Faythe #9, The Vintner & Winemaker and As Ever, She Owns It!
My story? The abridged version.
I am the 9th child and youngest of Marion (Cole) and Vallie Stone from Lawler, Iowa. I started, own 100% and manage CRU9; a California winery. Iowa is always home with my Scarecrow, 3 Flying Monkeys, and several furry family members. Frequently, I hop on a bird to California for CRU9 work. I love Iowa, the seasons, even winter; California and the vines are a close second though. You are wondering if I have a Wizard of Oz/Wicked fetish… Yes I do! I used to watch it with my Mom when I was little and was delightfully frightened of the Wicked Witch of the West. I’m not frightened anymore, I like people with a past… she’s fabulous.
How does an Iowa farm girl get involved with the fine wine business?
It’s fairly surreal to me. Years ago, had anyone said to me in college, while I was still trying to figure out what my super powers were, that I’d be going back and forth to California all by myself to run my own winery, I would have thought them a complete nutter. At 18 years old, I had not even flown on an airplane yet and the entirety of my wine experience could be chalked up to Lancers, Blue Nun, and Boone’s Farm. My first trip to Northern California wine country happened in my early thirties and the seed was planted. Get your ruby slippers on Dorothy, we are not on the yellow brick road anymore. Dorothy landed in Oz and never forgot. I’m the kind of person who wants to know the “nuts and bolts” of things. Understanding the nuances of wine meant understanding how climate, soil and “place” impact wine quality. The French would call this terroir. There were many more trips to California and working through many bottles of wine, developing my palate. This was an important research and development phase.
I’m a Cat. A University of Northern Iowa Panther.
I came out with an accounting degree, barely. By the way, for those of you not familiar with Iowa, most Iowans are one of the three: a Cat, Cyclone, or a Hawk. To my professors and myself, it was quite apparent accounting was NOT my path. I went back to school and studied horticulture and landscaping. My dad, Vallie was among many things, a farmer. I have always been fascinated by plants, how and where they grow best. I went to work for a landscape company in Cedar Rapids, and shortly thereafter had our first baby, Harry. We moved back north to where our families were from. As was par for the course in my family, I started my own business, a landscape contracting firm and tree farm. I decided to do this while pregnant with our second son. Although I do not recommend that combination, I learned many life lessons. I think it’s why son two, Leo, came out knowing how to drive a tractor and how I started to discover my super powers and my kryptonite. I found great joy in growing trees, shrubs, flowers and working the land, transforming my clients yards. It was hard manual labor, dirty work, laying sod in freezing rain and humid July Iowa heat. I learned that I was right brained and understood why I was not cut for accounting or the traditional office setting. Being outside, working the equipment, keeping my hands active while being able to express my creativity was my jam. I had no idea at the time, but this would translate into viticulture and oenology someday. It is all farming, just a horse of a different color… my favorite colors of ruby reds , inky purples, translucent whites, flaxen golds, and pinks.
What we refer to as The Shed Years: Mike and me, our 3 little guys, and a dog living in a shed on our land… good times.
I met my husband on University Avenue Waterloo, when I was 17, and we got married 3 1/2 years later. How I met Mike, my Scarecrow, is quite a story over a bottle of wine. Regardless, he’s a crazy smart engineer and one of the best people I’ve ever known. Everyone should have a Mike. The Shed Years were simpler times. In our twenties, out of college with student debt, building careers and our family, we barely scraped enough together to get a mortgage on our own farmland, so there was only enough left to build a shed. No cell phones, no internet, we even went without TV for a year. Crazy, right?! But we had heat, AC, indoor plumbing, and that was enough. During The Shed Years, son three came along, Oskar! The 3 boys shared a room for most of their childhood and had run of the land, exploring the ponds, creeks, and woods – always an endless chore list. They learned how to fish, hunt, build and fix an array of stuff, and operate equipment. Shortly after Oskar came along, the first California wine adventure ensued. The seed took root and I started steering myself onto a different road. The road was not yellow or brick, but layered in alluvial fan volcanic rock and ash, Goldridge sandy loams, Boomer gravelly stone with vitis vinifera fighting to grow in it.
My first entre into the wine business was through the retail and distribution side.
I have several businesses under my belt. All I still own or help manage. Retail and distribution gave me insight into the three tier system and the unique nature of how wine is sold in the USA. It also enabled me to discover and get to know many small high end producers, piquing my interest in winemaking and craving my own brand. The learning never ends and my evolution in this business is ongoing.
From my office in the city, to the fields, and the vineyards, as ever…CRU9 pairs well anywhere. This blend of real world education culminated into the release of:
Start talking. I want to hear your story over a bottle of cru9.