The Power of Wine With Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf of Picayune Cellars


by Drew Hendricks
Last updated Dec 22, 2022

Legends Behind the Craft Podcast

Last Updated on December 22, 2022 by rise25

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf
The Power of Wine With Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf of Picayune Cellars 11

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf is the CEO of Picayune Cellars. She started the business with her good friend Jennifer Roberts because they shared the same love for drinking quality wines and the drive to search for a great value. The two started rescuing distinctive lots from prestigious wineries to make their blend in 2011. 

Inspired by the power of a Mouton Rothschild, Claire earned a wine degree in Chile and then traveled to France to work harvest in St. Emilion and the Côte du Rhône. She also owns Claire de Lune Consulting, which focuses on helping fantastic producers, including Matthiasson Wines, Anomaly Vineyards, Morlet Family Estate, Cowhorn Winery, and more, to grow their businesses.

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

  • Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf shares what drew her to the wine industry
  • What led Claire to start Picayune Cellars
  • How Claire figured out how to sell their wines in 2012
  • Claire shares what it’s like doing business in Calistoga
  • What happens when people enter the Picayune Cellars’ store?
  • How Claire leads the winery with her heart
  • Claire’s thoughts on importing
  • Why wine trips are an excellent way to engage clients

In this episode with Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf

What power can wine bring to the table? How can it be a medium to eliminate the gap between people and lead them to share their experiences?

Wine evokes emotions in people, just like music and art do. It works as the perfect conversation starter, bringing people together. Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf used this theory while setting up her store.

In today’s episode of the Legends Behind the Craft podcast, Drew Thomas Hendricks and Bianca Harmon sit down with Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf, CEO of Picayune Cellars, as she talks about her journey in winemaking. Claire also shares her profound appreciation of wines. She explains how she managed to bring the winery to its current position and how doing business in Calistoga differs from other states.

Resources Mentioned in this episode

Sponsor for this episode…

This episode is brought to you by Barrels Ahead.

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

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

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

So, what are you waiting for? Unlock your results today!

To learn more, visit barrelsahead.com or email us at hello@barrelsahead.com to schedule a strategy call.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:03  

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

Drew Thomas Hendricks  0:19  

Drew Thomas Hendricks here I’m the host of Legends Behind the Craft podcast where I talk with leaders in the wine and craft beverage industry. Today’s episode is sponsored by Barrels Ahead. At Barrels Ahead, we work with you to implement a one at a time marketing strategy. One that highlights your authenticity, tells your story and connects you with your ideal customers. In short, we help wineries and craft beverage producers unlock their story to unleash their revenue. Go to barrelsahead.com today to learn more. Today, Bianca Harmon is joining us again she is our DTC marketing strategist. How’s it going Bianca?

Bianca Harmon  0:53  

Going good. Drew excited to talk to Claire today.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  0:55  

Yes, we are today we have Claire Weinkauf of the Co-founders of Picayune Cellars in Calistoga, California on the show. Claire, welcome to the show.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  1:05  

Thank you so much. Hi, everybody.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  1:07  

Oh, thank you so much for joining on. So Claire, you co founded Picayune Cellars back in 2011.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  1:15  

Yes, absolutely.

Bianca Harmon  1:17  

How so?

Drew Thomas Hendricks  1:19  

What I’m leading up to that, talk to me about your journey in wine that led you to the point where you started Picayune Cellars.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  1:27  

Absolutely. So very quickly, everybody’s going to notice I come with a little bit of an accent. So I’m I’m actually originally from France from ovarian right in the middle of France, it’s not really well known as a as a as a wine region. I personally never thought I could work in the wine industry, my family is not necessarily in it. And 25 years ago, you know, wine industry in France was still pretty, you know, kind of tight. I did always had an interest to work with my nose, but wasn’t quite sure you know how to make it happen. study something totally different. Shortly started embarking for some trip abroad and realized that I was kind of more excited about living outside of France than in France. The journey took me finally to Chile, and then that’s in Chile, but I started realizing that wine could be super fun and much more democratic per se, like they were fun label. I met a lot of people, old, you know, kind of origin working in the wine industry. And I thought wow, this is kind of possible here, started taking classes in Chile and then decided to go back to France work harvest and kind of learn, you know, a little bit more put my hand in the dirt. I really love that. And that kind of like it allowed me to clot to click, like a lot of boxes of the things that I was interested by, and then ultimately went back to Chile started working there. And then made amazing, you know, met I

Drew Thomas Hendricks  3:03  

was totally different than, than France. Was there. Sort of,

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  3:08  

yeah, I mean, it was so different. Because it’s a very young industry. And basically, you know, nobody really comes with, you know, like five generation winemakers behind them or with, you know, amazing terroir, but I’ve been, you know, planted I mean, now we are, we are discovering like older, you know, vineyard, but there is not, you know, that historical kind of weight and kind of aura with that. So anybody really interested by it can you know was able to go to school and then find a job. Now on the industry side of, you know, side of things, it’s different. There were I mean, at my time, we are talking now, like 2002, when I, you know, started being in Chile, it was mostly like really large company. So we’re not like the guarantees movement that you see now on the smaller producers. It was more like a larger scale.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  4:05  

But happy to see that because there was a lot of a lot of large companies that just kind of went into Chile and just started big production.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  4:12  

Absolutely. And, you know, even the Chilean, were also looking into those larger production, kind of like, you know, facilities. So, I think we’ve done it’s like any kind of new industry, you know, we just gotta go for a lot of steps. But what was wonderful for me as the energy that the industry add, and it was very contagious and it made you feel that anything was possible and even though you had no family, no, you no money, no vineyard, you could do it. You could just go start school, learn more, and then kind of build up. So I love that. And that was very different than what I was used to, you know, in France.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  4:54  

If you’re in France, how would the that route have gone? Like how would you be able to do that there?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  5:00  

You know, honestly, I would have my family probably would have needed to be in the wine industry and I would have need to have no older brother. And yeah, I mean, you know, if if we look alike, you know, for pretty much is that it? You know, I think it’s very different now and that’s exciting that it’s very different. I think there’s been like a, you know, with the emergence of like new markets all over the world. I think it’s changed, you know, everything.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  5:30  

Absolutely. So you didn’t grow up your family wasn’t in the wine industry, you didn’t really grow up in the industry. What drew you to it?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  5:36  

Um, let’s see in here. View, we’re not into it. But my you know, of course, being from France, I grew up my family loved wine. My grandpa actually was making some garage Rosae I mean, that he would bottle in jerry cans. We are documenting, like, you know, orrible, like Pinot Noir and green, you know, like, that we’re not right. I know, I’m in anyway, it was, yeah, it was really fun. Like, you had to have your belly like, pretty well. But, um, yeah, so no, I but he did love wine, you know, we’re not like a gathering of my family that would start without wine. They always talked about it. It was always part of the meal, they were always was conversation about, you know, it was like, it was a guest at the table. So I, you know, it was always, you know, part of the part of the story. And then as I grew up, you know, I, I had several like experience that made me realize how, you know, the power of wine, and I thought it was so fabulous. Because when you think about it, it’s something you know, it’s the fruit growing, you know, in nature, and then it can become the most refined and amazing, you know, I don’t want to see product, but I’m going to see that for lack of other word right now, you know, on the table, and it can create that magical moment, and just like, Stop, you know, anybody from talking because it’s so complicated and complex, and, you know, it can create so much emotion, pretty much like music, or, you know, any kind of other art piece. And that’s what I love about wine is that, you know, it’s obviously, like, really grounded in nature, but it’s just as beautiful. And create as much emotion as a castle. So why not conversation

Bianca Harmon  7:27  

starter? Absolutely, absolutely. Right. So

Drew Thomas Hendricks  7:31  

that sparked your interest in getting into the industry. So flash forward to from working down and then coming up here? And then how did how did they How did you end up deciding to found Picayune Cellars?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  7:48  

That is kind of a funny story. Um, I never, you know, I, I mean, I never really thought I would be like an entrepreneur, and I never really thought about starting, you know, my own wine label. It was just serendipitous when I arrived, you know, in the US, and now and I’ll just say one thing. I when I describe myself, I before being anything else, I’m a wine lover. I love wine. And so when I arrived in the US, I was kind of surprised how difficult it was to find wines that I loved, like, you know, what I stylistically loved and then I could afford, I would find them. But in general, like from California, we would be really expensive. You know, it was tough for me to find a Pinot vai was not $70 bottle was, you know, like, and, and

Bianca Harmon  8:45  

so you arrive in Calistoga when you first came out here?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  8:49  

No, I arrive in Sebastopol. I met Paul hops in Chile and then you know, I did hop in Argentina and then and then and then move to yet to Sebastopol. So, I it was a brief it was a was a year and a half and then after that I moved to California. But yeah, so sorry. Back to the story. I was struggling finding was great line and,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  9:16  

and what style were you drawn to that you couldn’t find?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  9:20  

You know, I I you know, probably a wines that were maybe not as extracted as a lot of like, more affordable California wines or, and then yeah, I’d say extraction and then like, oh, yeah, oak levels. I mean, yeah, I just I like a little bit more subtle wines.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  9:47  

I always call it the European style and I gravitate towards French wines myself French.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  9:53  

So this is it you know, I was ending up like drinking mostly European line and I thought it was really a bummer because You know, I had never done that throughout all the different country I had lived in. And I thought there’s got to be something you know, and I tried all the things that go to, you know, Baba burn and pick, like a million things I’d go to Trader Joe’s I mean, I did the Trader Joe’s like, there’s got to be something,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  10:15  

everyone can get a gem in there. And that’s

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  10:19  

it every once in a while, you know, the various something, but it’s stuff. So, you know, it was always in the back of my mind. And I was pretty busy, I had my job, etc. And then it was like, during a dinner with all kinds of amazing people working in the wine industry. You know, everybody always bring a bottle and we taste everything. And I tasted the wine that I thought was amazing. And I thought, wow, this is really good. Like, I’d buy some of that. And the friend says, Well, you know, we might, we might sell some and I said, Well, I’d be interested in my mind. I’m thinking, I’m going to call a bunch of girlfriend, we’ll get together, we’ll you know, Ambala that weekend, and then you know, everybody like chip in and you know, go home with a couple cases of wine. I mean, that was my thought. Well, I turn out the friend call and like, Hey, were you serious? I’m like, Absolutely, I’m going to come with a pickup truck. And you know, I’ll, I’ll bring you back the barrel like no problem. Does that well care, you need bigger than the pickup truck, it’s 1000 gallon. I’m like, Whoa, I actually need them more friends. So I you know, I let it go. But then I kept thinking about it. And a friend of mine, who I would, you know, we hang out a lot and and we had the same taste in wine. And we had arrived around the same time in the in the in the valley. We always had this conversation about how difficult it was to find those wine. And so she popped up at the time, you know, we all had Gmail open, and you had the chat. So she popped up on that Gmail chat and and then we started talking, we went on a hike. And I asked her if she would buy 1000 gallon of syrup with me. She said yes. And I guess that’s how, you know, like, it was a little crazy. It was 2011. So the market was not doing really good. But I don’t know, she was also working in the wine industry, I had started consulting, and we both thought that it would be a great insight, like to be in the spot of the you know, of the maker. And so we thought, well, you know, let’s do it. Our goal, like the whole business plan was, let’s sell it the cheapest we can without losing any money. The perk was we can drink as much as we want. No question asked. And, and that was that it was going to be a one time thing for

Bianca Harmon  12:45  

fun. So you bought this 1000 gallons, and then you guys bottled it, did you label it? So did you come up with it? Oh, yeah,

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  12:53  

so that was a lot more complex than that. Because too, you know, well, here’s the license thing. So she was co owner of another business. So what she asked, and we were able to use your license. And then her husband, Nathan was bottling a month later. And he said, Yes, you guys can piggyback on our bottling. So that’s what we did. But that meant we had one month. I mean, we had no time to come up with like the label because it needs 21 You know, we need 20 days business day in general to print it. So here we are, like, the next day, I know I have to come up with you know, like a name and you know, and a label. And because of my consulting I had already like, you know, friend and that business. And so Picayune means a little bit in all French, it comes from the Kenyan in in all promo cell. And we were going to make only a little bit. And then in the US, that used to be a coin that the fish rots, and that point was worth half the value of the real. And so you know, the one we were buying from the real winery, you know, we were ending up selling, you know, as their price technically. So we thought it was clever.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  14:08  

Oh, that is clever.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  14:11  

And then yeah, the you know, the key. The key on the label, we, when I receive obviously the winery, we we bought the one they sent us a pretty big contract, you know, where we couldn’t see anything about anything, really. And then we add we needed to add a lot of something, you know, like a 5% Well, I can’t remember I think it might have been 10% of something else in it. So anyway, I

Drew Thomas Hendricks  14:37  

can just exactly re bottle their wine for half the price.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  14:40  

Yeah, we had to do something different about it. So you know, so of course we did. And but it felt like James Bond, we were unlocking secret stuff. And so I thought you know, I talked with my friend designer and I’m like, you know, I feel like we’re unlocking some secret stuff. Like, let’s do a key and maybe let’s have it fly to the people you know So the originals the the original label is actually atrocious like that. It’s like the key but it has some big wings. And we had a keyhole on the on the court, we had no time for capsule. So it was just like, we were like in the pioneer of just having a cork in the you know, and no capsule on the that was early in the night was really early. And so we did like a design. It was a keyhole. So when we were wonky, you know, we were opening the secret anyway, we thought we were clever.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  15:32  

That is pretty clever. I liked that.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  15:35  

Yeah. So yeah, so that’s, you know, that’s how it started. And it was gonna be a one time for fun. It was super fun. We did not expect that more friends started reaching out with like, Hey, I have to be a role of this free beer, all of that. We said no. But then samples started popping up. Love the ganache. But it was missing Syrah started coming from making Syrah, you know, for just one barrel. By the time we are done blending that it’s time for sub blanc again, we’re like, well, we might as well, you know, we are having fun. And we were learning like a ton about everything. It was super helpful for my business. And I think it was also very helpful for hers. So we thought we might as well you know. And then we knew that we have at Pino that you know that we wanted to drink a great Pinot that was 40 bucks and not 70. So we wanted to tackle that one. And then I had the mayor low in my mind, you know, so many people were bashing me or low. And I really wanted to do like a right thing, blend because I had done harvest in something medium. And so we just to be honest, and it’s a theme with, with how I’ve operated the business is like, we just pursued the stuff we loved. And, you know, we wanted to do, we wanted to drink, it was fairly selfish. And I have to admit, I still sort of go by rules rule where you know what it is, you know, I want to drink and or, you know, when it comes to the store, what are the stories and the people that just love your product? And I you know, so that’s how a business plan here

Bianca Harmon  17:14  

is amazing to me. It’s amazing to me, because nowadays, people are calling all over trying to find wine and grapes, there’s like a, like, they’re having a hard time finding it right finding extra wine because they’ve lost from the fire or smoke to this. And here you were having people contact you. Hey, can you take do you wanna take some wine? You know, and, and that, and it grew into what it is now?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  17:42  

Yeah. Yeah, it’s been I mean, you know, that’s, I guess, you’re touching on something important right here. You know, it’s, it’s been kind of, like, it’s opportunistic, for the most part. And so it has his ups and downs. Um, you know, I’ve been fairly lucky over the years, you build relationship, you know, by being respectful as well. of, you know, of, of the wineries that are, you know, willing to, you know, share with you some of your barrels. And, yeah, I feel like I’ve always kind of really walked the line to put, you know, Johnny Cash, but I, you know, I’ve yeah, I’ve always been very respectful. I, you know, I think my wines have, like, a very, you know, pretty clear, like, personality. And, you know, at least my clients, you know, tell me that they can tell that this is me, so I feel like it’s been a win win for everybody working with me. And yeah, I tried to continue to be very respectful. But yeah,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  18:42  

for sure. So starting with 1000 gallons of salt bonk. And then is that so you had to figure out how to sell that? Because you’re not going to drink? Oh, that’s

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  18:49  

the fun part. That was the fun part. Man. I’ll tell you a funny story. Like the first time we went to sound like to sample the wine. So we were going to sell and we were selling everything will sell we had no website, no taste, no nothing. So she comes to my place. And we’re so excited. We are giggling like to teenager and the car. And I can see us like I used to have that no mini comfortable. And we get the two of us we put the tubs down or like oh, let’s go sell the one. Yeah, California style. And we’re just like passing the gates and I look at it and I said, Jen, you have the sample right? She’s like no, you took the sample. And so we were literally you know going to our first appointment like with zero sample with us. That’s how goofy and excited we were. But yeah, the reality is, you know, we did really well. We got such a great response in the valley because how many great Sauvignon Blanc Can you can you think of, you know, in this valley, and not that many so we got amazing placement and then press had our so wrong by the glass, you know, and that was the time where the only read like they had the read as well by the glass. So it was amazing like we yeah, we really? Yeah, we did a pretty good job. And so it wasn’t, you know, we kept laughing that we might drink Sauvignon Blanc for the rest of our life with our crazy move. But it turned out, yeah, it turned out amazing. Like we ended up, you know, doing a really good job. And at the time, we were only selling in California. So when you know, in 2012, we started the LLC and and then we started looking for distributors. So by the time I bought Jennifer out in 2015, like we had quite a bit of distribution. And then when I bought it out, that’s actually when I started. Yeah, I went a different route. But yeah.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  20:52  

Now, did you have a storefront before? 2015? No, never. Okay, so that’s when he started moving in.

Bianca Harmon  20:58  

That’s when the shift happens. Yeah.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  21:01  

Kind of work and working with co founders. That’s always that’s always a challenge. And I don’t Is it? Do you always have competing directions in where things want to go? But if you’re looking back today, in 2022, back to 2011? Would you have done anything differently?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  21:23  

Let’s see here. I think there is not very many things I would have done differently. But there is a few. I, you know, I think they have more to do with, you know, no, versus, you know, what, Jennifer out? You know, I have moments where a debate with myself our decision of selling the wine, the cheapest we possibly could, you know, then when I you know, when I bought it out, I realized I couldn’t keep my day job because we never build a salary. I mean, we never build anything. No, no. So that’s why I had to change the business model to have a tasting room and I had to kill the wholesale pretty much because I needed to find the money to pay myself, I don’t want to change the price of the wine because that was the story or the style. That was my career. So I could only change the channel, which is what I did. That’s why I opened the tasting room. And I still have tried to stay put with the price and trying to keep them on the lower side. And I have moments where I get mad, you know, I’m like, because customer come in and they want a discount. And I’m like the discount is already done. You know, and then I see winery that have, you know, a price inflated by you know, 3040 50% and then if you buy your case, I’ll give you 50% Yeah, I’m just like, you know, Did I did I made a mistake thinking that people don’t want to play around and just were like me, and we’re just like, I just wanted, you know, straight and honest. And here. I don’t want to play games.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  23:04  

overestimating the consumer mindset, like they’d rather see a price double and down. 50%

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  23:12  

And for me, it’s like cheapening, it means you don’t like if you have to give 50% of your wine, it means something’s wrong about it. Right. So I, I you know, I guess, you know, I have moments with that. And then you know, I don’t I’m still learning obviously, you know, like the, the retail and the tasting room and all of that. And I really wish I had you know, the the sooner I could have I wish I had bought something a building and not been scared by you know, not so scared, I guess. But yeah, it’s

Drew Thomas Hendricks  23:47  

it is me opening up a retail store is really intimidating.

Bianca Harmon  23:51  

And you didn’t just open up a retail store. You open one up in Calistoga. Yes. Thank you, Bianca. Thank you. Yeah. What’s it like? in Cali?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  24:05  

Yeah, I you know, I love it’s a village. I love my village. So I, you know, I the way the reason I moved to California My husband works in Santa Lena. And at the time, I was working in Sebastopol. So we had to find like a common ground. So I guess I lost that the coin toss right? We were a little closer to basketball but so I was feeling anxious when we moved here. I was like, oh, there’s only one store who there is no movie theater, just a few restaurant I was like, Oh, how’s that going to be? And then I you know, we I moved here and I have to admit, I love that. They don’t have to use my car anymore. You know, I can just walk everywhere. Farmers Market everybody knows each other everybody, you know, talk to each other. So I’ve totally embrace it and love it. But it’s a funny town to do business in because very, very few Um, landlord and, you know, owner of buildings. So when it’s a battle with them, a lot of them are investors are not necessarily, you know, in business, so we don’t necessarily understand business. So it comes with a lot of like complication. And then you know, it’s a term that is obviously I think when I think of Napa Valley on the scope, I mean, yeah, we are the northern tip. We are. I mean, I see it both ways. I think we are still like, the more rustic but I also think we are still the most authentic. And I love that there is not only wine, there is also you know, the hiking, there’s the terminal water. I mean, there is a lot of stuff. So I love that about us. But yes, we are alone north and we’re still working our kinks and learning how to be learning out of your town.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  25:53  

No, no, I love Kellen stoke. It’s actually been a few years since I’ve been there. Yonkers lives just down the road from there.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  26:00  

I cannot get Bianca to come up and see me. I’m gonna come up. I’m gonna write. That’s a promise.

Bianca Harmon  26:07  

I promise I’m gonna come up. I’ve actually been thinking about I’ve been doing some like, kids summer, that kind of thing. So I’m gonna get up there. It’s at the top of my list. You know that? That’s the thing about Calistoga, too, you know, you’re competing. Sometimes people don’t want to get up that far. You know, they like hit St. Alena. Yeah. And and it’s different when you’re in Calistoga tasting too, because you’re tasting a lot of downtown. We’re seeing Elena’s a lot of off of the highway in the vineyards. And we do

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  26:38  

have a lot of those as well. But they are really they are more remote. You know? Yeah. Yeah. Yeah, we are. I think we are. We’ve never been super vocal as a town. I’m actually part of the I’m on the board of the Chamber of Commerce. I’m pretty invested in the town to be honest. I bet on it, I love it. And I really want to see it, you know, kind of move, but I want to see it move without losing its essence. And that’s one of the thing you know, like, I if people don’t come to Calistoga, I’m like, well, it’s your loss because we do I do feel that there is a energy and and something that is a little bit more exciting than santolina personal.

Bianca Harmon  27:19  

I agree. 1000 has a vibe. You know, we I agree with you. 1,000%. Yeah. So

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  27:27  

we just need to be better at communicating our vibe, which we are working on it. So watch out santolina We’re coming.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  27:38  

So, so you bought your partner out in 2015 and moved into the wines and created the the mercantile or the your store? How did that affect the way that you any? How did you go about unraveling all your distribution?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  27:54  

Yeah, so um, you know, it wasn’t as obvious as you see it, you know, I bought it out. And I’m like, okay, how am I what are the next step, I realized that, yeah, I need to change the business model, then I find a tiny little place, but it took a while to get it up and running. At the time, my son was also like, two year old, so I have a few things on the burner. And so, the CD is actually the one that said, we don’t want just more tasting room. We, you know, if you had retail, it’d be a lot different. So I thought, okay, I can probably do that. All right. I mean, I had no idea what I was getting into, let’s face it. And I, I started with a few things, but not very many things. So every year, I mean, every month I was like, okay, so I started with knife. I’m from the capital of knife in France. And then And then every month, I was like, Okay, I’m gonna try to bring something else and, and, and, and I was trying to find a theme. I was trying to go out of business about it. Yeah. And, and that didn’t work out very much for me, because I was like, Okay, should I do local, you know, should I do? And I just like, I was stumbling. And I after a minute, I was like, why am I trying so hard? Like, the way you know, I don’t want to say I sell my wine, my I want to see my wine sale, I tell their story. And people like the story and then they like them and they buy them. And I thought you know what, I don’t really want to become a salesperson. I want to keep telling story. So why am I trying to find things that fit? You know, why don’t I just pick the things that I love already and that I believe in the people and that I want to share your story, you know, and yeah, and so I had started with the knife being frontier and and having grew up there I was, you know, like, I go back and all those guys are like go clear. You’re telling our story in California, you know, you were were you our supporter like we’re gonna give you the town that I mean you know where Just excited. So I thought, Man, that’s actually what I really want to do, I want to kind of like, you know, tell their story. And then, you know, sort of have the people see that the product is great. And then their stories are amazing, and they should support them. And so that’s how it grew literally. I think people were very confused. And they are still very confused when they enter my store, like, what’s going on here, you know, there is like, this woman that does amazing. Like her grandma taught her how to make butterfly wings, earrings, she’s from Peru, in the middle of Amazon. And anyway, you know, I met her kind of like love attack started talking. And I’m like, I want your stuff like I, you know, so everything in the store is like that. It’s like meetings across the trouble what I’ve done, or what I keep doing, I collect Native American art and I, I really have a deep respect and love for fovea art. So as many talented artists I can represent, I love to do that. And then, you know, things that I use myself and that I believe in. So when you do that, yeah, ultimately, you’re not selling. And so as I start, you know, doing more of this, and then when I started, I was alone in the tasting room, you know, so I didn’t, I couldn’t travel that much as much as I used to. And so you know, the distribution started, like, kind of falling out a little bit of its own, you know, if you don’t, I mean, you know, I believe you, but, you know, the wholesale business, you know, we need a lot of discount, they need you to go there, you know, a lot, we need a lot, and I couldn’t provide that anymore. So things just started, like, you know, sort of winding down of their own. And I kind of let them because I realized I was just moving cases at that point. And I was not interested to do that. And then to be honest, I love the people, you know, a big part of why I still do what I do is because I love people, and you meet them and you have the instant reaction. And you know, Oh, I love your Sauvignon Blanc. It’s not as acidic as you know, other people or Oh, I like your shorter name is different. Like, yeah, it’s not as vanilla as anyway, it’s great. You get the real you know, you get the real people right in front of you. And I find that like, yeah, I yeah, I, I personally really like it. So

Bianca Harmon  32:23  

I have I have one question for you about your wines. So are you getting a champagne

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  32:31  

because I love champagne, you should already do this stuff. So the reason I get a champagne, so I love champagne. For a moment. I know, I cannot do champagne here. So I’m like, I’m looking at making a sparkling and I’m talking with a great friend that makes amazing, sparkling. And then I have extra perennial fruit and I love, you know, various, that guy that makes sparkling Alboreto Damn that I I really like what he does. And I was like, oh, man, maybe I could do a little bit of that, you know, with whatever I have leftover. And then I looked at the cost, and I’m like, Oh, my God, this is ridiculous. There’s no chance I’m doing it and selling that, you know, 70 dollar, you know, a bottle. So I was like, okay, Don, we are not doing that. And I’m like, Well, you know, maybe I just gonna go to Champaign, and talk with some folks there that would be interested to work with me. And so I started doing that a few years ago, and I had, you know, I talk with several family. And we started, you know, the hard part is like, it takes a while, right. So at the beginning, you can only work on pretty much, you know, the dosage or, you know, like very much to do that. So, I Yeah, so I worked with Yeah, I started doing trials with, with a family. And then in the meantime, you know, COVID happen. And I ended up working with Lao Yi for a year when they sold to Kim Perry. So Ken Perry was like, oh, yeah, no, thank you. We needed also, we are not interested to continue working with you. So I went back to France and started talking again with some of the smaller family I had talked about. And we really hit it off with one of those guys and I and so I started working with them last year. And it’s fabulous. You know, VR, champagne has, you know, never been here in the States and I’m trying to become a little bit more part of, you know, little by law of like the QA that we have together, you know, first like with the dosage and then hopefully with time with a little bit more implication and other aspect but it’s yeah, so that’s how I get yet champagnes because I really want to drink it. So when you have that motivation, yeah, it works.

Bianca Harmon  34:42  

I love it. Yeah.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  34:44  

And each step of everything you’ve done, it’s almost like it’s that old saying that if you follow with your if you lead with your heart, the money will follow. And it seems like from day one from that first 1000 gallons that you bought your lead, you’re you’re leading with your heart, and then you’re figuring it out.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  35:01  

It’s it’s that and I will share with you the model of PK annual is to evaluate heart nothing impossible. And that’s Jack Yeah, he was a he was a merchant way back then. And I, I believe that so much and it’s you know, like I am I’m still a very intuitive and emotional person but yeah, this is how I lead with my heart. And I do it because I want to do it and I feel passionate about it. And whenever I do, whatever I do like that, I am never worrying. I know. I know, you know, like, people can’t tell it’s just, you know, it’s true. So, yeah, I just keep you know, as long as it works, I keep doing it. And the reality is, the other part is, you know, I’m sure you do as well as like, we work so much that if I was not having a blast, I mean, I have two kids and a million other stuff, you know, I want to do so if I wasn’t having that fun. And then I might as well go into something else. It’s too much. It’s not worth so yeah. So continuing and just having a blast.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  36:09  

That’s fantastic. How I’m so important sampling from Champaign, you’ve got some connections there. Are you planning on doing some other imports? Or?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  36:17  

Yes, I actually do. You know, I, I actually do I have, when I worked in Argentina, I became very good friend with an amazing woman, Humana Pacheco, and she worked for some big winer in Chile. She works on tests for quite a bit of time. And then for other winery, and she started like, some time ago, she started her own label, and she’s part of a new movement we were talking about in Chile. And yeah, and so she does a lot of exciting stuff. I invited her this year, I take every year, I take 20 of my clients to France, and we go on an adventure. And so I invited her we went to one of the trip West wells us and so I invited her to come plastic. Yeah. And so I asked her to bring some of her wine to share with everybody. And, and the ones were terrific. You know, I, I’m excited about that coming from Chile. And so that’s one of the things I would really like to do, I think it’s going to take me a minute, but I’d love to, to go and work on on the on something together down in Chile. Because I feel like I would love to reconnect, because the country gives me a lot it, you know, got me started on the route. And yeah, I’d love to make that connection at one point.

Bianca Harmon  37:40  

tried any of the wines recently that have been imported from Chile? I mean,

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  37:45  

I deleted stuff tested where, you know, Hawaiian ice cold pool pool. So, and honestly, they were like, Yeah, I think she’s doing outstanding, an outstanding job.

Bianca Harmon  37:57  

That’s good. That’s good to know, because I worked for an importer at one time that was importing wine from Chile. And it was I was not loving it. And so I’d love to see, here’s some great ones.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  38:11  

Yeah, it’s hard, because was tiny, you know, like, one of the challenge for her is to find, you know, an importer and, and a distributor for Hawaii. So she found a tiny importer in Washington State. But she’s struggling finding, you know, distribution. So actually, she’s coming in September, I’m going to hook her up with my my broker in California. We are also an importer. So she can you know, kind of find new outlets. But yeah, I would love on my list. I would love to do something with her. And then I have another friend that I met in Argentina, we were actually the group, the Musketeer and it makes amazing wine in in Australia is a kiwi. But I think you know, one day down the road, we’ll have to do something together. So yeah, whenever I find something fun, why not write

Drew Thomas Hendricks  39:04  

good business models success. I want to hear more about these trips, because that’s a great way to like engage your clients and that people can do it everywhere. Talk to me about this trip this last trip to Alsace.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  39:16  

Yeah, so this came about, you know, customer coming in and telling me all it’d be so much fun to go to France with you. And I was like, you know, I don’t when I go, I don’t have very much time. I don’t know about that. And the reality is, when I go, I always just have time for my family. I don’t necessarily have time to go do the things I want to do. So when I started thinking, I was like, Well, what if I was setting up trips to go do the things I want to do? And I just take a few of them with me. And

Drew Thomas Hendricks  39:47  

you’re on business so you can see them? Yeah.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  39:50  

Exactly. And then I invite one of them here and they’re, you know, like, my mom is one of them. And so when they got to see what I do, but yeah, so um I I had wanted to do that as a strip for ever. And it was, yeah, so I basically, a lot of the time I rent a barge with a crew. So I have a chef and I have a little bit of a staff that helps with all the logistic. And I just, you know, help with like, the organization of the visits and things like that. So in general, like, the trips are not like, just wine centric, we are also about, you know, what’s going on in that region, and what are the core stuff to see. And then when there is not enough wine opportunities on on the trip on itself, I add like a couple of days before after, and I just do it like super wide, like wine more intensive. So that way, only the people that are into it, you know, come and do that part. So yeah, that’s yeah, that’s what we did in, in house essence. So yeah, we just went and visited with some co producer and, you know, for them, obviously, you know, like a lot of those tiny producers, they don’t speak English. And overwhelmed us is a little different than many regions, many other region in France, we are a little bit we are better with their linguistic linguistic skills. But yeah, so it’s, it’s cool to Yeah, to share that with them. And I tried to make it fun, you know, we, we this time, I rented that, like convertible, minibus, and blast and that thing, and we got to go and see a lot of, you know, like, like, some great, visit some great wineries and then visit some, like alza says, like, the most percentage wise, the most like Michelin restaurants store. And also, we have a thing in France called the most beautiful villages of France. And so we have also like one of the largest concentration, believe it or not, it’s just unbelievable. It’s gorgeous. Yeah. Yeah, I definitely want to go back. I mean, the ones were terrific. The people were the nicest people. We had, like, the most amazing weather as well. So it was a terrific experience.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  42:09  

Now, where are your clients? Are they familiar with Alsatian wines? Or were they very surprised by the?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  42:16  

Yes, most of them, you know, didn’t know very much. I had a few, like wine gigs that were and that were excited, you know, to come. But for the most part, we didn’t. And to be honest with you, I every year, I’ve been doing booths trip, and it’s the first time but I struggle actually selling out the trip where I struggle, it took more time. Whereas in general, you know, like, I had a waiting list for burgundy. And I was telling the people Oh, my God, like, I don’t have more space on burgundy. But Come with me. And you know, as as your it’s going to knock your socks off. They would not do it. They would not go. And

Drew Thomas Hendricks  42:54  

there’s something about Elsa, it’s like back in the day when I was selling wine. We had a tremendous selection. And it was always the biggest eye opener for people when they finally tasted a dry Riesling. And it just opened their eyes but it was it was always it. Even back in the day. It was very hard.

Bianca Harmon  43:11  

What do you think it is about it?

Drew Thomas Hendricks  43:13  

I think it’s a sweet German wine.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  43:15  

Yeah, I think so I think there is like flat out ignorance because the media or there’s never been like, you know how there’s been like the Malbec thing. So when no everybody know where Argentina is, you know, various been like the Carmen air for Chile or, like, you know, a moment. I feel like the alza thing was just a hipster thing that happened with the Somalia but it never went to the public. And so I think, like Drew was saying people still think it’s like, sweet German, or, you know, and then we don’t? Yeah, we just don’t know where it is. There’s a lot of, you know, I think I’ll just could do as a region, maybe we should invest into people to help them tell the story and show the world because, I mean, I I’m just dying to go back and take all my family again. I mean, we can grow anything the microclimate they have is just unbelievable. Vigouroux like, you know, Africa, kiwi, and and you name it, they, like we were telling me and I haven’t double checking that they have like, the most like sunny days, you know, of France. So it’s like, really, it’s not possible. So anyway, I was really impressed by by everything I saw in the Alsace and I, yeah, I don’t really understand what it is. You know, maybe it’s also that, you know, yeah, Riesling is a little bit more acquired test. I don’t know. That’s it’s,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  44:47  

it’s an odd thing, but it’s so great that you’re able to open people’s eyes and they’ve got a new fabrication. They get I think you’re right on though with the marketing like if, if alces did what Austria did with innervate Landers. I mean, wow. Well that sounds out the door and Vons now

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  45:02  

yeah. And everybody wants runer and talk about like something that is also acquired taste I mean, so I think he just got to do that and then they also have other grades that they can work with. I mean, come on they do have

Drew Thomas Hendricks  45:15  

Pino ya know there’s

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  45:17  

they have Pinot Grigio ran.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  45:19  

Yeah, well, not opening people’s eyes all across the world from from the, from the actual items in your store to the artists in Peru with the with the jewelry in the wines and you’re searching it out. Now, locally, how are you? How is the wines that you’ve done locally evolved?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  45:40  

Um, you mean like how am I wines on my wines like locally Don or RV, like locally accepted or

Drew Thomas Hendricks  45:47  

like so you’re there domestically your regular your regular wines, but your wines from California. So you’re still sourcing from the Savio Blanc and still searching out new new and new and more interesting ones.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  45:59  

So yeah, so the business model has evolved a little bit. You know, when I opened the tasting room, I had to change my license and I had to start crushing fruit. So I do that, so I started buying some Sauvignon Blanc from the Hyde vineyard. You know, I love that the high family is such a wonderful family. So I started buying a little bit of fruit from from the hide, and then I had an opportunity. Friends of my American parents planted an Alberta new vineyard in Russian River Valley. Oh, wow, that one. And so the first few years, my husband was getting the fruit. And then after a while it wasn’t fitting in their program. So I was really excited to you know, take it over and kind of give it my own, you know, give it don’t like pkmn spin on it. So I so I get, you know, every year like around five, six done of Alba renewal, and then, you know, like recently, well, last year, a local gentleman that I really like approached me and it’s like, oh, you know, I have a small vineyard and, you know, I’d love for you to look at the fruit. Oh, and I’m just I mean, if you knew how many people come in, you know, say that. Oh, yeah, okay, sure. Well, you know, let me know. And II actually like, the same evening like send me an invitation for an event and I was like, Okay, well I guess he’s motivated and I I don’t know I decided I was gonna go see it and oh my god, it’s like it’s a nice valley up in the hills and it’s stunning booths. Like I mean, it’s absolutely stunning. So I started getting it’s a little over an acre it’s planted and so yeah, I got five tons of cap from that area last year. So I you know, I I still continue to buy you know barrels and juice and make plans. But I also have now smaller tiny programs that I you know, what I do and those again are led by the heart you know in general and something I you know, I want to do or I felt like more ready to connect when I do that however you know, I I lose the I lose the financial like plus but I have meaning you know, I need to start buying you know, I have to buy a bunch of barrels and I need to start paying you know, for barrel storage and so when the cost of the wine ultimately you know, whenever I am not doing the pure negotiation, but when I buy fruit, then then the cost of the wind start being totally different.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  48:39  

So then you’re in a two year three year cycle before we can get into

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  48:43  

Yeah, pretty much so I lose my I lose my edge on that but yeah, so you know, I feel like both I’ve been able to coexist so far and yeah, the Rosie as well I buy you know, I buy fruit I’ve been buying food now for a while. But yeah,

Drew Thomas Hendricks  48:59  

so so you’re just Gosh, it’s so exciting to talk to you were involved in all the player in the actual production from grape to bottle. Yeah, amazing. Clear as we kind of wrap down is there anything we haven’t talked about?

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  49:15  

I mean, we could keep talking for a while as I

Drew Thomas Hendricks  49:19  

absolutely can.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  49:21  

But yeah, no, I’m Yeah, no, thank you so much. It was really great to share and answer your question and I hope yeah, I hope it was fun for everybody. It was really fun for me.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  49:32  

Claire where can people find out more about you and Picayune Cellars

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  49:36  

Well, I in countless still get come and visit

Drew Thomas Hendricks  49:40  

our hospitals here too. Yes. Yeah.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  49:43  

varies a little bit of hiking as well. So yeah, come and visit and Callisto Gam I’m the tasting room is downtown. But then online, you know, picayunecellars.com And you can you know, you can find the wine you can find a lot of the mercantile and then now we do offer experiences, you know, lunch and dinner and all kinds of things that the tasting room as well. So yeah, visit us.

Drew Thomas Hendricks  50:08  

I can’t wait to visit. Thank you, Claire, thank you so much for joining us today.

Claire Ducrocq Weinkauf  50:11  

You’re very welcome. Thank you so much, Ruth. Thank you, Claire.

Outro  50:21  

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