WHEN A YOUNG couple decide to jump into the wine business, succession planning is not at the top of their worry list.
But one of Washington’s oldest and most highly regarded wineries is in good hands as the next generation has entered the game. In fact, the two daughters of Rob Griffin and Deborah Barnard have energized Barnard Griffin Winery in Richland in a way few would have expected.
Elise Jackson and Megan Hughes have joined their parents at the 70,000-case winery that began in 1983. The two Washington State University grads are working their way up through both sides of the business — Jackson, 28, in business and marketing, and Hughes, 25, in winemaking.
For 30 years, Barnard Griffin has delivered superb wines at value prices. And though Griffin, 60, is not even thinking of retiring, he is thrilled to have his girls working with him side by side.
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“We had always encouraged them without demanding or even heavily suggesting,” he said.
Jackson and Hughes remember their father bringing his work home with him in the early days.
“We would put labels on bottles by hand,” Jackson said. “After every 10 to 20 bottles, he’d slide over some M&Ms to us.”
Since their arrival full time, everything has changed. In 2012, the winery went through a major renovation that doubled the size of the tasting room and added a conference center, glass-art studio and restaurant.
“With any business, you’re constantly having to look at how you market yourself, how you better yourself and how you make yourself relevant for the next 30 years,” Jackson said.
Even at this early stage in their careers, the energetic Jackson and Hughes realize they’re going to be in business together for a long time, and they’re good with that. They’ve been best friends their whole lives.
As they consider the possibilities, they have the same gleam in their eyes that their parents had more than 30 years ago.
Andy Perdue is wine journalist, author and international judge. Learn more about wine at www.wineswithoutborders.com.