Meet the woman behind the Napa Valley wine company that currently has a waitlist for its coveted vintages

In the modern world, careers tend to be defined by a 9-5 job that pertains to what you studied in school, what your skillset calls for and what you see as being a lucrative means to an end.

While we all have passions and hobbies outside of our day jobs, many people are scared to take the leap and make a career out of what they love.

But if you look at your chosen career path and the things that you find yourself having strong affinities to, you'll realize there is a pattern of similarities that you may have missed, and an opportunity to fuse the two that can create a path that you never thought was possible. 

This was the case for Ann Colgin, founder of Colgin Cellars.

Holding an M.A. from New York University and a previous role as President of Fairchild's Fine Art, Inc., Colgin spent a lot of time studying at Sotheby's in London during her years in the fine art world. 

It was there that she discovered her other love -- Wine!

“While I was in London, I went to a couple of wine tastings and fell in love with wine. I thought that it was always going to be a passion and hobby for me. But I moved to New York and I was working in the auction world and having fun with wine and I started going out to Napa [Valley] on a more serious level for the auction … the thing that really drew me to it wasn’t just the wine, but the community out there. And I started a brand in 1992 — this will be my 28th harvest. Over the years, I have built upon the business that I started when I bought my first property in 1996.”

Today, Colgin Cellars vinifies fruit from three historic Napa Valley vineyards -- Tychson Hill Vineyard (which was originally planted by the first female vinter in Napa), Cariad Vineyard and breathtaking IX Estate Vineyard, which is responsible for the majority of Colgin Cellar bottles and home of the Colgin winery which was founded in 2002.

Colgin's vintages are selectively sold nationally and internationally, with about 65 percent going direct to consumer -- and there's currently a waitlist to be on the receiving end of Colgin's mailing list. 

Take a look at Colgin's four different vintages below:

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Colgin Cellars vintages
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Colgin Cellars vintages

IX ESTATE SYRAH

From low yielding clonal selections originating in the Cote-Rotie and Hermitage regions of France, the IX Estate Syrah is characterized by the Old World aromatics of the Northern Rhone and a remarkably nuanced bouquet of cured meat, pepper, blackberry, coffee and acacia, graced with a black floral uplift. Its voluptuous texture, savory palate with mouthwatering tannins, and dense black color is truly irresistible, smooth and expressive. Considered “one of the most unique Syrahs being made in California today.”

TYCHSON HILL

From an exceptional site that imparts earthy, ethereal notes of power and elegance, this signature cabernet reveals intense, deep layers of crème de cassis, barbecue smoke, graphite, blackberry and freshly cut flowers that excite the palate. Incredibly long and round, it is our rarest wine, the 2002 vintage achieving our first perfect score as “a wine of enormous concentration, multiple dimensions, layers of flavor, and a sensational one minute plus finish. Its purity, harmony and symmetry are prodigious.”

IX ESTATE

A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, IX Estate Red is distinguished by complex fruit interplays, a luscious nose of rustic herbs, iron, clay and black fruits, huge layers of flavor and supple, sweet tannins impeccably well-balanced. The number IX refers to the parcel number and is also significant as the date Ann and Joe were married: 9/9. The 2002 vintage was the first, of four vintages, from this property to achieve the highest accolade of “a perfect wine”. Each year the blend displays extraordinary intensity, a beautiful purity, and a remarkably long finish. Approachable when young, it ages most gracefully.

CARIAD

Cariad, the Welsh word for “love”, is a Bordeaux-style red wine blended from three outstanding vineyards owned and managed by David Abreu. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc from Madrona Ranch are blended with small amounts of fruit from Thorevilos and Howell Mountain, producing a wine of enormous proportions with a classic structure that is the Colgin hallmark: a plethora of vibrant aromas, voluptuous at mid-palate, with impeccable balance and an exceptionally long finish. A wine as seductive as its name.

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AOL Finance caught up with Ann Colgin to discuss her journey from art to wine, what she wishes she knew before becoming an entrepreneur and of course, all things wine:

How were you able to make the jump from the art world to the wine world?

“Quite honestly, I was young and if I probably knew too much more about it, I wouldn’t have done it. Ignorance can be bliss in some ways … I hired a lot of great people to help me and I understood the business to a degree, but I’ve learned so much over the years. I think wine is something that’s incredibly complicated, just because everything is constantly new and different. Every year is a little bit different with the weather conditions that occur and even if you can say some vintages are like other vintages, every year is still unique. The challenges that mother nature brings to the table every year are opportunities to learn more with each vintage. It’s a constant learning situation … there are so many new wines around the world every year, it’s very hard to keep up with everything that’s happening. We’re constantly searching for how we can make our wines the best that they can be, looking at new vineyard techniques, new technology."

Did you plan to make the jump and make this your full-time career or was it more of a gradual transition?

“I kept my day job in that I was in the art world for a while when I started this. But at a certain point, I realized that I needed to give my all to the wine business because that’s how you really develop a business. I think if you talk to any entrepreneur they’re going to tell you that you have to be all in. Art for me is still a passion and a hobby and I spend time in the field — I’m on the board of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) so I do a lot of things in the art world still but from a business standpoint, it’s all about the wine.”

What does your typical day-to-day schedule look like these days?

“Every day is different for me. I have a great team that works with me … I have a fantastic winemaker who spends as much time in the vineyard as she does in the winery (I am out in the vineyards with her sometimes, too.) I have a great COO who runs the business end of things, but I still am very involved in a lot of the winemaking decisions at harvest, a lot of the branding that we do, the selection process and what barrels actually make the final blends … every day is different.”

You run the company with your husband -- was wine always a passion of his as well?

"I brought him into this and he only was interested in drinking and collecting it! We met at a wine dinner in Beverly Hills — he was a big wine lover, French wine especially. It was fun to meet someone at an event where he had a passion for what I had a passion for but he never expected his life to be involved in the farming side of this and the creation … but I think he loves it now."

Have you taken any courses professionally in the wine world since starting Colgin Cellars or did you operate it based on experience?

“I did take some courses but the most valuable thing that I have done over these many years is getting to taste a number of wines from around the world … I’m a very fortunate to have friends that are very generous with their cellars and my husband and I have collected wines for a very long time now and we have special bottles that you share with friends and with our team. We’ll do comparative tastings … I think tasting is really one of the most valuable things you can do to really learn about wine.

A great bottle of wine evokes emotion. It makes you stop and think about it. And I think in the lives the we all lead today, when we’re always on our devices and we’re always racing from meeting to meeting — time is such a valuable asset. To sit down at a table over a meal with your family or with your friends over a bottle of wine, really slow down and take in the color and the aromas and really talk about the wine. It’s such a great aspect of life, to bring people together and create a memorable moment for them. But that’s the greatest joy that I get for doing what I do."

What's something you wish you would've done differently when starting Colgin?

"I wish I would’ve known that land is your most valuable asset and that some of the lands that we chose at a time, I wish we would’ve bought more acreage when it was more possible to do that. That’s the one thing that I look back on that I would’ve done differently. 

There is a leap of faith that you have to take. You can do all kinds of studies on soil type, rockiness, water -- there’s a lot to do, but you don’t really know until you get that first fruit, so it’s scary in a lot of ways. But the wine business is a type of business that involves a lot of patience. When you buy a piece of land and you develop it … it’s 7-10 years minimum doing red wine at the level we’re doing from the time you begin until the time you sell a bottle."

Do you have a favorite vintage?

"It depends on the day and the vintage and what time eating and who I’m with but i love all our wines quite frankly .. what we really aim for is to celebrate the sunny climate that we have in California, so the wines are ripe and luscious but they still have freshness, perfume and minerality which is very important to us. And they each kind show their site which is in some ways a more Burgundian model than a Bordeaux model where in Bordeaux the chateaus are different, the wine production is bigger … for us, we’re really emphasizing these different sites and the different personalities that we can draw out from the terroir." 

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