Was there a specific wine, moment or place that unlocked your passion?
James Frey: I didn’t grow up with wine on the dinner table; I kind of came to it by accident. My wife Andrea and I had just gotten married and because we had mountains of student debt, we planned to honeymoon on the cheap by camping in Yosemite. Unfortunately, a late snow fall closed the park and we were stuck with no place to go…so on a whim, we decided to go to Napa. We fell in love with wine, and the rest is history.
What did you study in school and what were you doing before you started in the wine industry?
JF: I didn’t go to wine school. I have a masters in physiology and an MBA; and so, for 13 years I worked my way up through corporate America. I enjoyed the intellectual challenge and the people I worked with, but it was never a passion. On weekends, I would paint or work in the one-acre vineyard I planted in my backyard. So, when our children were ready to enter elementary school, we decided to leave the security of full-time employment, a get loan to buy a piece of land in the Willamette Valley, plant a vineyard and start Trisaetum.
How has being in the wine industry changed you?
JF: The wine industry in the Willamette Valley is an amazing, collaborative culture where people often times look to the good of the whole over their own needs. Coming from corporate America, I was probably a little slow to understand the rising tide lifts all boats philosophy. I feel very fortunate to work with some of the smartest, most thoughtful people I’ve ever met.
What’s your favorite part of being in the wine industry?
JF: Every day I get to taste wine for a living.
Looking back, was there something in your past that led you to wine?
JF: When I graduated with my MBA, I took a 3-hour psychological test that was supposed to tell the company that hired me what job I was best suited for. I assumed CEO of a Fortune 500 company. The test said I should be a farmer. I guess the test was right.
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