Team Building, lessons learned and doing things the right way

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A few short years ago, I started Maison Ilan. The plan wasn’t to get rich, or even to have a well known winery. The idea was such a simple one, that I called Maison Ilan a project from the time of its creation up until the last harvest. It was enjoyable to look at my winery as a bit of a Burgundy sandbox. A scenario where I get to explore behind the curtain and to see what actually made Burgundy tick. Part of my enthusiasm about my winery was based upon sharing this unique view with others. Besides, what good is an experience that you can’t share with others? Well, here’s the thing. Maison Ilan was a dream before it started. And once it started, it was officially a business. Sure, there are countless benefits that came of looking only to the fun parts of the business. This business was a tiny one, so it was easy to manage. And I made all of the decisions. I had no employees outside of myself. It was great. I could do well and pat myself on the back for a  job well done.

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Things change however. As the business grew, so did my family. The right thing to do would have been to anticipate the growth of the business and what would be necessary to move at a pace that was expected of a winery of Maison Ilan’s stature. But I didn’t. This was an error, for sure. And one that has had created a more difficult road. Make no mistake, I was at the driver’s wheel and foolishly thought that I was doing the right thing by prioritizing my efforts towards the winemaking. More to the point, I built many aspects of the logistic side of the business on a piece-meal basis. I’d look at the immediate and near-term needs of the business and shoot! Reacting instead of anticipating was clearly a mistake as well. Importers; bottling companies; cork suppliers and more were picked based upon their reputation with other winemakers that I respected. I should have done more due diligence, but my approach was more based upon trusting what previously was shown to work for others.

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Since I started Maison Ilan, there has been a feeling, an accusation rather, that my story, my opportunities and experiences couldn’t be more than something out of a fiction magazine. Over the years, I shot videos from handheld GoPros during harvest; hopped into tanks while making the wines; showed videos and countless photos of bottling; and otherwise communicated the steps and progress of making of Maison Ilan wine.  All the while a stream of international visitors and volunteers have made reports; tweeted; blogged or Instagrammed about their experiences working with me or visiting my winery. That said, it is still difficult for some to believe that I bought the grapes that I did and made excellent wine from them. This is, of course, in spite of piles of documentation (some of which were posted online and verified by respected names in the trade) backing up the legitimacy of my business actions. . We have had some delivery problems and other issues, but there are those who have blown these out of proportion and made accusations against Maison Ilan, and me personally, which were just not true. It seemed as though anyone could make a claim and it was cited as fact. Proving an accusation as a lie never resulted in a retraction, instead the detail of the hunt was increased. I took offense to this initially. However, I later embraced the fact that while I was living out my dream on a day-to-day basis, I myself was shocked at how much of a change my life had seen. To be sure, I didn’t have much of a plan coming into all of this. I wouldn’t have dared to imagine that all of these opportunities would be afforded to me. And while I find the rumors that I have heard and have been asked to answer to be baseless, I have always been an open book.

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With that, I’d like to clarify and correct some things that have been erroneously said or written: 1. I own 100% of Maison Ilan. All wines that have worn a Maison Ilan label have come from fruit that was purchased and made by me, along with a series of generous amateur harvest volunteers. I have never sought out, nor received winemaking guidance. 2. My divorce did not contain language relating to Maison Ilan, nor did it effect the business in any way. 3. Wine delivery was again delayed due to administrative delays that were entirely my fault, and no one else’s. The wines are still in the very same locations that they have matured in. There were three locations serving as maturity and storage facilities. The wines are to be consolidated in one location prior to shipping to ensure a simple storage and shipping process. We have a team that is working to make sure upcoming and future deliveries are done properly. There have been too many mistakes and a lack of execution. All of these mistakes could have been avoided had I taken help of others. I should have done it earlier, but I have learned from my mistakes. The team that is being put in place will include Customer Service representatives to ensure that everyone’s concerns are addressed. As we have said in the past, and would like to remind everyone of again, we are putting everything together in order to get wines out to Everyone. We will not be available for contact before we have the complete team in place.

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Thank you again for your patience and support. If the above is not clear enough, I will restate in short terms. I apologize for the tardiness of the delivery of wines. The wines are safe and will be delivered soon.

Ray Walker

Owner and Winemaker

MAISON ILAN

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