“As a society, we spend so much time on distractions, at work or online. We’ve become very reliant on technology, so we created this initiative to remind us to make time for more meaningful, in-person experiences. Time is precious and we should live it on purpose. We all know we’re our happiest when we nurture relationships, so let’s make the time to do so. For the project, we interviewed five people, to share how they spend their time. The video shows the transformation from when they realize how much time is wasted on distractions to the moment they feel empowered to change. It’s inspiring.”
I had the pleasure to interview Carolyn Wente. Carolyn is chief executive officer and fourth generation winegrower of Wente Vineyards, the country’s oldest, continuously-operated family-owned winery. Based in Livermore Valley, Calif., she is the driving force behind the expansion and growth of the Wente Family Estate’s portfolio of wines and recently launched Make Time™, an initiative aimed to inspire us to focus on what matters most — each other.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! What is your “backstory”?
My great grandfather, Carl H. Wente (a German immigrant) started Wente Vineyards 135 years ago, and his mantra of making time for things that he was passionate fuels our family-run vineyard.
I’m lucky to have been born and raised in the beautiful Livermore Valley, home to our vineyard estate and winery. I have the best memories of riding in the back of a truck and learning the ins and outs of winegrowing from my father and grandfather. Even though I grew up on the vineyard, I did take a more traditional route in life. I attended Stanford University, worked for a U.S. Senator in Washington, D.C. and after graduation, as a financial analyst for a California commercial bank. The work experiences broadened my outlook and contacts, but I found myself wondering if I was living my great grandfather’s mantra, and ultimately returned to become Fourth Generation Winegrower and CEO. Not because I had to but because I truly love what we do.
What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?
We’re the country’s oldest, continuously-operated family-owned winery. The love we have for farming and seeing the expression of our grapes transform into wines with a sense of place, elegance and balance can be felt through the experiences we’ve created. In the ’80s we expanded and renovated a nearby historic winery. We had a vision of guests escaping to a rustic vineyard valley, where they would enjoy and experience wine country the way our family lives it every day.
I love the experiences we create for guests because it reinforces that wine is best shared. One of my favorites is the Wine Aroma Discovery. It’s an interactive hour-long class that teaches guests how to pick various aromas and describe their favorite glass of wine.
Are you working on any new or exciting projects now?
Yes! I am so excited about our recent launch of Make Time™. As a society, we spend so much time on distractions, at work or online. We’ve become very reliant on technology, so we created this initiative to remind us to make time for more meaningful, in-person experiences. Time is precious and we should live it on purpose. We all know we’re our happiest when we nurture relationships, so let’s make the time to do so.
For the project, we interviewed five people, not associated with Wente Vineyards, to share how they spend their time. The video shows the transformation from when they realize how much time is wasted on distractions to the moment they feel empowered to change. It’s inspiring.
This initiative also supports our long-standing commitment to creating a culture of balance for our employees. We’ve made several updates inside our organization, including an additional Make Time holiday to create more meaningful experiences, an employee-led committee to foster this culture of balance and social mixers. I can’t wait to see how our employees continue to evolve the initiative!
What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders to help their employees to thrive?
Encourage employees to make time for what they love, whether that be spending time with family, building up their community or even carving out time for self-care. This will benefit your company, as employees will be more creative, productive and even begin to develop more meaningful relationships with each other at work.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
It’s hard to pick one person, so I’d have to say my family. I was fortunate to have both my grandfather and my mother as mentors. And of course, my brothers are great champions and cheerleaders — always inspiring, encouraging, guiding and providing their wisdom. My father and I had a special bond, and unfortunately, he passed before I joined the family business. I would have loved to have him here to share his experience as a way to guide me through business decisions.
In any business, associates, family, friends and peers are great resources and mentors. It’s important we work to inspire and support each other, and that we are highly collaborative.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
Helping to build our community and elevate women professionals is what inspires me. I make time to work with several organizations that set the stage for our future leaders. It boils down to being true to my core values: respect, integrity, sustainability and excellence.
As an example, I’m a founding officer for Le Dames d’Escoffier, a San Francisco based philanthropic organization of women leaders in food, beverage and hospitality to provide leadership and educational opportunities to the community.
I started the San Francisco Bay Wine Auction, a charity auction with a mission to give to children in need. This inspired our family to start the Wente Foundation for Arts Education to provide support for arts education for students.
I’ve met incredible students through these organizations, and our future will certainly be bright.
What are your “5 Things I Wish Someone Told Me Before I Became CEO” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
- Know yourself. Stay true to your values and your truth.
- Ask questions. It’s better to ask the question instead of pretending to have the answer. People will respect the honesty.
- Provide solutions. We all face challenges, and instead of being defeated, rise to the occasion and be a problem solver.
- Be positive. We remember people who brighten up a room with their energy and smile.
- Share, encourage and support. We won’t succeed without helping each other.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
We are our best selves when the soil of our souls is enriched. While it’s just the beginning, if we can inspire others through our Make Time™ journey to inspire others to make time to nurture relationships and encourage their family and friends to do the same, we’ve achieved our goal.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”?
“Wine is constant proof that God loves us and loves to see us happy.” — Benjamin Franklin
I majored in history, and Benjamin Franklin always intrigued me with his curiosity, insights and world view. This may not be a life lesson quote, but for me it captures what my family has done. That is to make wine so we can make time to connect and create memories. What could make one happier?
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this 🙂
Margaret Thatcher was elected Prime Minister to Britain two years after I graduated from college and was starting my career. What struck me was her tenacity to get results and her unwavering commitment in her beliefs. I admire her strength and conviction that helped shape and move her country as well as the world.
She once said, “To me, consensus seems to be: the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values, and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that need to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead. What great cause would have been fought and won under the banner ‘I stand for consensus?”
As a leader you want to gain consensus, yet lead and make decisions. I admired her for being on the world stage making tough decisions. I had the pleasure of being at several events where she spoke, but never the opportunity to lunch with her — I would have loved that! I would have asked her how she Makes Time.
Originally published at medium.com