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How a wine club helped a Healdsburg vintner keep his doors open in 2020

The wildfires and the pandemic of 2020 were a one-two punch for vintner Danny Glover. But the owner of Healdsburg’s L’Objet said his wine club gave him the resilience to withstand the blows.

“For small business owners, wine clubs are one of the most important ways for us to keep our doors open,” the winemaker said.

Glover, 56, lost between $80,000 and $90,000 in 2020 due to the wildfires coupled with the impact of COVID-19. But, he said, his wine club membership rose by 30% to 35% last year, in part because people wanted to support Black-owned businesses. His wine club reeled in a total of $30,000 over four quarters.

“Awareness rose because of the Black Lives Matter movement, and people discovered that all of us we’re making really good wine, just as good as anywhere else you’d find,” he said. “A lot of people didn’t know African Americans were making wine.”

Black-owned wineries, Glover said, were at the forefront of the effort to support Black-owned businesses in 2020. During the pandemic, consumers could simply order online while sheltering in place.

L’Objet, founded in 2009, produces 600 cases of wine a year, a trio of a pinot noir, a sauvignon blanc and a red blend. Its wine club has 40 members, and its membership continues to climb. There’s no membership fee; members simply pay for the wine. But Glover said in 2020 many members bought much more than the yearly eight-bottle minimum that amounts to about $260.

“I’m humbled by the support,” Glover said. “As a winemaker and a craftsperson, you take great pride in what your product is, and to have people supporting you is huge.”

The nightmare of 2020

The Lightning Complex fires in August of 2020 forced Glover to pick his sauvignon blanc fruit much earlier than he had hoped to.

“I think everybody was frantic,” he said. “We were all scrambling. We were worried that our grapes were going to be affected by smoke taint.”

Lab tests confirmed the sauvignon blanc didn’t have smoke taint, but the vintner decided to forgo making any pinot noir in 2020.

With the pandemic, Glover had to cancel four events last spring.

“I’m a one-man show,” he said. “I make most of my sales through events, and in February and March of 2020 all that was shut down. That’s why my wine club was invaluable to me. … With your wine club, the money comes in and you sock it away for lean months.”

The winemaker pivoted with corporate events on Zoom to curb his losses.

“This year I’m cautiously optimistic,” Glover said. “I don’t ever try to predict what Mother Nature will do. As soon as you do, she’s showing you the opposite.”

Artistry of winemaking

Glover worked in the music industry, penning and producing songs in Los Angeles from 1988 to 1992. But he was drawn to the artistry of winemaking and found himself in Sonoma County in 1996. He worked at Clos du Bois, Armida and Dutcher Crossing before ultimately creating his own label in 2008.

L’Objet is French for an object that’s admired. At a bar one day, a friend of his suggested the name for his label and Glover decided it was perfect.

The vintner said his winemaking philosophy is simple. He endeavors to find the best grapes, keep a hands-off approach and let the wine tell its story.

The winemaker’s life philosophy of life, the pursuit of grace, is not as simple. Glover has a tattoo, a Taoist symbol for grace, on his right leg to remind himself to hold on to grace when he encounters prejudice.

On his website, Glover explains his ongoing attempt to maintain a kind disposition “despite having been attacked with a baseball bat in my youth, despite having people cross to the other side of the street when they see me approach, despite the whispered comments and eye-contact avoidance at various functions, despite suffering the prejudices and injustices so well known to those who share my skin color.”

Wine clubs, Glover said, are a great way for winelovers to know a winery’s story and to feel connected.

“It’s like a little community,” the winemaker said. “These wine club members have become my friends. One woman had twins a few years ago and I sent her flowers. … It’s my lifestyle that makes me happy. I live well. I eat well. I drink well and I have amazing friends and my wine club members are a part of that.”

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

Wine Club information about other Black-owned wineries

Bodkin Wines

Chris Christensen, who founded the winery in 2011, was the first to create sparkling sauvignon blanc in the United States. As for wine club memberships, there are two tiers. The Royal Fellowship offers 12 bottles twice a year for $240 per shipment, plus shipping. The Happy Few offers 6 bottles twice a year for $120 per shipment, plus shipping. bodkinwines.com; 1083 Vine St., #135 Healdsburg.

Corner 103

The brainchild of former financier Lloyd Davis, Corner 103 is named after the location of its Sonoma tasting room. Davis’ wine club is named “Wine Society” and members receive 4 shipments per year, each with 2 bottlings, in March, June, September and December. Cost per shipment is $160 to $210, excluding tax and shipping. Members have control over what bottlings are sent to them and they get discounts on all wines and events throughout the year. Corner103.com; 103 W. Napa St., Sonoma.

Fog Crest Vineyard

This winery was founded in 1997 by husband and wife team James and Rosalind Manoogian. They specialize in chardonnay and pinot noir and have a trio of wine clubs. The Silver members receive 3 bottles 4 times a year at a 15% discount. Gold members receive 6 bottles 4 times a year at a 20% discount. Platinum members receive 12 bottles 4 times a year at a 25% discount. fogcrestwineyard.com; 7606 Occidental Rd., Sebastopol.

Tympany Vineyards

With a focus on cabernet sauvignon, Louis Jordan and wife Lynda harvested their first Sonoma County vintage in 2006. Louis was named after the late jazz great Louis Jordan and the couple are jazz fans who regularly contribute to the Healdsburg Jazz Festival. Their boutique winery produces less than 100 cases per year so it doesn’t have an official wine club. But people can call (415-713-7185) or email (landljordan@tympanyvineyards.com) for wine at any time. Their Bordeaux blend is $58 and if people ask for 6 or more bottles, they’ll get a 25% discount. Tympanyvineyards.com; 1083 Vine St., #291 Healdsburg.

Vision Cellars

Mac McDonald was born the son of an East Texas moonshiner but his fascination with wine compelled him to bottle it for a living with wife Lil. They released their first pinot noir in 1997 and today they craft 7 different pinot noirs, producing 1,600 cases per year. The wine club, with 400 members, offers a shipment of 4 bottlings 3 times a year, a total of roughly $600, plus tax and shipping. visioncellars.com; P.O. Box 1756 Windsor.

Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at peg.melnik@pressdemocrat.com or 707-521-5310.

Peg Melnik

Wine, The Press Democrat

Northern California is cradled in vines; it’s Wine County at its best in America. My job is to help you make the most of this intriguing, agrarian patch of civilization by inviting you to partake in the wine culture – the events, the bottlings and the fun. This is a space to explore wine, what you care about or don’t know about yet.

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