Last Updated on May 10, 2023 by mark
Janie Brooks Heuck, a native of Portland, is the Managing Director of Brooks Wine. For over 10 years, she worked in the healthcare industry until she was entrusted with the business operations of the winery. After the passing of her brother Jimi, the Oregon wine community was incredibly generous and supportive, which made Janie realize the significance of her brother’s life-long commitment to the winery. Since 2004, Janie has been ensuring the success of Brooks Wine. Janie is passionate about the winery, her family, travel, and Riesling.
Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:
- Janie Brooks Heuck is the Managing Director of Brooks Wine
- How Janie got into the wine industry after her brother’s unexpected passing and was approached by 12 winemakers to keep the winery going
- Preserving Jimi Brook’s style and philosophy in their wines, using small lots for blending without manipulating their wines
- The focus is on wines from the Willamette Valley region, they also offer beer and cider as well
- Brooks Wines’ tasting room is designed to be comfortable and offers tableside service
- Brooks Wines’ commitment to sustainability with B Corp and Demeter certification
- The focus on transparency and accountability in the supply chain and purchasing
- Brooks Wines’ team is split between hospitality and production
- Reservations have brought value and attention to their tasting room experience
- The importance of personalization and human connection and customer communication, including personalized emails and transactional emails with pictures and people
In this episode with Janie Brooks Heuck
In this episode with Janie Brooks Heuck, Janie shares her journey into the wine industry and her experience taking over the winery after her brother’s passing. How did preserving her brother’s style in philosophy in winemaking while expanding their vineyard sources and product offerings led to Brooks Wine’s success?
Janie Brooks Heuck is the Managing Director of Brooks Wine, Janie talks about Brooks Winery’s commitment to accessibility and price point.
In today’s episode of the Legends Behind The Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon are joined by Janie Brooks Heuck, Janie is the Managing Director of Brooks Wine, to discuss Brooks Wine’s dedication to creating a comfortable and inclusive gathering place for everyone, as well as their loyalty program that rewards customers with loyalty points redeemable for anything purchased at Brooks, including wine, gift cards, and merchandise.
Resources Mentioned in this episode
- Drew Thomas Hendricks on LinkedIn
- Barrels Ahead
- Bianca Harmon on LinkedIn
- Janie Brooks Heuck on LinkedIn
- Brooks Wines
- Brooks Wines on Instagram
- Brooks Winery on Facebook
- Brooks Wines on Twitter
- Brooks Wines on YouTube
- Domain Serene
- Napa Valley Wines
- Polly Rodriguez on LinkedIn
- Pascal Brooks of Brooks Winery
Sponsor for this episode…
This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.
Barrels Ahead is a wine and craft marketing agency that propels organic growth by using a powerful combination of content development, Search Engine Optimization, and paid search.
At Barrels Ahead, we know that your business is unique. That’s why we work with you to create a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy that highlights your authenticity, tells your story, and makes your business stand out from your competitors.
Our team at Barrels Ahead helps you leverage your knowledge so you can enjoy the results and revenue your business deserves.
So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!
To learn more, visit barrelsahead.com or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule a strategy call.
[00:00:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Drew Thomas Hendricks here, I’m the host of the Legends Behind the Craft Podcast.
On this show, I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today we have a very special guest on the show, Janie Brooks Heuck. But before I formally introduce myself here, gotta do the sponsor message.
Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. Barrels Ahead. We work with you, to implement a one-of-a-kind marketing strategy.
When that highlights your authenticity. Tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their stories to unleash their revenue. Go to barrels ahead.com today to learn more today. Bianca Harmon, our DTC strategist is joining us today.
How’s it going, Bianca?
[00:00:57] Bianca Harmon: Looking really good, Drew, thanks, really excited about this episode.
[00:01:00] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yes, I am super excited. Today we are talking with Jamie Brooks Heuck. Jamie’s the managing director of Brooks Winery in the Willamette Valley. How’s it going, Janie?
[00:01:11] Janie Brooks Heuck: It’s going great. Thanks so much for having me on today.
I’m excited to talk with you all.
[00:01:16] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yes, welcome to the show. So Janie, give us a little background on, how you got into the wine.
[00:01:21] Janie Brooks Heuck: Well, I got into it through unfortunate circumstances. Oh, but it is one of the best stories, I think, in American wine, and it really highlights the passion and sense of community that we have in Willamette.
I got involved in the business 18 years ago. Our family’s winery was started by my brother Jimi Brooks back in 1998, and he passed away unexpectedly in September 2004. And I was approached by 12 winemakers in the Willamette Valley who said he was doing amazing things and really wanted to keep the winery going, at least for that first year.
[00:01:56] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh wow. And then, so you were kind of thrown into the wine, were you involved in the winery before?
[00:02:01] Janie Brooks Heuck: No, not at all. I knew nothing about wine. I was a stay-at-home mom drinking, you know, big buttery chardonnays from California with all the other stay-at-home moms in the neighborhood. but I was really, you know, struck by this group and their generosity to take our fruit that first year and make the wine and just how much respect they had for my brother, that was kind of my intro and they asked if I would help on the business side, which Uhhuh, which I didn’t have a choice. our parents had passed away four years prior. Oh. he was no longer married to his wife, and so I was gonna have to deal with his affairs anyway, and really just found this deep connection to him.
And going back to Oregon, which is where we’re from. to these lovely, amazing people in the wine industry. I had no idea that there were actually industries out there that were full of passionate people.
[00:02:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, that is one of the things I like most about the wine industry is that sense of community and comradery, and that’s that kind of collective helping.
[00:02:58] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, you know, there’s a little bit of money in it, in different pieces and parts and pockets, but for the most part, I’d say 95% of who you come into contact with, whether it’s a wine buyer or a winemaker. Anybody in the industry, they do it out of heart and passion.
[00:03:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Alright, for sure. So, you weren’t living in Oregon at the time?
[00:03:16] Janie Brooks Heuck: No, California. Nice. I still live in California.
[00:03:19] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, you do? Oh, okay.
Yeah. Yeah. California’s nice. But there’s something about Oregon too. I’m down in California. I’m down in Carlsbad, California.
[00:03:26] Janie Brooks Heuck: Oh, okay. I’m in Monterey.
[00:03:28] Drew Thomas Hendricks: So how are you?
Okay. Bianca’s up in St. Helena. So let’s talk about Willamette. So I mean, managing a winery from, you know, a state away, and then what was it like being thrown into this situation?
[00:03:40] Janie Brooks Heuck: It was a steep learning curve, for sure. And it, you know, it’s funny now because on a 20-year anniversary, we interviewed a lot of the white makers that helped us, and they were all asked the question like, did you think Brooks would still be around today?
And most of them look at it. And say, well, you know, Janie was nice. We thought she was really nice, but we thought there was no way, you know, that Brooks would still be here. now we all chuckle about it together, but yeah, like I took a class immediately at UC Davis because I didn’t even know what the terms theology meant like I knew nothing and you know, luckily we’re surrounded by such supportive people that really helped guide me and continue to guide me, you know, I still reach out to a lot of those people for help and support and advice. Mm-hmm.
[00:04:22] Bianca Harmon: Oh yeah. And how incredible that you were able to be brought into a situation.
And now here you are 20 years later, over 20 years later, and thriving.
[00:04:33] Janie Brooks Heuck: It’s pretty amazing, next year we’ll celebrate our 25th anniversary as a winery and the 50th anniversary of our estate vineyard.
[00:04:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. Now, over the last 20, or 25 years, how have the wines evolved from the original iteration?
[00:04:47] Janie Brooks Heuck: You know, our winemaker who took over, he was my brother’s assistant at the time, has been our headline maker since my brother passed and a commitment that he and I made to each other early on was we need to really make sure that we stick to Jimi’s style and philosophy and really what he created versus kind of turning this into our own brand.
So we’ve preserved a lot of what Jimi’s done, the label on our wines is a tattoo that he had, and it meant so much to him that he decided to use it as our label. The approach to wine-making hasn’t changed. he used two and a half, 10 fermentors his smallest vessel during harvest, to make 2,500 cases, we use two and a half, 10 fermenters to make 20,000 cases.
So, really haven’t compromised our approach and his philosophy. He was a big believer in blending too, and that’s why we keep everything in such small lots so that when we get to the point of putting something in a bottle, we have so many different components to work with that we can get to balance and style.
Without manipulating our wines, you know, accessibility and price point were important to him. So we really, really managed, we definitely over-deliver for our price points, especially compared to a lot of producers in the malamut who have higher price points, you know, but we have grown substantially and we needed to do that in order to maintain our price points and cover our overhead.
But we really, you know, at the heart and soul of the winery is really Jimi.
[00:06:12] Bianca Harmon: Yeah. So how many would you say wine-wise, because I actually had the pleasure of being able to come to visit this beautiful winery. Would you say, have you added in a lot more vineyards since then? Or are you guys still sticking with the same vineyards or, have you added in several, you know, new varieties like doing the Pinot Rose? That sort of thing or?
[00:06:33] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, the products have definitely evolved over time. he was emphatic about restoring the reputation of Riesling in Oregon, so it is still our primary white, and we will buy Riesling fruit from wherever we can get it. Mm-hmm. In the Lamb Valley, it’s less than 3% of what’s planted across the entire state of Oregon.
but it is definitely still our focus. Jimi was also making an annunciation blend at the time. Oh, in ’99. That was Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Riesling, Gewurztraminer, and Muscat. So we still work with all of those varietals and definitely have expanded our vineyard sources, we do have our own estate vineyard, but then we work with 25 other vineyards. Oh wow. And again, a lot of that is to go get this clone of pinot noir that’s grown at this elevation and has, you know, faces west and gets afternoon sun versus a different clone, you know, with a different aspect, a different vine age, different elevation, because all of those can, you know, impact the style of fruit that you have in the cellar.
[00:07:30] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, for sure, for sure. So Bianca just mentioned that she had just visited you, and I remember when she came back, from the trip, she’s like, we have ’em on our podcast coming up. And she was so excited. she is so excited. So, Bianca, a question for you, what was the tasting experience like at Brooks?
[00:07:45] Bianca Harmon: It was beautiful, it did happen to be one of the like 115-degree days in Oregon, which wasn’t normal. But we sat outside on the patio that overlooked this beautiful garden and they had like the prettiest chickens I’ve ever seen in my entire life too that they let my kids go and feed, which was really nice.
and you literally could see all the way out to, I think, is it like Mount Hood? Mm-hmm. From their deck, which was incredible. And you got to choose your flight. And they brought it all out on these beautiful trays and we did two different ones and kind of shared it. And then we even had food. We had this incredible hotdog that was there.
[00:08:26] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I wasn’t expecting that.
[00:08:27] Bianca Harmon: It was like, you know, like the Mexican style corn uhhuh, it was like that, but a hotdog. Oh. we also had a meat and cheese platter and then the kids had popcorn, which I thought was really cute. It was very family-friendly. The gentleman that waited on us was so nice.
He even sent us a card after we visited and joined the wine club. And, I just loved that they weren’t trying to add all these other different wines to their portfolio. They really kept it focused on what was growing well in the Willamette Valley region and stuck to what they were good at and what they knew.
Instead of trying to delve into things that aren’t from that area.
[00:09:08] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I gotta stop by there. So yeah, we visited a lot of wineries and it’s rare that we come back and talk amongst each other with such enthusiasm. Janie, talk to me about your hospitality.
[00:09:18] Janie Brooks Heuck: So we built the building that you were in Bianca in 2014. and I personally cannot stand the typical tasting room experience. I don’t like the pressure of it, I don’t like standing at the bar, tasting a couple of wines, feeling like I need to join the club or buy something.
Mm-hmm. So I was like, I wanted nothing to do with that, in terms of managing so. Instead, we put in, basically, it’s a lounge, you know, it’s kind of got a shabby sheek interior. It’s super comfortable. It does have beautiful views for me, people need to have a choice. So our flights change monthly, we always offer three flights at a time.
Our food menu changes monthly. We offer all sorts of events and experiences too because my goal is wanna find something for everyone. And that goes back to us having beer and cider on tap. Like maybe you’re not a wine drinker, but that shouldn’t preclude you from having a tap. That’s awesome. So come to Brooks and have your beer while your friends get their wine, and I just really wanted it to be a community gathering place, you know.
[00:10:15] Bianca Harmon: And I did like you also had glasses of wine, cuz after we did our tasting, I got a glass of wine and he actually got a beer.
[00:10:21] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah. Yeah. Glasses and bottles like it really should be about what’s the best experience for you. And so I feel like, and we’ve always done tableside service, which is obviously that’s a lot more overhead in terms of executing service. But to me, that’s a much better way to have service than having to walk up to the bar every time you wanna try a second line. So we really, you know, I follow Napa a lot cuz they’re 20 years ahead of us in terms of innovation and ideas.
[00:10:50] Drew Thomas Hendricks: We might be 20 years behind as far as not allowing glasses of wine in the tasting room.
[00:10:54] Bianca Harmon: I was just gonna say, there’s a lot of wineries that will tell you, we are a winery, we don’t sell beer and cider here. They’re the first to tell you that when you have guests ask about it. So.
[00:11:05] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah. Well, and you know what? Life is too short in my mind. Mm-hmm. I just don’t wanna provide a half-assed experience, you know, my team.
We have an annual meeting and my team asks, we all had to go around and say what we love about Brooks or what kind of what motivates us for our job. And I’m like, mine’s to be the best, whether it’s the best wine, the best team, the best service, the best experience, like mm-hmm We need to keep improving all the time.
[00:11:29] Bianca Harmon: Yeah, no, it was very beautiful, I’ve actually reckon my girlfriend and her husband now and have gone and visited with their kids for her birthday a couple of weeks ago, right? They live in Oregon and so, you know, I am not a person that joins wine clubs because I live in St. Aina. I refuse to join wine clubs and I joined your wine club we are like super excited cuz we’re getting our shipment in next week, I think.
[00:11:52] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, well, and that too, it’s like I wanna have the best wine club in America. Why can’t you? So we try to add so many benefits that especially accommodate the people who are out of town.
[00:12:03] Bianca Harmon: Yeah. Speaking of benefits, I’d like to touch on that point, because I see now that you’re offering points mm-hmm.
And, we haven’t had a winery on that’s doing that. So that’s kind of from a marketing standpoint and everything, I kind of wanted to talk to you about how you came up with that. What made you go into that, et cetera.
[00:12:20] Janie Brooks Heuck: You know, it, definitely wasn’t my idea. there are POS systems that have offered loyalty points for a long time and our previous one did, and everybody really loved that benefit and that perk, we switched systems back in 2020 and so, we kind of banked everybody’s points, but nobody was able to earn ’em.
And then our new POS system finally has ’em again. And you know, some people look at it and think, well, why would you give away more? And it’s like, well, why don’t you thank people for their loyalty? Mm-hmm. Right. Like it’s all about loyalty anymore like I don’t wanna be a one-and-done. It’s like it cost me 25 times more to bring in a new customer than it does for me to keep a customer.
And so we need to do as much as we can through the experience and benefits and offerings, you know, they keep people coming back and enjoying it. And, you know, our loyalty points aren’t just for wine club members, they’re for anybody who purchases wine at Brooks or anything at Brooks. It’s not just wine.
[00:13:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What can they do with those points?
[00:13:15] Janie Brooks Heuck: They can redeem ’em up to 50% of the value of anything they buy, whether it’s online, and it can be merchandise, wine, food, gift cards. There’s no product limitation in terms of what type of product they can use.
[00:13:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s great. Because I know there’s another, winery.
Well, I mean, we were at, Domain Serene a few years ago and I know they have the urban tasting room the urban rooms. I do see the point value cuz people are coming in back all the time, but a lot of the wineries, if you just show up once a year. I didn’t really see how a point system would work. It’s good to know that you’re seeing a benefit in that.
[00:13:48] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah. And if you just think about wine club members alone, they earn points on all their shipments. Mm-hmm. Two or three times a year
[00:13:55] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Crew and yeah. Absolutely. Talk to me more about the benefits for people that don’t live around the area cuz a lot of the wine clubs, they’re so geared for that, the visits.
[00:14:04] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah. One of the things that we did, and it really kind of started with COVID, but we partnered with a domestic creamery somewhere in the United States that we believe kind of, follow our same philosophy and their approach to cheese making as we do in winemaking.
And so with every shipment, two of the bottles in a club shipment, Are specifically for the wine and cheese tasting. Mm-hmm. And members can then choose to buy the cheese. And so, you know, that’s fun. It’s really fun. And we have a woman who’s like a master of cheese that comes on too, and we learn a lot about the creamery.
We all have a really fun afternoon together eating cheese and drinking wine. Who does not love that? Yeah. we do happy hours with our Wine Cup members on a regular basis too, and we’ll bring in our winemaker, associate winemaker, or our chef, just so that they can get to know more people in the company.
We do free shipping for the six and 12-bottle clubs. So nobody,
[00:14:56] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I love that. I wish more wineries would do that. It’s so funny when you’re especially in the really high in wines Yeah. That they nickel and dime me with the $30 shipping.
[00:15:05] Janie Brooks Heuck: Right. It’s, yeah. Yeah. I mean, and we’re all used to free shipping, right?
Mm-hmm. Amazon has changed the world in terms of expectations, and it’s expensive to ship wine, so mm-hmm.
[00:15:14] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It is really, to the consumer, to you, to the person buying the wine. they’re already spending, I don’t know, hundreds of, hundreds of dollars on their six bottles then to ding ’em for 30. Seems like
[00:15:26] Bianca Harmon: Right? Oh, we did get some beautiful glasses and a corkscrew too.
[00:15:31] Janie Brooks Heuck: Oh man. Yes. When you join the club, you get a gift. If you refer somebody to join a club, you get a $50 gift. We include a special gift in every shipment, so you probably, well, you’ll get your shipment.
[00:15:44] Bianca Harmon: Next week it says it was shipped.
[00:15:46] Janie Brooks Heuck: So yeah, so you’re gonna get a reusable, shopping bag that’s made out of recycled water bottles that have our logo on it. That’s a little thank-you gift. So we try to put surprise and delight in every box.
[00:15:57] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, I love that. This is a good segue, recycled water bottles, and your commitment to sustainability.
I mean, you’re a certified B Corp, which is amazing. I was gonna congrats. I really want barrels ahead to become a certified B Corp. We’re not quite there yet. I definitely, definitely respect that. Tell me how that process went.
[00:16:15] Janie Brooks Heuck: It’s great. And when you’re ready, let me know cuz I have a really good consultant that helped guide us through the process.
Cause it, it’s quite the process. It,
[00:16:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It is, every time I look at the process, I go, oh, I’m gonna do that next year.
[00:16:26] Janie Brooks Heuck: Totally. I mean, we just went through the re-certification in January and it took four of us, probably 80 hours a piece. Hmm to get through just the re-certification, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world in terms of it making us a better business and a better company, you know, my brother really started the sustainability efforts at Brooks by being a biodynamic farmer. So we’ve kept that all the way through, but I really wanted to add kind of my own modernization, I guess of sure, of sustainability, and I’m a huge believer in transparency, like, I hate nothing more than when someone talks about how sustainable they are and you ask them for examples and they can’t quantify a thing like.
So to me, getting certified is super important cuz then everyone knows what the standards are that we’re adhering to in meetings. Mm-hmm. So we started that process. We got certified back in 2019 and as a small business, I didn’t have an employee handbook because honestly HR stuff never rises to the top of my to-do list in terms of what brings me joy.
But it forced me to have an employee handbook and to really evaluate my benefits and to look at the gap in my salaries between my highest paid and my lowest paid and my turnover ratio. And there’s so much good that it does on the team side for the company. It also looks at your commitment to the environment, which for us was easy because we are already biodynamically farming and certified.
it looks at your supply chain and you know, how much are you sourcing local, what kind of code of conduct, so you holding your suppliers too. So it’s a really, really good, rigorous process. One of the things that I love about it too is there’s 4,500 companies in the world that are certified. No more than 25 of those are wineries and half of those wineries are in the Willamette Valley of Oregon.
And I think that’s just a huge statement about how much across the board, the wine industry there tries to do the right thing.
[00:18:18] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That’s amazing. I had no idea half of ’em were in Willamette Valley.
[00:18:21] Bianca Harmon: Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know a lot that, our certified B Corp, actually I was just talking to my girlfriend who’s opening up, well taking over ownership of her family’s restaurant in Louisiana and she is like trying to do something different and I said, she’s like, and I really wanna make sure this, this, this. And I said, you know, I’ve been hearing a lot about certified B Corp. And a lot of people have used that as a tool to make sure that they stick to what they believe in and what they want because it makes them, it makes you stay accountable for those things.
[00:18:51] Janie Brooks Heuck: And it’s a really fun network to be a part of both that and 1% for the planet that we’re members of because you’re surrounding yourself with like-minded business leaders too, right? And there’s so much that you can learn from other people in your network, and like we even like for purchasing, when we’re purchasing supplies in our tasting room, we look at first off, can we find a B Corp for 1% member or both that we would purchase from and support?
So, you know, your dollars than are going to the right place as well, that there’s some accountability and philosophy behind the businesses that you’re supporting.
[00:19:24] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. Talk about more of them, so you’ve got a whole section on your site on impact. Yeah. And it goes far beyond what we usually see on a winery site, usually, they’ll have a commitment to one thing or another. Let’s see, you got a B Corp, you got a Demeter.
[00:19:37] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, Demeter. Yeah, which is, some people say the meter.
[00:19:40] Drew Thomas Hendricks: What is Demeter?
[00:19:41] Janie Brooks Heuck: So it’s the certifying agency for biodynamic farming. Okay. So it dictates, you know, what we can do in our vineyard and it’s basically organics plus.
Mm-hmm. Some additional, what we call preparations of things that we either put in our compost pile on the vines or in the soil that really help just round out the nutrients. In a very natural way. So you can’t, you know, spray pesticides and herbicides and all that kind of stuff when you’re demos are certified.
We’re also certified in the winery, which prevents us from making any additions or manipulations of the wine.
[00:20:13] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, wow. Yeah, there’s a lot that goes into biodynamics, and your brother had started that process from the start.
[00:20:19] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, he learned about it when he was in France and he brought it to the Willamette Valley and led a group, of other winemakers, many of which still practice biodynamics.
They may not be certified. but again, like if someone wants to talk to me about biodynamics, I should be certified. Sure. Right. Like I feel like yeah, we pay dues for that. But I also feel like if we’re not supporting the certifying agencies, how is the consumer ever gonna have transparency about what people are actually doing?
[00:20:46] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. And there’s a lot of times, like if you hear the word, biodynamic, you tend to think of a little bit of the mythology and the horns. Mm-hmm. But there’s so much that goes into it with the fermentations and the different ways to like reinvigorate the soil naturally.
Yeah. How are you guys doing that?
[00:21:02] Janie Brooks Heuck: Well, we have primarily through our compost file, you know, which is manure and straw, but then we also put a lot of those biodynamic preparations. Mm. So things like chamomile, we make tea outta chamomile and put that on the compost pile. And if you think about what chamomile does for us, Mm-hmm.
It does the same thing for a vine in terms of managing stress through better nutrition. So there are seven examples of different plants that we make teas from that we use on our pile. Mm-hmm. Yeah. And then we have a couple, the cow horns and the manure is something that we have to apply to our soil every year.
Mm-hmm. So we do that as well as there’s a preparation that uses silica and if you think about silica, it’s like a white, shiny material. Mm-hmm. If you put that on a grapevine, you’re gonna attract more sunlight, which is really beneficial for photosynthesis.
[00:21:54] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Mm-hmm. Oh, absolutely. Now, all this effort, I mean all this effort doesn’t come inexpensively.
Is it it out? Do you see the benefit, though far outweigh the effort and the cost.
[00:22:05] Janie Brooks Heuck: Totally talking about that. Totally. I mean, and it is a lot of effort because not, you know, I mentioned the B Corp certification side like the Demeter, my team probably spends at least 24 hours a year just with the inspectors when they come out to re-certify us.
But it’s the right way to do it.
[00:22:23] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It is and go, it all speaks to authenticity.
[00:22:25] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yes. Yes.
[00:22:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Let’s talk about your team for a moment, because it, there’s a lot of work going on there. Talk to me about how does the operation run?
[00:22:33] Janie Brooks Heuck: So we really have two main areas. One is hospitality and one is production.
Mm-hmm. So our production team, has a lot of longevity there. Chris, who’s our headline maker, was my brother’s assistant. So he’s been with the brand for over 20 years, and his associate winemaker has been with us for over nine. So we have a lot of longevity in our team, which I love. So we have four people that work in production.
And then on the hospitality side, we have our tasting room team, of course. And our wine club group, our director of wine club, happiness, right? Everybody should be happy in the wine club. Mm-hmm. We have a director of marketing, so I’m a believer in marketing. I think it’s a place where the wine industry generally lacks, unless they’re a very large company, nobody gets into wine thinking, I can’t wait to sell and market wine.
But that’s more of like my background and where I came from. So, you know, it’s, I think it’s super important. Behind our team, we actually have a marketing consulting company that is the one that takes care of our website and all of our social media ads. So it’s a big effort across a lot of avenues for sure.
[00:23:43] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, no, they’re doing a great job. Let’s talk about coming outta COVID, and we’re still in COVID, but let’s talk about now that the room tasting rooms are open again and people are getting back to social, how has Brooks Wines changed? I don’t wanna say in the last year, is people.
[00:23:59] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah. I mean the biggest change for us is we went to reservations. When COVID happened and that’s something that we will stick with because it’s brought so much value in terms of planning for our team and like understanding who their customers are before they walk in every day and just managing the load.
But because pre-COVID we didn’t have reservations and there would be days literally that we would have a line of people waiting to Oh wow. To sit. Yeah. it’s also brought back the people who have a lot more intention, like the people who live in Portland who used to drive all the way to the winery than not be able to get in like they love that they can have a reservation and Oh yeah. Town on a place to actually be able to have an experience. During COVID too, we opened our lower area. I don’t know if you saw Bianca with all the picnic tables.
[00:24:44] Bianca Harmon: Yeah, I did actually.
[00:24:45] Janie Brooks Heuck: And because that was outdoors, it was amazing. During COVID, it like doubled our capacity and we’ve seen a fall off of that business a little bit the last couple years.
So as we go into next spring, I think we’re gonna make that like our non reservation. Walk in, come get a glass or a bottle, you’re not gonna be able to have all the services. That’s a great idea. Maybe get a charcuterie board, but very limited food options, which I think will strike a good balance because people, there’s just people who don’t wanna have reservations and wanna be more.
[00:25:15] Bianca Harmon: And even sometimes with the older generation, they’re still not used to like making the technology of all of these things, right? They’re very, like, I just walk into a winery. What do you mean I have to have a reservation? Yeah. Yeah. Being able to offer that to others will give you a nice balance cuz you can get some pretty great customers from walk-ins too.
[00:25:34] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, and we were able this year too, to bring back our estate experience, which is something we were doing pre COVID, but you put people in a our TV and take ’em out to the vineyard and they get to learn about the vines and then taste the wines from the different blocks in the vineyard. And you know, with COVID that put people too close together. So we started doing walking tours. So it was fun to bring the RTV back this year and be able to provide that experience again.
[00:25:58] Bianca Harmon: Oh yeah, that’s always, you do weddings too, right?
[00:26:01] Janie Brooks Heuck: Very rarely. Very rarely, you know, and that goes back to our team having a good work-life balance.
If we were doing a lot of nighttime events and weddings, it’s my same team. So while you can make a ton of money off of weddings, we prefer the ones that like, they come up from our garden and say, Hey, we just got married on your grounds. We’re like, sweet. Have a glass of champagne like those are our kinds of weddings.
[00:26:24] Bianca Harmon: I love it.
[00:26:25] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. Weddings, they do fit a lot of different wineries as far as, for venues, with your commitment to wine and everything, it kind of makes sense that you focus on the wine. Now talk about wine and specifically, not so much Brooks, but just the wine industry in general.
and coming from a marketing background that you come from, what mistakes do you think most wineries are making that you see? In other places, you don’t have to name any wineries, but
[00:26:47] Janie Brooks Heuck: Oh, no, and I would never, you know, I think in general as an industry, we don’t put enough money behind marketing and selling our wines.
And I think a lot of that goes back to what I mentioned before, like if you got into the industry, it’s because you want to be part of the craft, like right, you wanna be making wine. And honestly, if you’re gonna spend $10,000, you’d rather buy a new tank uhhuh than you would hire a marketing consultant or put that money into your website.
I think it’s people don’t understand the ROI of actually investing in marketing. And I know I’m preaching to the choir because you guys do exactly that.
[00:27:19] Drew Thomas Hendricks: It’s kinda funny. You see the wineries with their like million dollar landscaping in front of the winery that doesn’t even have to do with the vineyards and they won’t spend 10,000 on their website.
[00:27:28] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, no, I know, I know. I mean, I just think that’s a big, it’s a lost opportunity in a lot of ways, you know, b efore COVID, before we launched our new website, like my whole thing was, I wanna be the Dollar Shave Club of wine. Yeah. Like, you know, like I want that recurring business. I want, you know, to have that communication too with our customers, and I think that too, this is a good COVID lesson for me. So when we did, before we launched our new website, the company that came out that we’re gonna build it did their discovery. So they came out from New Zealand, spent three days on site. Meeting with our team, and when she got ready to leave, she said, okay, here’s our challenges like
[00:28:07] Drew Thomas Hendricks: You can promote them. We love all marketing companies.
[00:28:09] Janie Brooks Heuck: I mean yeah,, yeah. No, 5Forests is the name of the company.
[00:28:12] Drew Thomas Hendricks: 5Forests is great. We work alongside them a lot. On Commerce Seven sites.
[00:28:16] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yes. Yes. And so, you know, Polly said to me, she said, you know, when you’re in your building and with your team, there’s a lot of emotion that is evoked in your space.
So how do we translate that to a website? And two communications. And I knew the communications meant that it’s probably gonna have to come from me. And you know, and during COVID in that first month, like how many emails did we get from wineries? And there was not one personalized thing in there. There was not one mention that, this is weird, I hope you’re okay.
Mm-hmm. And I got so frustrated that that’s when I started sending a weekly email every Sunday. Ah, to my customer base and it comes, I write it every single week. I think I’ve missed two weeks in the last two and a half years. Oh, that’s awesome.
[00:29:02] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That takes effort.
[00:29:04] Janie Brooks Heuck: it takes about three hours a week, you know, if not more, but it’s so meaningful, right?
Mm-hmm. People want that personal connection. I want that personal connection, you know, I put my email and my phone number and every single one. Mm-hmm. So that I’m accessible to our customers. It’s been really, really valuable
[00:29:21] Drew Thomas Hendricks: it’s a human factor that, is so important. And I think if you were asked me what I think the biggest mistake most wineries make is, they don’t even customize the default email responses for their POS system or their eCommerce system.
[00:29:34] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yes. We just did that actually, you know, we’re totally starting to work on our customer journey piece, but yeah. I mean, and even now, and now you have your talk automated emails and, mm, you know, with that, we just changed, our director of marketing just went through and changed it and asked people, if you had a great time after the reservation, please give us a review like our Google reviews and Yelp reviews have gone insane. Yeah. Cause of that. And if you have any comments, here’s the email for our managing director. Please let her know. And sure enough, people will write me. Yeah, but I also tiptoe through the customer journey a little bit because
[00:30:08] Bianca Harmon: Yeah, I was gonna say, you gotta be a little careful sometimes.
[00:30:10] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah. So we’ve only done our transactional ones at this point. We don’t have anything that we’re generating because we’re trying to be thoughtful about what that looks like.
[00:30:20] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, but even the transactional ones don’t have to sound so transactional.
[00:30:24] Janie Brooks Heuck: No, they don’t. They could have pictures and they could have people and emails and, you know, again, put some human connection behind the brand.
[00:30:35] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah. I would think that’s can really get a complex customer journey with personalization on the site, but a lot of that’s overboard and it really, really requires a lot of commitment. But for me, like the minimum commitment is just instill your voice into these transactional emails.
Yeah. Cause people do read ’em. Yeah, especially if they just bought a thousand dollars worth of wine and they got their receipt, they’re gonna check the receipt.
[00:30:56] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah. Yeah, exactly.
[00:30:58] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, so definitely making things more human and you guys are doing a great job and another shout out to Polly at five for us.
You guys are doing a fantastic job as well. Glad to see it, this site is looking fantastic, in my opinion.
[00:31:10] Janie Brooks Heuck: Thank you. Yeah, they do a super job and you know, again, it takes a lot of effort, right? We’re changing our landing page, our homepage, like once every two months and mixing up the content. And you know, her and I probably looked.
A good hundred websites. Mm-hmm. About their sustainability page before we crafted the one that we did. And it was like, there’s no specifics on anybody’s.
[00:31:33] Drew Thomas Hendricks: I was just gonna mention that I was just on that page right now and that was what I was hoping you would bring up. You’re one of the first sites only sites that I’ve seen that actually explains what you do as a B Corp and what you do for healing the planet.
[00:31:46] Janie Brooks Heuck: It’s important.
[00:31:48] Bianca Harmon: If we could get like 50 more winery clients like you. That’d be great.
[00:31:54] Janie Brooks Heuck: Well, I just, you know, there are some out there for sure. but I don’t know, you know, now we even have celebrities out there who are talking about how they make clean wine and it’s like, really? Really? But you can’t tell me your grape sources.
And like, it’s criminal.
[00:32:08] Bianca Harmon: Well, it was funny, I had a girlfriend actually, who works out here in the wine industry and she’s like, the next time somebody asks me if the wine is vegan, I’m gonna show them this picture. And it was, the grapes had gone through like the Destemming process and there is a dried up like snake skin all throughout the stuff that during, you know, like somehow had like gone in all of the vine stuff and it was like it wasn’t an actual snake, you know?
But it’s like, no, they’re like, Here, look at this. Like there’s animals out in these vineyards all the time. Like The wine is not vegan, I’m sorry.
[00:32:50] Janie Brooks Heuck: Well, and when people ask me, is our wine vegan? Well, in terms of us doing any kind of finding with you know, products. The answer is no, we don’t.
But are there earwigs that get onto our sorting table? Mm-hmm. Absolutely. Maybe a yellow jacket here and there, like, so it all depends on what matters to you when you’re asking if something’s vegan. Mm-hmm.
[00:33:09] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yeah, there’s, yeah, a lot of bees, Janie, so I talk to me about karaoke.
[00:33:18] Janie Brooks Heuck: Karaoke is a thing my team loves, you know, we do it at different company parties. We do it once a year. We’ll have a karaoke party cuz my team loves to sing. I mean, that’s just a fun thing to do. We do bingo too. Like we do extended nights where we do bingo and apparently our bingo gets really competitive but who doesn’t wanna drink wine and play bingo, you know?
[00:33:37] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, that’s fantastic. I love that on your About us page, is that it talk about the karaoke song, Rappers Delight.
[00:33:44] Janie Brooks Heuck: Oh yeah. And you know what’s weird about that? So, you know, our director of marketing is amazing in terms of coming up with, you know, questions that we all have to complete what she did our bios, which were really hard, but both our winemaker and I picked rapper’s delight.
Without knowing with the other. So I have this vision that like he and I are gonna go like to some show person in Portland and like get a whole choreographed thing of rappers delight and then like just spring it on the team. It’s, you know, company party.
[00:34:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: That would be great.
[00:34:16] Bianca Harmon: Oh, I was just gonna say, speaking of your people, I wanted to ask, I meant to ask earlier, because your brother, I guess your nephew isn’t, is now basically the owner of it, right? And is he much involved nows now that he is not a child anymore?
[00:34:32] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, so Pascal was eight when my brother passed away, and so he did inherit the entire winery.
He has worked one harvest for us. He’s working as Fourth Harvest right now over in Europe. Hmm. He moved over to Europe with his partner in January of 19. Okay. So, and he’s a gardener full-time for some American restaurateurs who have some property about an hour outside of Paris.
And then he’s gone and worked. He worked one harvest where my brother worked for six years with the same family, which was amazing, and then has worked in all sauce, the last three years. That is the extent of which he is. Okay. Close to mine, okay. We dunno if he’s coming back or when he will.
There’s days when it sounds like he’s going to, and if he did, he’d be part of production and probably part of our vineyard team. definitely the face of the company, but he’s not gonna be the managing director. That’s just not his skillset.
[00:35:28] Bianca Harmon: Oh, I didn’t, think that, I just, I honestly, I hadn’t put it all together that I knew he had a son, but like, is he a part of it? Is he not, or?
[00:35:37] Janie Brooks Heuck: He is also my confidant. He knows everything that’s happening at Brooks. Yes.
[00:35:41] Drew Thomas Hendricks: No, he’s, real world European experience.
[00:35:44] Janie Brooks Heuck: Yeah, yeah, yeah. He is, and you know why mess that up? Like, I wish I was 26 years old living in Paris too like, so is never had any pressure to be involved to, you know, we actually talk about ways of keeping that le the least amount of pressure possible for him.
[00:36:04] Bianca Harmon: That’s great.
[00:36:05] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Well, that’s great that he has such a support network for it and it’s running so well. So Janie, as we’re kind of closing, kind of getting towards the end of this podcast, and you mentioned it before but I need to ask you, over the last 20 years, how have you stayed motivated to just keep this winery moving forward?
[00:36:22] Janie Brooks Heuck: you know, a lot of it, it goes back to people. I can’t tell you how often I continue to hear stories or meet people that knew my brother. Mm-hmm. and my family. So I had mentioned that our parents passed away four years prior. It’s like my parents’ friends come celebrate their 80th birthday at Brooks, you know, so, It’s really kept me very connected to who I am and where I grew up, and family and friends, you know, everybody knows where to find me now.
I love the people in general that I’ve met. I mean, the people in this industry across the country that I’ve worked with now for 20 years are just really good people, you know? Mm-hmm. It’s so interesting. I was in a very competitive healthcare world before I got into this, and you people didn’t treat each other that.
and to have people that are so passionate about what they do and why they do it, kind of, regardless of what they make from an income standpoint is really refreshing and I think an important priority. In life that I’ve learned, you know, I think my brother had that pretty well dialed in with the path that he took outta college versus the one that I did, which was like public accounting and getting the best job I could to make the most money.
And you know, I feel like, this whole thing has been a little bit like, you know, little sister lesson like you need to figure out how to enjoy life. And that’s really what the wine industry has given me. and I love the challenge. I love that challenge of trying to be the best. I mean, all the time I’m like, is any other winery doing that?
Oh, then it’s probably a good idea.
[00:37:48] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Absolutely. Oh yeah, that’s incredibly motivating and just finding all that passion and having the opportunity to like excel in it. Amazing, and that’s what I love most about these podcasts is just hearing all these stories and just hearing just about the So Janie, where can people find out more about you and Brooks Winery?
[00:38:07] Janie Brooks Heuck: So our website is www.brookswine.com. that’s a great place to go. We also have a ton of stuff on our YouTube channel. Our chef does cooking videos once a month and there’s lots of people that helped us make that wine in the first year that tell stories about Jimi and Pascal and so we have a lot of content.
We are not shy of content social media too, silver Brooks line on, Facebook’s Brooks Winery on Instagram. we try to share as much as we can there to keep in touch with people and subscribing to our weekly email. you get a letter from me?
[00:38:44] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Yes. Oh, man. Handwritten. Oh, not handwritten.
[00:38:46] Janie Brooks Heuck: It’s not handwritten, but I’ll tell you that was always something that when I first started going out in the markets and selling wine and meeting with.
I sent a handwritten thank you note after every single person I meet with, and that was shocking in the industry. But it’s one of the reasons that we do that both at the winery too, when we get new wine club members or you know, people’s pay us a special visit. So I just thought human touch again is just super important.
[00:39:15] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Human touch. That’s, man, you guys are exemplifying that.
[00:39:19] Janie Brooks Heuck: I’m trying to, that’s cool. That’s the goal
[00:39:22] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Janie, thank you so much for joining us today.
[00:39:25] Janie Brooks Heuck: Thanks for having me. It was great to meet you both.
[00:39:27] Drew Thomas Hendricks: Oh, thank you. And I can’t wait to travel up to Willimette again. You’re welcome. Have a good day. Anytime. Thank you. Have a good day.