Lady vintner a pioneer in California and Korea
“It was Delia, I remember, who said, ‘We must go to Korea when no one had heard about the country,’” said Kim Wiss, marketing director of Napa Valley Vintners, one of the 18 representatives who visited Seoul.
The IHT-JoongAng Daily caught up with Ms. Viader, who is said to be one of the pioneers of California wines, and who has made something of a “cult” of wines from Howell Mountain in Napa Valley. The Viader label has three wines, all of whose names are a “play” on the owner’s last name, Viader. “V” is an exclusive blend of the classic red varietal, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Q. Everyone here says you were the first one to speak about Korea years ago.
A. I had heard about Korea from industry people, and so I did some investigation myself by contacting the U.S. Embassy in Korea six years ago. The trade commissioner sent me materials and explained to me that the Korean market had a strong potential for California wine.
Since, it has been a gradual build-up to bring everyone together as I had facts to show other Napa Valley vintners.
I was in Japan 15 years ago, but it was hard at the beginning as the Japanese market was already mature in terms of varieties, depth and styles, as Europeans had already established their ways.
It was exciting for me to pioneer virgin territory, a market at a nascent stage. I wanted to be there to let ourselves get known first because I believe that a great wine needs to be not just local but global.
The timing was great for us, I thought, as there was personal wealth in the country and Koreans were just beginning to appreciate fine wine while appreciating different kinds of lifestyles. And wine brings people together ― it’s the beverage of conviviality.
So when were you first here?
This my third visit. In 2000, we visited and had an event at the Grand Hyatt. We expected maybe 200 to 300 people, but about a thousand showed up and wow ― people treated us like rock stars. It was just a blast. By the time we left, everyone was happy and had found an importer.
How did you get to enjoy wine?
Both my parents are European, my father Spanish, my mother British. My father was a diplomat and I was born in Argentina, and went to school in France. So in me, I have all the ingredients of winemaking.
How did you start your wine business?
I went to California to study and saw opportunities there and became one of the earliest vintners to pioneer Californian viticulture. It was a one-woman show 22 years ago. It was unusual to see a single woman with young children. I purchased 92 acres of land, which was nothing but a field and rocks, of which 33 acres was planted with grapes. The roots were Californian, but other grafting materials were certified French then. It was an ideal environment where my children could grow up close to nature. I had one consultant on growing grapes and one more later in the business sector.
How big is your winery?
My father helped me financially in the beginning. He gave me $2 million to buy the land. I paid him back with full interest, and the vineyard has grown into a family business. Now the business has grown 10 times more ― although it’s not for sale. I’m still supporting four grown-up children, of which Alan, a graduate of U.C. Davis, has shown interest in the business. He is the marketing manager now.
by Ines Cho