Jennifer Brown: I was born into it. My grandparents purchased their first vineyard in the 1970s and then my mother managed that vineyard for much of my childhood. My brother and I used to love playing in the vineyards as kids. When my mother married my stepfather, Craig Hall, in the 1990s they purchased the famous Sacrashe vineyard in Rutherford. They started making one wine, Kathryn Hall (which is still our flagship Cabernet Sauvignon), and then in the 2000s they built a tasting room and started making other wines.
I first worked for our winery in sales after graduating from college at Northwestern University. I called on restaurants, wine boutiques and represented the winery at trade shows. We weren’t as well known then, so I really had to convince people to buy our wine – working as a salesperson was one of the best educational experiences of my life. I left this role to go to graduate school at Stanford University, where I received my JD/MBA degree.
Now, I work on key strategic initiatives at the winery and represent the winery at public events and the media.
DLX: As an influencer in the industry, what emerging trends have you identified and how will they affect consumers and their lifestyles?
Jennifer Brown: One major trend is “organic” or “natural” wines. Much like in the food industry, consumers want to know where their wine comes from, and want to consume healthier and more natural products. They also want to know that a winery is following environmentally friendly winemaking practices
I just came back from Vinexpo in Bordeaux, France, the largest wine conference in the world, and there were over 200 organic wine producers on display there from all over the world.
Although this may currently be a trend, at our family winery, we have always followed strict organic and sustainable farming practices.
Another trend is that there is a desire from consumers to learn more about wine. Because it’s easier now than ever to find information on wine on the internet, consumers are researching wines that they like online. They can then more easily pinpoint why they like that wine by learning about the wine’s flavor profile, and find other similar wines. So because of this, I think you’re seeing a lot more exploration of other kinds of wine varietals, and also more wine regions from around the world. I think you will also see that consumers are going to quickly become more sophisticated in their wine tasting and choosing abilities.
Another trend is subscription services. You are seeing a lot of subscription services for wine clubs pop up, although more in the lower-priced markets.
DLX: When developing key messaging, how important is it to customize this messaging across various platform for each audience? What is your approach?
Jennifer Brown: I think it’s important to customize our message to the amount of wine knowledge as well as people’s age and interests. Some people want to know all the technical information about a wine, but most people want to hear a story. I do believe that to learn the story of something makes it more enjoyable than just to see/taste something.
DLX: Have you ever practiced Law and how does that background assist you in your current role?
Jennifer Brown: I did several internships at law firms in corporate law, as well as in law school I worked as a student lawyer under the supervision of a licensed attorney representing people in the East Palo Alto community. I assisted people on various cases by representing them in court and in hearings on matters like criminal record expungements, unpaid wages claims, and unlawful evictions.
Although I am a licensed CA attorney, I don’t directly practice law right now. I do think my legal background has been very helpful in thinking critically about issues and business problems, as well as reviewing contracts.
DLX: What was the transition from Dallas to Vienna?
Jennifer Brown: It was quite a stark difference! Neither my brother David nor I wanted to move to Vienna when we were in high school. We had grown up and gone to the same schools our whole lives, and had very good friends there. Ironically, it only took a couple of months after we moved there for our minds to change. We both loved Vienna – the city itself and the people. It’s a beautiful city with lots of history. The high school that I went to in Vienna – the Theresianum – was founded by Maria Theresa in 1746 before the United States was even a country!
DLX: How did growing up with a Vintner influence your chosen career path?
Jennifer Brown: I think growing up with my mother being a vintner, my family owning a winery, and a house in the vineyards made me love the wine country. I think I always knew that the wine business would be a part of my life.
DLX: What kind of yoga do you practice and how do you incorporate wellness into your busy lifestyle?
Jennifer Brown: I love the YogaWorks method, which is Vinyasa-based. I took a teacher training class at YogaWorks and I loved how committed they are to safe yoga practices. I love using lots of props and not forcing my body into specific positions. I try to go to a class once a week, but if that’s not possible I practice it on my own at home.
I love trying out new food and wellness initiatives and products. I recently have become obsessed with Sakara, the meal delivery service. It is incredibly tasty and is so convenient.
My mother and I have an annual tradition of going to a health & wellness spa or retreat. This year we went to The Ranch in Malibu and had a fantastic time. We hiked for 4 hours every day, did yoga and strength training once a day and ate fabulous meals – not to mention the daily massage (that was the best part!)
In my daily life, I try to meditate every morning, and eat well throughout the day. I also sweat for 30 minutes every day – whether that’s running, yoga or SoulCycle.
My husband and I love to cook healthy meals or go out to restaurants in San Francisco.
DLX: You have lived internationally and are an avid, discerning global traveler. Tell us about your experiences around the world.
Jennifer Brown: I grew up living in Vienna, Austria for high school (Gymnasium) and got to travel around Europe a lot when I was young. Now that I am older, I really appreciate traveling to unusual places. My family and I took some amazing cruises to see Antarctica, Svalbard (as close as you can get to the North Pole), and the Galapagos. The ships (National Geographic/Lindblad) are luxurious but the excursions are amazing and I learned so much about wildlife!
For my honeymoon, we went to Botswana for two safaris in different locations, and then we went to the Seychelles for some beautiful beach time. We loved safari so much and want to go back. Something about being in the middle of nature and feeling connected to the earth and the animal kingdom was exhilarating. We also of course loved the amazing accommodations and service at our lodges.
DLX: How is wine enjoyed and how is a part of life differently around the world?
Jennifer Brown: I think in France it is considered just part of your daily life. I have family that lives in France and they drink wine every day. It has been very exciting to see wine consumption grow in the US especially with millennials and younger drinkers. Certainly in the wine country, young people grow up having sips of wine. When we had dinner as kids, my mother always served us “children’s wine” which was grape juice in a wine bottle. So it’s part of the daily ritual in wine country.
DLX: What are your favorite hotels on each continent and some of their stand out features?
Jennifer Brown: Little Mombo camp in Botswana – it is called the “Land of Plenty” and has probably the best game viewing in all of Africa. When we were there we saw the entire “Big 5.” It was a small lodge, with only about 6 rooms, which were more like individual camps, with our own swimming pool outside. I would go back in a heartbeat.
Belmond Caruso in Ravello, Italy – my husband and I went here last week for our one year anniversary. It’s a beautiful former 11th-century castle, that is perched about the Amalfi Coast, overlooking the coastline. It was breathtakingly stunning, and the service was outstanding. For dinner, they have a beautiful, open-air dining room overlooking the cliff, as well as an infinity pool that our driver described as “Mamma Mia! The most beautiful pool in the world!” It did not disappoint.
Ritz Carlton in Tahoe, CA – This property will always be high on my list because my husband Eric and I got engaged here. It’s located in the Northstar resort location, with ski-in and ski-out, and all the rooms have balconies and fireplaces. The ski-in ski-out services are fabulous and takes away all the hassle that can sometimes come with ski trips.
National Geographic-Lindblad cruise in Antarctica – This isn’t exactly a hotel, but the National Geographic-Lindblad ship was luxurious and also had the benefit of having naturalists on board that give you lectures at night about the wildlife and geography, and then during the day you do expeditions on shore. The cruise was super exciting because we broke ice as we were sailing. You would look out from the boat, and it was just ice (a sea of white) that you were breaking through to move forward. The people on this ship were also very adventurous and outgoing. They offered the “Antarctic Plunge” which I took part in, where they lowered a platform into the ocean, and we jumped into the water. It was so cold!
Oberoi Vanyavilas in Ranthambore, India – This is an extremely luxurious hotel in the former hunting grounds for the Maharajas. The rooms are luxury tents with oversized claw foot bathtubs. During the day, you can go on game drives (like on safari) to see Bengal tigers. You feel transported back in history at this hotel. My family and I stayed here a number of years ago and had an amazing time.
(I know this isn’t all the continents but I was very young when I went to Australia and I haven’t stayed anywhere fabulous in South America.)
DLX: Favorite Airlines and amenities?
Jennifer Brown: Etihad – my husband and I flew first class with our own suites flying from Abu Dhabi to San Francisco. The service was impeccable, being greeted by our own concierge when we stepped onto the plane from a private First Class jet bridge. We also had a chef on board who would make food to order for us. It was a very long flight (16 hours) and this was probably the best flying experience I have ever had. They also served one of my favorite champagnes, Bollinger La Grande Annee, on board which was phenomenal, and had wonderful linens and china settings.
British Airways – the planes are phenomenal, and the service was top-notch, especially because of the British hospitality and courtesy.
DLX: Best VIP lounges and why?
Jennifer Brown: British Airways Concorde Room In London Heathrow. The food was delicious, ambiance was very inviting with chandeliers. Also being able to use the Elemis Spa for a mini massage was lovely.
DLX: Most unique dining and vineyard experience outside of the US.
Jennifer Brown: My mother and I received a private tour in Burgundy of Domaine Dujac in Morey-Saint-Denis from one of the owners, Diana Seysses. It is a winery that is not open to the public, and is one of the great wine houses of Burgundy. They own about 11 acres of vineyards, a relatively small plot, in the middle of the Burgundy countryside, and we had a beautiful tour of these vineyards, as well as the cellar where we opened some fabulous Pinot Noirs. I really enjoyed trying these Pinots because they are made in a different style to the way we make Pinot Noirs at WALT. Burgundian Pinot Noir is not as fruit forward and its oak flavors are more subtle. They also make their wines to age for longer than we do.
An amazing dinner that we had while we were in Burgundy was at the home of the owners of Francois Freres, Jean and Noelle. They had us over for an amazing 5 course dinner, where we ate delicious local French foods and drank amazing wines, including a bottle of the very exclusive and rare Romanee Conti La Tache.
Another unique dining experience was a private lunch that my husband and I had in a viewing hut that was over the Okavanga Delta, looking out at elephants and other animals that were within 50 feet of us, but couldn’t see us because of the façade of the hut. This was while we were staying at our favorite lodge in Botswana, Little Mombo, while we were on our honeymoon.
Contributor Hillary Clark is a Los Angeles-based celebrity makeup artist and beauty editor.
She has been featured in Allure, Allure Bride, The New York Times, Marie Claire, Cosmo, Bazaar and InStyle Magazines.