25th november, 2020
My father was a Renaissance gentleman and a vintner. One of his most important messages to me as a child was the importance of giving back. I remember he said I was born with a good brain and a healthy body, and I had the responsibility to give back to the earth during my lifetime.
So, I think when I was four or maybe five, I already had the sense of mission. My mission was to do something global which would leave the earth a better place than it was when I arrived.
I grew up in the magnificent Napa Valley on the 1800 acre Inglenook Ranch. Although the term was not widely in use at the time, my father was a conservationist. He saw himself as a caretaker of the land and farmed for his children and grandchildren. As an example, when he would pull a block of vineyard, he would leave the land fallow for seven years to allow the soil to regenerate its vigor. The vineyards were his treasures and he farmed them sustainably. I grew up with a respect and burgeoning passion for the land. Dad also created a quail reserve on the ranch. We had some cattle on the mountain and chickens and horses. It was a glorious youth.
My sense of mission was like a woodpecker that lived on and on in my brain. This mission was not a “should”, it was for me a “have to”.
In my college years and my twenties, I did not feel rushed, Plenty of time ahead. In my mid-twenties, I married, and my husband and I had two superb daughters. It did not take long for me to realize that they are the ultimate gift I am sharing with the planet to leave it a better place. They are the essence of the gift that keeps on giving.
In 1964 my father sold Inglenook Vineyards which was founded by my great granduncle, Gustave Niebaum in 1879. My Dad, John Daniel, Jr., was the third generation to own and manage the winery. For many reasons, he did not provide the opportunity for me to continue the legacy. In my thirties I dived back into the wine business working with Robert Mondavi, my mentor for 5 years. Subsequently I co-founded Dominus with Christian Moueix and Merryvale Vineyards with Bill Harlan. I was determined to continue my legacy as a fourth generation vintner and sold my partnerships in the 90’s to start Lail Vineyards with my daughters.
Working in the wine business in Napa Valley has meant being surrounded by a community of growers and vintners who farm for the future. Farming techniques include a range from sustainable to bio-dynamic, from organic to carbon and regenerative farming. At Lail Vineyards we are carbon farming.
To be honest, I have spent the last 25 years almost totally focused on building Lail Vineyards. Rather like a horse wearing blinders and going forward seeing only one vista. However, I have now chronologically reached the “it’s now or never point” with my sense of mission.
When I discovered the Porto Protocol in 2019, it was obvious to me that I had found it. The Protocol was established in 2018 to build a global network of change makers and workable solutions that will impact the wine industry’s contribution to mitigating climate change. The initiative calls for taking action and sharing solutions.
I have the honor of being the United States Representative for the Porto Protocol Foundation. My goal is to help build dedicated members in the U.S. wine industry who are engaged in heightening the awareness of the urgency of the crisis we face, and actively participating in the collaborative search for solutions. We can make a difference in working together. We will.