Celebrating Thanksgiving – 10 Questions with Ryan Harms of Union Wine Company
To celebrate Thanksgiving, we caught up with the founder of Union Wine Company – Ryan Harms.
1) Why is your brand so special? Give us your best cocktail party pitch.
I love that Oregon is truly a unique community built on individual strengths, and is a haven of makers and doers who pay particular attention to their craft, be it food, clothing or in our case wine. It’s also a place where, in a sense, we have it all: wild open spaces that meet mountains, industrial cities and farmlands, all brimming with inspiring artists who are passionate about their craft. We are amazed on a daily basis at what it’s like to live and work within this unique community.
2) How did you get to where you are now?
I found my way into the wine business during college. I was lost on what I wanted to do and thought making wine sounded interesting. I always loved the stories and history of wine. I was in New York but found my way to Rex Hill Vineyards in Oregon and just fell in love with Oregon but also the business. I returned to Oregon after finishing at University and began working in vineyards and cellars. I started Union Wine Company in 2005 as side project. Today Union Wine Company has grown to be the largest winery in the state.
3) What has been your greatest learning in this job?
The easy part is growing, making, and packaging wine…the hardest part is selling your products, identifying and developing a market. Hard to acknowledge that as a winemaker.
4) What’s the best piece of advice you’ve received along the way?
My father said to me when I was in college that hopefully I would find a job that afforded me the ability to pursue my passions in my free time, or that my work would be my passion and the financial rewards wouldn’t matter. This perspective he shared has always stuck with me and today I feel very fortunate to have a career that is my passion.
5) What has been the most edifying moment of your working life to date?
Taking a crazy idea like wine in a can and turning it into a new packaging category in the wine business. I never set out to create a new category but being a part of developing one has been incredibly humbling and exciting.
6) If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing with your life?
Hard to know as I have been in the wine business my entire professional life. I imagine I would be an entrepreneur. I like working for myself; the ability to create and be accountable for the success or failure of my decisions.
7) Name your ultimate Thanksgiving dinner party guests and what would you serve them to eat and to drink?
Margaret Thatcher, Madeleine Albright, Michelle Obama, my mother, and my partner. I would deep fry a turkey, lots of delicious vegetables, Champagne would be free-flowing and of course some whiskey for the Iron Lady. I have always been surrounded by strong women, I’d love to just listen to what this group would talk about!
8) If a film was made of your life, who would play you and why?
James McAvoy, he’s the only one who could master my charming sense of humour!
9) What would you order as your desert island drink?
Chelada, a light lager (Mexican beer) with lime and salt.
10) What is your one guilty pleasure, or are there more than one?
When I find myself at home without my kids and my partner, I like to light a fire in the fireplace and cook a steak “dirty” on the coals, open a fun bottle of wine and just enjoy the quiet of the house.
You can find out more about Ryan and Union Wine Company by watching the video below.