Following in your father’s footsteps can be a daunting task but Samantha Rudd has proved to be more than up for it. It’s a job she thinks she was born for. Her plans for the Oakville winery she inherited include everything from classic growth ideas to unconventional collaborations with modernist artists, which seems fitting considering her equally unique sense of style. I love the idea of more women being more involved in what used to be considered a man’s world. Bringing a woman’s perspective to something many of us enjoy is long overdue.
Please introduce yourself and describe what you do: I run our family vineyard and restaurant in Napa Valley. I recently took over from my father who passed away in May. I also am a mother to our one year old son and 3 year old Bernese Mountain Dog.
You basically grew up on the vineyard that your father started. When did you know you wanted to be a part of the business and what has been your path to get there? I knew that our winery in Oakville was where I was most myself when I was 8 years old and there was never a doubt in my mind that I was meant to be there forever. I worked for other wineries until a year ago. I work at Spottswoode and Chateau Margaux as well as a distributor in Paris.
Maybe I’m being old-fashioned, but it seems that the wine business is predominantly run by men. As a woman, do you feel that you approach things differently? Personally I approach this business like I do my life. People are the most important part of success so I work hard to be sure the entire team has a shared vision and shared values. I am always communicating with the team and encourage the challenge process internally so we are always improving. We respect the past, we challenge the present and we imagine the future.
What do you love most about what you do? The land and sharing it with people in unique ways.
What came easiest for you in the beginning? Hosting guests. It was second nature to share our story with people because I lived it. I believe so strongly in what we are doing, I am proud to share it. Also I have always been a leader, so while being the leader of a business is challenging it is also very rewarding and I am so fulfilled by seeing the team implement new things I have introduced and see them believe in it too.
Hardest part of taking over that no one warned you about? It is up to you in the end. When you own the business it all falls on you no matter how great the team, you are the one who it matters most to.
One of your attributes that helps you succeed: I am a very perceptive and intuitive person.
Role model: Charles Koch. I have grown up with him, he was my father’s best friend. He is consistently principled across all aspects of his life, he walks the walk. His laser focus is inspiring and he is a good person.
Best career advice you received or would share: Earned success is the best feeling there is.
What has been your biggest success? My happy family–I know that they all know I love them unconditionally.
What has been your biggest dud? What did you learn from it? There isn’t just one but I have learned from all of them and encourage the team to always hold me accountable on not repeating past mistakes.
What motivates you? My father set an incredible foundation and I need to fulfill the generational promise and do even better.
Three words that describe Rudd Wines: Pure, beautiful, alive.
Three words that describe you: Principled, loyal, leader.
What’s next for Rudd Wines—what do you want the future to include? Sharing them with more people and bringing unlikely collaborators to the estate such Maria Moyer, Dustin Yellin, Max Poglia to name a few–to inspire them and be inspired.
Life goals: Be present in the moment and enjoy it.
Daily goals: Be productive.
Daily rituals: Playing with my son and working out. I love exercising. I spin a lot and a good friend is a personal trainer so we workout 4-5 days a week together–lots of heavy lifting, circuit training, sprints on the woodway.
How do you unplug: My mom’s home in Aspen.
Hidden talent/hobby: I could be a stylist in another life.
Favorite charity: Anything to help babies or animals.
Do you collect anything? Jewelry from friends who are designers–Dezso by Sara Beltran, Spinelli Kolcollin, Sevan Bicakci, Auroa Lopez–the pieces have special meaning when you know the work that goes into it. It’s similar to wine for me.
Favorite small indulgence: Celery juice, baths.
Album currently on repeat: the XX.
Scent that brings back memories: Frederic Malle’s Portrait of a Lady.
Lucky charm: My wedding ring.
Favorite hour of the day: Early morning with my son or 6:30 p.m. when he goes to sleep and my husband and I can connect.
Follow Rudd Estate: Instagram.