Creek and how they built a river, they’re like this amazing, they’re, they don’t try to be anything that that they’re not and they own their vision. And I just appreciate that so much. I love what the guys that ridge have done over the years and just stayed so true and, and withstood the test of time. I know they’ve been bought and sold and all that good stuff. But they’re still establishing like these great wines and have such a great following. And then and then if you can wrap it all in a bow with, with what Yvon Chouinard is done at Patagonia. I don’t I don’t agree with him totally on his politics all the time. However, I really appreciate how they built their company. And so I kind of use that model a little bit if if you can, you can kind of wrap all those up and then make it your own. It’s just definitely the companies that are respected that try to model you know what we’re going to work, who we are becoming. And I think there’s also so many other great wineries out there that I just love that to see them pushing up the bar, you know, and pushing the envelope. And I think that we all have a lot to learn from each other. And so I try to be as transparent and open book. All of our wine production methods and all that good stuff and vineyard management
Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:28
as well. Yeah, that’s a great amalgamation Tablas Creek Ridge wrapped around Patagonia.
Chris Brundrett 44:35
That’s an idea all the crazy shit goes on in my
Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:40
I saw I saw it I’m a big fan of all three club members at Tablas actually hadn’t up there in a couple of weeks.
Chris Brundrett 44:47
said same same.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 44:50
Well Chris, where can people find out more about you and your brands?
Chris Brundrett 44:53
So definitely go to williamchriswines.com. You can follow us on Instagram Lost Draw cellars. Fellas @williamchrisvineyards’s profile picture williamchrisvineyards, you can follow me personally @ighyetx to see pictures of all the dumb stuff I do and hunting and fishing and trips with my kids and lots of grapes and wine. But that’s @ighyetx William Chris Vineyards, Lost Draw Cellars you can follow our new brand too Uplift which is or Uplift Wines, which is you’ll see start to release at one of our farms. It’s right on the Lando uplift are really cool geological formation. But if you go to our website, williamchriswines.com, you can actually see the whole portfolio excuse me at the top. And so you can toggle to all of our all of our websites very easily from williamchriswines.com. And definitely like us on Facebook, all that good stuff. We do tons of stuff on online and social media, and we have a really great marketing team in that set. so
Drew Thomas Hendricks 45:58
Awesome. Well, Chris, thank you so much for joining us today.
Chris Brundrett 46:02
Yeah, Drew is a pleasure, man. I hope your listeners find what they’re looking for. And, you know, help help. Hope this helps cut their flame a little bit and help them you know, shared intention with the world. And I appreciate the time today and the visit.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 46:16
A lot of things to think about from this episode. Thank you, Chris.
Chris Brundrett 46:20
Yeah, yeah. And this is all my opinions. So don’t, don’t take it out in the world and say, Well, Chris,
Drew Thomas Hendricks 46:25
I’m not a financial adviser.
Chris Brundrett 46:28
No. Thanks, Drew, appreciate you.
Drew Thomas Hendricks 46:32
You have a great day.
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