The “Gravitational Pull” of a Vintner’s Fate

Alison Sokol Blosser

Posted on September 8, 2020

Growing up in small-town Oregon, Alison Sokol Blosser didn’t know quite what she wanted to be when she grew up. She was clear, though, that she never wanted to work in the wine world.

As the daughter of industry pioneers Bill and Susan Sokol Blosser, Alison regularly pitched in with the family’s namesake winery, which had been one the first to establish vines in the Dundee Hills. Dreaming of a life beyond felt adventurous, perhaps even a little defiant.

Turning away from the vineyards—as Alison did for a number of years—ultimately may have only strengthened their allure. “There was always this gravitational pull that I couldn’t explain, she says, “pulling me back to the business.”

“I’m glad I had the experience of working for other people, and learned how other companies view culture and teams.”

Stepping outside of the comfort zone of her native Yamhill County surely only strengthened Alison’s contributions to the family endeavor. After earning an MBA at the University of Washington, she spent three years working in marketing communications for startups and companies like Nike and Nordstrom. “I’m glad I had the experience of working for other people,” she says, “and learned how other companies view culture and teams.”

Today, she is co-president and CEO of Sokol Blosser Winery, which is on the verge of celebrating its 50th anniversary and continues to garner wide acclaim for both its wines and its policies.

Over time, Alison began to appreciate that her upbringing had offered a pretty stellar education, too. “My parents were an open book. They would talk about work at the dinner table, and I was soaking that up. Later, in the corporate world, I had this foundation of business, because I had grown up in a small business.”

“When I was a teen, my Mom would take me on her sales trips. She would always schedule it in a way that I would meet strong female friends of hers, including Eugenia Keegan."

Alison had also spent quality time in the company of industry mentors.

“When I was a teen, my Mom would take me on her sales trips. She would always schedule it in a way that I would meet strong female friends of hers, including Eugenia Keegan [then of Bouchaine Cellars, now with Kendall Jackson].”

In 2004, she returned to her roots and accepted the job her parents had long offered, assuming the role of Director of Marketing. In 2008, she teamed up with her brother Alex, who oversees the winemaking process, as co-president.

“We made two promises to one another,” she reflects. “No matter what happens in the business, we’ll love each other as brother and sister. And, secondly, we’ll make sparkling wine.” Alison laughs, her love of bubbly evident.

Susan Sokol Blosser—a renowned community leader and author of multiple books, including At Home in the Vineyard—long demonstrated a dedication to environmentalism, but began to officially implement sustainability in the late 1990s.

Sokol Blosser Winery has continued to elevate their reputation as an environmentally and socially responsible business, becoming a certified B-Corporation. For Alison, upholding her parents’ legacy of sustainability is paramount. She is intent on keeping the winery around, and family-operated, for at least another 50 years.

“My mom had always been focused on survival,” says Alison, “She’d say, ‘We’re gonna get through this. And we’re gonna keep the business in the family.’ That’s actually harder than it seems!”

“She earned us all kinds of certifications—Salmon Safe, Organic, LEED,” says Alison. “Then started to realize there’s more to [sustainability], including packaging, recycling, and labor.”

That’s when Alison and her team then began to pursue B-Corp certification. She calls the certification process “humbling” and is grateful for the way it has allowed the winery to identify ways to tackle new areas where they might improve. This is only one way that, under Alison’s leadership, the company has not only raised its own standards, but those of the industry.

Challenges have always existed, but nothing like the pandemic. “It has impacted so many parts of our business,” Alison says, then offers in a cautiously optimistic tone, “In a crisis there is opportunity.”