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Becky Harrison

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When Janie Brooks Hick, general manager of Brooks Wine in Amity, Oregon, was asked how she got into the industry, she replied with a melancholy smile. I fell in. After the unexpected death of his brother, who founded Brooks Wine in 1998, just before the 2004 harvest, 12 winemakers sat down with Huck. They told me they plan to keep the brand for at least another year. So they offered to take the fruit and make us wine this year if I checked the commercial side. Both parents already deceased and his brother’s son too young to enter the business, Huek had no choice but to say yes.

In addition to networking with other winemakers, she began taking wine courses at Davis University. As she got deeper and deeper into the industry, she fell in love with the people, the wine community and the wine itself; passions that she still has in her work 16 years later. In addition to his leadership role at Brooks, Huek is also president of WineAmerica, president of the International Riesling Foundation, and past president of the Oregon Pinot Camp (after 6 years on the board).

In 2020, Hick demonstrated how his industry relationships, combined with his commitment to Brooks’ legacy, transparent communication, and attention to Brooks’ social and environmental commitments, have allowed him to maintain the viability of this vineyard. And since Brooks has no board of directors or investors, Hick can make quick decisions in this tumultuous year.

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When Covid-19 hit Oregon in mid-March, Brooks lost about 70% of its sales. The company launched its marketing strategy with online tastings aimed at national organizations such as the American Wine Society, large corporations such as Intel and consumers. Heck expects the virtual tastings to continue in the near future, as these events allow Brooks’ to expand its customer base by appealing to a global audience. To prepare for this transition to the virtual world, they invested in Welcome, an online event platform, and hired a business development manager.

They also just launched their revamped website in February. This gave them the right tools to launch an e-commerce platform and sell their wine online. When they were ordered by the governor to close the tasting room, they also set up a pick-up and delivery service that included a food program to supplement the wine.

Hack continued to build customer loyalty with his mailing list of 20,000 people, on which he receives an opening rate of 25%. In these emails, Heck focuses on telling inspiring stories that illustrate perseverance and resilience, such as B. How the Vineyard Survived the 2008 Recession. Customer loyalty is important to maintaining our wine club and online sales, Huke notes.

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These companies also enabled Hick to retain most of its employees and workers during the pandemic. To that end, she has ensured that her team receives ongoing training from Bree Stock, wine consultant and educator, master winemaker and director of Constant Crush Wine. Stoke and Huck joined forces in 2014 because of their shared love of regenerative farming practices, biodynamics, Riesling and Pinot Noir. Stock describes their common working relationship: We often collaborate on ideas and visions that the industry can and should contribute to wine-related issues such as ecology, equality and diversity on farms, hospitality and leadership.

Stock worked with Heuck to develop the Beyond Brooks program as a way to deepen Brooks’ relationships with customers, peers and other manufacturers by closing Covid through the only channel that remained open: Directly to the consumer. In this program, they used the wine club model to include other local Oregon delicacies like kombucha, cheese, and olive oil. Outside of Brooks, we can focus on what’s important and stay connected to producers and growers by sharing our stories and crafts with our community, marketing everyone’s products while raising money for the non-profit organizations we both support, Wine Unified and 1% for the Planet, says Stock.

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After the devastating fires that ravaged the Willamette Valley and other parts of Oregon and California in September, Hook backed down and decided Brooks would not release the 2020 vintage. After learning that the vast majority of her farmers did not have crop insurance, she established the Brooks Farmers’ Assistance Fund. With this fund, Brooks has committed to sharing a portion of its bottle sales with producers of wines from the same vineyard, which are sold directly to consumers through Brooks’ website or in the tasting room. This action has allowed Hook to maintain all his contacts with farmers for the foreseeable future and has given Brooks supporters the opportunity to donate money to local farmers in need.

As a sign of its commitment to the environment and sustainability, Brooks is the first winery in the world to be certified by B Corp, 1% for the Planet and Demeter Biodynamic. According to Kate Williams, CEO of 1% Planet, Hick is one of the most dedicated members of their global network. It actively promotes and engages the 1% of the world’s population as a generous partner of Brooks-backed non-profit associations, as an event sponsor, as a host of wine tastings for our employees, etc. It is always ready to give back and continue to develop Brooks as a winery that indulges and enriches all who come in contact with it. As such, it is a source of inspiration for our employees and our network.

More information can be found here: The most inspiring wine people of 2021.

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