Based in the heart of Napa Valley, California, Demeine Estates is a family-owned producer, importer and marketer of the world’s finest wines. As President, Philana Bouvier provides leadership and vision in creating a best-in-class sales and marketing organization, focusing on a dynamic and growing portfolio that includes Heitz Cellar, Burgess, Stony Hill, Brendel, Ink Grade, and Champagne Legras & Haas.
Over the course of her career, Philana has established her reputation as an inspiring, engaging leader in the wholesale community. She has served as both Chair and Vice Chair of the Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA), and is one of the founding members of the Advisory Board.
We sat down with Philana Bouvier to learn more about Demeine Estates, how she got into wine, and to find out what she looks for in a vineyard.
Spirited Zine: What was your first job in the wine & spirits industry and how did you move from there all the way to the top of the ladder?
Philana Bouvier: Prior to joining Demeine Estates in April 2021, I was the Vice President Fine Wine, Supplier Business Development at Republic National Distributing Company. Previously, I led new business development at Young’s Market Company for prospect management and new supplier engagement as its Senior Vice President. I have held several leadership roles including Executive Vice President, General Manager for Young’s Hawaii–a move that made me the industry’s first non-family, female executive to lead statewide sales, marketing, and operations for a major alcohol distributor in the United States.
My career path has been a gracious journey and very nontraditional, as well as extremely challenging. I have had to run through several roadblocks and so many eventful challenges, but I kept going and working.
I was able to keep going despite challenges because I had great mentors along the way who encouraged me to never give up.
SZ: Can you tell us a bit about Demeine Estates and the various wineries you work with?
PB: Demeine Estates seeks to set the standard in exceptional marketing, fine wine sales, and distribution services. We are also a world class importer. Demeine Estates serves and supports a dynamic and growing portfolio of the Lawrence family and Managing Partner, Carlton McCoy Jr. owned fine wine estates and import supplier partners. The collection spans family-owned domestic to international producers, including Heitz Cellar, Burgess, Stony Hill, Brendel, Ink Grade, and Champagne Legras & Haas.
Soon we are announcing new partners in Piedmont, Chianti, Chablis, Sancerre to name a select few, we’re excited to represent such world-renowned wine regions.
Our portfolio is about everyday luxury and premium wines.
SZ: As President of Demeine Estates, what does your day-to-day look like?
PB: Most mornings I start early (around 4:30 AM Pacific time) because my colleagues and I will have calls with our European producers.
I also review sales figures every morning so those figures may impact conversations or calls I may have that day.
I am passionate about being involved but also ensuring our team members have the right support and resources they need to be successful.
Every day is different in terms of specific projects, but you can count on the fact that I do enjoy sitting in on all our sales and marketing meetings across every channel of our business.
The first year of our business we did restructure the sales and marketing teams, and today Demeine is in a fantastic place. We have all the right leaders in their positions, and we are in a dynamic growth mode.
Operations is now the next dept that my time is focused on and building out our team to ensure the back of the house executes flawlessly with our sales and marketing teams.
Additionally, I carve out time to meet with team members 1:1. We are in the people business. It is important to mentor people and give feedback in real time so that everyone is clear on the direction and the desired goals.
SZ: What do you look for in a winery when you are deciding whether or not to work with them?
- Integrity and Family Owned
- Exceptional wines anchored by quality viticulture
- Entrepreneurial spirit and a passion for winemaking
- Wine and wine making Quality
- Category strength
- Key points of differentiation from what exists in the marketplace?
- Do their values align with ours?
- Innovation and tenacity embraced?
- Family owned?
- Committed to a sustainable future?
- Do their values align with ours?
- Do they value and understand the role of the distributor and demonstrate an understanding of the three-tier system?
SZ: Do you find that the wine and spirits world is still male-dominated and if so, what are the first steps to take on your way to changing that?
PB: Throughout my career I saw a lack of career resources for women and made it my mission to use my leadership and network to not only create a path for women, but a movement to foster empowerment and elevate the role of women in the industry.
SZ: Can you tell us a bit about your work with the Women’s Leadership Council (WLC) for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America (WSWA)?
PB: I am very proud of the work with the Women’s Leadership Council for the Wine & Spirits Wholesalers of America. It was an incredible time in my life, for almost 8 years the women on our board and I created something that has never been done before.
We made it our mission to ensure women had a seat at the table, and we accomplished incredible things together.
The organization’s primary mission is to educate, elevate, and empower members as well as industry leaders within the three-tier system, advance women in the industry, and provide a genuine platform for the exchange of ideas and skill development.
Now as a supplier, and coming from the producer and importer side, the value WSWA and the Women’s Leadership Council brings to our industry is critical. As today, Women are now represented in larger numbers across all wholesale channels, which is much more advanced today than it was 20 years ago when I started in this business.
These advancements and changes through the following pillars: educate, elevate, and empower- allows for created opportunities for women to network – which is about access, creating a space for authentic., real conversations, and connections within the industry.
SZ: What is something that people generally don’t think about when they think about wine, but is essential to the end product?
PB: People. There are so many people behind the making of great wine…whether it’s the viticulture team to the winemaking team or the marketing team. It takes so many incredible, talented people to make great wine and to share that beautiful bottle of wine.
SZ: If you had to choose, other than the wineries you work with, what are your three favorite bottles of wine that you have ever drank?
PB: I love great vintage champagne. It is hard to just state three wines as I have been lucky to enjoy some fantastic wines, but if I had to choose a wine or three – I would also choose vintage champagne.