A Day With St. Supéry Estates Vineyards & Winery CEO Emma Swain

Emm Swain, image by Meg Smith
Emm Swain, image by Meg Smith

Emma Swain, the CEO of St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery, is a self-described champion of change. For proof, one has to look no further than her Rutherford property that, though it resembled a 1980s-style Holiday Inn when she arrived in 2009—is now unspeakably chic thanks to custom-made mohair chairs in the private wine cellar, a jazzed-up art gallery and a redesigned tasting room. She’s also improved the quality of St. Supéry’s wines and added a culinary garden, demonstration vineyard, interactive wine experiences, a pretty outdoor patio which is appreciated by her CCO (Chief Cuddle Officer, that is) GG, the white Labrador who accompanies her boss to work daily. She puts her 20+ years in the wine industry to good use as vice chair of the 2015 Napa Valley Vintners/Auction Napa Valley board and sits on the Auction’s grants committee. Swain, an avid runner and half marathoner who lives in downtown Napa with her veterinarian husband Wes Jones, pauses for a moment before racing us through her day.

4 A.M. I get up; I’ve always been an early bird. I travel to the east coast fairly regularly. I’m not jetlagged—I’m always sort of in that timeframe. I take GG for a walk, make some coffee and answer e-mails [from] Europe.

4:50 A.M. I go for a run and then go to the gym. If I’m doing Pilates or a combat class then I’ll just do three miles. Sundays and Tuesdays are the long runs. I like to run because it’s one of the things you can do pretty easily when you’re traveling.

6:30 A.M.
I have a little oatmeal or I’ll have wheat toast and an egg, depending on how intense my workout is.

7:15 A.M.
I go to the winery. I usually chat with Omar [Orozco] and Willy [Orozco], who run the grounds here, about what’s going on, what we’re planting and what the next project is—because I always have a project.

7:45 A.M.
I catch up on e-mail. I do another round with Europe or the east coast.

9 A.M. I start my meetings; the day of the week [dictates] who I’m meeting with. On Mondays I go over the financial administrative needs with Lori [Felando], our CFO. Tuesdays I meet with Michael [Scholz, the winemaker] and the vineyard and winemaking team.

10 A.M.
We have competitive tastings. We do a blind tasting with about eight to 10 other wines. We aim for things that are more expensive than our wine and see how we fall in the mix.

11 A.M.
I’ll meet either with visitors, VIPs or trade guests and have a tasting lunch in the garden or take them offsite or to [Dollarhide] Ranch. If I don’t have a guest, then GG and I go for a walk in the vineyard. I eat something small and healthy that I brought from home. I love these Rancho Gordo beans that we have here in town.

1 P.M.
I spend the afternoon talking to our VP of sales, Susie Owen, about what’s going on in the market and following up with my Asia customers. I’m very involved in Napa Valley Vintners. I’m meeting there very often. We’re knee deep in planning for Auction Napa Valley, our Live Lot display, preparing for a party and all of that fun stuff that we’re going to have in June.

4 P.M.
I [look at] international Asia sales because they’re kicking in.

6 P.M.
If I’m not taking customers and trade to dinner, I go home. GG has another walk and her dinner. She’s so excited; it’s been a long time since she’s had breakfast. I cook dinner for my fine husband. Cooking relaxes me; it’s fun and creative. Wes and I love live music so we are at the Uptown Theatre or City Winery or Chamber Music one or more nights per week. It’s really wonderful to not have to drive to San Francisco now to see live music; that’s what we used to do.  By the time [the show] ends, it’s 11:00 and then you’re home at midnight. It’s exhausting. It doesn’t work so well when you get up early like I do.