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Cut Your Winery’s Operating Costs with a Winery Bookkeeper

Cut Your Winery’s Operating Costs with a Winery Bookkeeper

Operating a winery is a challenging job. It requires an in-depth knowledge of many aspects of growing produce. You need to understand your plants, keep your soil healthy, watch for signs of infection or pests, and know when your plants are ready to harvest. Then you need to harvest your grapes and go through the entire winemaking process. Once the wine is bottled, aged, and ready to sell, you then need to take on the marketing of your product.

As the owner, it is your job to keep track of all aspects of this business. You need to know your details readily, including expenditures and income. Not having accurate finances can cut into your bottom line. It can even cost you money instead of making a profit. Some business owners struggle with this aspect of their winery as they do not properly keep up with the numbers of the business. That is when outsourcing to a winery bookkeeper may be the best option to prevent your winery from taking a loss.

By outsourcing your winery’s bookkeeping to a bookkeeper who understands the wine industry, you can reduce your operating costs. There are several benefits to using an expert bookkeeper that make it worth the cost. By knowing your strengths and weaknesses when it comes to running your business, you know where to reach out to experts. This is one of the easiest places to seek help.


What Does a Winery Bookkeeper Do?

A winery bookkeeper can assist you with virtually any task related to managing your finances. They will oversee your accounts payable and accounts receivable. Plus, they work with clients to ensure that invoices are paid in a timely manner and communicate with vendors to make payments. They will also reconcile your monthly bank statements with your internal financial documents and coordinate with the bank if there are any issues.

Tax preparation is another task that a winery bookkeeper can assist with. Your bookkeeper can work closely with your accountant on your annual tax returns. They can gather much of the information your CPA needs, reducing the amount of work your accountant must do. This, in turn, can reduce the cost of your professional accounting services.

Depending on your organization, a winery bookkeeper may even take on tasks related to inventory or order tracking. Some even manage all aspects of the winery’s inventory. Your bookkeeper will also be a sounding board for financial decisions you need to make. They can provide expert advice on potential projects or expansions.

Where a traditional bookkeeper would have to take time to look up regulations or requirements, a winery accountant knows these things from experience. What that means is you pay for fewer hours hiring a winery accountant, but get more accurate and detailed financials as a result.


Protea Winery Bookkeeping Saves You Money

How a Winery Bookkeeper Can Save You Money

Using a bookkeeper instead of handling your finances yourself will reduce your operating costs in several ways. To fully understand where these savings come from, you must look beyond the cost of using a bookkeeping service. Here are some of the ways you can reduce your overall costs of using a winery bookkeeping service.


Focus Your Efforts Where They Are Needed

As the owner of the winery, you likely handle many different aspects of running the business. This often includes many or all your financial tasks. If you had an expert to handle that work, you would be able to refocus your efforts on tasks that only you can do. By giving you back some time, you can focus on earning more income for your winery in that time. Bookkeeping is not something that requires your personal attention, but making major business decisions is.

You can also leave all the bill paying to your bookkeeper. It is often their responsibility to ensure that your bills get paid, accounts are billed, and payments are received on time. They then track these expenses and income, providing you with more accurate budgets and insight as to how financially healthy your winery is at all times.


Prevent Costly Mistakes

Bookkeeping mistakes, even those that may seem minor, can have a large impact on your business. These mistakes can result in lost income, missed opportunities to save money, or even fines. A professional bookkeeper can catch many of these mistakes and correct them before it is too late.

Your bookkeeper can prevent other mistakes as well. They will ensure that your bills and incoming invoices are paid promptly, which helps you avoid late fees and keeping your professional relationships intact. They will also carefully watch your budget, so you do not over-spend. A good bookkeeper will also make certain that all clients are invoiced correctly and keep on top of unpaid invoices.


Reduce Overhead

Finally, by hiring a bookkeeper, you may be able to reduce some of your overhead operating costs. These include costs such as:

  • Office supplies
  • Office furniture
  • Technology-related costs
  • Other expenses that are necessary to operate a business regardless of what industry that business is in.

According to Intuit, overhead costs should ideally make up less than 35% of your total costs. Bookkeepers typically have an understanding of what a reasonable cost is for these products and services. They may be able to identify areas where you are overspending and move you to a different vendor or renegotiate your contract. This is one area you may not have ever found the time to focus on, but a dedicated bookkeeper can.


Turn to Protea Financial to Get Help with Cutting Your Winery’s Expenses

Interested in learning more about how a winery bookkeeper can help you reduce your operating costs? Contact us here at Protea Financial today with your questions. We will gladly explain to you how we can help cut your costs and give you back time to focus on what you do best. 

Starting with a Budget Can Help New Wineries Succeed

Starting with a Budget Can Help New Wineries Succeed

Starting your own winery may be a dream, but you must understand, with that dream comes expenses. Many who enjoy a glass of wine have thought about what it would be like to start their own winery. Starting any business is a challenge, and this is especially true in the wine industry. Thankfully, you can use our experience and expertise to help make this process easier. Here are some important notes for creating a winery budget in general.

What Goes Into a Business Budget?

If you want to be able to apply a business budget to a winery, you need to step back and look at what it takes to create a business budget. There are many steps involved in this process, but overall, here are the basics:

  • An outline of expenses (both fixed and flexible) and returns on a monthly or annual basis
  • One-off costs, such as equipment or software purchases
  • Projected sources of revenue outside of the product you plan to create, if any
  • A list of areas where the expenses may vary and guidelines

Ideally, you do not want to spend more than you make, but when you apply this to a winery, that is rarely the case to start. That is because wineries take time to make a profit. They need to mature before a harvest becomes available, so you need to budget for that time.

How a Budget Changes for Wineries

Your budget for a winery starts with the purchase of land in most instances. Rarely are you going to go out and buy a fully functional winery to start. Your upfront costs are going to include the land, plants, and the actual planting process. Your one-off costs can include any equipment you need on top of these costs, just to get off the ground. The cost of land is as cheap as it is going to be, so buying now is the best option, even if you cannot start your winery right away. The cost of one acre of land in California’s wine region is expected to climb to approximately $1,000,000 by 2050.

Down the line, you will need to factor in other costs, such as

  • Fermentation equipment
  • Harvesting equipment and labor
  • Equipment to make the wine itself
  • Bottling equipment
  • Storage facility
  • Licensing
  • Trademark
  • Wages for any employees
  • Branding following a label approval
  • And more

Your winery should be able to begin making wine in three to five years from when the land is planted. However, there are some deterrents to that timeline. You may struggle with crops due to limited water resources, frost, diseases that can damage plants, or even pests, and all of this only if your plans to plant are approved by the local government. All of this may slow your return. 

Also you need to consider that wineries are seasonal. That means you need to budget costs that you must pay all year, even if you only harvest or produce wine part of the year.

Tools to Help You Stay Financially Focused

There are many tools you have at your disposal to remain focused on keeping your finances in order. One of those tools is your budget. It gives you a reminder of where your money is coming from or going to at all times. However, that is not the only tool you can use. 

Setting up a spreadsheet may be a simple, yet effective way for you to visualize your flow of money. Most accounting software titles have something like this you can use. However, if you do not have one of those already, this is an inexpensive alternative. Just understand that you must be dedicated to adding in all the information you want to track. If you forget, you will have to go back, track down the information, and put it all in. 

Another tool you may want to use should be software to manage your inventory. You need to track your plants, their age and location, how much produce they provided, and more. This is an essential part of the winemaking process, since it will factor into how much you charge per bottle. 

Payroll is another aspect of starting a winery you must keep in mind. Unless your winery is incredibly small, you will need help. This means paychecks for the employees you hire. Payroll is more than ensuring they get their hourly wage, as there are taxes at the federal level, most states have state taxes as well, unemployment, Social Security, and more. These are numbers you must track carefully, as being wrong can lead to IRS penalties and fines. 

Protea Financial Starting with a Budget Can Help New Wineries Succeed

Why is Winery Accounting Important?

The best tool you have at your disposal to remain focused on finances as you start a winery is going to be a winery accountant. They understand what goes into starting a winery, they have experience in setting up and following budgets, and they can help with things like payroll and managing your inventory. They become a tool that minimizes your time requirements while also saving you money. 

Great bookkeeping is the backbone of any successful business. Many businesses believe that they can track the books themselves. Unfortunately, this can lead to missed expenses, incorrect payments, and a budget that does not cover everything it should. The best thing any business can do to ensure that the financials are always in order and nothing is overlooked is to hire a bookkeeper. 

By putting a professional in charge of taking care of day-to-day activities like your finances, you can then pay attention to any part of your winery that would require your specific expertise. You get peace of mind knowing that your employees will always be paid when they should be. Plus, you also have the security of knowing your taxes are correctly filed and all your documentation is current. Those are simple assurances you get when you hire a bookkeeper for your winery.

Winery Accountants Keep You Focused

Understanding the costs of running a wine business can help you create the most appropriate budget for your winery. Do you have everything at your winery insured? This is an expense that is overlooked at times, and that could lead to major problems down the line. It is vital you have everything insured if you want to run and grow your winery into a solid business. The insurance should cover both your equipment and your property.

When you begin having a harvest, you also need a winery accountant as they can help you determine your cost of making wine. If you sell the wine for too little, you may lose money. However, if you price it too high, then no one is likely to buy. You need to know the right amount to sell it for, and that should be based on the exact costs you have per bottle you create.

Turn to Protea Financial for Help with Your Winery Expenses

Wine is the drink of choice for many of us after a long day at work or just to warm us up on a cold winter day. For those who have considered starting a winery, make sure you have the right approach in mind. Focus on your budget and expenses from the start.

Making wine is a challenge, but those challenges become easier when you have the right tools. A winery accountant is a tool that is necessary if you want to truly succeed in your endeavor. You want someone that can use their experience and knowledge to help you push forward. You need someone you can trust to go through this experience with you.

Turn to the experienced winery accountants of Protea Financial. We can answer any question you may have on financials, budgeting, or accounting for your winery. We are here to help. 

Don’t Let Accounting Problems Sour Your Wines: Avoiding Common Accounting Issues

Don’t Let Accounting Problems Sour Your Wines: Avoiding Common Accounting Issues

Wineries need to pay attention to every detail when it comes to accounting. You need to keep an accurate record of the total amount of wine made during the year. Even a simple mistake can cost money and time. There are two mechanisms that ultimately decide whether you will stay in business.

First, how much profit you make is determined by the market based on how much someone is willing to pay for your bottle of wine. The wine industry is growing rapidly in many parts of the country. Because of increased competition, wineries will need to be creative to differentiate their products to demand higher prices.

Second, the costs of making and selling wine determine how much profit is left. Since there is not much wiggle room to increase the revenue from one bottle, how you understand and control your costs has the greatest impact on how profitable your winery is.

In this article, we are going to discuss some of the difficulties wineries face when it comes to tracking the accounting of cost of goods in producing wine.

Protea Financial Blog Don't Let Accounting Problems Sour Your Wines

Winery Operations

A winery has four main operations. Well, five if you are vertically integrated and harvest your own grapes. 

  • First, after harvesting is the crush phase where grapes are pressed and squashed.
  • Second is the fermentation stage; this is the most vital part of producing wine. Fermentation continues until all the sugar is converted to alcohol and a dry wine is produced.
  • Third, clarification is where the juice is separated into tanks. This allows the sediment to drop out. Winemakers will rack or siphon their wines from one tank to another. Wine is separated from the solids, which is known as pomace.
  • Last, the wine is aged and bottled. There are many choices and techniques in this stage, which results in the many distinct types of wines.

Of these steps, the crushing and bottling phases are quite short, while the other stages can be exceptionally long.

Keeping Track of Costs

Because of the time it takes to create different types of wine, you will need to keep careful track of how long each type of wine takes to produce. For example, a red wine with low production values would take less time to process than a high-grade red wine. Consequently, the high-grade red wine should accumulate more indirect costs.  Indirect costs include depreciation on the production facilities, labor by the wine master, utilities, production supplies, testing expenses, etc.

Your record of costs will include taking into account any wine that was transferred from barrels or tanks, any wine that spoiled before you could sell it, as well as any wine that you gave away for free or dumped because it became unsellable.

These costs are what is called cost of goods produced (COGP) and includes all the costs that went into making the wine. They include the raw materials, labor, overhead, direct, and indirect costs, which were incurred from the crushing phase all the way through bottling and storing the wine.

When a bottle of wine is sold, the cost of producing that specific wine is recorded as cost of goods sold (COGS). The difference between the revenue generated and the cost of goods sold is the gross profit on that wine.

Allocating Costs

Activity based costing (ABC) assigns overhead costs and indirect costs to related products. Activity based costing enhances the reliability of assigning costs. This enables wineries to have a better understanding of the costs associated with producing wine.

Wineries use a variation of ABC where they assign expenses to each of the functional areas in the winery. The costs are then allocated to what is a gallon-month for each wine product. For example, 100 gallons of Pinot Noir aged for six months equals 600 gallon-months. If it costs $10,000 to store the wine, those costs are assigned to the Pinot Noir based on its share of gallon-months of wine stored.

Because of the unique aspects of making wine, tracking costs can easily become complicated. Wines are commonly held in storage for longer than one year. So, not only do you have to allocate costs to several types of wines, but you also have to allocate costs to vintages of each varietal. Due to the lengthy process to make wine, it is common to lose some to evaporation. Additionally, if the wine master engages in blending two or more types of wines, the calculations change because of how these separate costs are allocated between multiple wines.

Protea Financial Blog Don't Let Accounting Problems Sour Your Wines Avoid These Common Mistakes

Accounting Helps Keep Track of All Channels to Make Your Life Easier

As complex as tracking costs is, you may be asking whether it is even worth it. As a winery you have various sales channels that have various profit margins. Many wine sales go through distributors who expect lower prices so they, too, can make a profit. You may only make 10-30 percent. Where performance is measured, performance improves. As you meticulously track your costs you can improve those margins.

Other than to improve profit margins, another compelling reason to keep track of costs is because it is required by the federal Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB). Federal regulations include tracking weight tickets when harvesting and how much wine is available after production.

In addition to the TTB, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) wants to see the profit levels for each product sold, as well as proof for the calculations. When the production process takes greater than two years, the IRS wants wineries to allocate interest costs. Furthermore, they want to see separate calculations for the source of the grapes, the type of wine, how long it takes to age, and the size of the storage containers used. The IRS has even created a Wine Industry Audit Technique Guide.

Let Protea Financial Be There to Help You with Cost of Goods Accounting for Your Winery

All this can seem overwhelming. It can be, but it does not have to be. Our expert team has worked with the wine industry for years. We can help you navigate the difficult terrain of tracking costs and staying in compliance with Federal regulations. Reach out to us here at Protea Financial. We would love to help! 


Property Insurance in the Wine Industry

Property Insurance in the Wine Industry

As things begin to open back up with COVID-19 getting more under control, we find that it is “fire season” in Wine Country.  With fire season front and center, we find ourselves saying that “it’s not if there is another fire in our area, it’s when will the fire occur and where?”  How do wineries of all shapes and sizes navigate the turbulent property insurance marketplace?  The entirety of 2020 posed significant challenges in the property insurance marketplace due to our previous fires, and 2021 will have similar challenges. Insurers have either scaled back the offering of property insurance in the wine industry, reduced limits of insurance being offered or have ceased writing business altogether.  Many wineries have received a Notice of Non-Renewal from insurers while others have seen rate / price increases in their property premiums in excess of 100%-200% or more.  Is there any relief in sight and what steps can wineries take to position themselves in the best light to receive a favorable property insurance renewal?  While we are not going to be able to eliminate wildfires and fire activity in our region, there are several things that we can do to be prepared in advance of a fire.  These begin with advance preparation and evolve into an on-going dialogue and changed behaviors in terms of policies, procedures and routines.  Here are a few important thoughts about preparedness:


Be Prepared.

One valuable resource is Ready for Wildfire  www.readyforwildfire.org   which includes planning tools, home and business hardening information, defensible space, evacuation preparation, toolkit list, etc. both in English and Spanish.  This site also includes an ap for planning purposes for providing a defensible space checklist as home and business owners conduct their own walkaround.  The ap also includes a statewide fire map linked directly to CAL FIRE along with current updates on fires.  CAL FIRE’s website is www.fire.ca.gov and on the front page is a link to Wildfire Incidents.  This is very current and is where many other websites get their information from.  If local incident phone number is available, it would be published here as well.  This should be a first step in a fire prevention and mitigation process. 


Have a Plan. 

This includes the development, refreshing or increased focus and emphasis on a Disaster Preparedness and Recovery Plan.  Disaster planning focuses primarily on wildfire issues and will be a document that once completed, will be always subject to changes with modifications as the organization learns and embraces the plan.  The plan will outline key personnel with their roles and responsibilities throughout the stages of a wildfire alert, potential evacuation warning, voluntary evacuation warning, mandatory evacuation warning, and post disaster recovery.  The plan will address the separation, segregation and movement of stock and inventory to remove it from the path of a wildfire and secure it safely out of harm’s way.  If you have the ability, segregate your stock / inventory into multiple locations.  This will reduce the likelihood of a fire loss to all of your stock / inventory.


Communicate Often. 

As wineries work to navigate the property insurance marketplace, communication with their insurance broker / risk management consultant is critical.  The property insurance marketplace is ever changing and what was true last month may not necessarily be true today.  Communication about the ever-changing marketplace is a crucial component to being aware of what an upcoming renewal might look like in terms of rate and limits being offered.  The earlier in the process and the more often a winery can communicate with their insurance broker / risk management consultant, the less likelihood of a big surprise at renewal.  It is no longer acceptable for an insurance broker to take a client to lunch and deliver renewal terms the day before renewal.  In order to properly budget and be prepared for an insurance policy renewal communication early and often is necessary.  By utilizing an insurance broker / risk management consultant that is familiar with the wine industry, the back and forth questions will be greatly reduced as there is familiarity with exactly what is required by the particular insurer(s) that are involved.


Know Your Limits. 

This is not to know your boundaries and capabilities, rather to know what the true value of your winery assets are.  A property policy will pay Replacement Cost in the event of a fire.  The Replacement Cost of a winery’s brick and mortar assets for the building, tanks, furniture and fixtures are relatively easily established via a contractor, valuation models or other avenues.  Stock / Inventory may not be so easily established.  The Cost of Goods Sold to produce a bottle of wine is known.  The cost to produce / purchase the juice is known.  These are relatively easily established.  Once a bottle of wine is ready for sale, the mark-up / profit margin must be established.  Some insurance contracts will pay Selling Price on Stock / Inventory in the event of a fire loss or damage.  Your property insurance limits of liability on your insurance policy must adequately reflect the values that, in the event of a fire loss or damage, you expect to receive.  This is a critical step that must be documented before an insurance policy is in force.  In essence the winery is “settling a fire loss with the insurance company before the fire occurs.”  Through a well-documented Statement of Values, all parties have the full picture of what is at risk.  Expectations of insurance policy limits of liability and anticipated pay-out must be set prior to the policy issuance, not afterwards.  Also, check with your bank to see what your loan covenants require in terms of limits required to purchased. 



The property insurance marketplace for wineries continues to change.  For the balance of 2021 it is likely to continue to be an extremely hard marketplace with limited insurers willing to offer insurance to wineries.  As new capacity begins to enter the marketplace for wineries, it is possible in 2022 to see some relive in terms of rate and availability of additional limits of insurance. Vigilance in the heightened awareness and thoughtfulness about a potential fire is important.  A keen eye towards knowing what is happening in the local region and maintaining a safe and protected winery are critical. 

For additional information please contact Chet Laws at InterWest Insurance. Chet and his team have an extensive background in the wine industry.  He can be reached at claws@iwins.com / 707-657-4505

Winery Adaptation

Winery Adaptation

How smaller, independent wineries can sell more wine in a hypercompetitive marketplace


State of Industry – Lots of winners but many “silent” losers


It’s amazing how the world can change in a year! Even before the COVID-19 pandemic made its global impact, the U.S. Wine Industry was in a tough spot with oversupply, consumer buying-habit changes, three-tier consolidation issues and more.

Today, these challenges have been dramatically magnified. For smaller, independent wineries across the United States, the time has come to take a serious look at adapting to the rapidly evolving trade and consumer trends shaping the industry. Here are just a few of the most important dynamics to consider in order to successfully compete in the wine marketplace in the years to come.


New packaging – It’s not just a 750ml game anymore

The wine industry is an agriculture business and one that is historically slow to adapt to change. In the last few years, this business paradigm has rewarded producers who are willing to take the risk of packaging their wines in unconventional ways that go beyond standard 750ml bottles.



Many wineries still cling to the belief that quality wines MUST be packaged in 750ml bottles. Some even believe that those bottles should be heavier than standard-weight bottles, in order to convey a high-end image. This thinking does not take into consideration that today’s consumers—across all generations—are more cognizant than ever of the environmental impacts of their everyday purchasing choices. From aluminum cans to 1.5-liter box, here are the top trends in packaging over the last few years: 

Cans, boxes, Tetra cartons, 375ml, 500ml … all should be contemplated depending on a winery’s channel focus. These alternative packages are clearly appealing to due to their convenience, sustainability and “avant garde” positioning.



wine packaging

Source: Wine Intelligence – Trade interview program 2020


Wine Types and Styles – Tastes they are a-changin’


Consumer buying habits change over time for all industries—that’s just the way it goes due to generational shifts, technology advancements and innovations. While the Boomer generation (born ‘55-‘65) has driven wine industry growth and premiumization for the last 30 years, the smaller GenX cohort (born ‘65-‘80) has overtaken it to become the key purchaser of premium wines in the U.S. The Millennial generation (born ‘81-‘96) is right behind the Boomers, in the No. 3 spot. These younger generations have different wine preferences than their parents before them.


As food styles evolve and consumers embrace healthier eating habits, lighter and fresher wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, rosé and Pinot Noir continue to gain in popularity. This trend shows no sign of abating, which means that the sales dominance of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay will wane. While this can spell trouble for some wineries, it will provide opportunities for those willing to make the jump.  (To learn more about this trend, see Ray Isle’s article in Food & Wine.) 

market share

But before any winery looks at producing new products, it must first examine its existing portfolio and weed out underperforming SKUs that do not truly contribute to the brand’s success. Slow-moving SKUs weigh on resources and divert attention from products that could become hero wines that drive sales success and profitability



Three-Tier Channel – Consolidation continues


No one could have predicted the catastrophic collapse of the on-premise segment in 2020. For decades, many wineries benefited from a restaurant-focused strategy, but these producers have now been forced to look for alternative sales channels within the three-tier trade.

Retail trade was already controlled predominately by the larger wine companies—those 50-some-odd producers making more than 250,000 cases annually. So, for smaller wine companies looking to make up for lost sales in this channel, it will continue to be extremely difficult to increase sales and distribution, unless they have unique, sought-after or highly rated wines.

The small, independent winery already entrenched in the three-tier marketplace must learn to adapt to selling wine in a whole new manner focused on some of the following principles:

  • Focus on account relationships directly, relying less on distributors to generate business. Simplify wholesale pricing nationally so that resulting trade prices between all states show minimal variations, limit ultra-deep online discounting in states like N.Y., N.J., Calif., and Conn.; and have depletion allowances/price supports that are targeted on volume deals vs. everyday pricing.
  • Look less at a traditional 50-state distribution plan and adopt a strategic, state-by-state strategy in which the winery’s time and money resources are focused more effectively.
  • Focus on distributors that are committed to being transparent, communicate regularly, and are structured to work off depletion and account base goals – not shipments.

The Winning Game – DTC is clearly the haven but increasingly competitive


Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) is an obvious focus for most small wineries since it’s more of an open marketplace and a more profitable sales channel. That said, there are many competitive realities in to consider:

  • Hospitality – Wine tourism will return, but competition for the wine tourist dollar will be fiercer than ever as things open back up. To attract and retain a more customers, wineries should continue to invest in tasting room spaces and staff to elevate their experiences.
  • Membership – Because younger generations that have become the wine industry’s dominant buyers don’t necessarily want to have wine shipments show up automatically “X” number of times per year, traditional wine club memberships are declining. When building this important channel, consider fully customizable membership structures, shipping cost supports (including flat fees and/or shipping included) as well as unique added value benefits (not just events)
  • eCommerce – Online wine sales got a big boost due to pandemic restrictions, and wineries will need to invest in this channel to keep the momentum going. eCommerce requires resources in digital marketing (website, email, SEO, social media, etc.). Since most wineries don’t have the resources to hire a full-time employee to manage this area, outsourcing is vital. (Just a few of the companies that specialize in providing ecommerce support are:

Wine Glass Marketing, Ving Direct, and Juice Box Direct.)




Don’t Just Survive, Thrive – The strategically minded winery will prevail


The biggest trends in the wine industry today were already wielding their influence well before the pandemic hit, and now the need to develop alternative routes to market is clearer than ever. Wineries must accept the fact that the marketplace has changed, and rapidly adapt to remain relevant to the consumer.

Small, family-owned, independent wineries can not only survive but thrive in today’s hypercompetitive wine industry. However, they will need to develop a sound overall strategy with a realistic operational plan for executing initiatives that fit the winery’s capabilities—financially, operationally and even culturally.

Protea Conversations – Rachel Martin

Protea Conversations – Rachel Martin

Protea Financial was founded in 2014 to provide high quality out-sourced accounting at an affordable price.  Given Protea’s flexible work environment, the Company especially appealed to accountants who wanted to re-enter the work force after taking time off to start a family. This allowed Protea to attract extremely talented individuals who were overlooked.  Over 80% of both Protea’s leadership and accounting teams are women.

We selected the name Protea because is the national flower of South Africa and is a symbol of our connection. The Protea flower has become an ornamental flower because of this striking beauty and is included in arrangements and bouquets as a symbol of courage or daring to be better or a sign of positive transformation.

Protea Conversations focuses on successful woman in business and their achievements.  The hope is that these conversations will create a forum to discuss the experiences, opportunities, and challenges women face, and how we can build a more diverse, inclusive, and successful environment for everyone.

In April 2021 we spend time with Rachel Martin. A unique combination of education and experience brought Rachel Martin to launch Oceano Wines with husband and co-proprietor, Kurt Deutsch in 2016. A Virginia native, Martin was present at the inception of what is now considered one of that state’s premier wine producers, Boxwood Estate Winery, in 2005. As Executive Vice President of Winery Operations, Martin’s job was to oversee all facets of production, sales and marketing of Boxwood’s award-winning whites, rosés and Bordeaux-style red blends.

Appreciating the distinctiveness of Middleburg’s terroir, Rachel spearheaded the move toward securing a coveted American Viticultural Area designation from the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, the federal agency charged with evaluating the merits of all such applications. The petition she authored on behalf of the region was approved in 2012, making Middleburg Virginia the state’s seventh AVA.

Rachel’s forward thinking led directly to Middleburg having its own wine identity separate from the more generic Virginia designation, making her well suited to again start from scratch with Oceano Wines. None other than the esteemed author Jancis Robinson noted Rachel’s marketing savvy in her book “American Wine.”

Rachel is a member of Les Dames d’Escoffier International New York and Washington, D.C chapters and was the first woman to be inducted into the District of Columbia chapter of the International Wine & Food Society. Rachel was a founding board member of the Middleburg Film Festival where she was closely involved with the beverage/culinary. 

How did you get into the wine industry and why did you decide to start Oceano Wines?

My path to the wine industry began in 2002. It was my step-father’s awesome and somewhat crazy idea to plant a world class vineyard and build a state of the art winery in Middleburg, Virginia- Boxwood Estate Winery. My position would be Executive VP in charge of all operations, so in advance I attended the Diploma program at the University of Bordeaux’s School in Enology in Bordeaux, France and studied Enology and Viticulture at Napa Valley College in Napa, California.

In 2016, while still a Boxwood, I visited Spanish Springs Vineyard just east of Pismo Beach on the extreme coast of San Luis Obispo County, California. I was so intensely struck by the vineyard terroir to produce unforgettable Burgundian varieties, I immediately contracted for 6 tons of Chardonnay. We hired industry veteran winemaker Marbue Marke to craft our first vintage in 2016. That was the first step in establishing Oceano Wines with my husband and business partner, Kurt Deutsch. And in 2018 we added Pinot Noir to our offerings. Our wines are made by Marbue in Napa.


What has been the biggest challenge you have experienced in reaching your current success (personally and professionally)?

Since I feel like I have had two lives professionally in wine, I can speak to both challenges in each life. At Boxwood Winery, my biggest challenge, personally was working for my step-father. He is very old-school when it comes to business, and it could be soul crushing at times. That said, I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity that he gave to me as Executive VP of his promising winery. That was the start of my life in wine. Professionally, I was challenged at every level. I had been responsible for logistics and creative projects in the past, but nothing of this magnitude. I had to learn all facets of the business by the seat of my pants. The only industry mentor that I had was our viticultural consultant, Lucie Morton. That was amazing, but I was responsible for much more than that. I had to grow in every direction to meet the requirements to run winery operations, sales and marketing. It was a huge job, but very satisfying!

With Oceano Wines, there are not any personal challenges. It is like breathing, because I am literally living my best life. I am at my happiest when I am creating. We are sourcing from an incredible vineyard site, Spanish Springs, which is owned by our family friend Henry Warshaw. I am privileged to work with our winemaker, Marbue Marke. He is highly experienced, down to earth, professional and most importantly, expertly skilled as a winemaker and a viticulturist.

Professionally, since we are sourcing fruit from the extreme coast of San Luis Obispo County, making our wines in Napa as a client and I am based in New York City, we have not yet been able to establish a tasting room. This is the greatest challenge. We are looking into options on the east coast. Hopefully we will find the right opportunity in 2021. Right now, our wines can be purchased from our website and at restaurants and retailers in California, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Washington, D.C., North Carolina and Florida.


What are your short term goals of your career/business and yourself?

Short term goals for business is getting our tasting room situation figured out and open in 2021. For myself, my goal is to continue my role as a leader and mentor in the alcohol beverage industry, by bring valuable content and support to my member associations: Women of the Vines & Spirits and Les Dames d’Escoffier.


What is the best piece of advice you have ever received that has helped you in your success?

Not everyone is going to like you, and that is okay.


What is the piece of advice that you wished you had gotten when you were starting out?

Approach people by what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.


What advice you give to others to help them be better leaders?

Cultivate and nourish your employees, they are your greatest asset.


As a thank you to our interview and Protea’s commitment to more diverse and inclusive leaders, Protea will make a donation to Vital Voices (https://www.vitalvoices.org/). Vital Voices Global Partnership is a global movement that invests in women leaders who are solving the world’s greatest challenges. They are “venture catalysts,” identifying those with a daring vision for change and partnering with them to make that vision a reality. They scale and accelerate impact through long term investments to expand skills, connections, capacity, and visibility. Over the last 22 years, we have built a network of 18,000 change-makers across 182 countries who are collectively daring to reimagine a more equitable world for all.