30th Anniversary through the eyes of Jan Wilkinson

This year will mark my 19th harvest at Laetitia Vineyard & Winery.  Although much has changed over the years I have been here, much has also remained the same.  When I started here back in January of 1995, I was the only office personnel and only female working with our small team of less than 10 employees.  We were known as Maison Deutz at the time and operated out of the same tasting room we do today.  I still remember coming to work in the mornings to our staff preparing fresh ‘Deutz Bleu Cheese’ to accompany our wines in the tasting room that day.  In these days, all operations of the winery and vineyard were owned and operated by separate entities.  The vineyard was owned by J.C. Tardivat of Piccho Vineyards, which we purchased fruit from, our winery was owned by Champagne Deutz and our tasting room facility was owned and operated by Beringer Wine Estates, who was owned by Wine World Estates, which in turn was owned by the Nestle Corporation.  In 1997, Mr. Tardivat purchased the winery and tasting room outright, giving him 100% ownership and one short year later, our current owner, Selim Zilkha, purchased the company from J.C..  Over the years it was nerve racking seeing the changes of ownership, never knowing what direction the company would go, and where my position with the company would stand.

While I will say there have many growing pains over the years, there have also been many wonderful strategies developed and many departments have evolved and grown to make us into the renowned vineyard and winery we are today.  When I first started with the company, we had less than 200 acres of vines, and today we have over 600 planted acres and own over 1,800 acres of land and a second vineyard as well.  Throughout the years I have done many jobs, from scraping labels off bottles, packing and shipping wine to reaching out to wine writers, pouring wine and acting as the Controller of the company.  I now act as our Human Resources Manager and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I like knowing the business inside and out and sharing my knowledge with those who assume the positions I have covered in the past.  It gives me a great respect for my colleagues and the company of now, 50 full-time employees.  I wasn’t much of a wine drinker when I was first hired, but I now can say it is my drink of choice and I respect all that goes into making a great bottle of wine.  While being with a company for almost 20 years has sparked a love between myself and Laetitia, in 1998 I was married to my husband Dave on the property, making this an even more special place in my heart.


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