Most Influential Leaders: Daniel J. Duckhorn

Chairman and founder, Duckhorn Wine Co.

Company address: 1000 Lodi Lane, St. Helena 94574

Phone: 707-967-2024


Staff: 140

Residence: St. Helena

Professional background: Semi-retired from 40 years in the wine business

Education: B.S., MBA Finance, U.C. Berkeley

Age: 71

What do you see as the essential role of a leader in the current environment? Today’s leaders of consumer product companies must find unique ways to motivate their employees to perform at increasingly higher levels in an expanding global community of price/value consciousness.

What are the biggest changes you've seen in your industry? In the luxury premium wine segment, the main changes have been increased grape cultivation technology, a shift to more palate-friendly wines and direct-to-consumer marketing, a massive number of new entrants, and more currently, a shift in consumer preferences by varietal and price.

What advice would you give to young emerging leaders? Learn to speak Mandarin Chinese and accounting.

What's the best advice for weathering today's economic environment? Have patience but adjust. We have been through two world wars, two bouts with phylloxera, a real Depression and a national law banning the consumption of our product. This too will pass.

How do you think your business will change in the next five years? Our recent focus on the consumer who suddenly changed his or her purchasing pattern will require new product shifts and new marketing strategies.

What is a decision you wish you hadn't made? What did you learn from it? Not being more aggressive in the acquisition of vineyards. If your decision seems financially or otherwise unattainable, find a way.

What is your most memorable business experience? Hesitating to sell Duckhorn Wine Co. but now enjoying the exquisite timeliness of the sale

What is your greatest business success? Being associated with the appreciation of merlot in America

What was your toughest business decision? Explaining individually to our key employees that the sale of the company need not be accompanied by radical changes

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you? That I was asked to leave U.C. Berkeley along with 50 other students for one semester at the request of the administration for participating in the great panty raid (albeit there were 5,000 students at the “party”)!

First job: Dishwasher at a soda fountain in Santa Rosa

Most admired businessperson outside the company: Warren Buffett

Current reading: World Bird Migration

Most want to meet: The woman in the Progressive Insurance Co. ads on TV

Stress relievers: Summer evenings at the BBQ

Favorite activities outside work: Dry-fly fishing in the Idaho wilderness

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