Talented Female Winemaker Crafting Wines With a Focus on Longevity With Katarina Bonde of West Wines

by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Aug 31, 2023

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Talented Female Winemaker Crafting Wines With a Focus on Longevity With Katarina Bonde of West Wines

Last Updated on August 31, 2023 by nicole

Katarina Bonde West Wines
Talented Female Winemaker Crafting Wines With a Focus on Longevity With Katarina Bonde of West Wines 11

Meet Katarina Bonde, a Swedish-rooted individual whose path led her from the world of tech to the enchanting realm of winemaking. University classes kindled her fascination with wine, sparking journeys through Europe’s vineyards. Settling in Seattle in the early nineties, Katarina’s tech career intertwined with her growing passion for wine. She and her husband discovered the budding wine region of Dry Creek Valley, charmed by its family-owned wineries. Today, as Winemaker and Owner at West Wines, Katarina weaves her diverse background into every bottle, a harmonious blend of technology and terroir.

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

  • Learn how Katarina’s path led her to the wine industry, all the way from her roots in Sweden
  • Uncover the intriguing origins of West Wines and its unique legacy of female winemakers
  • Learn about Katarina’s European approach to patience in winemaking and the significance of aging wines in barrels over decades
  • Join the conversation on the evolution of West Wines under different winemakers
  • Gain insights into the unexpected wine region of Sweden and its connection to Katarina’s winemaking journey
  • Delve into the distribution landscape as Katarina discusses the balance between direct-to-consumer sales and the three-tier system
  • Discover how West Wines adapted during the pandemic
  • See Katarina’s unique perspective on managing her roles in both the tech and wine industries
  • Gain insights into the art of balancing personal winemaking vision with consumer preferences
  • Get an exclusive look at West Wines’ production scale and learn about the number of cases produced at present

In this episode with Katarina Bonde

Join Katarina Bonde of West Wines as she shares her journey from Sweden to California’s Dry Creek Valley. Explore the inception of West Wines, its all-female winemaker tradition, and Katarina’s unique perspective on crafting wines for longevity. 

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon are joined by Katarina Bonde, Winemaker and Owner at West Wines. Learn about her European-inspired patience in releasing wines and the delicate balance between her winemaking vision and consumer preferences. From pandemic challenges to tech-wine duality, Katarina offers insights into her world, culminating in a glimpse of West Wines’ production prowess.

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[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Hendricks here. I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast. Today we have Bianca Harmon’s joining us. How’s it going, Bianca?

[00:00:08] Bianca Harmon: Going great, Drew. Excited to be here.

[00:00:11] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yes. Today we have Katarina Bonde on the show, the owner and winemaker of West Wines. How’s it going, Katarina?

[00:00:19] Katarina Bonde: Going great. It’s a beautiful day.

Topping barrels today here at West Wines.

[00:00:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fantastic. So Katarina West Wines is, you’re located up in Dry Creek Valley?

[00:00:30] Katarina Bonde: That’s right, absolutely.

[00:00:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Give us a little background. How did you get into the wine industry?

[00:00:36] Katarina Bonde: Well, both my husband and I have had, you know, a long, long passion for wine.

Already at university, we did classes in winemaking from a consumer perspective, you know, like learning what would you do if you were to make wine. And we didn’t really understand much of it because we had never seen a winery. But we, you know, went down to various places. France, Italy, and checked-out wines.

And then we moved to Seattle in the early nineties and started checking out all the wines in Washington, Oregon, California, and really fell in love with the wine industry here.

[00:01:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And you came and you’re originally from Sweden?

[00:01:18] Katarina Bonde: Yes, exactly. So we came from Stockholm.

[00:01:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: When did you come over from Sweden?

[00:01:23] Katarina Bonde: That was in 93. So we started, we you know, we moved to Seattle, worked in the tech industry, had two small kids. On the weekends we would love to go down here. And we actually came upon at Dry Creek Valley in particular. Which was very undeveloped at that time. Purely family wineries.

Healdsburg was an incredibly cute little town with the Square. The Plaza only had buildings on three sites in a big brown dirt field on the fourth. Today’s completely different. It’s really wine industry and, and entertainment, and a destination for people coming here.

[00:02:01] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, the first time I was in Healdsburg was in the mid-nineties.

It was a very different town back then.

[00:02:07] Katarina Bonde: Yeah.

[00:02:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So West Wines. How did West Wines begin?

[00:02:11] Katarina Bonde: We did not intend to create the winery. We actually, as I said, we came down to Healdsburg. We thought it was a lovely place. We met some people here that took us on fun excursions and they would make some wine in their backyards.

So we said, “Hey. Let’s get a small place, you know, two two-bedroom cottage. We can have, you know, a row, two or vines. We’ll come down in the weekends and we’ll do this thing too.” Just make, you know, a barrel of wine every year. This is gonna be so cool and we can just continue to do our jobs in the tech industry.

So then I sent my husband shopping, and he came back with 30 acres of Chardonnay, a couple of barns, and I’m like, okay, where’s the cottage? And he’s gonna, who’s gonna manage the 30 acres of vines? So that’s how it started. We,

[00:03:03] Bianca Harmon: And it was already purchased at this time? He’d already purchased it. It was like the deal was,

[00:03:08] Katarina Bonde: Yeah. Well, I mean I, you know, he hadn’t, he, you know, he hadn’t signed it, but it was like, okay. And I’m like, okay, let’s do this, but we need to find a place to, to live. So then we found another piece of, piece of land, beautiful. So the first part is where we now have our tasting room.

And it’s down on the valley floor. Beautiful right night next to Dry Creek. We’re also up, much higher up, up on the west side of the valley up on a ridge. And that’s where Cabernet today, and we bought that land so we could also build a house and, and live there.

And that’s, that’s where we live now. But we didn’t really know what we had gotten ourselves into because loving wine and being a good consumer and knowing about various, grapes from drinking them is different from managing a vineyard. So I still remember walking around with a vineyard manager the very first time, and I innocently said, “Well, So what could go wrong with the grapes?”

Oh, there’s -. There is red ross, black ross. There is frost, there’s hail, there is, you know, acids and this and that, and I’m like, “Whoa.”

[00:04:23] Bianca Harmon: So nothing, nothing could go wrong. Absolutely nothing.

[00:04:28] Katarina Bonde: So he said, “Oh, it doesn’t all happen at the same time.” Okay, so that’s where it started. We started then deciding, okay, what if we now are gonna have a winery?

What’s our focus? You know, what’s gonna be our, what are we gonna do with this? What do we want to be known as if we have a winery? And I have always had a passion for Bordeaux wines. I was mesmerized decades ago when I found you I could drink a Bordeaux that had 30, 40 years of age, and I thought, this is fantastic.

How do you create this? Other than just waiting 30, 40 years, you know, what’s actually in that? So I then decided, okay, I have to learn this. And we hired a winemaker so I could start, you know, so we could start making wine. I was learning alongside, I started taking classes at UC Davis. I did a winemaker, a winemaker certificate there, and I took, you know, I let that take some time.

I still had my full-time job. So I was doing this like one class, you know, per semester and just taking it slowly. But it was great. You know, I worked.

[00:05:42] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing to have a full-time job and go back. I mean, few people, few. I mean, it’s my dream to go back and get a certificate, but the likelihood. I mean, it’s very inspirational to have that happen.

[00:05:51] Katarina Bonde: You know, this was before, this was before online classes, so you either physically were there or you were sent this enormous package with CDs that you would sit and listen to, and it was hard to not fall asleep. I can tell you that much.

[00:06:07] Bianca Harmon: Yeah. It’s not like a good podcast.

[00:06:11] Katarina Bonde: Nope. This is so much good.

[00:06:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: When was the first vintage of West Wines?

[00:06:16] Katarina Bonde: 99. We started right away to create the Cabernet. That was my dream. And that’s how we started experimenting to see what does it take, and learning over the years, at what bricks do you need to harvest the grapes.

 What acidity are you after? What sugar are you after? So that you can keep aging this wine for a long time. We’ve found that you, we typically have to harvest maybe a little earlier than other Cabernet growers. We are definitely aging in barrels, French oak barrels for two and a half years.

So we’re doing a number of steps to get a wine that has a lot of preservatives and the preservatives are natural because obviously it comes from the alcohol itself, from the tannins and the grapes, the tannins and the barrel, et cetera. So it’s been experimentation and I was very lucky initially.

I had Julia Iantosca was our first winemaker, and after her, Phyllis Zouzounis, both excellent female winemakers. So, and now with me, we’ve only ever had female winemakers at West Wines.

[00:07:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fantastic.

[00:07:25] Bianca Harmon: I know that one of your passion in making the wine that you really wanted to talk about was the, you know, the longevity, you know, your barrels, how you craft it for decades. I know that that’s a big piece. To you and important to you. Do you wanna share on that?

[00:07:41] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, I just find it fascinating that the wine continues to evolve in the bottle. That there is so much that happens. That every year I mean, I can have a wine. I have, you know, I have 24 bottles and let’s say I pull one every year and it’s gonna be different every year. And if you start off with the right, the right ingredients, so to speak, you will have a wine, especially with grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, those long-aging grape varietals.

You can keep going for decades. We still have actually a couple of barrels, I mean a couple of cases of the 99. And it’s amazing. I mean, it’s this beautiful old lady, not that much tannins left. Obviously. There’s still beautiful fruit. You have leather, you have some of the figs and dates.

That come with that, a little older flavor profile. But still kind of spunky. I mean, it’s great. And I love that.

[00:08:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. So back in, even back in nine, so in 99, the original winemaker shared your vision for these wines of longevity.

[00:08:49] Katarina Bonde: Yes, exactly. Yeah. We started with that and, and I mean this wine of course, it took us six years before we thought it was good to, to bring out. And this has always been, you know, this one discussion between my husband and I, okay. Are we there yet?

You know, because he’s looking at us building up all this inventory. And of course, he wants to sell it. And I was want to hold onto it till it’s perfect. I want to do two and a half years aging in oak barrels. I wanna lay the bo, you know, lay the bottles down for another three years or so.

Making sure that they are more perfect than they are just right after bottling. And that’s a lot of inventory to build up. So we’ve always had this tug of war between us, and that, you know.

[00:09:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s kind of unusual though. A lot of like, especially in the, in the United States where people just release the wines and say it’s up to you to cellar ’em.

You see that a lot in, in Spain though. They’ll hold the wines until they’re ready. It seems like you almost take that more of a European style of waiting until the wines are ready.

[00:09:50] Katarina Bonde: Absolutely. And I think it’s also a lot of people here may not have the right place to store the wines.

Because I know a lot of people in Europe will buy wines young in, in cases. But then they will store them away in their cellar. Most houses there have good cool cellars where you can store the wine. So in a way, you can say, well, I do the work for our customers. I store it for them so they can pick it up when it’s really great and ready to drink.

And we also make sure that we have on hand at least, you know, maybe seven, eight years back of Cabernet that our customers can come and get a work. You know, you, you can do a tasting, maybe a vertical tasting, so you can come to us and taste the Cabernet from 06, 08, 09 and see, oh, that’s what the wine would taste like if I kept my wine for 15 years.

[00:10:43] Bianca Harmon: That’s a rare thing in the Napa, Sonoma County is being able to actually experience these. A lot of these wineries have older wine that they’ve kept a few cases of to per, you know, to sell which actually be able to go and taste wines from that long ago. It’s not common.

[00:10:58] Katarina Bonde: Yeah. What we do is we, we have, you know, certain events where we get, you know, enough of a group together that we can open a full bottle and do vertical tastings and that, that’s a great way to, to experience it. Then I always encourage people to, to try to find, you know, a small space in their house where they can continue to store wine.

I mean, you can get a small, you know, wine fridge for example. So it, it’s really fun.

[00:11:28] Bianca Harmon: Depending on where you live. A closet sometimes. A dark closet.

[00:11:32] Katarina Bonde: I mean, preferably down underground is the best. Because then you have very even temperature.

[00:11:37] Bianca Harmon: Yeah. Fantastic.

[00:11:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So talk to me about the evolution of West Wines from the, between the different winemakers.

Have you kept the same house style or have you seen your wines evolve over the last 20 years or so?

[00:11:50] Katarina Bonde: So what we’ve done is we have broadened the portfolio. We started out creating the Cabernet line because I just knew this was gonna take quite a time. So then we also have been making. Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and one of my absolutely favorite white grapes, Vignette.

I love the, that beautiful flavors of, of exotic fruit, but yet creating a very dry wine from it. And then I make blends. A typical Bordeaux blend with Cabernet and Merlot, sometimes Malbec Petit Verdot. I have been doing a little bit of what I call my tribute to Italy, combining Sangiovese and Cabernet.

And also recently, I did a Cabernet Malbec blends more in the Argentinian style. So doing a little bit of a, you know, portfolio where you can get different expressions that you can attribute to various places. And then of course one of my favorite projects was when we were starting to create our Blanc de Blancs, our sparkling made from Chardonnay.

So I spent the year trying all sorts of different French Blanc de Blancs to figure out what style we wanted. And each time my daughter came, came to visit and she was saying, “Oh, I only have to drink champagne every time I visit for you.”

[00:13:16] Bianca Harmon: I know, right? My favorite.

[00:13:17] Katarina Bonde: Yeah. Oh yeah. Well, she loves champagne, so it’s, it’s good.

So that’s kind of the evolution, you know, trying different wines that still adhere to our European profile. And I don’t make all these different wines every year. I rotate a bit and then sometimes I come up with a new idea like the, you know, trying to make more of an Argentinian wine.

Came after visiting a number of winemakers down in, in the Mendoza area in Argentina. So, there has to be a little bit of experimentation because otherwise, you know, this would be not boring, but not as fun. It’s never boring because you always have, okay, each vintage is so different. We have different rainfall, temperature, whatnot, and after fermentation, and we start that aging in the barrel.

And that’s the fun part. I cannot make two vintages that are the same.

[00:14:12] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That is the cool thing about wine. It’s really hard to, I mean, you strive for some sort of house style and consistency, but there’s so many influences with the weather and the growing conditions and just harvest in general.

That makes it almost impossible to get the exact, you can see siblings, but you never really get identical twins.

[00:14:34] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, no, that’s, that’s exactly the same the thing.

[00:14:37] Bianca Harmon: So I wanna ask you, Katarina, speaking, ’cause you’ve speaking on all of the European styles of wine that you’ve been making, and you’re from Sweden.

So talk to me what I mean is the, the wine region in Sweden is there.

[00:14:51] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, that’s a, it is a great question. Of course. Sweden is not a big wine-manufacturing country. There are grapes growing in southern Sweden. It’s primarily hardy varietals, Riesling, Solaris. And it’s, it’s hard because, you know, a number of seasons it’s really wet, so it’s not that easy to get a great harvest.

It takes a lot of, it takes a lot of passion to grow wine in Southern Sweden. I know several of, I visited several of the wineries there and there were some great wines, but it’s I would say they will much more often come across a vintage where it’s so hard because it, you know, it’s started raining hard before harvest or, you know, but

[00:15:36] Bianca Harmon: So they’re doing a lot of botti-style wines.

[00:15:38] Katarina Bonde: Not really more. No. I would say you get more ice wine because you have the benefit of getting frost and snow. So it’s so on. The

[00:15:47] Bianca Harmon: Interesting.

[00:15:48] Katarina Bonde: The search side, it’s more getting

[00:15:49] Bianca Harmon: So like Canada?

[00:15:50] Katarina Bonde: Yeah. Ice wine, really, really great products. I will say several of them. Beautiful. But the thing with Sweden is that there are so many people that are knowledgeable about wine.

There’s a huge organization with 25,000 members in a country with 10 or 11 million people that is called Munskänkarna. And they have education you can get different levels of, of certification. They have every small village and city in Sweden has a chapter, and Sweden actually has twice as much wine consumption per capita as the us.

[00:16:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s amazing. Now, wow. Do you export your wine over to Sweden?

[00:16:32] Katarina Bonde: We do, we do. Not a lot, but it’s really fun to have a small export to, to your home country. And Sweden is a little different. There is a monopoly that sells to consumers. We can sell directly to restaurants, but we cannot sell to consumers, so that has to go through the monopoly.

So that’s a different style of, or a different type of channel than we’re used to here. We can’t just set up a tasting room.

[00:16:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. What percentage of your wines are exported?

[00:17:03] Katarina Bonde: It varies a bit about 10%. We have a couple of different channels. So it’s not just the that, you know, that monopoly.

We have restaurants and, and other places too. But it’s predominantly Sweden. It, you know, we are too small to export anyway, so this is more because we know that market. And I know they are, are great wine lovers and I know that this style of wine will work.

[00:17:29] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Sure. Now, for your sales in general, like what percentage are sold directly to consumers versus through the three tier system?

[00:17:35] Katarina Bonde: We sell all our wine directly to consumers.

[00:17:38] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, really? Okay. So everything except for just that small chunk exported.

[00:17:42] Katarina Bonde: Yeah. So of course, you know, lots of visitors coming in from all over. not so much during the pandemic, but people are coming back again. Coming have our wine

[00:17:52] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Coming -. I was up there just a little while ago and it’s, it was gangbusters.

[00:17:57] Katarina Bonde: It’s great. Yeah, it’s great. It’s great. And then of course we have a wine club. And online sales. So, you know, many people who come to visit then they, you know, they go back home and then they can order, we can ship to, to most states.

But, you know, people come back and they visit again and they wanna, we our tasting room is right next to our vineyard, so you can sit outside a couple of steps from the vines. And if anyone is interested, I’m always eager to, to talk about everything from how the vine grows to how we make the wine.

And a lot of our staff happily takes people on vineyard walks and, and so it’s a great place to visit.

[00:18:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s great. Now, and so coming out of the pandemic, every winery kind of made adjustments. How did you guys kind of adapt through the pandemic and then as you’re emerging from it?

[00:18:49] Katarina Bonde: Well, during the pandemic, like everyone else here in Sonoma, we had to be closed.

I think it was like six months in 2020 and six months in 2021. And, and of course, that’s hard. You know, you’re trying to keep some of the staff on board. You’re trying to come up with activities to do. We did a lot of online tastings. I did trivia sessions. We did online tastings for companies.

Companies who had their employees sitting at home. I did a lot, I did vertical tastings. We would ship out these older bottles and then go through all these different vintages. So that was actually quite fun to do. Even had Alibaba with, you know, a ton of managers throughout the US and in China.

I did this huge tasting for 60 people that called in from all over the world actually.

[00:19:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, wow. That’s, that’s a great pivot. So did you, so you shipped out the wines and then you sort of had a virtual tasting and a company bonding experience.

[00:19:48] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So we, we could, we couldn’t ship any wine to China so they.

You know, they could just listen in. But everyone else got the wine shipped to them and they, some them had gathered in some someone’s home. So they were three, four people together and then I would also do some quizzes.

I like to do it, you know, make it fun. So we would have quizzes about, you know, do know who the parent is of Cabernet Sauvignon? Where do you think the Syrah is grown? You know, like trivia things and they would be competing against each other, different factions of the company.

That’s a great idea.

And sometimes it was just birthday. Yeah. Birthday parties.

I would have a family. Someone’s turning 75, they want to celebrate Grandma. They’re sitting in five different locations in the US they can’t travel. So we would do a fun celebration. I would show them how to saber a champagne bottle. You know, we would do things like that.

[00:20:52] Bianca Harmon: That’s awesome.

[00:20:52] Katarina Bonde: And I would have to make sure I wasn’t pointing towards. I did that once I kind of pointed to the screen. I almost damaged my laptop.

[00:21:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So, so did, did any of these things stick now that we’re kind of gone into 2023?

[00:21:08] Katarina Bonde: Not so much anymore. I was gonna say 2022 that you know, we still had some of that happening.

I think just like myself, we’re all a little bit tired sitting in front of a screen.

[00:21:21] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah.

[00:21:21] Katarina Bonde: It’s great to jump on a screen when you have no other avenue. But people like to come in person. I mean now, and then there is someone who says, wow, we can’t get everyone together. And of course we’ll do that, but I’m gonna say it’s more rare now than it was back then.

[00:21:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: We had a few guests on the show that really went into those kinds of virtual corporate tasting environments, and they’re still, they’re still pushing that. I do think you could do in, in-person trivia at your tasting room.

[00:21:50] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, if you, yeah. If you come over Easter weekend, we’re gonna have a quiz walk in the same vein, but now it’s real. So you walk through our entire vineyard. We will have fun questions both for kids and adults, and you can walk through the vineyard, get some, you know, funky prices when, when you get back, and then you can have your tasting.

So if you’re an adult, you taste wine. If you’re a kid, you taste apple juice and jelly beans.

[00:22:16] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s nice.

[00:22:16] Katarina Bonde: So you can do trivia, you know, in person too, of course.

[00:22:21] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s all about making the, the experience. When you visit, when you visit the wine.

[00:22:25] Katarina Bonde: And that’s really what I think wine is about.

 You can drink wine on your own, but I think wine, if you go back through history, is something that you share with other people. You sit around a bottle of wine. You talk about that wine. And interestingly, we’ll start talking about other wines that you’ve had, other experiences. And when you think about a wine, you often think about where you were when you first drank it, where you were sitting, who you were with.

So yeah, wine is about the experience.

[00:22:59] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Very good. Talking about the experience. So you, you come from a tech background. And the experience in tech is very, oftentimes very different than in wine. How do you manage the two worlds between tech and wine?

[00:23:12] Katarina Bonde: It’s a good question. Well, I think, you know, initially this whole idea of building up a whole library of wines that we couldn’t release until after five, six years.

I guess that comes from a background where you build products and you know you have to invest to get the product you want. You decide this is what we’re building, we’re aiming it for this type of audience, and you just have to believe that that audience is gonna be there and that your product is gonna have a market.

So that’s how we started. So I think that comes from my, my product background. And, and running, you know, running companies where the product was, you know, the main thing and, and you were building it first before you even maybe had an audience. So I think there, there’s a commonality there for me.

And then, of course, making wine is of course a lot of science. You have to know about your, you know, you’re analyzing the grapes. You need to understand when they’re gonna be picked. You need to analyze what’s going on throughout fermentation, throughout the aging in the barrel. You need to understand why wine spoils and how to make sure it doesn’t.

But then there’s also the, the marketing. Which has to do with creating an experience for someone. And that’s the same thing in the tech industry. There are lots of products in the tech industry that of course we don’t need as humans, but we love to use them. That’s the whole marketing, and it’s the same thing with wine.

[00:24:47] Drew Thomas Hendricks: There’s a lot of parallels there ’cause wine’s necessary, but it’s, it’s not a need to have much like a lot of tech. It enhances your life and enhances your whole experience. But it’s not like as much as we think it is, it’s not water.

[00:25:01] Katarina Bonde: I know, I know there’s a lot of water in it, but yeah. And put, put, you know, put me on a this, you know, on this island.

And nothing else to do. I’d rather have cheese and wine than water, of course, but no. So exactly. You have that creating a sense of what you can, you know. Who you can be, what you can do when you’re using the product. I think that’s something that, that is similar here.

[00:25:30] Drew Thomas Hendricks: There’s some differences too in the pre-show you, we were talking about the contracts.

[00:25:35] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, I know. So you’re in the tech industry and there are so many lawyers involved in the tech industry. I mean, you know that regardless if your company is doing well or poorly, there will be lawyers involved. And they will be paid whether you get paid or not. And so the contracts are, you know, thick.

I mean, you have inches of stacks of paper when you’re creating contracts in the tech world. Well, if you’re in the, in the wine business in particular as growers in a valley where everyone knows each other, it may just be a handshake. You just you know, decide on a price. Tonnage and everyone knows that if it’s a, you know, if the yield is small then you know everyone’s not gonna get exactly what they wanted.

So then everyone gets a little less. And if you’re gonna, if you’re gonna have a great year then you’ll find a couple of other buyers. Or some people may take more than they initially expected. And there may be a piece of paper, one page. Definitely, no lawyers involved.

So that’s really huge difference in particular if you’re in a more of a small-scale environment like Dry Creek Valley.

[00:26:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Over the last 20 years have you seen that, like, I think a lot of people wax nostalgic about how it used to be, but do you still see that whole handshake kind of referral business going on in the, in 2020?

[00:26:55] Katarina Bonde: I would say it’s, I would say it’s a mix. When you deal with, I mean, there will be contracts too. Absolutely. So I’m gonna say, I mean, and for me, I use a lot of our grapes myself, of course. But we do sell some grapes too. I mean, we grow a lot of Sauvignon Blanc and I don’t make Sauvignon Blanc every year, as an example.

So we will sell a lot of that and it’s, yeah, sometimes it’s a contract, but it’s still often it’s an email. When you say, do you have, you know, do you have something for the fall? I mean, I just had an email conversation like that. Can you get me in non 10 tons of Sauvignon Blanc?

What’s the price? And yeah it’s, it’s, and of course, if you don’t honor someone’s request, that will be remembered a year later. And we’re all in this valley. It’s not like you can take your vineyard and go.

[00:27:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s true. I mean, that’s true.

[00:27:52] Bianca Harmon: But you have to pick and choose. Right? I mean,

[00:27:55] Katarina Bonde: Yeah.

[00:27:55] Bianca Harmon: Can’t give in to everybody or, you know.

[00:27:58] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, No, no, no. So, so it’s, I think, I think we know who we can do business with. Who is a good person? Who, you know, who pays their bills and who doesn’t? Which is important.

[00:28:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. You mentioned not making Sauvignon Blanc every year.

What are the deciding factors on whether you choose to make it or not?

[00:28:15] Katarina Bonde: It’s because I like to, to focus and have one or two white wines per year. So I rotate between making Chardonnay, Viognier, Sauvignon Blanc, and then our sparkling we tend to do every second year. So that’s kind of focusing on, you know, one or two wines at the same time.

And that’s the whole reason. And it’s not necessarily because I look at them and I say, sometime in September, oh, you know, let’s do this. It takes a little more planning than that in terms of your, you know, tanks and barrels and what, what you’re gonna press and what you’re gonna pick and, and like we just talked about, are you gonna sell, you know, excess grains?

[00:28:58] Bianca Harmon: Are you making a Viognier every year?

[00:29:02] Katarina Bonde: Almost. There has been a few exceptions, but almost like I said, it is my favorite grape.

[00:29:10] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, that’s interesting. So the decisions made almost before the wine, the grapes are ready. It’s not like you look at the grapes and go, okay, they’re not –

[00:29:17] Katarina Bonde: Well, I’m gonna say I make the decisions in the summer so we know enough about, we know enough about the harvest and the grapes and everything and, you know, the whole it, it’s a puzzle of course between what you make, what you’re gonna sell, et cetera. Yeah.

And then also a little bit looking at of course what is because the, the hard part is that grapevines take, you know, four or five years before you get a real good harvest. And then you’re gonna grow that varietal for, for decades. But people’s, you know, the trends in what people like to drink, that fluctuates more often.

And that’s a bit of a problem if you’re a grower. So suddenly, oh, you know, Chardonnay was a big thing and now, oh, who wants to drink a Chardonnay? That’s so, you know, untrendy. Now it’s all gonna be Sauvignon Blanc or something else, and we can’t, you know, the plants are the, are there. So, we have to figure that out.

And I think for us it’s about being consistent in the type of wine we make. I like to make sure that the white wines are crisp and slender and, you know, try, try to make sure we come back to that every year. Every vintage.

[00:30:34] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. You brought up an interesting point about how it’s four to five years out and then there’s consumer trends.

How much, how do you draw the balance between your vision for the wines and what consumers want?

[00:30:45] Katarina Bonde: We have the luxury of not being a gigantic winery. if you’re gonna sell wines in millions of cases around the world, you really have to pay attention to trends. If you’re a small winery where you are focusing on a certain group of people who like a certain style of wine, you can afford to be more product-centric and not market-centric.

It’s almost the same thing as, as in, well, it is the same thing in other industries too. So yes, I mean, there is a slight fluctuation over time, but that those are longer cycles. So we don’t really give into trends.

[00:31:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, that’s good. No, that’s good.

[00:31:29] Katarina Bonde: I stick to my product.

[00:31:30] Drew Thomas Hendricks: And is what, give us an idea of your production. How many cases are you producing right now?

[00:31:36] Katarina Bonde: So right now, two and a half thousand cases, it fluctuates a little bit. The, you know, the pandemic has been making us all wonder a little bit about is how is the consumer behavior going to change.

When we didn’t see any visitors, of course, sales were down. There was a lot of articles about everyone was sitting home and drinking boatloads of wine, but people sitting home, drinking boatloads of wine they get it off more the discount online wine stores.

They don’t seek gout small producers that they haven’t heard about before. So right now, I’m gonna say we’re a little bit, you know, still looking at, are we gonna be back at the levels we were? Should we, you know, increase production again? You know, where are we gonna be? We’re still not quite out of the, we may be out of the general pandemic in terms of, you know, how fast the virus spreads, but I think consumer behaviors haven’t come back to where they were before.

[00:32:39] Drew Thomas Hendricks: There’s de definitely a lot of uncertainty out there right now. Consumer behavior.

[00:32:43] Katarina Bonde: Yeah.

[00:32:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Like what, talk to me about your vision, like what your vision for West Wine, West Wines, if it comes to fruition over the next 10 years.

[00:32:53] Katarina Bonde: So obviously over the next 10 years, we will be releasing wines that I have made over the past. Well in the next six years, we’ll be releasing wine that I made in the sa past six years.

[00:33:06] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, you’re still

[00:33:08] Katarina Bonde: For one. I’m gonna continue to experiment. Probably I’ll create a few more blends. I have a few that I’m thinking of right now and I haven’t quite, you know, landed there yet, but I think that’s blending in the cellar having your, you know, creating wines where you finish the wine separately in separate barrels and letting them age for a couple of years to see where are they going.

And then see, okay. What type of blend is gonna make a certain impact and, and change in style from what I’ve done before? That’s really exciting. It’s, and I’m not, and I’m usually inspired by my trips to other wine countries. Like I said, you know, going to Argentina, really going through meeting with a number of winemakers, trying to understand how they do it. And then of course when I make a wine.

[00:34:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What was your takeaway from Argentina? Your Argentina trip?

[00:34:08] Katarina Bonde: Oh, it was amazing. Fun to see how Malbec, how different it is there than in what it is in France. I mean, Malbec means bad beak in French and in Bordeaux, it really is a wine that often doesn’t mature enough.

It, you know, it doesn’t, you, you don’t really make a wine a hundred percent Malbec in Argentina with the different climates. That grape tastes differently and, but it was amazing to see how huge their wineries are. I visited a small, so to speak, vineyard and or winery.

And they, you know, they’re like 20,000 cases and that’s pretty much the smallest you can find there. Most of them are gigantic. They make, you know, a million cases of wine. It’s much bigger scale. and. Comparing that to going to Chile, I’ve, I’ve done some winery visits there too, and it’s interesting to see how.

They have more, the struggle that the country itself didn’t grow up with a wine tradition. Argentina had more of European influence early on, so their, their food and everything was more attuned with wine.

Chile had a much longer history of just exporting their wines, which is changing.

So there, there’s a lot of fun, interesting, wine to, you know, speaking about something that I don’t know we’re gonna do, but I, I was excited about tasting the Carménère in, in Chile, which is that sixth grape.

[00:35:41] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yes. The long lost Bordeaux variety.

[00:35:43] Katarina Bonde: Yeah. The lost Bordeaux grape that grows there. Which, so I mean, some of those things, you know, maybe trying on a grape that isn’t as prevalent here and see what we could do with it could be exciting.

[00:35:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, I would love to taste some Carménère.

[00:35:59] Katarina Bonde: Yeah. And I think also, I think now we were speaking about this whole, you know, the experience. How do we continue to give an experience that is both fun but also a little bit educational?

We were doing all these fun online quizzes and different sessions and to see how can we create that at the winery, in the tasting room. So I think there, I think we’ll see more of that. I think people want more of that.

[00:36:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: For sure. Now, you’ve mentioned your daughter visits and was drinking Chardonnay, has your family got the wine bug? Are they joining in on the –

[00:36:36] Katarina Bonde: They are not yet joining us in creating the wines. They’re certainly drinking them. My daughter has married a French guy who hails from Burgundy, so he’s very much in love with wine too.

[00:36:49] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Okay.

[00:36:49] Katarina Bonde: And yeah. And our son. And

[00:36:52] Bianca Harmon: What does he think of your wine? You know, the French are pretty particular.

[00:36:56] Katarina Bonde: Thank God. Thank God he loves the wine. Otherwise, I don’t know if we could’ve let him into the family. And I created a special vintage Chardonnay, 2021. It’s called, Chardonnay, Alix. Alexis is my first grandchild. She’s 18 months now.

And so I have my, and of course, of course, but still in the barrel. I have a Cabernet vintage waiting at some point to be released with her name.

[00:37:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s gonna be awesome. She’ll be able to 21st birthday.

[00:37:29] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, exactly. Exactly.

[00:37:32] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fantastic. So, Katerina, as we’re wrapping down here, I always ask because you have a huge tech career, huge wine career, how do you stay motivated?

[00:37:45] Katarina Bonde: Ah, well, I think one thing that helps is that I’m always curious about things. I love to learn things, so I love to read up on whatever, whatever I’m gonna do. I want to know the details. I want to be knowledgeable. So this whole thing of finding out more about other parts of the world, how they make the wine.

What can we impart here? And then from the tech side, I think sometimes it’s, it’s really good to kind of switch your brain over into a completely different area and you know, takeaways things from there. I, like I said, you know, I take away a lot of the product first activities from the tech sector, making me stay focused on, okay, we’re gonna do our things just because someone comes in and says, oh, why don’t you make Zinfandel?

No. You know, there’s lots of people making Zinfandel here in Dry Creek Valley and they’re great. And I’ll, and you know, I’ll just bring my own bottle of Cabernet and I, I exchanged that for a bottle of Zin with one of my winemaking friends here. So yeah, so, you know, it’s that part of staying focused.

And I think also the other, you know, when I’m dealing with my tech companies, I, you know, I work with a number of assignments. I am on, on some technology company boards, and I’m passionate then too. I think that’s one part of my, you know, that’s who I am. I need to be passionate about something.

I can’t work with a company just to do it. It has to be some part of me that says, “Wow, this is amazing. This is so fun.”

[00:39:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: For sure. That pursuit of knowledge it’s, it drives me for sure.

[00:39:40] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, that has been really fun to listening to all your previous podcasts.

[00:39:45] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, thank you.

[00:39:45] Katarina Bonde: What a library.

[00:39:47] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So Katarina. So where can people find out more about West Wines?

[00:39:51] Katarina Bonde: Well, they can go to our website, westwines.com. And you can pretty much find everything you need to know about us. And you can book a visit. You can buy wine, you can read a little more about our story and, and contact us. So that’s probably the best place to start. Please come and visit.

[00:40:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, absolutely. Well, Katarina, thank you so much for joining us.

[00:40:16] Bianca Harmon: Thank you, Katarina.

[00:40:17] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s been a pleasure.

[00:40:18] Katarina Bonde: Well, thank you, Drew. Thank you, Bianca. This has been really fun.

[00:40:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You have a great day. Thank you.

[00:40:25] Katarina Bonde: Yeah, thank you. Bye-bye.