Last week our class had a chance to visit Chateau Morrisette Winery, this trip was to understand the business and to taste wine. The winery is located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, a very picturesque place.
We reached winery and were greeted by their officials, we then moved to their restaurant and met the VP, marketing manager, the wine maker and a wine taster. They told us about the history – how it started, what motivated to start the business, why this location etc. I was surprised to find out that there are graduate level courses in wine making. Then we had our set of questions related to business- how do your brand it, why/how to name a wine, how do you hedge risks, what is the impact of current economic situation on wine industry, what kind of grapes do you grow, why not grow all grapes, different kind of grapes, how do you price the wine, how much wine do we get out of the yield. We bombarded the panel with a lot of questions and they answered us properly. It was really nice to see a business from this close, what we study in MBA is very practical but real world scenarios makes it extremely complex.
A tour of the cellar
Then we went on the tour of winery. Adding to the beauty of surroundings is the beautiful winery building, the largest salvaged-timber building in the US. Timber is used from buildings from Seattle and Canada and some of which dates back to 1300s. It was a really beautiful building form inside with all the timber held together by wooden pegs. We learnt more about the history and how ‘dog’ became the brand for Chateau Morrisette. We learnt about crushing of grapes, putting them in barrels in other processes. I was not aware about the importance of barrels in wine making (of course, I never looked at Wikipedia for this) – barrels are usually made of oak (French) and then are toasted in different styles for different kind of wines. A barrel costs up to $1000 and usually exported from Europe.
Then we headed for wine tasting, most of the people tasted wine and I tried to photograph them. There were around 10-12 different kind of wines, another surprise for me when I found different kinds of wine are served at different temperatures. One important thing to learn from CM was from the wine tasting person. She was an expert in her subject, loved the field and the way she was explaining was amazing. It proves if you love your field and are expert in it, you can market anything you want and can sell products even if they are not needed.
We started back for Blacksburg and this time we took a different routs, through Blue Ridge Parkway. It was amazingly beautiful, very long trees, curvy roads, beautiful view of the valley, lots of deer and sunset. It was an extremely cold ( -4 C) day and still we were came out of car for the beautiful view. It took us long time, but it was worth it.
Trivia : Hokie is a brand in Virginia and for the same reason CM has a wine specially for Hokies – The Hokie Bird Red/White Wine. (obviously this increases the price as royalty has to be paid to VT too).