Aha! Wine Tasting Moment
Entrepreneurship and the Pursuit of Excellence
I recently attended a client wine tasting event at RdV Vineyards in Delaplane, VA. My expectations were to enjoy the 360-degree views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and their rolling foothills from the 16-acre vineyard and enjoy some wine. My expectations were not only met, but I also gained insights on entrepreneurship and the pursuit of excellence. What’s happening on this small granite hill is nothing short of inspiring. It’s the embodiment and blending of four entrepreneurial essentials: Passion, Vision, Focus and Perseverance.
“The common denominator among great wines is that they ask you a lot of questions; they are not simple. It’s the same with people. You meet a lot of people during your lifetime and most of them are typical. But some of them are extraordinary. You cannot define them, and that’s why they are great.” — Eric Boissenot, Enologist
Rutger de Vink’s passion gave birth to the vision of RdV Vineyards. Pursuing something he enjoyed turned into a calling.
In 2001, this U.S. Marine, Kellogg School of Management MBA, turned tech salesman found his passion — winemaking. This led Rutger to be an apprentice at Linden Vineyards under Jim Law, to work with winemaking pioneer David Ramey at Ramey Wine Cellars in Napa, and to learn expert winemaking techniques from the best at Cheval Blanc and Château Lagrange in Bordeaux. An insatiable curiosity and passion inevitably sets you on a path to seek the best. Doing his homework and learning from the best, fostered Rutger’s confidence and honed his vision.
“In winemaking, there are so many choices along the way, and very few people have the vision to see what each of those choices means. Maybe two percent of all the wineries in the world are truly attempting to make great wine. There are those crazy kinds of iconoclasts, like Rutger, that say, to hell with it, we’re making the best wine we can. You don’t see it that often and when you do, you celebrate it.” — Keith Goldston, Master Sommelier, Rosewood, Washington DC
It put him on a mission to create not just a good wine, but a world-class Bordeaux-style blend in America. Visions come in many flavors and at different levels. But every once in a while, a Jobs or a Musk comes along to carve a new path. At first, the naysayers say “You’re nuts”, “That can’t be done.” This is music to a renegade. It’s not just about creating a great product, it’s about creativity, ideas and challenging the status quo. Perseverance transforms the renegade into a visionary.
“Remarkable Cabernet blend — complex, velvety and world class. A revelation.” - Robert Parker Jr.
Rutger’s vision was shaped by a key take-away learned from wine pioneers and experts — intervene as little as possible with mother nature. So he set out to find an ideal location with a lot of granite, offered exclusively by mother nature with the only meaningful boundry — the world. Having visited vineyards in Napa, Sonoma, Bordeaux, Loire, Burgundy, and Champagne this is the first time I felt the vines were being cultivated like a bonsai tree. I was witnessing the “art” of nurturing, shaping and channeling the vine into creating a sublime greatness.
Of the four pillars, focus is what channels the passion and leads to the realization of the vision. Focus is knowing who you are and who you’re not. Clarity cuts through the noise and drives simplicity. Simplicity fuels happiness and success.
Within minutes of starting the wine tour at RdV, you are taken by the design, planning, and attention to detail. It’s clear from the carefully tended vineyard and the minimalist modern temple to wine, that there was a plan to produce a world-class wine.
Leading the charge and challenging people’s perceptions is no easy task. Deciding to compete at a world-class level requires a different level of perseverance. For entrepreneurs, as in the rest of life, the struggle is often what leads to greatness.
Rutger spent three years searching until he came upon on a rugged, tree-covered plot in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, an hour west of Washington, DC. There he found an abundance of granite.
At the very last moment at the purchase settlement, the seller told Rutger he won’t be able to grow “a damn thing on all that granite.” For two years, Rutger and his team, under the guidance of experts from California and France, cleared the forest and moved the earth to reveal a sloping, craggy terrain. The granite siphons the water away and stresses the vines in just the right amount to push the grapes to flourish.
Since the first release in 2008, the wine continues to improve. Earlier this year, RdV was served at the largest U.S. State Dinner at the White House for all five Scandinavian countries.
I left the wine tasting with the newly released 2013 vintage of Lost Mountain and Rendezvous and an entrepreneual spirit inspired with a deeper appreciation of the blending of passion, vision, focus and perseverance.