At the Table: Wine Wiz Heidi Scheid
A dynamic force behind Scheid Family Wines, Heidi Scheid continues a legacy started by her father nearly 50 years ago.
You need only spend a few moments in the room with Heidi Scheid to admire her charisma and stamina. A mother of three who splits her time between Manhattan Beach and moody Monterey, Heidi acts as executive vice president of the eponymous family vineyard—purveyor of delicious grape juice since 1972. As part of the “Gang of Four” with dad Al, brother Scott and COO Kurt Gollnick, Heidi honed her skills outside the vineyard, eventually bringing her financial prowess to the operation. We caught up with Heidi to discuss the wine business and her strategies for balancing work and family.
In an industry riddled with slim margins and outright failures, you’ve managed to grow Scheid Family Wines from 4,000 cases to more than 600,000 cases in just a decade. What advice might you offer to family-owned businesses looking to recreate your kind of stratospheric growth?
Heidi Scheid: Our employees are the heart of our business and are a company’s most valuable assets. Be approachable and support the efforts of everyone in the company by being available, dependable and transparent. Be scrappy and agile and look at pockets in your industry that aren’t being filled or well-serviced by the large players. Build strong relationships as you grow—not just with your upstream customers but with all of your stakeholders, whether they be employees, suppliers or industry associates. Work your ass off. And good Lord, have fun!
Tell us a little bit about the history of Scheid, founded by your father, Al. How did he come to choose the Monterey Peninsula? What is it about the area and the microclimate that keeps it special for you all?
HS: When my father started in the wine grape-growing business in 1972, he knew very little about farming. But he was a great student. He consulted with Professor A.J. Winkler, a viticultural authority at the University of California Davis, who had published a report classifying grape-growing regions by climate. Monterey County was classified as comparable to Napa, Sonoma, Burgundy and Bordeaux—making it one of the most diverse climatic regions in California for growing high-quality wine grapes.
The Monterey appellation truly is a wonder due to the confluence of the Gabilan Mountains to the east, the Santa Lucia Mountains to the west and the maritime influence of the Monterey Bay that creates a cool climate in the northern part of the Salinas Valley—ideal for chardonnay and pinot noir. Our vineyards in the southern part of the county are more sheltered and achieve dramatic diurnal shifts in temperature from day to night, allowing us to develop complex flavors in our bold red varieties.
What makes you a good boss? How have you helped manage and grow the careers of other women while building your own?
HS: I make myself available—my joke is that I’m available 18/7 ’cause I don’t really want to talk at 2 a.m. But just about any other time, if you have an idea, problem, whatever, I’m accessible. I think it’s important to be upbeat and optimistic; nobody likes to work for a grump. I like to have fun and remind people that at the end of the day, we’re making wine, not trying to solve world peace (although wine could certainly help there).
We have a lot of great women in our company who I have worked with, learned from and mentored. As I’ve grown in my career (and gained some wisdom that comes along with age), I’ve realized the importance of every employee feeling valued and heard. Particularly for women in a male-dominated industry, it’s important for them to feel [they] belong here, and I strive to bring out the best in them so they can achieve their career aspirations.
You’ve been a resident of Manhattan Beach for nearly 30 years now. What keeps you in the South Bay instead of relocating fully up to wine country? How do you manage work travel? What makes you feel like Manhattan Beach is home?
HS: I’m incredibly lucky that I get to work in Monterey and come home to Manhattan Beach. I mean, you couldn’t pick two more beautiful places! There’s something about MB, though, that has made it impossible for me to leave. I loved raising my three kids here, the sense of community, great public schools, active lifestyle, walkability and of course that gorgeous ocean. MB is also so close to LAX. There’s a 45-minute flight back and forth from LAX to Monterey airport that I fly regularly, so it’s a manageable commute.
We won’t make a mom of three pick a favorite child, but if you had to pick a favorite wine child, what is the Scheid bottle you’d most like to recommend to our readers?
HS: Oh wow, that’s a mean question. Can I choose one white and one red? For a warm summer evening, I’d choose the Scheid Vineyards grüner veltliner. It’s clean, crisp and has beautiful fruit. For red I’m extremely partial to pinot noirs, so I’d choose our Scheid Vineyards pinot noir Clone 667. It’s everything a pinot should be: elegant, smooth and silky!
One of the hottest market sectors right now is no- or low-alcohol, “better for you” wines. Tell us a little bit about your latest launch, Sunny with a Chance of Flowers.”=HS: Sunny with a Chance of Flowers is a zero-sugar, 9% alcohol, 85 calories per serving wine that is my go-to weekday wine! It’s also sustainably certified and produced from grapes grown on our family-owned estate vineyards in the Monterey appellation. What I’m most proud about is that it’s delicious, and you don’t feel like you’re giving up anything. We’ve earned 90+ scores on all of the varietals, so not only is it a “better for you” wine, it also really delivers on taste.
We’re walking in LA.