Doug DeMerritt of Frog’s Leap Winery in Napa Valley wins North Bay CFO award

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Doug DeMerritt


Frog’s Leap Winery

8815 Conn Creek Road, Rutherford CA 94573


Employees: 70

Doug DeMerritt of Frog's Leap Winery in Rutherford wins one of North Bay Business Journal's CFO awards.

Professional background: Over 36 years as a financial professional with the first half of my career in Sacramento in banking. We moved to the Napa Valley in 2000 and transitioned to the wine industry in 2001. Wine industry career includes positions of controller or CFO at three prestigious wineries including Frog’s Leap Winery for the last 10 years.

Education: Bachelor’s degree in accounting from CSU Sacramento

What do you see as the essential role of a financial leader in the current environment?

In our industry success can be defined in a number of ways. It’s critical to develop a clear definition of success as it applies to your business, supporting your mission, and to then develop goals and a long term plan that lead to that success. Communicate those plans and goals across the company and become the go-to person to help all achieve those goals.

What are the biggest changes you’ve seen in your industry?

Winery and distributor consolidation has been a constant since I’ve been in the wine industry creating both challenges and opportunities for wineries of all size. We’ve also benefited from an expanding direct-to-consumer customer base with more states opening up to direct shipping of wine.

Tell us about the particular challenges and opportunities your organization has met in the recent past.

There have been quite a few. Among the most important has been our success in growing our retail business through our visitor center as well as an innovative and successful wine club. Also, faced with ongoing challenges in attracting and retaining an experienced vineyard crew, critical to our success in so many ways, we have transitioned that team to full-time employment with the full package of important benefits. While more costly in the short-term than staffing with a seasonal crew, the long-term benefits to both the employee and the company are significant.

What advice would you give to young emerging financial leaders?

It’s important to learn how your company operates at all levels; sourcing, processing, IT, sales, human resources, facilities, the mail room, etc. This will allow you develop a meaningful plan with realistic goals and to then support your team in beating those goals. Recognize that the people you work with will be key to the company’s success and also present some of your greatest challenges. Cultivate those relationships. Five keys; don’t sweat the small stuff, embrace a healthy work/life balance, laugh, make good choices, and always remember your ABCs.

What’s the best advice for weathering today’s economic environment?

The economic environment will always come with its opportunities and challenges. Stay focused on your goals and be ready to take advantage of opportunities. Develop and maintain excellent relationships with your bankers and other key providers through ongoing and straightforward communication. Those relationships will prove critical to you and the company as you work through an unexpected downward turn in the market or other bumps in the road.

How do you think your business will change in the next five years?

Five years is not very long in our business. I don’t see any significant changes to our core business or goals. A big challenge ahead of us, and the industry, will be dealing with labor issues. If we are unable to make real progress with sensible immigration reform that reflects the importance of our immigrant work force, our agricultural industries and the California economy could be facing a real labor crisis.

Doug DeMerritt


Frog’s Leap Winery

8815 Conn Creek Road, Rutherford CA 94573


Employees: 70

What is a decision you wish you hadn’t made? What did you learn from it?

It would be a bad hiring decision. Hiring someone too quickly to fill a job and almost immediately regretting it. It’s a reminder of the importance of good recruiting and the tremendous value in finding the right person for the job.

What is your most memorable business experience?

I’ve been involved in a number interactions with the IRS. None of them were fun but one of the most memorable was an issue several years ago involving a fairly aggressive, but defensible position taken by us and a number of other wineries. I believe we were the first to have the issue challenged. We prevailed, which was good for us, but also good for the industry as the ruling was published by the IRS paving the way for others to take a similar position with confidence. That was a good, and memorable day.

What is your greatest business success?

Over my career I’ve been involved with a number of companies that went through a sale or major restructuring. They were significant challenges, and stressful, but were also learning opportunities that rarely come up in a person’s career. Each was considered a great success at the time and I was proud to be a contributor to that success. I’m optimistic that my greatest business success is yet to come.

What was your toughest business decision?

I can’t think of any one decision that was particularly difficult as even the most challenging seem to work themselves out. I’d say the decision that had the most impact on my career was the decision to move from Sacramento to Napa in 2000. That decision to move, which I did not agree to easily, was my wife’s and is probably the second best decision she ever made.

What would your friends be surprised to find out about you?

And ruin the surprise? No way.

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