Last Updated on December 7, 2023 by nicole
Reed Woogerd, the Director of Operations at Valdemar Estates, is a seasoned leader with a history of success in Ohio’s hospitality scene. After venturing into markets like the Bay Area and Austin, Reed now oversees multi-site operations for Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla, WA.
His journey began during a working holiday visa in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, where he discovered his passion for wine. Despite a challenging start pruning vines, Reed’s career took off when he managed a popular ale house. Back in the U.S., he excelled in nightclub management and later managed a restaurant company marked by accolades and high-profile ventures. Now at Valdemar Estates, Reed’s passion for wine and extensive hospitality expertise ensure continued success.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Reed’s rich background, personal journey, and advice for aspiring young professionals
- Exploring the unique challenges and opportunities in running operations for a family-owned winery with a rich history
- Navigating cross-functional teams within a winery and strategies for fostering cohesiveness and camaraderie
- Tips for identifying the right individuals for winery operations
- Valdemar Estates’ notable commitment to accessibility and hospitality
- The winery’s diverse wine offerings and restaurant, showcasing the marriage of food and wine
- Reed details his role overseeing operations in the U.S, managing disparate locations, including Woodinville
- Insights into maintaining a healthy work-life balance while overseeing the multifaceted operations of a winery
- Tips on addressing conflicts within teams, ensuring a cohesive and productive work environment
In this episode with Reed Woogerd
Dive into the world of wine operations with Reed Woogerd of Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla. Reed shares the unique challenges and joys of his journey, from running a New Zealand ale house to overseeing a prestigious winery. Explore topics like team cohesion, talent acquisition, and Valdemar’s commitment to accessibility.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon are joined by Reed Woogerd, Director of Operations at Valdemar Estates. Discover the intricacies of managing operations in Woodinville and maintaining synchrony in a geographically diverse organization. Reed also offers insights into work-life balance, conflict resolution, and valuable advice for aspiring wine industry professionals. Join us for a vintage conversation on the ins and outs of wine operations!
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Barrels Ahead
- Bianca Harmon on LinkedIn
- Reed Woogerd on LinkedIn
- Valdemar Estates
- Jesús Martínez Bujanda on LinkedIn
- Devyani Isabel Gupta on LinkedIn
- Pepper Bridge Winery
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.
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[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: 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. Before I get on with the show brief sponsor message. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. Barrels Ahead, we help the wine and craft industry build stronger bonds between their customers and brands through authentic content. Bianca Harmon’s joining us today and we have a special guest. Our special guest is Reed Woogerd. Reed is the director of operations at Valdemar Estates in Walla Walla, Washington. Welcome to the show, Reed.
[00:00:33] Reed Woogerd: Thank you. Thanks for having me.
[00:00:34] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, thank you so much for being on.
So Reed, tell us a little bit about yourself and kind of how you got into the wine industry.
[00:00:43] Reed Woogerd: Sure. Yeah, I don’t know how far back you want me to go, but,
[00:00:47] Drew Thomas Hendricks: How is kindergarten for you?
[00:00:51] Reed Woogerd: So, good point. So yeah, I mean, I guess. My dad was an entrepreneur in my hometown, a small town in Ohio. And I kind of grew up always thinking that I would take over the family business.
And it wasn’t anything too exciting. He was in real estate and car washes and, you know, things of that nature, very few employees, nothing too exciting. And when I was about 19, I actually took on a, in operations role with the family real estate company, flipping houses and buying homes at Sheriff’s sale when I was 19 years old.
So that, that part was exciting for me, but the actual work wasn’t very rewarding. On my mom’s side. humble beginnings. My grandmother was actually a fine dining server her entire career. She was super passionate about that. Did that in Sanibel Island, Florida and also in our hometown in Mansfield, Ohio.
And she actually got me involved in restaurants. Right around that same time, I was running the front of house at a fine dining restaurant at night while I was working for my dad during the day. And I was basically rubbing elbows with my grandma at work and we had a great time doing it. She was a character.
And it was a chef-owned restaurant. The guy had studied, done his externship at Le Cirque in New York City, which at the time was one of the top restaurants in the world. And he had moved to this small town in Mansfield and, you know, just trying to, to make something that the folks in that town would consider fine dining at the time.
So I actually fell in love with it. Really enjoyed my time there and, still just didn’t know what I wanted to do for a living. So I applied for a one-year working holiday visa in New Zealand and I moved to New Zealand with my best friend who was also working for his family company at the time.
We just decided let’s get as far away from all of this as possible and see what else is out there in the world.
[00:03:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Where in New Zealand are you located?
[00:03:04] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, no, kind of all over the place. But we kind of, you know, put roots down in Hawke’s Bay. which is one of the largest wine regions there. I think it’s actually pretty similar demographics to Walla Walla.
I think at the time I was living there, it was around 50, 000 people and around 150 wineries there at the time. All the numbers that I’ve heard about Walla Walla, it’s right about the same. And then both.
[00:03:31] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So when he got to New Zealand, what was it like? Was it, was there a culture shock, or was it pretty much like you expected?
[00:03:38] Reed Woogerd: Well, I mean, you know, I was 19 or 20 at the time when we touched boots on the ground and I thought I had enough money to last me for a little while and, you know, making some poor decisions upfront. Like we bought tickets to go to an all blacks game, rugby team that does the Haka, you know, in the beginning of the game.
That’s so famous that I think we bought like matching Adidas zip-up all blacks jackets to go to the game. And it’s like, you know, actually I sold my car for like three grand and that’s like all the money I had to move across the country. And I thought I was Rockefeller when I touched down in New Zealand and found out pretty quickly that I wasn’t going to last very long.
So, we had to, we had to get jobs and start working as part of that. That working holiday visa. So, we signed up to go work at a winery, actually. That was our first job that we tried out there. And you know it sounded like something to write home about at the time and I didn’t really know what to expect, but I thought working in a winery sounds kind of upscale and interesting and exciting for a guy my age.
So, we showed up to the grocery store parking lot where the transportation was going to take us out to the winery to start work. And we get on this, we get in this large band. It’s essentially just a bunch of families from Southeast Asia that had come there to find work and then me and my friend.
And we get taken out to the middle of the vineyard and our job is to prune vines. So we start pruning. And I think they were paying us like 0. 08 per vine at the time. So if you’ve ever pruned vines, I don’t know. Have either of you ever done that work? Or see, okay. It’s not easy.
[00:05:36] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Paying per vine really, I would think would not lead to the quality. Cause you just want to go.
[00:05:41] Reed Woogerd: Well, yeah. Well, I think some folks kind of did it every season and they would come over from Cambodia or, you know, wherever they were from and make some money and go back home. But for me, you know, like, like I said, I thought it was something to tell my friends about back home. I think we lasted like two days. And our hands were bleeding and we left with our tails between our legs kind of a thing. So, yeah, it was pretty wild introduction to the wine world back then at the ripe age of 19 or 20.
[00:06:13] Bianca Harmon: But what did you end up doing after that with your tail between your legs?
[00:06:18] Reed Woogerd: I actually ended up meeting a guy named Tony McEwan who played some like semi-pro to pro rugby and he was the owner of a Speights Ale House and Speights is one of the most popular beers in New Zealand. And he had no restaurant experience. He just got that, the licensing deal for that ale house because of his background in rugby.
And he found out that in meeting me that I had some restaurant experience. So I went and interviewed with him. He paid for me to go out and get my manager’s certificates to start managing the ale house for him. And such a great guy. And, you know, I basically spent the better half of about six months of that year-long visa managing the ale house for him there.
[00:07:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Wow, – start in operations.
[00:07:11] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, no. And you know, you fake it till you make it, you know, I didn’t really know exactly what I was doing but have one of those attitudes that, I’m going to figure it out. So we did our best.
[00:07:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What advice would you have for a 19-year-old today going to New Zealand to do what you did other than not spending all your money on unnecessary things
[00:07:37] Reed Woogerd: No, I mean just travel and see as much as you can.
I mean just meeting people and seeing the unique perspective. My experience there and coming to the realization that I wanted to be in the hospitality industry was that it just seemed the more that I put myself out there, I was finding opportunities for myself being presented opportunities where, you know, if I would have just kept my head down and not put myself out there, those Probably wouldn’t have fallen into my lap.
So it’s kind of, you know, you’ve got to kind of follow your bliss if you will. And, and those doors start to open for you. So
[00:08:17] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s very good advice. Very good advice. As far as like, so running the alehouse, how’s running an ale house in New Zealand different than like Walla Walla or here in the, in the U S?
[00:08:27] Reed Woogerd: Well, you know, first of all, back then I had no idea what I was doing. So there’s that side of it. I thought running an alehouse was, you know, handing out free beers to the regulars and, you know, throwing a fun party and putting together the right playlist, you know, making sure everybody’s having a good time. Now, you know, throughout the rest of my career, I got to learn a lot more about what it actually means to run a business and, you know, manage people and develop people as well. So
[00:09:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: For sure that’s in the flash forward. Now you’re the director of operations for a large winery in Walla Walla. Talk to us about, you know, what, what is it about operations that put your foot in the ground on, or that’s the wrong word, but you know, you planted your stake around that, that position in that role.
[00:09:20] Reed Woogerd: Yeah. It was actually. You know, I was thrown a few other opportunities between then back in New Zealand and now, and one of those opportunities, I was recruited by a guy who owned most of the nightclubs in Columbus, Ohio. This is when I came back to the United States and I opened a members-only nightclub for him in downtown Columbus.
And three months later, he made me in charge of all four of the nightclubs that he had on that same street when I was 25 years old. And you know, I got to learn very quickly about how to make money in the hospitality business, running nightclubs and seeing all the different revenue streams, you know, that can, that can be utilized in a setting like that, from, you know, charging a cover charge to, you know, throwing different types of events and, you know, things of that nature.
And, a few years later, that same guy ended up selling all of his nightclubs. Ditching his partners at the time and the two of us went and started a restaurant company. So,
[00:10:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Not to pay you off, but I, I don’t think I’ve ever heard of it. What’s talking about members-only nightclub. Is that a, is that specific to Ohio?
How does that work?
[00:10:39] Reed Woogerd: No. So it’s, you pay a membership fee and it’s a very exclusive setting. It was more high-end. Well, I thought it was at the time, and basically to get in. You have to be a member and I think there’s a lot of settings like this throughout the country. Yeah, I think of almost like the, the Speakeasy, you know, that whole scene that’s happening now.
[00:11:06] Bianca Harmon: The whole scene, crap, I’m drawing a blank, but there’s one in Hollywood and now they have them in a few other countries. I mean, not country states and countries. I actually got to go to the one in Hollywood with a friend who’s a producer and you can’t get in unless you’re a member.
[00:11:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Must be tough.
[00:11:30] Reed Woogerd: Yes. Exclusivity factor.
[00:11:32] Bianca Harmon: Yeah. Yeah.
[00:11:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: People love it. Right. Are people guaranteed? Like I could see if I was paying, being a paying member, I would expect a particular seating or expect something. How do you, how do you manage your clientele when they may not be? Yeah.
[00:11:47] Reed Woogerd: Everyone’s everyone’s a VIP. We actually had a concierge at the club who knew everyone’s names, knows what they drank.
You know, you know where they work. And who their friends are. And, you know, we just had to, you know, give the people what they want, stroke their egos a little bit. And probably, it was a lot of fun for a 25-year-old guy, so.
[00:12:09] Bianca Harmon: Soho House. That’s what they’re called. Soho House.
[00:12:12] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Exactly. Yep. Yeah.
[00:12:14] Bianca Harmon: Like I said,
[00:12:14] Reed Woogerd: Those are, those are all over the place now.
[00:12:16] Bianca Harmon: Yeah, now they are when I, but they started actually, I think in the UK or Britain or somewhere out there in that area.
[00:12:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I clearly don’t get out enough.
[00:12:28] Bianca Harmon: Yeah, I went to the Soho House in Hollywood. It was pretty cool.
[00:12:34] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s awesome. So let’s, so private nightclubs sold the nightclub.
[00:12:39] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, we went and started a restaurant company. So he had the nightclub background and I had the restaurant background. So we started opening some high-volume bars and restaurants. We opened four in about five years together. And, the first one, it was a beer bar called Pint House.
It was voted best bar in Columbus, Ohio for four years in a row. And we opened it and super popular place. Then we went and opened, an Italian restaurant called Forno. It was rated top 100 restaurants in the country 2 years in a row by Forbes. And then we opened a place called Standard Hall, which was kind of an indoor-outdoor massive warehouse kind of neighborhood bar.
And, that bar, the first year that we opened it, it was the number one Uber destination in the state of Ohio. It beat out all the professional sports stadiums, the airports, every destination that you could think of. Uber did a study and we were the number one destination. So, you know, super popular, very successful, and a certain point, you know, a few years down the road, our, our time together just kind of came to an end.
So, kind of time for me to go and do my own thing again.
[00:14:04] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sounds good. So like, I wonder, I do want to talk about Valdemar because you’ve gone from like a brew house up through the nightclubs and now managing a winery house. How’s doing the director of operations for a winery different? From like the rest, just a general hospitality setting or like a brew setting.
[00:14:24] Reed Woogerd: It’s, you know, the beauty about what I’m doing and the company that I’m working for now is that you know, we have this history that really is the brand. I mean, we’ve been making wine in Spain for 130 years under the Bodega’s Valdemar brand. And, but it’s still a small company. I mean, it’s family-owned.
The person that I spend the most time with is Jesús, who’s the fifth generation owner and CEO who we office out of the same building. And, you know, we spend a lot of time together. We travel back and forth to our other location and wouldn’t build together from time to time. And so, you know, that’s on a back and forth trip, that’s nine hours in the car together.
So there’s a lot of time, a lot of time to strategize and talk about the things that we want to do with the company and get to know each other. And, you know, so what, I guess what I’m saying is, you know, it’s still a small company and I can, I have an opportunity to make an impact on every level of the organization if I want to, and if it makes sense.
So, you know, I guess what I’m saying is there’s still all the same components with a wine company that there is with any other hospitality company. We’ve got customers walking through the door who, when they walk in, in through those doors. Their default position is I’m here to have a good time. And I want to, I want to be treated a certain way and I want people to show me a great time.
And we just happen to have some products that people were really excited about. So it makes my job to a certain extent pretty easy from time to time.
[00:16:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. So what tips, I mean, I can imagine the amount of cross-functional teams within a winery. You’ve got front of house, back of house, within the restaurant, you’ve got the tasting room, you’ve got the whole operations.
How do you bring cohesiveness and camaraderie among these?
[00:16:24] Reed Woogerd: We meet as a team, it doesn’t matter if you’re in the production team or a leader on the production team, or you’re running the tasting room, or you’re the chef or even the marketing person in my corporate administrative team, we meet once a week, make sure that we’re all on the same page.
And we always talk about three key factors of the business and that’s people, product and profit. And those are the three things that we want to talk about every single week. And it’s not just an overview. It’s what are you doing to touch the business? And these three ways, these three ways, how are you continuing to develop your people, week after week, from a product standpoint?
Are we keeping things fun and fresh. And how are we talking about our product? How are we communicating the things that we’re doing and marketing ourselves and then on the profit side, you know, hopefully, if you get the first two pieces right if you got the right people and you’re constantly evolving and working on the product and the profit side generally tends to just come.
And so hopefully we’re just reviewing that side of the business in those times.
[00:17:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. What tips do you have for finding the right type of person for a winery setting?
[00:17:42] Reed Woogerd: For a winery setting? I’m mean
[00:17:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well just yeah in your business, you know, you got ideas for who would be a good fit in there How do you go about looking and identifying that person? Do you use any like kind of personality tests or
[00:17:53] Reed Woogerd: Yeah? I think it’s no secret that a lot of key organizations started hiring more for personality than for acumen decades ago, probably at this point. And, you know, I’ve been, I’ve been no different. I think also, you know, there’s, there’s something about that moment where you meet somebody who is a prospect for your company, and you just know that they, that they fit and they get it.
And, you know, in terms of in a winery setting, like I said, I’m not a, I’m not a wine expert. I think you called, you called me an operations expert, maybe, so I’m still learning, but we have wine experts here.
And so since we have. Those, those key people in our organization who can kind of wear that hat, you know, we’re looking for people that are excited about being here and want to do the job. And they want to, they want to spend time with our customers and they want to represent the brand. So we even in our training, when it comes to talking about wine, especially when they first meet somebody coming to the winery.
We’re not always talking about the same things. We’re trying to read the person in front of us. And the last thing we want to do is talk down to people and make them feel like they don’t know anything about wine. So part of our training is to even just ask people, what do you like to drink in general?
When they come in, it’s not about, “Oh, what wines do you like to drink?” What if that person came out to Walla Walla because they heard that it’s up and coming and they just want to be a part of the scene and they want to check it out and they don’t drink wine. Some of the answers that we get from people, when we ask that the question the other way, which is what do you like to drink, sometimes we get bourbon, sometimes we get margaritas.
And our team is trained well enough that they can listen to the answer behind the answer. And maybe if they’re a cab, or if they’re a whiskey drinker, they can push them towards some of our cabs. Or if they’re a margarita drinker, they can push them towards the Blanco from Spain that we make.
And, all right, you know, when you train your people that way, I feel like, A, it’s more fun because they get to be themselves and they get to use their people skills. And again, that’s why we hired them because we liked the way that they conducted themselves during the interview. And we felt like we wanted to work with them.
And so they can use those natural skills to go out and represent our brand and have fun with the product versus kind of reciting a script.
[00:20:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I like that answer that finds the answer behind the answer. Don’t just, they’re going to say what’s important in wine.
Absolutely. Absolutely. I want to touch on this cause on your site, you, Valdemar Estates has one of the biggest commitments towards accessibility of pretty much all the wineries that I’ve had a chance to look through.
Talk to us about that.
[00:20:53] Reed Woogerd: Yeah. So we’re, our, our organization is built on four different pillars. One of them is family legacy. The next is terroir, and then internationalization, which we take very seriously being, and we don’t take it lightly that we were the first internationally owned winery in Walla Walla.
And then the fourth pillar is inclusivity, where we want everyone to be able to experience our brand the same way. So we do a lot of different things from a customer experience point of view. Right when you walk in our doors, we have wheelchairs there. They’re available. If somebody needs one, there’s an elevator right there to take them up to the tasting room.
And all throughout the customer experience to our little touch points that we’ve made available to people if they have a certain disability. So, on our menus, there are QR codes that will take you to videos where they’ll describe our wines using ASL.
We have a person in each of our locations that is currently learning ASL and they’re at least able to hold basic conversations with people. And they’re not fluent by any means if that’s even a term when talking about ASL, but we found that people, in general, are just happy that, and they’re appreciative that we’re trying to meet them where they are, and we’re putting in the effort.
We’ve got shatter-free glassware that looks just like our normal glassware. So, you know, if somebody happens to tip that over, they don’t have to worry about that breaking and either being embarrassing or being unsafe. And then on the tours, we have lanyards that you can wear that hold your wine glass for you.
So if you are in a wheelchair, you can hold your own wine glass while you’re going throughout the door. And, and I could just go on and on about all the different things, but yeah, we have braille menus and tasting cards, that we have in the tasting room. And the great thing is that our staff has gotten completely behind it.
We’ve got, I would say 80 percent of our staff have taken an online ADA course to get certified that they understand what those customers are looking for when they come in the building.
[00:23:19] Bianca Harmon: Do you think does that attracts more ADA customers to your winery?
[00:23:24] Reed Woogerd: I’m sure it does. And we’ve gotten a few messages just since I’ve been here in the last year that, that they, that we’ve had certain people with certain disabilities that have come and experienced the winery and just how appreciative they were about all the things that we were doing.
And, we actually have a video on our Instagram, I think it’s one of the top two or three pinned posts where our marketing person put together a video about all the different efforts that we’re putting in to showcase what you can expect when you come to the winery. And we, I think that’s one of, honestly, one of our liked, our most liked and engaged with posts ever on our Instagram.
It’s not like all those people that were so excited about that fall into that ADA, you know, category. People are just really excited to see that people are putting in the effort. And I think people just appreciate it.
[00:24:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I think the key is that just that commitment to inclusivity and just making sure everyone is feeling like they, they belong and they’re part of it.
[00:24:23] Bianca Harmon: I think it’s incredible. I just got back from Hawaii early this actually yesterday, I guess. And the people that were staying next to us, she was a paraplegic and they had her, she’s actually like going to be on the news because they had a skydiving place out there that they did skydiving for her.
And then she’s also going to be on this, this website called See Inspirations and she was out surfing. And it was like this whole program to make sure that just because of the, like your disability doesn’t stop you from doing these things. Right. And one of them was surfing. It’s like, and they had a drone out there for her.
I mean, it was pretty incredible. And so it’s not, you know, if we, if they can do that and this sports side of things, you would hope that our wineries can get on board, right?
[00:25:17] Reed Woogerd: For sure. Yeah, I just, I went to Taste Washington this year, which is an awesome experience. I’m not sure if you guys have been before,
[00:25:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I haven’t, I need to.
[00:25:27] Reed Woogerd: It’s a, I’m sure you know what it is a convention with pretty much every winery and Washington’s represented there if they want to be. And I had a guy in a wheelchair come up to our booth while we were there. And he was like, I want to taste your wines. While I’m here, but I’m here specifically to shake your hand and say thank you for everything that you guys do in your wineries, for accessibility and inclusivity.
So I thought that was a really cool moment too. We were super happy about it.
[00:25:55] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s really awesome. That’s really awesome. For, I want to talk about hospitality, kind of shift over from accessibility to just the general hospitality of that inclusivity. And I think you’ve got some pretty good things rolling out in Walla Walla but with your tasting room and the restaurant.
[00:26:14] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, well, we’ve got our here in Walla Walla. We have our winery. So our production facility is on the lower level of the building. And we’ve got a great program of wines that we’re putting out. We’ve we focused mainly on Chardonnay, Cabernet, and Syrah. And then we also do some different varietals that we have, we do a Roussanne every year that’s fantastic.
And then we do some component trials with things like Grenache and the Mourvèdre and Malbec. So we don’t just stick to those three cores of Cab, Chard, and Syrah. And then we have a Tapas restaurant along with the tasting room. So you can come in and just do a tasting if you want. We offer both our Spanish wines that we import from our winery in Spain.
In addition to all the wines that we make here in Washington alongside a Tapas menu. So, if you want to have food, food, and wine, you can. If you just want to focus on the wine and, you know, have that in-depth experience, you can do that too.
[00:27:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, I’d like, I’d like to see more wineries go in that direction.
And I think they are, outside of like, just the heart of Napa, most, most wine regions are incorporating the larger hospitality.
[00:27:38] Reed Woogerd: The restaurant piece.
[00:27:38] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You’re not just there to sip this one-ounce pour. You’re actually there to watch it evolve and experience it.
[00:27:43] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, I mean, it’s, especially coming from Spain. And it’s our belief that food and wine go together.
And so, you know, and a lot of our wines, even our Washington wines are meant to go with food. We focus on kind of a higher acidity, more fresh style of wine making. And, they’re, it is delicious with food and we’re pretty excited when people get to have that experience. That’s a little bit differentiated from, from what they get in, in most of the valley, at least for now.
[00:28:12] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. What about Woodinville? Is there, talk to me about, are you in charge of that operation as well?
[00:28:18] Reed Woogerd: I am, yeah. So, as Jesús likes to describe how our organization works, we have a winemaker here in the United States. Who is either his left or his right hand. And then we’ve got me who I oversee all the operations in the United States.
He’s also the CEO of the family business in Spain. So a lot of his time is spent, you know, working on a much more established company than, than what we have here, we opened in 2019. So pretty young and kind of still getting our, our legs underneath us and figuring out the identity and, you know, what we’re going to grow into here.
So yeah, I run, you know, everything on this side of the border, if you will.
[00:29:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What is that? What’s that landscape paint, paint it for us. What you’re, what you’re actually having to keep everything moving in synchrony.
[00:29:12] Reed Woogerd: Yeah. So there was the operations of the winery and the restaurant, everything that we kind of started to describe here in Walla Walla.
And then there’s also our restaurant and tasting room in Woodinville. And then, you know, I dip into things like distribution in the United States. And, we’ve got some markets that we’re still trying to open up. And we’ve got, you know, markets like Ohio and Texas and states that I’ve actually spent time in throughout my career that, you know, I’ve got some contacts and we’re still, you know, growing and we want to see where all we can get these products.
And some of those contacts have been helpful for this organization. So it’s been great to be able to use. Some of my, the past points in my career for the betterment of the company here. And so, you know, just, and then there’s, there’s other things that we do. I mean, I’m in Woodinville a couple of times a month and we happen to import Iberico Jamon for our menus.
And we actually started another company called Valdemar Distribution, where now we sell, we sell things like jamon and other products that we import from Spain to restaurants and throughout the Seattle area. So there’s, there’s times we’re all go to Woodinville, check in with the team and bring them, bring them, bring them some wine.
And I’ve got a trunk full of Iberico Jamon too. So, it’s a lot of fun. Yeah.
[00:30:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What’s the biggest challenge you face on that? Like having, that’s a very disparate amount of operation.
[00:30:49] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, I mean, there’s also the behind-the-scenes stuff. You know, like marketing and financials and budgets and, you know, all the fun stuff that people think that’s the boring stuff.
I actually, my wife was texting me yesterday and I sent her a picture of my three screens in my office showing her what I was doing. She was like, yep, that looks like you’re having a great time. So, you know, spreadsheets and calculators and all the stuff. But that’s, those are all the levers that you get to pull in operations to see how you can make the business more successful.
And it’s, it’s a little things, like, you know, looking at metrics that your servers are doing and coaching them on sales, sales tactics, and things of that nature. The biggest challenge I would say is just not having enough time. It was very, very important to me, especially early on in my career.
When I was in my twenties and growing a restaurant company from the ground up, I had hundreds of employees and, you know, I was really excited about what I was doing, but that’s all I did. I didn’t spend time with my family. I didn’t, I missed trips that my friends were going on. I mean, you name it, you know, in working for a family-oriented company, a company like I am now, it’s family, family-owned, family operated.
You know, Jesús’s family time is very important to him and he knows that it’s very important. To me, especially since I just, you know, made my wife move all the way out to Walla Walla, Washington from Austin, Texas, where we weren’t living before. I’ve got to make sure we spend time to enjoy this beautiful part of the country that we live in.
And, it’s, it’s amazing that we get to drive a couple of hours in any direction and, you know, you’re in a world-class adventure spot.
[00:32:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, for sure. For sure. What, so to other directors of operations that may be listening in here, how do you, because your job’s never done, you can always just dive further into the next, into the bigger detail.
How, what steps do you take to ensure that you do have that work-life balance?
[00:33:01] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, I mean, you’ve got to have boundaries in place. You know, my team tries not to bother me on the two days a week that they that they know I’m probably not going to be in the office. One of those days was yesterday and I was actually here because I had a meeting.
You know, I had a, I had a call at 9:15 that I had a new maintenance guy starting that I went on board and get him trained. And so my team, worked from home yesterday and I’m in the office. I’m like, it’s boring in here guys. I caught them ready into a little bit, but, no, I mean, I think it’s, it’s important for everybody.
I mean, the thing, the thing is, I, I, um. The tone that I set for my own personal work balance, work-life balance, I ensure that they take the same approach and I try not to bother, bother them on their time off. And I’m the 1st 1 to tell them to take a day off or, you know, maybe help them change around their schedule to find more of a work life balance, which is something we did here recently at the Walla Walla location.
We just kind of reworked the schedules for the managers so that it was, so the weight was distributed a little bit more evenly. So
[00:34:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It is, I’m like, I kind of, you gotta have to trust your team. And one of the biggest challenges I have is I always just try to get into the nitty gritty details and I have to constantly tell myself that I’ve hired the right people.
They’re going to do it. They’re doing it correctly and just trust the team is really what I do.
[00:34:33] Reed Woogerd: Communication is key for me. Again, beyond just the team meeting weekly. I try to, as much as I can, do a one on one with each of my key people on a weekly basis and I’ve got, I’ve got, you know, people that work for me early on in my career who still reach out to me for advice on certain aspects of their growing career. And I love I love that, but I always tell them the first thing I asked him if they’re having issues with one of their employees is, are you doing one-on-ones weekly?
What are those meetings like? And the answer, typically, if they’re having an issue communication wise, is that they’re not doing 1 on 1 and they say that they’re, you know, we’re around each other enough. We spend enough time together and
[00:35:21] Drew Thomas Hendricks: We don’t need another meeting.
[00:35:23] Reed Woogerd: Yeah, it’s not the same having that structured time together where you know that if they have a concern, it can be addressed, or you’re addressing your concerns, and you’re just trying to move the needle just a little bit each week with that person. I think that is the most important time that you can spend with your people to get the results that you want.
So, you know, a team meeting is one thing where, you know, it’s rah, rah. We’re all getting excited about the direction that we’re going, but those intimate moments where it’s planned and organized and it feels a little bit more rigid.
[00:35:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. How do you structure a one-on-one?
[00:36:01] Reed Woogerd: I always tell them that I am here to help you. I’m working for you. So what can I do to make your life easier?
Even if it’s just talking them through an issue that they’re having with an employee, I mean, it’s not always. About, their, their issues with the organization and their job at the time. Sometimes it’s just, you know, it could be a little thing with something small operationally, or somebody on their team is just not listening to them.
You know, it’s a lot about just that back and forth, but for the most part, I’m the listener. I want to know what I can do to make your life easier. And when you, when you, when you start it and when you give that conversation, that direction, more often than not, they’re going to take the opportunity to tell you even bigger things that they could do to, that you could do to improve their, you know, their position or their work-life balance or the operation as a whole. So,
[00:37:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: As far as with the one-on-ones and you talk about kind of conflict talk, let’s talk about conflict resolution within the one-on-ones.
What sort of tips do you take towards like keeping that team cohesive and talking with one another and kind of resolving those conflicts before they become a big issue and start hindering the entire operation?
[00:37:24] Reed Woogerd: Do you mean just like interpersonal type thing?
[00:37:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Could be interpersonal. It could be interdepartmental. It could be that. I would say one of the biggest things on director of operations is just keeping it a well-oiled machine.
[00:37:36] Reed Woogerd: Yeah. No, it’s very important. And it just depends on the situation, I mean, leadership and each, each key person feeling like they’re, they’re an ownership of their part of the organization, I think is really key.
So if it’s something where, it’s interpersonal with, with 1 of their employees, you typically just want to give them advice on how you would handle it. And I usually like to throw out, you know, 1 or 2 different scenarios. On how they could handle it, and that way you’re getting their buy-in, like, I’m not just telling them, “Hey, go into this meeting and say exactly this.”
It’s more of a suggestion. And when they get that buy-in, they’re usually more confident going into the meeting anyway. If it’s something a little bit more egregious, where it’s just something you want to nip in the bud and let’s just say you want, you know, a person from a different level of the organization to be in alignment with what you’re trying to do.
There’s times where I’ve just dropped everything that we’re doing. Let’s get this person in this room right now and let’s figure it out. Let’s just talk about it. So, you know, it just depends on the scenario, but, you know, most people that are in a position like mine have a decent amount of experience to lean on.
But, you know, again, I get questions all the time with folks that are growth coming up through different parts of their career. And I think having, you know, hearing little pointers here and there on how to handle situations can be really helpful.
[00:39:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, that’s very good. What other advice would you have to someone like in hindsight, like if you were to go back through your career to where you are today, what roadmap would you paint someone who’s 19 to get to where you are today?
Is there anything you would have done differently?
[00:39:25] Reed Woogerd: Oh, man. Well, I would have probably not taken myself so seriously. There were times in my career when I thought, just especially because I was a young leader, I thought that I really needed to assert myself just to be taken seriously. And I’ve found, you know, just as I get older being myself, first of all, just feels better overall. People respond better to it anyway.
I’m just, I’m naturally a nice guy. And I’m not one of those taskmaster type people. So, you know, I wanted, I wanted to be a teacher growing up and, you know, early on when I was a kid and I found that a teaching leadership style just suits me better.
So rather than, you know, respond how I thought, you know, how I saw one of my other bosses, somebody that I saw as a boss respond to something they didn’t like. It didn’t really suit me. So I’ve definitely gone more towards that teaching path and it’s been overall more successful for me. And then again, I kind of just go back to something earlier. I said, in the conversation where, you know, are in the hospitality industry in general, everyone’s deep default position when they come in to interact with us is fun.
So, that’s where I like to start, especially when I’m going into, into a new organization. The first things that I did when I got into the position I’m in now, I looked around, I’m looking for body language. I’m just trying to feel it out a little bit. And at the time, the staff was wearing a uniform and in my opinion, that was a little bit too stuffy for, for the environment that I wanted to put out.
So the very first decision that I made in this position was I eliminated the uniform policy. I wanted people to feel more comfortable. I wanted them to feel a bit more loose and more like themselves. And I think just making that decision showed a tangible decision that I was making to make them have more fun.
They all looked a little bit different. They all felt a little bit different and, and they’re, and all of a sudden they’re being themselves at the table and they’re letting their hair down a little bit. They’re, you know, having those, those conversations with people where they’re actually being themselves and it just felt better automatically.
And the second thing I did, they were playing like some sort of jazz music radio in the tasting room. And, we, I completely changed the music and the playlist. And I remember the first time I did that, one of the guys that’s been here for a while came up to me and said something like, “Oh, well, we only play jazz in the tasting room.” Or something of that nature.
And my answer was just like, well, not anymore. So, you know, let’s have some fun with it. And then I got the staff involved. I said, here’s the vibe that we’re going for. If there’s some songs that you love that you think fit the vibe, send them to me. I’ll add them to the playlist. And, and as you start to build your library and do that, it’s really fun to to look through the tasting room and somebody, one of your staff members sees like their song come on. And, you know, they feel like they feel like they own the place. So
[00:42:52] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s really cool. I love the fact taking them out of their visual routine is the best way. Like some leaders can go in and they just words, words, words, words. Everything’s changing. But visually, you don’t see anything different. So powerful what you did. Great, great advice.
[00:43:11] Reed Woogerd: Thank you. Yeah, it’s been a lot of fun too. I mean, our, the ad that I, the first place I went when I moved to Walla Walla was, Pepper Bridge. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. It’s one of the most storied wineries in the valley and they do a great job. And the person taking care of us asked, if we were new to town and we were visiting, or we live here and we told her that we just moved there is our first stop.
And so she brought me a Walla Walla Wine Valley magazine, that basically has maps and, you know, ratings of different wineries, advertisements. And I see the Valdemar advertisement in the magazine, and it was like an older couple dressed really nice. And, and on the top of the ad, it said something like luxury and, and all caps and, and then, you know, my first interactions with the team here, we’ve got our CEO who’s 34 years old.
Our wine, we have a super talented female winemaker and Devyani, who’s just turned 30 years old. I’m the old man of the group. I just turned 38 a few days ago and here we are putting ourselves out there in this light that I don’t really think fits who we are and who we want to be. And so, you start with, with dress code and then you go to the music.
And if you see our ads that we’re putting out now, and the personality of even just our Instagram, it’s way more fun. We’re having more fun with the brand. We want to interact with people in a way that actually suits the personalities of the people behind the project. And again, kind of something else we talked about earlier being, you know, in charge of something that’s been around for 130 years.
And them trusting me to make some of these decisions is something that gets me really excited. And I don’t take it lightly that they’re allowing me to kind of pull on these levers. And just so happens that people are responding really well to it and it’s positioning us in a way that we’re going to continue to just grow and have fun with the brand and see where we can take this thing. So,
[00:45:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, that’s fantastic. Well, Reed as we’re kind of wrapping up here. Where can people find out more about you and Valdemar Estates?
[00:45:34] Reed Woogerd: Yeah. I think, you know, again, refer you back to the, to the Instagram is where we kind of put out most of our content where you can see what we’re doing on a daily and weekly basis.
And, we’re in the middle of turning our tasting room in Woodinville into a full-service tapas restaurant called Pintxo. And that’s going to open up, I’m not sure when this is going to be posted, but we’re opening sometime in September. So, you know, not too far down the road where people can mark their calendars and, you know.
Even our wine club members can exercise their wine club benefits at the restaurant in Woodinville too. So I think we’re starting to do some really interesting things with the brand and kind of excited to see where we can take it from there. So Valdemar Estates Instagram, and then look for the Pintxo brand to be announced here pretty soon.
[00:46:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s awesome. Well, Reed, thank you so much for joining us.
[00:46:28] Bianca Harmon: Thanks Reed.
[00:46:30] Reed Woogerd: Yeah. Thank you guys. I had fun. Appreciate it.
[00:46:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Talk to you later. Bye bye.