Sonoma Valley ranch owner Lauren Benward wins North Bay Forty Under 40 award
In 25 words or less, how do you exemplify the spirit of being a top Forty under 40 professional?
What an honor! I'm so inspired by this incredible group of innovative professionals. I love the momentum in growing and nurturing a sustainable North Bay business community!
Years with company: 20
Length of time in current position: 15
Number companywide employees: 22
Number of people who report to you: 16
Greatest professional accomplishment: Taking the leap from grower to vintner. After a lifetime as winegrowers, we have now been making our own wine for 11 years.
Greatest professional challenge: Maintaining historic integrity and tradition, while implementing changes required to modernize a longtime family business.
Best advice received: You need to hire help!
Single most important event in your professional life in the last 12 months: To celebrate 10 years as a winery, we took a group of our club members on a food, wine & adventure trip to Sayulita, Mexico. I love planning immersive experiences for our guests and the opportunity to take our formula on the road was a really exciting challenge for me.
What steps is your company taking to sustain your organization and morale in the current economy?
On slow days or special occasions, we love to get our team together to try out new things. Wood-firing pizzas. Trying new wines, or a group trip to the lake. It strengthens our team and we always come up with unique ideas for the future.
Next professional goal: Bringing our boutique winemaking operations back to the property by restoring our barn as a tasting room and building a new, small production and barrel storage facility.
Education: Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts Studies and Visual Merchandising, University of Arizona. Styling at Lorenzo de Medici, Florence.
Hometown: Glen Ellen
Community/nonprofit activities: Secretary for Sonoma Valley Vintners & Grower's Alliance. We are proud to support: La Luz Glen Ellen Forum Glen Ellen and Kenwood Fire Service Sonoma Valley Schools; Bee Habitat Education Programs The Farm Bureau Young Farmers; and Ranchers Boys & Girls Club Youth sports
Mentor/admired businessperson: John Sheela, founder Kenwood Vineyards; Maureen Cottingham, executive director, Sonoma Valley Vintners and Grower Alliance; and Liz Lambert, Hotelier for Hospitality Design
Typical day at the office: No day is the same and I love it that way! Yesterday I was bottling at the winery and today we are moving sheep and giving a farm tour.
Best place to work outside of your office: In the vineyard.
Hobbies: Outdoor adventures with my kids.
What you wanted to be when you grew up: Anything creative!
First job: My first work was picking grapes in exchange for “It's “ice creams. My first real job was slinging burritos in the stands at University of Arizona basketball games.
Social media you most use: Instagram
Favorite book: “Into the Wild” is my recent favorite. I'm most drawn to travel and adventure memoirs.
Favorite movie: “Planes Fire & Rescue” (Pretty limited to movies with my kids these days)
Favorite after-work drink: Glass of rosé at El Molino.
Last vacation: As a family we visited winegrowers and innovative rustic hotel properties and Portugal, Spain and Morocco. It was game-changing!
What does your mom or dad brag most about you?
That I will find a way to make it work.