Over Christmas my parents and I visited a winery started by Shannon Zouzoulas and her sister Megan Haller in the up-and-coming Sonoita, AZ wine region. I soon saw this was no typical winery even for a stroppy startup. The two sisters rebelled against the traditions of both marriage and the wine industry to start Hops and Vines, rejecting the assumption that their idea was “a pipe dream” and refusing to accept “that’s not the way it’s done” as an answer.
“We try to do things differently,” said Haller, 37, who tends the vineyard and makes the wine while her sister runs the tasting room and is in charge of marketing and event planning. “There are no rules.”
They both ended up leaving their husbands as they started Hops and Vines in 2011…a bit of a Thelma and Louise move with a happy hour ending. See their full story here:
They had more than a few obstacles to overcome with their cheeky ways…from getting the Arizona law changed that forbid brewing wine and beer on the same premises to developing “Drag Queen”, a varietal wine that thinks like a beer, to my favorite, determining that Cheetos are the perfect palette cleanser. And I love the Sober Shack, a converted tool shed where kids can make soda and snacks while their parents do wine tastings.
Today I’m sharing some of their advice to inspire entrepreneurs who have ever been told, “That is not the way we do it.”
The sisters started the winery on a “shoestring budget of borrowed money, hand-me-down vines and an urgent need to prove wrong everyone — including the state of Arizona:
“All we ever heard was it will never happen, but it never occurred to either one of us that it wouldn’t happen,” said Shannon Zouzoulas, 39.
When Haller’s husband joined the ranks of naysayers she decided she had to stop dreaming and do it. She enrolled in a business writing class and started looking at property.
Zouzoulas was pushed over the edge by the Jack Kerouac quote about but “mad ones”:
On keeping going….
“When people say no to us, it doesn’t even register on my brain. I don’t hear it; we keep plugging ahead,” — Zouzoulas.
On staying true to idea…
“We are trying to change the idea behind wine. I think you can have a good time and still be taken seriously.To me, personally, my biggest hurdle is just trying to show people that we are serious about what we are doing — making great, quality wines here,” – Haller
“The reality is if our wines don’t speak for themselves … we won’t sell anything,” –Zouzoulas
On defying the odds…
“It’s hard to grow grapes in Arizona and it’s hard to make wine in Arizona. It is not just something we are doing for fun. It is definitely my passion. It’s a work in progress. We’re constantly trying to see what we can do.”- Haller
If you are in the area, I hope you can experience the winery. If you are intrigued, buy some wine, if you are inspired, keep not taking no for an answer!