Raghni Naidu - Owner, Naidu Wines
How many years have you been in the business? Tell us briefly about your background and your current position today.
I bought my Vineyard in 2018 and launched my wine brand in 2020. Despite launching Naidu Wines in the midst of the 2020 pandemic, our wines have received numerous accolades and awards, including consecutive years Double Gold, Gold, and Silver medals at prestigious wine competitions, such as the SF Chronicle Wine Competition and the Sonoma County Harvest Fair.
Today, our wines are featured on the wine list at Michelin-starred restaurant Single Threads Farm, which was voted one of the “Top 50 Restaurants in the World” in 2021. I have also been recognized as one of the “22 People To Watch in 2022 in Sonoma County,” a testament to my commitment to producing exceptional wine and curating unforgettable wine experiences for others.
Did you have a particular “aha!” moment that propelled you into wine?
In 2018 had an epiphany while on a road trip from Monte Carlo to Barcelona via Provence with her husband and children. Seeing the joy they too were experiencing I decided in that moment that she wanted to make being a part of wine country a real part of my life...especially since Sonoma & Napa were so close back home. Its was thought..or wishful thinking at that time but then life happened because within 3 months I discovered this beautiful property that boasted an exceptional Pinot Noir vineyard that was already producing grapes, with a lovely home a top a knoll overlooking the vineyards and stunning views of the valley. I knew it was was truly a special opportunity that life had brought my way. I was so inspired by the terroir that I decided to dedicated my life to showcasing every aspect of it in its best light to share with others. and I haven't looked back since....
What is the most rewarding part of what you do?
The most rewarding part of what I do has been receiving overwhelmingly positive feedback directly from consumers. From the very beginning my vision and intention has been to put my consumers first and to bring exceptional wines to them. There are so many different steps in bringing that 1 bottle of wine out to consumers and many a times one can loose focus on that end goal, be it unforeseeable natural events, rising costs, product shortage etc. It's hard not to waver from the goal but it is important and it is our highest priority to bring the highest quality product out to everyone....so tough decisions must be made. But they are all worth it. Hearing directly from consumers that each and every wine in our line up stands out on its own and that the brand story is inspiring to them make all the blood, sweat and tears absolutely worth it.
What do you do to create wellness balance in your life? Any particular activity, practices, etc that are meaningful to you?
Right now things are going full steam, I have to put in work 24/7 as I do not want to leave any opportunities behind. It is a critical stage. What creates balance in my life is my wonderfully supportive family. Being a Mom and Wife are also such a big part of my identity and I find those roles incredibly fulfilling. I throughly enjoy cooking a meals for my family and enjoying it with them during weekdays. I look forward to going to date nights with my husband on Fridays, its my weekly reset! I also lead bookclubs for both my kids aged 6 and 11. Hanging out with their friends and hearing their wonderful perspectives on things brings me a lot of joy. Its a great way for me to completely switch off from work and always puts into perspective that the world will have an awesome future with these children leading it one day!
What changes do you hope to see in the wine industry in the next five years?
I would love to see the wine industry become a more open minded space. It should not matter who is behind the wines and if they fit into the perceptions we have created around who can bring the high quality product out to consumers. The product should always speak for itself and people in the industry should be able to trust that and not keep second guessing the efforts and intentions behind that.
What does equality in the wine industry look like to you?
In my opinion Equality is an integral function of professionalism. An entrepreneur and anyone working in any capacity in this industry should be expected to be treated in a professional manner and not be constantly vetted and revetted and second guessed on their intention or quality of their work just because they may not fit the norm. Wether they are a woman, a person of color, an immigrant etc. we are all individuals that have a thoughtful intention to be here and be part of this unique and fascinating industry. As long as we ourselves are bringing our best to foot forward in all the work that we do, thats all that should matter to anyone who crosses our paths in doing our jobs.
How do you feel you’re contributing to creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive wine industry?
Being the 1st female Indian Immigrant to own and run a winery in the entire unites states - I believe I am offering a diverse perspective to consumers. People across the country are looking for a more diverse connection in connecting with brands. They are intentionally seeking a diverse perspective and I am here to provide it thru my exceptional wines and some aspects of my Indian heritage. My family name, Naidu, bears the label to convey the essence of what my unique immigrant family’s values and beliefs stand for – the freedom to create one’s own path by following your dreams and passions with an immense amount of hard work, perseverance, and grit.
What advice would you give to someone starting their career in the same sector of the wine industry as you?
My advice to anyone starting their career in our wonderfully unique industry is that true hard work, perseverance and grit helps in overshadowing some of the inequality issues. Don't be afraid to speak up for yourself and offer a differing and well thought out perspective. Always strive to continue learning and keep an open and compassionate mind yourself. Remember, if you find people not being inclusive, understand that they are limited in their life experiences and are on their own journey. Ultimately, the quality of your work will speak for itself and you will find yourself aligning with people who have a professional outlook and are more inclusive. Continue to seek better for yourself because you deserve it!
Name some people who inspire you in the wine industry and please explain why.
Merry Edwards has been an inspiration. She was the only woman graduating from her class at UC Davis way back in the day to intentionally forge a career in the industry. Her career spanned so many decades with many ups and downs but she persevered. I had visited her winery many years ago and happened to visit again with my girl friends soon after purchasing my vineyard. I saw it all from a totally different perspective this time and felt if there was space for her to create something this awesome in my new community in Sebastopol, surely I could try to follow in the path she had paved.....