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Past TWGGA President Bob Landon on Getting Started in the Texas Wine Industry

This year’s outgoing TWGGA president is Bob Landon.  I had a chance to catch up to Bob at this year’s conference to get hear a little of his story, and a little advice along the way!

Bob started making wine in Missouri circa 1989 following in the footsteps of his German grandfather. That path has led him to being the 9th largest winery in Texas in a matter of 15 years.  Landon Winery has earned hundreds of medals, awards, and recognition for its wines. 

He remembers the start well:

“My wife and I have been married 27 years now. When we first got married I was making beer in the kitchen and wine in the basement and we moved to Texas 21 yrs ago.  I’m a finance guy, got my masters in finance and my wife and I are both CPA’s so I’m heavy in economics and finance. And I did a bunch of analysis and it shows wineries never make money.  There’s some great statistics out there. I read a statistic at that time that 95% of the wineries in the United states are not profitable. And that stuck with me and it’s true. When you talk to wineries, almost every single winery owner has another source of income. Most wineries don’t make money!  And there are reasons for it.”

I asked Bob what he learned as he started and what he attributes his profitability to.  He gave me more than just his story, Bob shared much shrewd advice for those looking to get into the Texas Wine game:

“You know you are always going to run into problems and so profitably is always a challenge. So when I finally decided to start a winery we had saved about 1.5 million dollars (which I always tell people it can be done.  It sucks getting there but you can do it!)  I met with people like Gabe Parker and others.   I found there’s over 400 wineries in the state of Texas, right? Like similar number of growers. Almost everybody will help you. Go and talk to people that have survived in 20 yrs. There’s a reason why because most wineries don’t last that long. I encourage people, go to those resources we sponsor around the state, meet people, learn from them. Do your homework!”

As we talked our discussion turned to competition within the state.  With the wine industry in Texas on a steady up-tick, I wondered if the market is over crowded or if competition is too much.  But Bob had a surprising comeback:

“It was explained to me one time that you are not competing against each other.  A lot of people say – ‘Well aren’t they your competitor?’ No. First of all I believe in clustering wineries so we get more taste-rooms together in an area. Then you become a thing ~ people come and see you.  So if a winery comes close to you and opens up you shouldn’t be upset about that. It’s actually going to help your business, right? The clustering effect really works in this industry. But we are not competing against each other. We’re competing against California, Australia, France. “

We closed discussing the photo op that had just happened at the annual conference with all of the past TWGGA presidents and Bob ended our interview on a grateful note.

“It’s like the picture that we just took of the past presidents, those are the ones that put all the work in so that people like me have it a lot easier.  All these new people that are here have no idea how much work went in for for all those 30 years.  I just get the benefit of the ability to ship, the ability to sell direct to a consumer, the ability to sell to a retailer if you don’t want to use a distributor. All of those, those are phenomenal. We have great freedoms here now.”

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