After Labor Day traffic slows at the tasting rooms until October. On one slow day, while Nick was in the back room poring over plans for his first pick up of grapes for his first commercial winemaking, the little bell over the door to the tasting room tinkled to alert him that someone had come in.
It was still rather hot outside. The man held his suit jacket slung over his left shoulder. He wore a blue and white striped shirt that was accented by red suspenders about as thick as letterhead. The man’s head supported a full mane of jet-black hair that was so slick and shiny it gave the appearance of a size Triple E patent leather shoe.
Certain the guy was there to sell him something, Nick murmured to himself, “Oh boy.”
“Hi there. I’m lookin’ for Nick, the owner. My name is Gordon.”
“What is it you need, Gordon?”
“Are you Nick?”
“On what you need—yes, I’m Nick.”
“I hate Nicky, so please.”
“Oh, sorry ole man. Nick it is. Well anyway, I’m lookin’ to get into the wine business and two people today suggested that I talk with you.”
Nick immediately figured that his winemaker friend Joel had to be one of those two people, as a joke on him.
“Really, Gordon. Why do you suppose they thought I could be of help? Is there something specific?”
“Well, there is something specific. You see, I don’t want to run a winery—don’t even want to own one—just want to invest in one. Hell, I’m a beer drinker!”
Nick was about to strong arm Gordon out the door when the phone rang. It was Joel.
“Nick, is that guy Gordon there?”
“Hear him out. He says he has money and wants to invest. I thought of you right away because he seems like someone who could help you raise the cash you need to stay afloat and he knows so little about the industry, he’d probably stay out of your way.”
“You think? I don’t. But I’ll give it a try.”
Nick looked Gordon straight in the face and noticed that Gordon’s head dropped a little plus his gaze shifted downward.
“Look Gordon. I’m unsure why someone who doesn’t even drink wine wants to invest in a winery, but I’m willing to hear you out.”
“Good. You know, people own stock in companies that produce things that they may never use as long as they believe the company is a good investment. It’s about the money, Nick. Now I know you guys who make wine have passion, but the question is, do you have the money? I have the money. I want to back someone with passion so that my money—and his—will grow. It’s as simple as that.”
“No it isn’t so simple. Have you done homework? Do you know the margins in this business? Do you…”
“Nick, if I didn’t do my homework I wouldn’t be here. I can see that the wine industry is headed for major growth; the population numbers show it; the increased wine consumption numbers show it; the culture is going to catch up to wine.”
“What you say is true, Gordon, but this is not California. As old as the New York wine industry is, and it is as old as California’s, this state isn’t even close to the success of the West Coast wine business.”
“That’s right, Nick. But California didn’t start out that way—everything starts out as something less before it grows into something more.”
Gordon was both wrong and right. As they spoke, the large Gold Seal Winery was closing shop and the even larger Taylor/Pleasant Valley Wine Company was canceling grape grower contracts and had been sold to Seagram, which was the parent company of Gold Seal. Coca Cola bought Taylor in 1976, couldn’t make it work out, and so it sold to Seagram. Now it appeared that Seagram would soon try to get out from under that weight. On the other hand, a shift from large winery cheap stuff to consumption of so-called boutique wines was taking place, and small wineries were popping up across the country, just like Nick’s winery. For a minute, Nick’s interest perked up; then, Gordon went on.
“Look, Nick. We could map it out. Over a few meetings, we’ll determine if we should go ahead. If we go ahead, we’ll lay out a complete plan, a roadmap. I’ll put up the funds we determine we’ll need, you’ll work the operation the way that we determine it will need to be run, we’ll keep tabs on everything and when the time comes to cash out—bang.”
“Yessir. We build it, we sell it, we move on with our money to our next interest. That’s how it’s done, Nick. Hell, by then, I might lose interest in the wine business anyway.”
“Uh. Mmmm. Gee Gordon. Can we get together over a bite to eat later on?”
“Sure. I’m in the area two more days. How ‘bout tomorrow night?”
If you are reading this entry anywhere other than on the vinofictions blog, be aware that it has been lifted without my permission (and without recompense), and that’s a copyright infringement, no matter that the copyright information appears with it.
Copyright Thomas Pellechia
July 2010. All rights reserved.