Attend a virtual winery introduction at the J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines, learn the family’s success story and even partake in a virtual wine tasting at the upcoming Prairie Family Business Association annual conference.
Since 1974, Jerry Lohr and the Lohr family have been leaders in the California wine industry.
Jerry Lohr was born and raised on a South Dakota farm, and he credits his roots with forming him into the entrepreneur, family leader and visionary he is today.
“Jerry Lohr along with his three children, Steve, Cynthia and Lawrence, have built a reputation for innovation and quality while embracing their family business values with an emphasis on philanthropy,” said Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the Prairie Family Business Association.
“Jerry has given careful thought to the regions represented in the audience and has personally recommended the wines that will be sampled.”
The virtual conference Sept. 10 and 11 features more than 20 presenters and access to the content for 30 days. The price point is affordable at only $199, with a $100 discount for additional employees or family members.
“The J. Lohr Virtual Winery Introduction & Wine Tasting has been popular,” Larscheid said. “Families from across the country are expected at the virtual conference as well as general business owners and leaders who are interested in convenient access to successful business strategies. Anyone with an interest in advancing their business is welcome.”
We caught up with Cynthia Lohr, co-owner and chief brand officer, for a preview of what to expect.
First, let’s talk about your family business story. What elements of it do you enjoy sharing with people?
Our story is robust and filled with heritage, vision and authenticity. Jerry Lohr is one of California Central Coast’s original grape-growing pioneers, having understood the promise of soils and growing conditions in both cool-climate Arroyo Seco in Monterey County and later Paso Robles in San Luis Obispo County with its limestone and shale soils and typical 50-degree temperature spreads over the course of a day.
Our story is anchored under an ethos that defines and differentiates our business: family, place and craft. To us, family includes our family of colleagues across the U.S., as well as our distributor, account and trade extended family who have helped build J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines to its successful position today.
We understand the importance of site-specific plantings in revealing true varietal character, and our vineyard-driven wines speak to our authentic commitment to place. And we never rest on our laurels, elevating the craft of producing and bottling our wines using state-of-the-art equipment, innovative winemaking techniques and a considerable investment in our barrel program. Our 4,000 acres of estate vineyards are certified sustainable under the principles of the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance, an organization brother Steve Lohr has helped steward. Our three winery facilities in San Jose, Greenfield and Paso Robles are also certified sustainable.
Is there anything about your family business journey that tends to surprise people?
My brothers and father and I are passionately committed to day-to-day operations, each with individual, hands-on, C-suite leadership roles, as well as what I call owner oversight, ensuring we are a fiscally healthy business with happy and productive employees, respected partners and engaged consumers.
We are also all board directors of J. Lohr Vineyards & Wines. There are few in our business who take such an active role. We’re all J. Lohr all the time, while also giving back to the industry through our regional and trade associations. We count among our many blessings the longevity of key colleagues who have been a vital thread of continuity, innovation and leadership, chiefly, our president/chief operating officer Jeff Meier, who tops the list at 36 years working alongside Jerry.
Separately, I’d say we’re all very creative and passionate about the arts and follow the example of Jerry’s philanthropic generosity. And among us you’ll find tango dancers, musicians, writers and gardeners. You’ll have to engage with us to match the talents to the family members!
What has this year been like for you? How has your business model needed to adapt?
As one of America’s most trusted wine brands, we’ve been fortunate to have been invited into the homes and hearts of so many during this uncertain time. We’ve worked very hard to safeguard our valued employees on the front lines, providing them continual protective gear and equipment, and communicating to them our sincere appreciation for their efforts while demand for our wines has surged.
However, with our two wine centers closed until we can safely reopen, we’ve pivoted to virtual events and virtual tastings, even creating the At Home With J. Lohr initiative to keep consumers and fans engaged with our wines via fun, educational and DIY opportunities. We support our sales team across the nation with educational webinars we’ve conceptualized and produced that focus on our appellations, wines, winemaking team and sustainability efforts. We’ve prioritized communications with distributors and those in the restaurant industry who are hurting right now, assuring them that we are their partner in good times and in bad and, wherever we can, are trying to help and support as we navigate constantly changing circumstances.
While many are working from home, our “remote rhythm,” as it were, is working well. We are all in constant communication and even held our first companywide Virtual TGIF recently so we could see faces and strengthen connections.
As a multigenerational business, what strategies have you found work in blending business and family?
We make it a point to gather socially and to include spouses and children whenever we can and have a weekly call where we four Lohrs and my father’s youngest sister, my Aunt Lynn, connect on matters outside of the business. This has been a vital way to remain close during the pandemic. Often, we are joined by another family member, which keeps it lively and entertaining. A guiding strategy in our multigenerational business is to always place the best interests of business and our employees at the fore and to put our best foot forward in everything we do. Jerry set this example many years ago, and thus it is deeply ingrained in my brothers and I, even the third generation.
Let’s talk a bit about the virtual introduction to your vineyard. What will virtual guests be able to see?
We’re excited to share both our vineyards and family story via video and 3D technology so that participants get a feel as to what wine grape-growing in California’s Central Coast is all about. All that will be missing is the feeling of the upswelling of winds in the vineyards in Arroyo Seco in the afternoon and the heat at the top of the day in Paso Robles!
And – maybe most critically – how will the upcoming wine tasting work virtually? What can tasters expect?
We’re looking forward to tasting through four wines selected by Jerry Lohr himself that tell the story of our vineyards, which are available for purchase as a set to virtual conference attendees. We will guide attendees through the tasting while peppering with family stories; an included tasting mat will describe the wines and their origins and serve as a keepsake.
We’re so appreciative to share this opportunity with the families and guests of the Prairie Family Business Association and are looking forward to a delicious time with all.