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The Pandemic Work Diary of a Napa C.E.O.


9 a.m. My first meeting of the day is usually with our chief financial officer, who, like most of our staff, is in his 30s. This is about strategy and looking at the big picture. Heitz is a historic wine company, but one of the things we’re trying to do is come up with something more approachable, a place where young people can interact with pedigreed classic wines — the tried and true.

3 p.m. I exchange texts with one of my mentors, Maverick Carter, the chief executive of SpringHill Entertainment, who is also LeBron James’s business manager. Maverick started out as a wine client at the Little Nell, then became a friend. For African-Americans who make it out of poverty, you’re a bit of an island, and as I’ve progressed in my career, I have found fewer people of color in the room. Maverick and I connect about music, food, business and things happening in the country. We text more than we speak since we’re both overcommitted.

4 p.m. I put up an Instagram story my grandmother, who raised me and has been on my mind because of the protests. After I graduated culinary school, my grandmother told me I needed to cut my hair, change the way I spoke and wear new clothes. It crushed her to say it. However, she always instilled a sense of pride in our culture, food, music, and way of being. She understood that this country was far from perfect, but it’s our country.

5 a.m. I could not exist without coffee. I prefer a bitter, deep-roasted flavor, and if I could I would spend all day researching small roasters who can provide that. Instead, I subscribe to the Trade Coffee Club and have my beans delivered. It’s all about efficiency. Greater Goods Roasters Rise and Shine is a brand I enjoyed. My machine is a JURA Impressa Superautomatic A9.

10 a.m. Every morning I meet with our farming team to discuss things like canopy management. You can’t make great wine without great farming, and Brenna Quigley, a young geologist from Santa Barbara, is doing studies of our vineyards so that we can create more soil-specific farming plans. Wineries tend to hire European consultants, but I prefer Americans. We have so much incredible talent here; if anything, the Europeans are learning from us now that, thanks to climate change, Burgundy is also cooking wine.

12 p.m. Two hours of branding meetings. This summer we’re bringing out a new line called Brendel, named for Leon Brendel, a legendary old winemaker known for planting quirky varietals like Grignolino. We’re also bringing out Ink Grade, named for one of the oldest, most picturesque, and highest altitude vineyards in Napa Valley. Ink Grade is more of an age-worthy wine, unlike Brendel, which is a wine to drink every day.

6 a.m. An online spinning workout with Aaron Hines, a trainer I met at his Cycle House studio in L.A. The music’s incredible, and even though he has super-famous clientele, he doesn’t let you off easy.



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