We are honored to be featured on People of Wine Country by Paul. You captured the story of Euclid Wine beautifully.
The greatest thing about the wine business is that is has multiple seasons: prep for harvest; harvest; fermentation; aging in barrels; blending; tasting; prepping for bottling; bottling; boom-boom-boom it’s 40 years later, where did the time go?” Mike says with a smile.
“Each one of those seasons presents an opportunity to show how great you can be. Mother nature creates circumstances that are somewhat out of your control, but you have to make them in your control. People have an opportunity to rise to the occasion, but something has to occur first. They are at their best at the worst possible time. If that event does not occur, their potential to be at their best does not exist. My favorite day is the worst day I made better – one that when you go home for the day you say, ‘I kicked its ass’! That will only come from employees that work WITH you…
Basically, when the shit hit the fan, I tried to get out in front, but my employees were elbowing ME to get out of the way.”
Meet Mike and Lucas Farmer – the father and son duo for the brand @euclidwines. They are truly salt-of-the-earth men. The stories they shared expressed a profound respect for others, motivated by a solid work ethic and desire to do what is right.
Mike’s dad stopped working in 1957 and his mom supported him and his sisters. “She taught me how to be self-reliant. I used to watch my younger sisters for entire summers while my mom worked in the city.” He says.
Mike takes a sip of wine, reflects a moment, and says, “I’ve always been around people who think out of the box, and that’s a great thing, but I’m the guy who has to put it IN the damn box. That’s my job. I’m not necessarily a great idea man, but I know the wine we want to make, the style, who we want to be, and we do a great job at that.”
When Lucas was young, he didn’t want to have anything to do with the wine business; but eventually, his mind and heart started to shift. “I started to think that it was kinda cool and noticed peers going into it. I began to give it more of an opportunity. When I would go taste, I started asking more questions and showing more interest.” He says.
In 2003, Lucas took a trip to New Zealand, right after high school, and found a property that was available for sale. “It was about 100k US and included a vineyard, winery, and tasting room. It wasn’t a great property for grape growing, but it got my wheels turning.” Lucas was 19 at the time and did not have the money to back that, so he asked his dad. Mike did not want to relocate, or make Pinot, so that idea fell by the wayside…for the time being…
“About 8 years later, I started to tell my dad that we should do this together. I was working in the restaurant business at the time, I just bought a house, and my friends were asking me what I wanted to do.” And without hesitation, Lucas said, “I want to make wine with my dad.”
Lucas always used to say that, not necessarily believing it was going to happen, but in 2008, the market crashed, and the wine industry felt the impact of that event.
Mike approached Lucas and said, “If we are going to do this, now is the time – fruit costs are low and barrel prices are down. When it’s time to sell the wine, there is no telling where the market will be.”
So, they pulled the trigger and started @euclidwines! “We made 112 cases to start in 2009.” Lucas said. They were off and running. “In 2010, they brought on a Syrah, and an additional Cabernet in 2013.”
“What I love most about my dad is his understanding and the way he works. He wants you to be successful with him. Anything major that I’ve ever done in my life, he was always there to consult with. I’m so lucky. Life would be really different if he wasn’t around. I have a real respect for what he has accomplished, and the way people look up to him.” Lucas says with a reverence in his voice.
Mike worked as a Assistant Winemaker at Opus One for 21 years. His footprint and influence there are unquestionable. The respect that he has garnered from his employees over the years stems from his deep humility and unwavering leadership skills. Mike told me that, “Common sense lies within your experience.”
“I had an employee one time who wanted to learn everything. As harvest was approaching, he told me to tell him everything. After about 2 weeks, he said, ‘Don’t I do anything right?’
‘Of course you do’, I said, ‘but you asked for that’.
Sometimes you realize a piece of the foundation is missing when the question is asked. You look back and see what part of the puzzle may be missing and you teach that one. We don’t want to teach you everything, we want to teach you what is next so you can deduce an answer on your own. We don’t want people to follow steps, we want people to create a procedure and realize, on their own, when things are not going right.”
Mike was coming home one day after he told Opus One that he would give them another 9 months. “We were beginning to release @euclidwines at that time and I knew we were going to have to make more wine.” He says with a smile.
“I knew we were going to have to make more wine, so my wife could maintain the life that she was accustomed to.” Mike and Lucas share a joyful smile together.
Mike says, “In 1972, my wife told all of the family that we were going to live together. About 20 min. later, my soon-to-be mother-in-law pulled me aside and said, ‘So…do you think you can keep my daughter in the style of life that she is accustomed to?’
I said, ‘Well, I’ve been working since I was 15, but I haven’t worked in 6 months, I guess I better go out and get a job’. And that’s what I did. Sarah is the reason that we first moved to Napa Valley, her folks live here. I was a foreman in a chemical company before the wine industry.”
“One day, while I was at Opus One, Tim Mondavi and I were coming out of a tasting of a blend. I was walking with him, and Tim looks at me and says, ‘You know Mike, you are the reason we’ve been so successful.’ Mike pauses for a moment.
“I looked out and saw all of my employees running around in an organized way, and I turned to him and said, ‘No, it’s not me, Tim, it’s them.’”
Mike and Tim continued their walk to discuss this. After some time, Tim acquiesced and said, “You are the best manager of people that I have ever seen.”
“As we walked out the door, one of the guys that I worked with was driving a forklift. Tim was very gracious and said, ‘How are you doing Fernando?’
Honest to God, he replied, ‘We’re great Tim, we have Mike.’
I couldn’t take the compliment; I didn’t feel comfortable in that way. But I do thank God. It’s a very subtle way of feeling good about who you are and what you do.”
Stay connected to Mike and Lucas @euclidwines. Their best is yet to come… www.peopleofwinecountry.com