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 ( 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.