“We officially started as a winery in 1985, but we were making homemade wine well before that,” said Chris Hanna, President of Hanna Winery. Hanna explained that her father bought 12 acres in what’s now the Russian River Valley, but back then it was kind of the middle of nowhere. “My dad tried his hand at homemade wine, and I was the oldest of five kids, so I was the assistant wine maker at the tender age of 13 or 14 and it was really a hobby that then became a business,” said Hanna. She expanded by explaining that they have now almost 300 acres planted, four beautiful locations, and two tasting rooms on wonderful properties. This gives them a competitive advantage and agency over their own grapes and vineyards.
Jeff Hinchliffe, Winemaker for Hanna Winery said, “We are a small but vertically integrated business where we are growers, we’re manufacturers, and we’re marketers. Within this relatively small business framework, we do all of those things and you need people that are multifaceted.” Hinchliffe explained that wine will make itself, but the simplicity of that can cause some problems in terms of making really good wine.
Hanna explained on that thought by saying, “What we won’t compromise on is quality of the wine. You can, there’s all kinds of shortcuts you can do in the cellar and ways to do it on the cheap, but you can tell.” She explained the adage of do what you love and it doesn’t feel like work. That’s very true. She said, “I was personally very passionate about Sauvignon Blanc and took a big bet on that, and put all of our efforts behind that. We invested in the equipment, the marketplace tools, and almost immediately we started to see the engine go faster and faster and faster. It really put us on the map as a winery.”
Hinchliffe explains that seeing that Sauvignon Blanc everywhere is really gratifying. He said, “It’s so hard to sell wine. Chris and I have been at this for so long, and to have that kind of success, it’s very rewarding.”
“Whenever you embark on focus and scale in a business, you have to get everyone’s buy in,” explained Hanna. “First Bank was just a great partner along the way because they took a long view of our business which is unusual.” She described how most banks want to see quarterly returns and an immediate return on investment but that doesn’t just happen in the wine business.
Dan Fujimoto, Senior Vice President and Relationship Manager at First Bank, said “First Bank has been around for over 100 years. Hanna Winery has been a client for almost 25 years, so the long-term vision of both our bank and their company is very evident.”
Hanna expounds, “I think the same theme of family business and working hard are themes that will carry me through forever.” Hanna described that when you’ve been raised by a Syrian immigrant that came here from nothing and became a world famous cardiac surgeon, it’s hard not to wake up and think “I better do something valuable”.
Fujimoto continued with, “The trust that Chris has with First Bank and myself and the trust that we have in her as a business owner and operator, and the way that we treat each other, I can tell there’s a dynamic that a lot of other banks that aren’t family owned just don’t have.”
Hanna said, “Between wildfires, one of which wrapped around the vineyard, torched the leaves, between that and then the double whammy of COVID, it’s been a rough couple of years.” She expands by explaining the care of having someone pick up the phone after a wildfire, asking if you and your family are okay, that thing doesn’t happen when you’re working with a big corporate bank. She said the personal touch and long view, all wrapped up into family multi-generational values, is really the most important thing.
You don’t grow to be one of the biggest family-owned banks by standing still. And you don’t do business for 100-plus years by forgetting where you came from, or who you’re here to serve. Because helping clients reach their goals is our goal, and planning better for tomorrow starts with achieving more today. For individuals, for businesses, and for the whole community.
This is what it means to be a part of First Bank.
Where being treated like family means something. Where the success of our clients means everything. And where relationships come first.