The Factors That Led a Small Healdsburg Winery to Create New Roles

Flambeaux Wine co-owner and vintner Art Murray knew the time was right to create a pair of new positions to keep the Sonoma County winery in California’s Dry Creek Valley moving forward.

The company’s latest announcement heralded the hiring of Sarah Kelley, the new direct-to-consumer sales and marketing administrator and Mike Mahoney, director of hospitality. Kelley, a Sonoma County native, will be providing customer service as well as wine club, online marketing, e-commerce and order logistics administration. Mahoney, meanwhile, is taking over consumer experiences and bringing the skills he picked up over a 20-year career working for hotels and resorts before transitioning into the wine business and managing hospitality for Williamson Wines and Dutton Estate Winery.

Vintner Magazine reached out to Murray for his perspective and insight on the anatomy of such a transition at a small, family-owned winery.

VINTNER: What factors contributed to you determining these two positions needed to be added to your crew? Was it a need to improve, or had a certain growth benchmark been met?

MURRAY: Flambeaux Wine is based on our family, roots and long heritage in New Orleans. Part of being from that region, which is very similar to now being in Sonoma County, is to welcome guests and make them part of the family. From wine club members who love our wines yet have never visited us in wine country, to people that have joined us at our estate for an in-the-vineyard agricultural experience, we strive to make every interaction personal. If you are part of Flambeaux, you are instantly part of the family, or the “krewe” as we call it. A consistent growth curve for our brand over the past eight years, and an increase in visitors as we have been discovered, particularly after the post-COVID 19 reopening, necessitated a higher-level of professional to help our family run the business-side of the winery—and to make sure that everyone who experiences Flambeaux leaves feeling as if the visit was nothing less than exceptional.

VINTNER: What helped you decide how to fill the positions? What experience and personality characteristics were you looking for?

MURRAY: The search for both positions was lengthy. Because our team is small, we were seeking the absolute right fit for both jobs. A combination of connections and word of mouth, as well as job post listings on wine trade sites, provided the opportunity to consider a number of applicants. Filling these jobs was not easy, however. The time and investment of training and preparing a new hire to represent and manage something as personally important to our family as our wine and our brand is one thing. Ensuring that every member of our team cares about our customers and fans as much as we do is absolutely critical.

VINTNER: These roles were likely handled by someone in your team in some capacity. What will having professionals devoted to these specific roles free up others on your team to do?

MURRAY: It is true that the roles existed before in some capacity, yet the responsibilities were divided in a much different fashion. I personally managed a lot of what each of our new team members are doing. Having such a high level of wine professional assist with both the administration of the business and the marketing, as well as the hospitality and experiences at Flambeaux, will ultimately benefit the customer — and the positive experience of the wine lover is our goal.

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