Jul 17, 2018
by Jane Rogan Dwight
It takes a certain kind of person to step into the general management of a family legacy business like Dry Creek Vineyard, take up the yoke and plow forward. I’m going to go out on a limb and claim that personal integrity is a critical ingredient for that drive. It’s something you are either born with or into – or you acquire after decades of life lessons. You must know who you are and act from that core. You must know how hard you are willing to work; what kind of accomplishments give you energy to carry on.
“Atta gir “ is not something Kim Stare Wallace heard much growing up. She got a different kind of encouragement. The kind that said, “You can figure it out if you try hard enough.” She did both – try hard andfigure it out. So, when her father, David Stare - the icon who founded Dry Creek Vineyard in 1972 and planted the first Sauvignon Blanc in Dry Creek Valley - nominated her for the 2018 North Bay Business Journal’s “Women in Business” awards, Kim was deeply moved.
“Nothing came easy,” she told me. “I had to learn everything on my own.” While Kim appreciates the opportunities she was born into, she believes there is no such thing as a shortcut in life. The family culture was rough and ready with no replacement for experience. As a young woman, she started at the bottom of the business and worked her way up, like any newbie. The daughter of one of Sonoma County’s most innovative land stewards spent her early life in the Dry Creek Valley learning to ‘navigate the challenge,’ on any given day.
Today, Kim Stare Wallace enjoys being President of Dry Creek Vineyard. She radiates her rightful ownership as she describes her passionate insistence for quality, (“No compromises!”) beauty, collaboration and jobs done well. One of her favorite motivational aphorisms is, “There is no way out but through”; emphasizing her tenacious commitment to solving whatever problems come her way.
Like other strong-minded, adventure-seeking women, when she came of age, Kim packed her knapsack to head for San Francisco. The dream was a career in fashion design. Outside of New York City, she knew her opportunities for success in fashion would be limited, and though she loves visiting New York, she did not want to live there. She decided to answer her father’s call and came home to learn the winery business in the mid-80s. Her love for design catapulted her into marketing and packaging design – a natural place for her - and the sailboat on the Dry Creek Vineyard label was born. It was the perfect label design, reflective of the family’s love of sailing, really unique for a wine label and a key Kim Stare Wallace ingredient – authenticity.
While it’s true Sonoma County natives are becoming rare, native fruit is as well. Dry Creek Vineyard is one of the few privately owned and family operated wineries remaining in Northern California. In her no-nonsense demeanor, Kim states she will never ‘dumb down’ her wine by expanding to a broader North Coast or California appellation. Why would she? Dry Creek boasts of one of the world’s foremost terroirs and bears top quality fruit.
Warm and friendly with a perceptible vulnerability that makes her humanity shine, Kim is open about the challenges she personally knows women can face in management. While women can be more resilient to challenges and more persistent in problem-solving, they can be more time-challenged – especially when they have young children. As an employer, Kim is sensitive to the challenges employees face and prides herself on her supportive and flexible policies. She knows quality employees are vital to her business and insists on interviewing every candidate herself.
How does she stay balanced in her life? Kim laughs. She didn’t always feel this balanced. But these days she cherishes her down -to -earth friendships and does not isolate herself. She loves Yoga and meditation, which keeps her patient and mindful. Her resilient personality, integrity and strong leadership instincts guide her decisions and serve her well. With her auburn hair and ice blue eyes, her appearance is striking. Even so, much of her personal impact emanates from who she is behind those eyes and who she is still becoming.
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