Michael Twelftree Podcast 52 MINUTES

A new podcast series from Doug Shafer about the people behind the food and wine you love.

The Taste with Doug Shafer logo

Doug Shafer and Michael Twelftree

Michael Twelftree was a construction business owner with a taste for rum. In the late 1990s he fell in love with wine and by 2000 he’d launched his now-celebrated Two Hands Wines, an Australian winery which has won countless accolades in the world of fine wine. Twelftree believes in the power of the vineyard saying, “The day you pick the grapes, you make the wine.”

For more details visit: twohandswines.com


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FULL TRANSCRIPT

 

Doug:
All right. So hey, everybody. Welcome back, this is Doug Shafer. Uh, I've got a funny story to tell you. I had a wonderful thing happen in the last like 12 hours. I'm going to bed last night, I'm checking my email, and there's this email from this guy who, um, who's a surprise. And he blows through Napa every 18 months or so. Apparently he's just was at Hospice du Rhone and he's blowing through Napa. He travels all over the world to different wine regions 'cause he loves wine besides making some great wine. I see him every year at the New York Wine Experience. My kids have grown up knowing him, when they see him in New York. Uh, you know, he's the best winemaker in Australia.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
Now, but, but th- but the cavea-

Michael:
Now, tha- that's a say- that's the biggest untruth-

Doug:
The, the caveat is-

Michael:
... I've ever heard.

Doug:
The caveat is, the kicker is you're the only winemaker from Australia. (laughs).

Michael:
(laughs). No, no, no, no. I would say that, um, I am the guy that has the most amount of fun making wine in Australia. And I think that that's very, very different, because I sell in 71 countries around the world. I export two thirds of my production, um, and I've been lucky enough to travel and meet so many wonderful people. And I think that's the thing that people don't quite understand about this magical industry that we're involved in, that you've gotta have a very long term vision. And I think when I read your book, I was on holidays in January, and you gave me a copy of it like four years ago. You sent me a case of wine. You were number one in Wine Spectator's Top 100.

Doug:
Yeah. It's n- ...

Michael:
And I was number two.

Doug:
No, no.

Michael:
And I was your bitch.

Doug:
No, no, stop.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
Okay, before we go any further ... We're already like a half hour into this. By the way, I'm so, I'm ... My, my, guest today is Michael Twelftree from Two Hands. We gotta let 'em know who you are.

Michael:
Sorry, mate.

Doug:
Otherwise, you just sound like some ...

Michael:
I'm just another guy.

Doug:
... you know.

Michael:
I'm just a guy dragged in off the street.

Doug:
I know.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
But thanks for coming by. So I hit him this morning. I said, "Hey, do you wanna do this podcast, totally audible here." He's up for it. He's only here for a day or so, and he's taken an hour or so to sit with us. So it's so great because ... Wonderful friend, and there's a lot of things I don't know about you 'cause we're usually too busy tasting wine and telling jokes, and um ... So this ... Now we get to do it, which is really good.

Michael:
I think we should really go back in, in history and in our friendship in that, uh, the way we came to meet was that you and I got paired together ....

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
... to do a dinner at the Naples Wine Auction.

Doug:
And you're right.

Michael:
And so I thought ...

Doug:
10 year, 10 years ago maybe? I couldn't remember us.

Michael:
Oh, oh my god. It was ...

Doug:
It's at least 10.

Michael:
Anyway, you and I decided to ... I would come and sit with your dad and we would taste my wines, and we would taste your wines.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
And you and I would try to figure how we going to present our dinner together, um, at Naples. And so ...

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
We kind of got there, and you and I kind of worked out pretty quickly that this crowd ...

Doug:
Oh.

Michael:
... weren't maybe into wine as much as you and I were into wine.

Doug:
Very much so.

Michael:
So you and I decided to give 'em a show.

Doug:
We did.

Michael:
And to me, it's one the greatest wine dinners I ever presented because we did it together. We made it fun. Everybody ... The wines ... We didn't really look at my wines versus your wines. It was, I would get up and talk about your wines.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
And then you would get up and talk about ...

Doug:
Talk about (laughs) ...

Michael:
... my wines. And, and the ...

Doug:
That's right, we did do that.

Michael:
The funniest thing part of that entire dinner was, um, after about the second course, you came up to me and you go, and you say, "Dude, you know who you're sitting next to, don't you?"

Doug:
That's right.

Michael:
And there, there was a little African American man there, and I was talking to him. And, and I said to the guy, I said, "You know, um ... So what do you do?" And he goes, "Well, you don't know. I used to play a bit of baseball." (laughs).

Doug:
And it was ... 'Cause it was Hank Aaron.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
Because the ... I remember this was, uh ... By the way, you know, I ... This ... We had, we had so much fun because I didn't really know this guy sitting here next to me at all.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
And me ... All I knew was like, "Okay, he liked to ... Yeah."

Michael:
You didn't know me from a bar of s***. Can I say that?

Doug:
Yeah, can say that. And um, all I know was, you know, I kind of threw a barb and him, you know, with one of his wines. And he looks at me with this little devilish grin ...

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
... and comes right back. Next time we had a Shafer wine. He came back and just, you know, just a little dig, kind of like the way we started today's podcast. And it- from then on, you know, it's been, it's been, it's been a love story ever since.

Michael:
Exactly.

Doug:
But, but anyway, the host of the dinner was connected with the Minnesota Twins somehow.

Michael:
Somehow.

Doug:
And-

Michael:
And we had four major players there.

Doug:
And-

Michael:
You had one of the great, um, he, he ... We started having pre-drinks in a part of his house that he had built that they said had a better, um, collection than the Hall of Fame.

Doug:
Right, baseball collection.

Michael:
Like, this guy ... Baseball Hall, yeah.

Doug:
Artifacts, Babe Ruth bat.

Michael:
And we, you and I, were looking at it and going, "What the hell have we got ourselves into?”

Doug:
Yeah, but he had those guys 'cause I think he might've been maybe not sure if we were gonna be, like, entertaining enough. (laughs).

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
No, listen. This happens, this happens. And so we had this baseball legends, but one of them was Hank Aaron, and it was like, you're sitting at a table talk- ... 'Cause those guys moved around. They were, they, they stole the night. That was just wonderful.

Michael:
You know the really sad part about that?

Doug:
Hm.

Michael:
Because I then had to go, "Who the hell was Hank Aaron?"

Doug:
Oh. (laughs).

Michael:
'Cause for an Australian, I'm like ... (laughs).

Doug:
No, but that's what makes it ... That's what makes you so charming, you know?

Michael:
Exactly. So um, let's uh ... So am I going to interview you or you going to interview me?

Doug:
We're, we're gonna do both.

Michael:
Okay, sounds good.

Doug:
But, but uh, it's more about you.

Michael:
Okay.

Doug:
So, Hospice du Rhône.

Michael:
Yes.

Doug:
You're in Napa for a couple days.

Michael:
Yep.

Doug:
But you know, this is ... Now, I've gotta make fun of myself. So let's go back 'cause I wanna know about you.

Michael:
Okay.

Doug:
So I'm guessing, you're the one young guy.

Michael:
Yep.

Doug:
By the way, something you don't know so you can have more fun with me, to tease me 'cause he's the young guy and I'm the old guy. I became a grandfather.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
You didn't know that, did you? You can't give me five on that? Oh, he's just laughing. Come on, be nice about this.

Michael:
No, no, no, no, no, no. But I, I knew you were old and wise, but I didn't know you were that old.

Doug:
(laughs). Okay. All right. So born '67, '68, talk to me. Where you grow up, families?

Michael:
I was born on Friday the ... I was born on Friday the 13th, and I think that explains it all.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
Um. Lucky enough to, um, have a mother and father that were incredibly supportive from a young age, and my father started his own business. He was in construction. Um, I kind of dribbled through high school.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
Um, I was no natural great student.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
Um, what's interesting about my career in the wine industry is that I've ab- I've never actually been to a lecture on wine making. I've never ... I just travel the world. I go to ... I've just spent three days looking at, uh, tight space vineyards down in Ballard Canyon, um, been to Bien Nacido Vineyard, walked Paderewski Vineyard for Epoch. So my idea is, you know, I've been Domaine de la Romanée-Conti,. I've been to Krug. Name all the great domains in the world, all the cult Napa cabs, I've been to every one of their cellars. And I ask a million questions.

Doug:
You do.

Michael:
And that's how I kind of learned, and from everyone ... When I visited you ...

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
And asked technical questions or tasted with you. I would look at your barrel program. I look at your maturation program, and I, I would go home with one thing. And so, I wrote notes after every visit.

Doug:
Huh.

Michael:
And then I go back to my winery and then I go, "So yesterday I was just in the, um, Santa Cruz Mountains tasting at Reece. Um, but I spent four hours there with Jeff the winemaker." Once again, I, that's how I get my inspiration. So to me, you don't learn wine from a book. Um, so I was very, very lucky in that dad and I had a construction company. Um, we build about 150 homes a year. And I got to about age 21 and at that stage, I would drink beer, um, and I used to drink a lot of rum. Goddard's rum at the pub.

Doug:
Really?

Michael:
With coke.

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
And that was kind of like ... Mum and dad never had wine on the table. Um, you know, I never grew up around wine or, or any kind of form of wine. My grandfather was a market gardener, and my grandfather was my true inspiration.

Doug:
A market, a market gardener. So he grew ...

Michael:
So he grew vegetables.

Doug:
For the farmers market?

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
So he would go off, he would take his truck to market, and as a young kid, I would go in his truck with him. Um, and he couldn't read or write, but hell, the man could grow vegetables.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
And so I always, when I'm walking a vineyard and I think one of my great skills is vineyards. That is the thing that, to me ... My belief is that day you pick the grapes is the day you make the wine.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
And I feel when I'm walking vineyards. I do a thousand ton a year. I deal with 27 growers. I grow one third of my own fruit. I've been buying the best land as I've gone, and planning it slowly. Um, and that's the skill that I think, um, that I enjoy, I get the most pleasure from is being in the vines. Um, and then, um, the other interesting thing is that my winemaker Ben's been with me a long time. We taste every barrel in the wine individually. So I end up with about 2300 barrels. We leave everything in hogshead, which is 300 liters.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
And we taste a hundred barrels a day, and we score every barrel between from A+ and D.

Doug:
Oh, come on. A hundred barrels a day ...

Michael:
So 23 days.

Doug:
... for 20, for 20 d-, 23 days.

Michael:
Now, and so I would say is there any other winery owner in the world that can say they have tasted every barrel of one that they've put under their own label in 17 years. I'd challenge anyone. And so to me, that's, the- the dark art is ... Growing stuff is really difficult. Making it a wine is difficult in maturing. It is difficult, but the secret to the whole industry is selling the s***.

Doug:
You gotta sell it.

Michael:
Yeah, you know ...

Doug:
You grow it, you make it, and sell it. You know ...

Michael:
I don't ... I'm not a, I'm not in uh, the business of um, you know, um, how can I say it? Um, you can't steal from an empty shelf. But on the other hand, I don't get these guys that the sausage gets full. Next thing, they discount. Next think, it's 13 to the dozen.

Doug:
No.

Michael:
Next thing, the price goes down. So, and the hard thing with business that we're in is that no one thinks long-term enough. You make decisions. I make decisions every day that are not the best for Michael Twelftree and Michael Twelftree's wallet. I make decisions every day that's for best for Two Hands.

Doug:
There you go.

Michael:
And that's where integrity comes from.

Doug:
Well, that's, that's something we use around here. One of our sayings, or my saying, and everybody shares it is, you know, "We have a tough decision. What's the best for the business?" And sometimes, the answer ... When you say that, the answer becomes really clear. The problem with it is, is sometimes it's a real tough, it's a, the right answer is the tough one.

Michael:
You gotta ...

Doug:
You know what I mean?

Michael:
... rip the bandaid off every now and again.

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
And I think you gotta be very honest with yourself.

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
Um, I'm back on Friday and then next week, I'm with my team in the Clare Valley. We've got a board meeting Wednesday, and Thursday is strategic planning day. And all my senior managers are there, and we look at it and we do it every year. And we've done, we look at every strategic plan we've written.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
We have a 5 year, a 10 year, a 25, and a 50 year plan for the business. And we go back over last year's notes and we are really hard on ourselves because we say, "We set out to do these 10 things. We did these eight things really, and we did these two things awfully. We executed poorly. So it's back on us." And I think that's the thing in that this industry's a very strange industry because ... Um, how can I say? Ego gets in the way of a lot of ...

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
... what goes on. And if I have a frustration with, um, Australia and California, is that we put the winemaker ahead of the vineyard. Uh, and to me-

Doug:
Well, look at you. You're the famous guy. You're Michael Twelftree.

Michael:
No, no, no, no.

Doug:
Two Hands. You know, and that's, but ...

Michael:
But I, you know -

Doug:
But that's, but that's important to sell. You mentioned, you gotta sell the wine. So you gotta be out there.

Michael:
Yeah, but I think when you ... And what happened in your career as well, um, in that, um, the press comes knocking at your door, and you get anointed. And you know, we were the first winery ever to make the Wine Spectator Top 100, 10 years in a row. And I did it with my second ever vintage. Um, and I've been in the top 10, four times or three times.

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
And I was 11th once, and I was 13th once, and I was 16th once. Whatever, boo hoo, but what's interesting about that is, is when you get anointed like that, there's two ways to look at it. You can either be humble or you can be a jerk. And I think 80% of the people become jerks, 20% of the people stay humble. And I'd say our friendship is a strong friendship because you and I both try every day to be as humble as possible.

Doug:
We do our best. But you know, I love hearing you talk, but I got a problem because when you just (laughing) mentioned the scores, I, I just remembered another story.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
I, I, I gotta tell this one because if I don't, I'm gonna forget. And remind, remind me to go back about our parents and our, and our fam-, our families.

Michael:
Yeah, yeah. Yeah, absolutely.

Doug:
And we'll come back to that, but ... So here it was. This was an amazing thing. This was a, a number of years ago. We were incredibly lucky, Shafer, to get the Wine Spectator number one wine of the year.

Michael:
And I couldn't have been happier.

Doug:
Yeah, but let me tell, I gotta tell these folks-

Michael:
Nice guys finish first.

Doug:
Well, so, so and one other time, I think we got number seven. So in our history, we've been in top 10 twice. And you've been in the top 10-

Michael:
Whatever, doesn't matter. It's history.

Doug:
Well, I, I'm going to tell you.

Michael:
Yes.

Doug:
It's been seven, eight, or nine times.

Michael:
Whatever.

Doug:
So, I'm with Annette, my wife, and we're in Colorado. We're driving from Aspen to Vail. We're doing trade shows. This is in November. It's 2:00 in the afternoon, we're on the drive to get there, beautiful day. My cellphone rings, I pick it up. It's Michael Twelftree on the phone, and he, he just says ... He doesn't say hello. He says, "You know, you know, you know, I've been in the top 10 seven or eight times."

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
"This year, I got number two and who's the bloke that beats me? It's Shafer. God darn it." You know, it was so funny and then he properly added he couldn't have been more pro- hap- ... He said, "If I had to be beat by anybody, it had to, having it be you is the best thing in the world."

Michael:
Exactly.

Doug:
So thank you for that.

Michael:
So.

Doug:
I almost drove off the road. It was so funny. So thanks, man.

Michael:
No, that's cool, mate. You know, so I think it's, um ... You know, I think what people think is, is I think they think that Doug Shafer goes home every night and drinks magnums of Hillside Select.

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
And they couldn't be anything further ... 'Cause I very rarely drink Two Hands wines. Um, and I know that you don't drink, rarely drink Shafer wines.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
But, but you know, we come to work every day and ... I actually never go to work. Um, to me, I, if ... I'd turn up if you didn't pay me. Like, to me, this is, I'm ... I think if you don't you ... If you love what you do, you never work a day in your life.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
And I think that that's the kind of ... And what's interesting is that I travel the world. Um, I meet so many successful people. You never meet dumb people at wine dinners.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
But what I think the great injustice is, is I meet these people that are obscenely wealthy and all they wanna do is be me. And that's the funny irony of it all because, you know, my bank account hasn't got a billion zeros in it.

Doug:
Yeah, yeah.

Michael:
But I'm mostly the happiest person on the face of the earth. And what I love is that I take something, I craft something. So I actually take grapes from the vineyard. I process them. I ferment them. I then put them in barrel. I then put them in bottle, and then I go out to the world and I sell them. And to have that where you've planted a vineyard from scratch, and you've watched those little vines grow. And you've trained them, and you've watched the first vintage and the second vintage. And you have the lads have done all this work together, and then you take it to world. That- that, that's the beauty of it.

Doug:
That's, that's my favorite. I'm sitting in a restaurant with my wife. I'm not working. It's not like ... And we're sitting there, across- across the- the restaurant, there's a couple who were with a party with a bottle of Shafer wine. And they're having a great time. And I look at that, and it's like, that makes, that is like the whole complete circle. Circle of life, grow it, make it, process it, bottle it, label it, sell it, and watch people enjoy it. It's bringing joy. I mean, it's- it's, we're really, really lucky.

Michael:
Look, I think this is kind of where, um, consumerism has kind of got wrong with and that, that upsets me the most about our industry is that really, to me, wine really is the full stop at the end of the day. And to me, it is just a simple beverage.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
And we over complicate it from try, the way we try to engage with people. Really, I got into it and I had no knowledge of wine making. And really, it's the most simple process you could possibly come up with.

Doug:
Well, you know ...

Michael:
You pick grapes when they're ripe. You smash 'em up a bit.

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
You know, they ferment.

Doug:
You, you take ...

Michael:
And you put in a barrel. And we go out to consumers in the world and we completely over complicate it to where we scare them away from the product.

Doug:
We scare 'em away.

Michael:
And to me, there is no 100 point wines. Nothing in this world in perfect. And to me, that whole kind of scoring inflation has kind of become a little bit of a joke because my belief is the greatest bottle of wine is subconscious consumption. So to me, I have friends over to my house. My four best mates, not one of 'em's into wine.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
But they all enjoy wine. I open a bottle of, might be a Côtes-du-Rhône or it might be a Chateauneuf du Pape, or it could be a, a, a grenache that I've, I've made or something just on the table.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
15 minutes later, we go to pick up the bottle, and it's empty. That's the magic mo- moment.

Doug:
And no one's, no one's had ... No one's talked about ...

Michael:
No.

Doug:
You're just enjoying ... You're talking about ...

Michael:
And that to me is ... Wine's a catalyst for a good time and when we get stuck at these winemaker dinners where we overanalyze everything to death, it becomes a bit of a bore fest.

Doug:
Yeah. Oh, it does. That's why I wish you were with me at (lauging) all my winemaker dinners.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
So anyway, we have something in common I never knew. Both our parents, um, weren't wine drinkers. Mine was bourbon and beer.

Michael:
Really?

Doug:
And you know ... No, he was not a wine guy. People run to me and say, "Oh, your dad ...

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
... you know, dream come true ...

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
He moved to Napa from Chicago."

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
It's like, "No, it was, uh ... He read about the pending wine boom." It was a great investment opportunity. That's why he bought this vineyard.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
It wasn't ... And then he started to appreciate wine and get into it.

Michael:
Well, I think I had a ...

Doug:
So it's wild.

Michael:
... similar discussion which Bo Barrett because I've known him forever, and I think his parents came here originally, purely out of seeing agriculture as being something that, there was gonna be a movement towards. I think it was the Carter years.

Doug:
Right, right.

Doug:
So since ... shame on me 'cause I've never been to Australia.

Michael:
Dare.

Doug:
I know, I know.

Michael:
We're only 14 hours that way, mate.

Doug:
Here we go. I know, here ...

Michael:
We're not that far. (laughs).

Doug:
I know. Here we go. Here we go.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
Um, what's it like in your home turf ...

Michael:
Um. It's ...

Doug:
... because, you know ... I mean over the last for years. Big changes? Similar changes or ... ?

Michael:
[inaudible 00:21:55] I'll tell you the most interesting thing that ever happened to me in my wine life is I did a event in, um, Post Hotel. Lake Louise, I've been three times.

Doug:
Yeah, with uh, Schwartz guys. Yeah.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
Yeah, brothers.

Michael:
And that is one the greatest wine events.

Doug:
I'm with you.

Michael:
Anyway, I was presenting, and I was flying out of Calgary. And my flane got, flight got delayed and I sat with Josh Jensen.

Doug:
From Calera.

Michael:
Great Calera.

Doug:
Wonderful guy.

Michael:
And I thought, "Here is a chance to find out from someone, their life in the wine industry." So I kind of sat next to him for two hours and I asked him question ...

Doug:
After ...

Michael:
... after question, after question. And-

Doug:
And he put up with you.

Michael:
Well, he had to 'cause the airports about this big.

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
And we were gonna catch a tiny flight that we end up sitting next to each other anyway on.

Doug:
There you go.

Michael:
Anyway, I said, "Mate, so tell me about your time in the wine industry." "Ah, six cycles."

Doug:
Wow.

Michael:
"Six cycles, I've seen it."

Doug:
Six.

Michael:
"Where?" "Couldn't give it away, sold out. Couldn't give it away, vintage variation, build a brand from scratch, went to the middle of nowhere." And so, I always remember that as being a litmus test for me in my career. So what I'm seeing in Australia at the moment is that when I got into it, I was drawn to it because it was going up. And then it kind of came down again.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
And now we're riding the wave up again. And so, vineyard pricing in the Barossa Valley ... I own a lot of the best land. I bought bare land, um, in the Barossa because I couldn't afford to buy ... And I didn't want to buy someone else's mistakes. Um, so I've pieced together about 130 acres all up. Um, and look I was recently in Barolo, um, with Luca from Vietti and Luca said, "Mate, be back at six o'clock. I'm gonna show you all the great vineyards of Barolo. So I jumped in his car at six o'clock and he drove me and Frederik Johansen and his wife, Carissa.

Doug:
Oh yeah.

Michael:
All over Barolo for two hours and pointed to all the great vineyards of Barolo, and at the end of it, he said they've all been the best vineyards for the last hundred years.

Doug:
Hm.

Michael:
And so to me, I'd use the Gogol model. You don't need to use, you don't need to own a lot of vineyard. You only have to own the best vineyard. So what I've over my career is, I've been buying all the best dirt. Um, and now, the last years, I've been planting it all up. And I was lucky enough in June last year, to buy 56 hectares of the best land in the hills above the Barossa Valley. In Eden Valley, I bought a parcel at Mengler's Hill, which I think I'll make my best wines in my career off. So I've got 18 acres planted, another 36 to go in the ground. So I'm on that kind of journey of now going from being a negotiant when I started-

Doug:
Yeah, I was gonna say, 'cause when you started, you didn't have a vineyard.

Michael:
$30,000, mate. I started with $30,000.

Doug:
$30,000, no vineyard.

Michael:
No vineyard. Well, no, I- I ... So they say the way to make a fortune in the wine industry is to start with a large one.

Doug:
That happens.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
That happens in this country too. So right, so you negotiant to those who you don't know as someone who doesn't grow. That's- so when you bought ...

Michael:
I bought all my grapes.

Doug:
You bought grapes.

Michael:
Bought grapes.

Doug:
So you bought grapes. So you were ...

Michael:
I did that for uh, for many, many years. My first vineyard I-

Doug:
So you didn't buy bulk wine. You were buying grapes.

Michael:
No, no, no, always.

Doug:
And then fermenting 'em.

Michael:
Yeah,

Doug:
Got it. Okay.

Michael:
So the first thing, um, I- I came up with, um, inverting a business model. So instead of buying land and planting vineyards and learning at how to make it. I did the other model which was the first thing I did was build a winery. So I could control my quality.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
So I now own two, uh, wineries. I have one in Greenock and one [Merinanga 00:25:19] which are about three kilometers apart. I then own, um, 25 acres in Greenock. I own a hundred acre piece in Shepherds Hill. And then I own another, oh, 10 acres in Merinanga. These are all little sub-

Doug:
Okay, now these are all, this is all help ... 'Cause, you know, since I haven't been to Australia. I'm sure my, like a lot of my few ...

Michael:
It's like this, um, big island.

Doug:
So how ...

Michael:
And it's that way.

Doug:
Yeah. (laughs).

Michael:
And, and, and what I love always reminding people is we're 25 1/2 million people.

Doug:
Okay, all right. All right.

Michael:
And you might not know this, but we actually happen to be our own continent. (laughs).

Doug:
Yeah, I did ... You know something? I do know that from school.

Michael:
And it's the same land mass as North, North America.

Doug:
All right, stop. Stop. Southern Australia.

Michael:
Okay, so what it is, is ...

Doug:
And the biggest, the big city is Adelaide.

Michael:
No, so basically, the big ...

Doug:
-  close to you.

Michael:
So we're the seventh largest city, um, in Australia. So pretty much, if you looked at Australia on a map, if you cut it in the middle and you went to the bottom, you'd find Adelaide.

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
So Adelaide is an interesting ... In that we were the first free settled state of Australia. So the convicts states were Tasmania, Victoria, and New South Wales.

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
The way that, um, South Australia was founded was, it was a whole lot of people in London who wanted to get out a new land.

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
And they wanted to settle a state. And so South Australia came out as this, um, South Australian company.

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
And so, the way the Barossa was formed is that all the land that holds the Barossa was bought in London bya  guy called George Fife Angus.

Doug:
Hm.

Michael:
He then gazetted all over Europe to fill it up. And so at that stage, um, there was a part of Germany called Silesia that was being persecuted for their religious beliefs. And a guy called Pastor Kavel did a deal with George Fife Angus and said, "If you give us a right of passage to come. We will come out as whole towns."

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
"And we will settle the Barossa. We will work for you, but then we have a right to buy the land that we're working.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
And so the heritage of the Barossa is like no other region within Australia. It's, it's a fascination place.

Doug:
So ...

Michael:
So I deal with sixth generation growers.

Doug:
Wow.

Michael:
So I've just been to Hospice du Rhone representing Adrian Hoffman who's one of my dearest and oldest growers. Um, his family bought the land in 1872. He's now the sixth generation. He has 250 acres on the vine. He's mostly one the premier growers.
              Um, but Adrian, we did a seminar of Adrian's grapes. So um, it was five winemakers who were all showing the wines that they made off Adrian's vineyard. And I look at that in the American scheme, can you show me a vineyard that has been farmed consecutively in California for six generations?

Doug:
No, you can't. Very few. Okay, but help me some. Just from logistics.

Michael:
Okay.

Doug:
You've got how many acres of grapes or hectares?

Michael:
Well see, the interesting thing is, is that what I do, um, is I make wines ...

Doug:
You're not simple.

Michael:
... from six different regions within ...

Doug:
I love you, but ... Six different regions, okay.

Michael:
So I, I, I-

Doug:
So how far ... I mean, if you were ... If I was wanting to ... If you were gonna take me on a tour of all your properties and wineries ...

Michael:
Okay, the easiest way for me to explain it is I make ... I predominantly make Shiraz, but I make it from say, Walla Walla. Let's say I make it from Sonoma Coast. I make it from Napa Valley. I make it from Paso Roble. I make it from ...

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
... Santa Rita or I make it from San Diego. That like, I, so I work across ... My regions are Heathcote, which is two hours north of Melbourne, a thousand kilometers from my winery. I've made that wine since 2003, same block every year. Um, then I work in McLaren Vale, south of my hometown of Adelaide, which is 30 minutes.

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
Um, that is close to the ocean, so it has a maritime influence.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
And then I push up into the, um, hills above McLaren Vale into Blewitt Springs  and Clarendon, which is still in, within, McLaren Vale. Then I got a high-altitude vineyards, which is Adelaide Hills where I kind of have, um, what would I say? Supercool climate Syrah that ripens very late in season. I can't get it much above 12.8 potential. Um, and then I deal with Eden Valley which are the hills about the Barossa. I'm then based in the Barossa, and then I make ... My favorite region that I work with is actually another 45 minutes on from called, called Clare Valley which is further on from the Barossa valley.

Doug:
So when I come see you, I need to, I need a week. I need ...

Michael:
Well, I just had Jordan Florentini from Epoch down for a week. And so, she had to kind of see all those kind of different regions, um, so I brought two bottles as gifts today.

Doug:
I know. Thank you.

Michael:
Um, so one is my favorite region, Clare Valley. Um, Samantha's Garden, named after my wife Samantha. Um, and then 16 Charlie's Garden from Eden Valley which is named after my 12 year old son.

Doug:
Oh.

Michael:
So, um, what happens is 80% of the Australian wine industry is controlled by three major companies. So what they want to do is they wanna blend from all the different regions. So the most famous Australian wine, it's called Penfolds Grange.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
It is from southeastern Australia. It is not from a particular place. It is a blend of Barossa Valley, McLaren Vale, Clare Valley, Coonawarra cabernet, so it's a blend.

Doug:
It's a blend.

Michael:
And that's ... And all the Penfolds wines are all blends. Um, my friend Sarah and Sparky Marquis from Mollydooker, all their wines are southeastern Australian blends. So what I saw when I started Two Hands originally, was that I wanted to do was go to the world ... 'Cause everybody thinks wine tastes the same, I wanted to say, "You know what? We grow grapes here and we grow grapes over here. And we grow grapes over there, and then I put them all in bottles. And I put 'em in front of you. You're gonna taste six completely ...

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
... different expressions."

Doug:
And you've kept them separate that way. Yeah.

Michael:
And that's kind of my gig.

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
So I start with an entry level, um, which is called the Picture Series. Then I go to the Garden Series, which is six individual, um, s- regions within Australia. Then I have my Single Vineyard Series, and then I have my Flagship Series.

Doug:
Okay. Yeah.

Michael:
Um, but the secret to all of this as I said before is selling, selling the stuff.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
Um, so I have a general manager who's a Frenchman. He ran Chaputier for Michel in [inaudible 00:31:30] Hermitage for 10 years. He's the best salesman I've ever seen. So basically, we, Ben, my winemaker, Travis, my viticulturist. My team, I have a phenomenal team on the ground. Um, we do vineyard experiences where we actually take people in Land Rovers and we actually take them to six individual vineyards and you taste six individual wines made from those vineyards. And I think that's ...

Doug:
Nice, nice.

Michael:
We're in the job of demystifying wine.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
And so to me, if people can come for barrel tasting or make the connection with the vineyard, that's a real experience. And I think that's where we need to head in the future in that we are, we're glorified storytellers. But we have- actually have to make sure the stories are actually honest because there are some stories out there that I keep hearing and then I dig a little bit deeper and I hear that it's not quite ...

Doug:
Yeah, I've heard a couple about you, but you know ...

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
I'm (laughs).

Michael:
Were my clothes on? (laughs).

Doug:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. So you guys, you started in '99.

Michael:
No, I started ... Our first vintage, well, '99 ...

Doug:
N- not ...

Michael:
… was when I wrote my business plan.

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
2000 was my first vintage. We crushed 14 tons badly.

Doug:
14 tons.

Michael:
Um, yeah, yeah. And ...

Doug:
And now you're crushing a th-, a thousand tons.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
Which is ...

Michael:
Look, the thing is, is that ...

Doug:
60,000 cases total? Something like 50, 60?

Michael:
Oh. 65

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
Like, I had classify. So the way, what I do is I score every barrel in my winery between an A+ and a D.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
So if anything that gets B to B+ goes in my entry level, my Picture series. Anything that gets A to A minus goes in Gardens. Anything that's A to A+ goes in contention for Single Vineyard. Anything that's A+ goes to flagships.

Doug:
It's just like school.

Michael:
Sorry?

Doug:
Just like school, look at you. Right back.

Michael:
Well okay, in a terrible vintage like 2008, I had to classify 38% of my production.

Doug:
Hm.

Michael:
In a phenomenal vintage like 2010, I had to classify 6% of my production. So to me, the way you build a brand is through consistency. And so, people will walk in a restaurant and they will order a bottle of Shafer. The reason they're ordering that bottle of Shafer is A, they visited the estate. You were nice to them. You treated them well. But they go, "Every time I have a Shafer, I enjoy it."

Doug:
Oh, they, they can count on it. That's what we're ... That's what you're doing. That's what I'm doing.

Michael:
That's all I'm interested in is consistency.

Doug:
That's, that's all we wanna do is consistency.

Michael:
Consistency.

Doug:
'Cause it, 'cause it's inexpensive, you know ... And, and you know, they've gotta be able to count on it.

Michael:
But you gotta remember. We compete with beer and spirits.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
Wine is a very difficult thing, especially with distribution because we change vintages.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
You know, we, you know ...

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
We, all of a sudden, you just had fires. And all of a sudden, you know, I'm sure you didn't have everything picked when those fires came raging over those hills. And I know that whatever you would've picked afterwards, you've had to throw down the drain. Now, you can't explain that to the consumer. No one's gonna pay you because you just lost.

Doug:
No, 'cause all we have, all we have, you and I, are our brands and we gotta protect them. So Two Hands, origin? People need to know. Where's the name of the st ... the name ... ?

Michael:
Uh so, um, uh, so pretty much, my wine, uh, original business partner and I, two of us wines are handmade and really the idea was to keep it simple stupid because there's so many great wine brands out there and you say to people, "What did you drink last night?" "Oh, I had this amazing bottle that had a blue label and ... "

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
... and, and, and it had wings on it, and I think it was from ... I really, I think it was from Gigondas." They're like ... That could be any freaking wine in the world. And ...

Doug:
Right, right. That's a, that's an area.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
That's ... Yeah.

Michael:
That's why I think by having a simple name ... The logo was two hands.

Doug:
That's smart.

Michael:
Um, trying to be very consistent. You know, my very best wine is called Ares.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
Um, Ares was the Greek god of war. He slept with lots of chicks. He wasn't liked by many people.

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
Um, the reason that Ares is called Ares is I wanted a name that started with A and was less than four letters. So when the reviews would come out, it would be at the top.

Doug:
Smart m- ...

Michael:
So I bought Greek mythology for idiots. And so therefore, Ares then Aphrodite had an affair with, had a love child called Erotes. So you know, it's kind of just good storytelling.

Doug:
You know, you, you are a well-read guy. So and, and you ... So okay, but I've gotta ask you this. You started out, focus was on Shiraz. That's expanded. You're making some gorgeous other varietals. Pardon me, Shiraz ... And you know, I know you and your countrymen are a little sensitive about this.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
But know the rest of the world calls it Syrah, not Shiraz.

Michael:
Yeah. And I, and I think the greatest thing is, is that we do call it Shiraz.

Doug:
So what, so, so, so, so ... So talk to me. 'Cause it's the Syrah grape or the Shiraz grape.

Michael:
It's, it's identical.

Doug:
Identical.

Michael:
Yeah, yeah.

Doug:
Okay. So talk to me. Why?

Michael:
Well, you know ...

Doug:
What's with ....

Michael:
I suppose, I find, I find, I find that a funny question coming from a guy that takes Syrah and then blends it with Petite Syrah that has actually no corresponding relationship.

Doug:
Yeah. None at all.

Michael:
We call it Durif in Australia. Yeah.

Doug:
No, yeah. Yeah. We just, um ... We, we ...

Michael:
The other grapes we normally use to clean the vats with. (laughs).

Doug:
I think Elias and I, Elias and I, you know, Elias and I, I think we're on our second or third bottle of wine one night ...

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
... we said, "Hey ..."

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
And we're talking about Syrah. This was a true story. We were having dinner. It was during harvest. So we were, it was ... We were finally over harvest, we're out having a, a, you know, dinner...

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
... second or third bottle of wine and, "Let's mix Shiraz, yeah. This is really good. This is really good." And he goes, "You know, Doug, I love petite Syrah." I go, "You do?" He goes, "Yeah. I really do." This is Elias. I said, "Okay. Let's plant that too." So we planted the vineyard. We planted the vineyard 80% Syrah, 20% Petite Sirah, and made it that blend for the first 10 years. So go figure. You're right. Point well taken.

Michael:
So okay, the- the problem with the wine world is, let's say, I um, I really do love Barbera is a great variety or I l- adore. Um, my cellar is eight and a half thousand bottles, um. I, 70% of the wines I would drink would be from Burgundy. 20% of the wines that I drink would be from, um, Barolo, and 10% of the wines that I drink would be from the southern or northern Rhone. So what I like about that is, let's say I become, I wanna plant Barbera, I'm always gonna be compared to the great Barberas of Italy.

Doug:
Right. Of course.

Michael:
Um so, if I'm gonna make Syrah, I'm always gonna be compared to the wines of the northern Rhone.

Doug:
Northern Rhone.

Michael:
Now, I've been there many times. I love and adore those wines, but what I think makes wine world interesting is that we don't wanna make copycat wines.

Doug:
Can't, we can't make ...

Michael:
So ...

Doug:
Well, we can't make copycat wines.

Michael:
We can't, and so therefore, what I love about Shiraz is gives Australia a point of difference. Now, I think if I was to rename all my wines Syrah ... And a couple of guys have done that. To me, that's not fair and respectful to the great producers of the northern Rhone or to the producers in California. You know, you chose that path. The grapes came here. That's what they were called. You're being very honest with that. But in Australia, we have killed the kings- queens' English.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
So you know, we bastardize everything. We round off. Every word's gotta have a nickname. You know, we don't exactly speak, you know, the correct and prim and proper 'cause we wanna be as least pompous as possible. So therefore, you know, we kind of talk a little bit it ...

Doug:
No, I'm with you.

Michael:
... slang.

Doug:
Yeah. Yeah, yeah.

Michael:
And Shiraz was part of that kind of slang. And I really love the fact that when I get up in front of people, I talk about Shiraz. And I don't talk about Syrah. I think it gives me a point of difference, and I think it makes Australia more interesting. Um, you know, the interesting thing about Australia is, um, if we could only push the two countries closer together, you guys would be there every weekend.

Doug:
Yeah. Yeah, thanks for explaining that. I feel much better. I thought, I thought was gonna, I thought I was gonna have a fun time.

Michael:
You feel more pure now?

Doug:
Well, I do. I thought I was gonna give you a really hard time about it. Now I feel a little bit, you know.

Michael:
Well, okay. I'm gonna ask you about something.

Doug:
You know, you've been you, you need to be.

Michael:
Talk to me about 1984 Malbec and how that came to be.

Doug:
Oh, '84. So ...

Michael:
'Cause I love Malbec. Malbec's kind of my ... That's kind of, you know ...

Doug:
Well ...

Michael:
You can, I always say, you know, "You either have a vineyard or a mistress, but you can't have both."

Doug:
Good point.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
Or you can, but you just get ... Yeah. Just doesn't work. Any-

Michael:
So how did that, how did a, how did that come to being.

Doug:
Okay. Good question. Um, Michael's referencing something called Eighty Four wines, which many people don't know about. And it's a,uh, a side project winery brand that Elias and I started a few years ago.

Michael:
Yep.

Doug:
Again, I think we were having dinner and, you know, it was like, "You know ... " I think we were having a Malbec. He's like, "This is good. Yeah, this is good. I wanna make it. I wanna make it." Well, one thing with Shafer is, we don't wanna have ... We don't wanna be Baskin Robbins and have 31 flavors of ice cream.

Michael:
Yeah, you can't, you can't do that.

Doug:
So you can't. We wanna stay focused.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
So we have five wines. So ...

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
To make another, to make a Malbec on the Shafer label's like, "No, that's just, that's just ... Let's just stay focused with which Shafer does." So we created Eighty Four Wines to make varieties that Shafer doesn't make that we wanna play with. So we made a-

Michael:
So it's the R&D department.

Doug:
Yeah. It the R and ... Yeah.

Michael:
Yeah. I've got an R&D department too.

Doug:
A few, a few ... A couple ... Yeah, same deal.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
So we're making a couple hundred cases. We did Malbec. We did Petite Syrah. We got an Albariño out, which is gorgeous.

Michael:
Ooh.

Doug:
Really pretty. I'll give you, I'll give you a bottle of that.

Michael:
I, I like, I like Albariño.

Doug:
You've got a bottle on the way out.

Michael:
So is that a state grown fruit? Or is that-

Doug:
That's actually the Albariño's down in Red Shoulder Ranch alongside the chardonnay.

Michael:
Oh, okay.

Doug:
Which was, uh, kind uh-

Michael:
So is that still Stag's Leap?

Doug:
No, it's Carneros.

Michael:
Okay.

Doug:
Red Shoulder, Red Shoulder and chardonnay's down at Carneros where it's cool.

Michael:
Right.

Doug:
And uh, funny story about that. Um, it's a parcel that my, my sister owns.

Michael:
Oh.

Doug:
And you know, she let's me farm it and all that stuff. And-

Michael:
'Cause she was in the book.

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
And she get, uh, you know, she gets a check for the grapes every year, it's itemized.

Michael:
So she should.

Doug:
And chardonnay, chardonnay.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
So this is a couple years ago. She called me up. She goes, "Doug." I said, "Yeah." And she goes, "Well, there's this, uh, item for chardonnay." You know, so much money, "And then there's this item from Albariño, so much money." She goes, "Am I growing Albariño?"

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
I said, I said, "Oh yeah." I said, "Yeah, Lib. I forgot to tell you about that." But I said, "Look, actually, the a- the average price is more than chardonnay, so you're coming out ahead." She goes, "Okay. Thank you."

Michael:
So in your career at Shafer, what are your three favorite vintages?

Doug:
Oh dude. Why do, come on.

Michael:
Come one.

Doug:
Um, three favorite vintages, I'll tell you what they are. They're um, 1990 'cause that's when Elias and I figured we finally ... Okay, we never figured it out.

Michael:
Yeah, but ...

Doug:
But at that ... We had made wine for seven or eight years before then. It was up and down, up and down, up and down. And 1990 was when it was like, "Oh my gosh. I think we finally kind of figured out how to get this thing in ... " you know, between the rails, if you will.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
Um, so that was a great one. 2001, I loved.

Michael:
Yep.

Doug:
Um, you know, um, '99. And you know, I shouldn't tell you this 'cause you're just gonna tease me. I don't ... I can't tell you this. 'Cause '99 we picked ... We had, back then, we did, uh, we had a big day. We did like 60 tons of Cab, which back then ...

Michael:
Ouch.

Doug:
... that was big day.

Michael:
Okay.

Doug:
It was Hillside fruit.

Michael:
Yep.

Doug:
And I took a shower.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
Put on some boots and, uh, jeans and a sport coat and went up the hill, and got married to Annette as the sun went down.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
And we came back down to have dinner, and- and my cellar ... Elias and the cellar guys are all drinking beer, eating burritos going, "Yeah. Dooglas, yeah. Go." But, uh, it turned out to be a beautiful wine, '99 Hillside.

Michael:
And so, um, let's uh, let's replay history. So if you were still a kid in Chicago ...

Doug:
Oh.

Michael:
... and dad had never been brave enough to move out here to the sunny state, um, you know, what type of career path would have you followed?

Doug:
You know, I probably would've been kind of a Joe Business guy. I did teach school. Did you know that?

Michael:
Yeah, yeah. I read that.

Doug:
Yeah, yeah, yeah. You read the book. Yeah.

Michael:
Yeah, I read the book.

Doug:
Um. I could've seen being a teacher 'cause I really enjoyed that.

Michael:
Right.

Doug:
I really liked working with the kids. Um, but it might have been kind of a business thing, kind of what was, he was doing. You know, have some job in the city doing something where you commute every day 'cause that's why, that's what I grew up seeing.

Michael:
But it just seemed. Yeah, I know, but it just seems that you got incredibly lucky.

Doug:
I did because I never knew something like agriculture existed until we moved out here. And then I'm seeing him working with guys who are driving pick up trucks wearing jeans and work shirts. And so like ...

Michael:
And acting like real people.

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
I wanna do that.

Michael:
Well ...

Doug:
So I did it for a while, and now I'm back in the office. I'm on an airplane like you.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
How much do you travel a year selling wine?

Michael:
Uh, look, I'm, I- I travel most probably the same amount, but I, I don't do a lot of sales trips anymore. Um, the way ... Like, I've dragged the bag ...

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
... built the brand from scratch.

Doug:
Yeah, yeah.

Michael:
You know, I used to fly down the back of the plane.

Doug:
Yeah, I ...

Michael:
Um, I did it pretty hard for 10 years to build the brand.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
Um, and now my focus has been planting my vineyards. Um, and so um, as I said before, my um, general manager Pierre Henri, um, is a better salesman than I'll ever be. So ... And I just think it's an industry that gets, it gets not boring, but to have the energy to get up in front of people every night, you're an act. It's like going ...

Doug:
Well ...

Michael:
... on. And you've gotta ...

Doug:
I- it's ...

Michael:
And you gotta turn it on and I've gotta say, not that I have, don't have the energy for it anymore. To me, I'm trying to be very strategic with my time.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
Um, and I try to spend the time in the right places. Um, and I try to listen as much as possible, and try to kind of fly to a city, do a dinner, fly to the next city, do a dinner. Um, I'm now 49 and I know that you do it a hell of a lot. Um, I'm now more interested in flying at 30,000 feet and looking at Two Hands ...

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
... and going, "What can I do? Where am I best to put my energies to make Two Hands the best possible?" And some of those sales trips, I don't think, um, are- are ...

Doug:
It's ...

Michael:
My- my favorite  is to be walking vineyards. My second favorite place is to be in barrel hole. Um, and then my third favorite place is, is to travel to wine regions to be inspired by the likes of yourself. And ask lots of questions.

Doug:
Because you travel ... How much, how much time a year do you travel to wine regions, not so much to sell, but to learn 'cause you've done that so much. 

Michael:
Um, I reckon I, I set, I set myself an agenda every year. And, and I will, um, say to myself, "Right, I'm gonna visit three domaines this year.”

Doug:
Okay.

Michael:
And that's where I'll go, but I'll do a lot of research beforehand. Um, and that's why I've been 27 times to Burgundy and what I love is, I don't speak a word of French. And I don't give a flying F what they're talking to me about. I don't care. I just taste the wine.

Doug:
It's just wine.

Michael:
It's like I'm tasting in silence.

Doug:
You make an ... But do you guys ... You go grow pinot in Australia?

Michael:
I've got ... I'm doing a sparkling project at the moment. A friend rang me out of the blue about four or five years ago, and he said ... I hadn't seen him. He was an old friend from construction, years ago. And we used to actually hang out at the pub and drink beer together. Lovely guy, Sandy Quigley, rings me up out of the blue. Haven't heard his voice in over 20 years, and says, "Hey, Twelfer, how are you, mate? It's Sandy here." I'm like, "Yeah, great, mate." He's going um, "I own a vineyard in Piccadilly, um, and I'm selling the grapes to the evil empire and they're busting my chops. Will you just come up and walk my vineyard with me." So ...

Doug:
Right. Right.

Michael:
I go up and, you know, two hours, walk, stomp all over it. And there's one piece. Some in my hometown, there's one great pinot producer called Ashton Hills. And this vineyard actually happens to be the vineyard next to Ashton Hills.

Doug:
Makes sense.

Michael:
And so I said, "Look mate, can you get that vineyard out of contract and I'll take a five and five on it?" And so he rings me back about three weeks later, and he goes, "It's out of con- contract." Which I'm like, "How dumb are these people?"

Doug:
(laughs).

Michael:
And so I've got about 10 rows of pinot noir and about 40 rows of chardonnay. I make two barrels a year of dry chardonnay that I drink mostly myself. And then started a sparkling program, which I think I'm gonna leave everything five years on lees 'cause I think it's how you correct complexity.

Doug:
Right. Right.

Michael:
Um, but once again, I always look for projects to inspire my wine making team. I don't want them to cu-, become lobotomized and not challenged. Ben's been with me forever. Travis has been with me a long time. So every year, I'm looking at something to kind of not ...

Doug:
Kind of keep it ...

Michael:
... get them ... 'Cause it's not a Coca-Cola factory.

Doug:
No.

Michael:
You know, if, if we, you and I made beer for a living, and we sold out of beer. We'd just go and press a button and there'd be more beer.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
If you and I were in the gin business, we'd do the same thing. Wine's not like that, and I think the way you inspire people is you keep ideas flowing.

Doug:
Yeah.

Michael:
E.g. Albariño and Malbec.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
Where it's not just staying the same vibe.

Doug:
Yeah, that's what ...

Michael:
And think we've got it sorted out.

Doug:
Hey. You know, you know what was really funny when started doing this a couple years ago? He, Elias and I after 33 years together, we started having conversations that we hadn't had in 25 years.

Michael:
Really?

Doug:
Conversations like, "Hey, what do you think about this?" With Malbec, "You know I'm thinking about this."

Michael:
The.

Doug:
"Yeah, I heard so and so does this."

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
"And it's like, it was like, all of a sudden, it's like, "Oh yeah, I remember."

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
'Cause that's what we did for the first 15 years trying to figure it out. All right. So ...

Michael:
So last question, what, what's your theories on succession with wineries?

Doug:
Um, I think ... Succession with wineries? (laughs). What's your feeling? Oh, I'm older so I gotta answer it first, right?

Michael:
No, no. Well, I, you know ... I just ...

Doug:
I think ... You know, I think ...

Michael:
This has been my dream.

Doug:
I think I come back to what's the best thing for the business.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
That's the $64 question.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
And if you have a son or a daughter, or a niece or nephew that's involved, and has come to the business on their own volition, not because grandpa or uncle Ed asked them to come, but this like, "I love this stuff. I'm passionate about it." If they've got the passion, fantastic.

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
If not, I think that could hurt the business.

Michael:
Yes.

Doug:
Because, 'cause you know and I know ... You've talked about here today. This is not 40 hour a week job.

Michael:
No.

Doug:
This is year round, six to seven days a week, you're thinking about it all the time. You're on the road. You've got red eye flights. You've got winemaker dinners. When you're exhausted, you've got this, you've got, uh, floods and fires and uh, generators blowing up, and hoses bursting and red wine flowing down the drain.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
I can go on and on. I've seen 'em all. You can overfill the tank, and- and you got the ... Oh, I did that once. Right through, right through the, through the little spots ...

Michael:
Yeah.

Doug:
... the little air vent on the hole.

Michael:
Yeah, yeah.

Doug:
Red wine and, you know, the ceiling was 40 feet above. I nailed it with red wine. It's still purple to this day. Um. And so you've gotta have the passion 'cause this is just not a normal job 'cause this is so intensive, everything.

Michael:
But I think that the thing is, is that, you know, we, we like to control things. And at the end of the day, the big man upstairs controls ... You know, harvest to me ... We just had a phenomenal in '18. We had-

Doug:
Yeah, when do you guys, when do you guys pick? Help me. Just, just …

Michael:
Okay, sorry. We're southern hemisphere.

Doug:
I know, it, it's like ...

Michael:
So if you just aim that way.

Doug:
It's, I know, I know. I know, it's just like Shiraz. It like (laughs).

Michael:
You know, the great thing is my '18's already in barrel and yours haven't even grown on the vine.

Doug:
I haven't even grown yet. Okay.

Michael:
So um ...

Doug:
You're always ahead.

Michael:
No, so I think the interesting thing is, is that the amount of ... And I don't think the consumer quite understands just what we live with and the risks that we take. And even though that you're one of the great established brands in Napa Valley. I'm one of the great established brands from Australia, we still, it ... Nothing's set and forget. And, and we live vicariously because it- it could fall over at a moment's notice. You know, um, four years ago, one of my best grower's entire vineyard got frosted.

Doug:
Oh.

Michael:
Um, so you know, what do you ... What do I say to that grower? You know? I go to him and I say to him, "Rod, I'm gonna give you a $30,000 check and we'll square up someday because I need to help feed your kids, and I need to get you and ...

Doug:
That sounds ...

Michael:
... that's the thing people just ...

Doug:
That's ...

Michael:
... don't understand.

Doug:
I know.

Michael:
It's an agricultural pursuit. You know, your Hillside, how much Hill- ... You can sell everybody. You can make off that hill 'cause the wine's so wonderful, but I'm sure you've had some years where you had some pretty low tonnages off of it.

Doug:
Low tonnages and I've had situations with growers.

Michael:
And demand and supply, demand and supply.

Doug:
And growers, and growers, the same way. When it's like they get hurt, it's like, I, I step up and say, "Let's figure this out because I still ... " 'Cause like you said, we have one year, one bad year out of 10. But I still want to deal with this guy the following year. You know, that's just the way it goes. One thing if you don't have a family member ...

Michael:
Yep.

Doug:
'Cause I see ... There's a couple ... My neighbors close by, family wineries. Families aren't involved in their management of it. They have a general manager. They've got a hired gun. They hire somebody. They pay him really well. The guy's passionate. They say, "Take care of this winery. Take care of this brand. Don't mess it up." The family still owns it, but they've got a hired gun, general manager running it. I've got a handful of examples around my neighbors, guys doing that. And it's great. So, that's another option.

Michael:
Yeah, yeah, yeah I, I, I ... Yeah. Look, I- I um, m- you know ... I maybe-

Doug:
You, you obviously don't agree with me, which is fine.

Michael:
Oh, I like to disagree with you, but I, I- I think the thing being is, is that um, you know, your heart and soul. Um, you know, once it becomes corporate ... And you and I compete on a daily basis with very corporate run large conglomerates, and- and you know, there our competitors in a way 'cause I wanna see a bottle of Two Hands on that wine list before I see a bottle of Penfolds on a wine list.

Doug:
Right.

Michael:
But, you know, we all live in the same world, and so we've gotta ... We've got the little tiny guys, and we've got the medium guys. And we've got the large guys, and we've got the conglomerates. And at the end of the day, we all, all ships go up on the same tide.

Doug:
Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Michael:
We've gotta live together. You know, at the end of the day, um, it is what it is. And you'll make a decision at some point in time. Um, you know, I've had people come along and knock on my door and put numbers in front of me that maybe I should've taken. But at the end of the day, I love what I do so much ...

Doug:
What ...

Michael:
... that why would I ever wanna leave?

Doug:
Why would you want to do that? All right, we gotta break this up 'cause I know you got things to do plus we got, we got ...

Michael:
I'm going to taste at Aaron Jordan's Wines ...

Doug:
Oh, he makes good wine.

Michael:
... because ... Well see, I ... One of my, I- I listen to a lot of podcasts and I'll drink to that. And there's five, I love Carol Merideth's podcast. Um, one of the best, um, was Aaron Jordan's vineyard ... Sorry, his podcast. And so, I wouldn't the guy if I fell over him, but I made an appointment there at four o'clock.

Doug:
Good.

Michael:
So I'm gonna boogie up, up there. And I've got some friends to show around the Valley. 'Cause I gotta say, at the end of the day, this, I was just in Stellenbosch in January. Um, I've been lucky enough to go all over the world, all the great wine regions. I've just been in Santa Barbara, been in Paso, but the one thing you guys do ... God, this is a beautiful place. (laughs).

Doug:
(laughs). You came on a piece of  ...

Michael:
Let's agree on that.

Doug:
We will. It's a beautiful day.

Michael:
Let's agree that you're very lucky.

Doug:
We are, we are, but here's something else you and I have to agree on. Family winemakers, opposite sides of the world, I'm gonna read a quote by you, Mr. Twelftree.

Michael:
(laughs).

Doug:
And it's one, it's one I agree with.

Michael:
Okay.

Doug:
And maybe, maybe that's why we get along so well.

Michael:
Good.

Doug:
So this is it, your quote, quote "The best wine doesn't get discussed. It gets drunk, and I'm a big believer in subconscious consumption." That's a big thought. “I think we miss the drinkability of wine at times. Wine has always been considered a bit elitist and something I want to change in my generation." Kudos, I agree. Cheers.

Michael:
Thanks, buddy.

Doug:
Thanks, Twelftree.

Michael:
Fun as always.

Doug:
Good to see you, Michael. Listen everybody, go out and get yourself a bottle of Two Hands from Australia. It's really good wine.

Michael:
No, no. More importantly, get on a plane and come and visit me.

Doug:
Yeah, okay. And I'm ...

Michael:
Because I've never met an American that came to Australia and, and didn't have a good time. So ...

Doug:
All right. I'm, I'm coming.

Michael:
Good on you.

Doug:
I'm coming. All right, man.

Michael:
Thanks, thanks, everybody.

Doug:
Thanks, thanks, Michael.

Michael:
Appreciate it, bye.