Beyond the Boardroom

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Clay Gregory

Author: Alexandra Russell
March, 2016 Issue

Before joining Visit Napa Valley as CEO in 2009, Clay Gregory had a long career in the (mostly) wine business. “I worked at a tiny winery called Congress Springs Vineyards in the Santa Cruz Mountains while going to graduate school for my MBA,” he says. Following a post-degree job in the computer systems division of Motorola in Cupertino—“the building I worked in is currently world headquarters for Apple, until it completes its new ‘spaceship’ campus”—he relocated to Napa Valley in 1989. He held multiple positions within Robert Mondavi’s company for 14 years (including seven as GM of all of the Napa Valley properties) before being named president of Artisan and Estates at Jackson Family Wines, followed by being president of Jackson Family Wines.
 
 
 
Do you have a big family?
 
My wife, Tersilla (aka T), and I have been married for 20 years. We don’t have children, but we’re very proud “parents” of two beautiful basset hounds, Annabelle and Eleanor, and two sheep, Duke and Daisy. Over the years, we've had up to four sheep, three goats, two chickens and three bassets at one time!
 
Describe one of your happiest life moments.
 
When T and I got married on the island of Lana'i with just my brother and sister-in-law, our great friends Alan and Barbara Suzuki and the minister in attendance—very special!
 
Do you have any pets?
 
Well, we probably covered this above, but Annabelle is our 8 1/2 year old "princess" of a Basset hound and Eleanor is our 2 1/2 year old “kid” of a Basset hound. They get along amazingly well (and play like they’re killing each other, but are really just having a great time). We hope that they live forever.
 
What’s your go-to coffee shop order?
 
Single cappuccino in the morning, a macchiato in the afternoon.
 
Describe the worst thing you ever had to wear to school.
 
Two things: a “butch” haircut done by my dad in about 20 seconds and, even worse, non-Levi blue jeans—so humiliating!
 
Do you believe in destiny?
 
Nope. I do believe a great deal in serendipity, however. Every meaningful new job I’ve ever been chosen for has only happened because of a large dose of serendipity, usually provided by another person.
 
Do you have a phobia?
 
Yes—claustrophobia. It requires significant planning for travel by plane (and travel by submarine is just out of the question).
 
Do you play a sport?
 
I used to be a fairly good tennis player, but now I’m quite a poor golfer.
 
If you could have a different career than the one you have now, what would it be?
 
I always thought it would be great fun to be a radio broadcaster for the San Francisco Giants. Watch out Jon Miller, Dave Fleming and Kruk and Kuip!
 
If you were an animal, what would you be and why?
 
A basset hound, of course. The finest canine of all: sweet, loving, loyal, smart, beautiful, noble and entertaining as all get out. Sure, they slobber a little and have a minor stubborn streak, but nobody’s perfect.
 
What’s something that’s frustrated you in the recent past?
 
Bureaucracy, policies and procedures, resistance to change and complainers who aren’t doers.
 
What personal trait of yours is most responsible for getting you where you are?
 
Treating other people well, always trying to be supportive of folks that deserve it and never “stabbing anyone in the back.” Mr. Mondavi’s “school of business and human relations” was very good to me. The Margrit Biever Mondavi “school of graciousness, worldliness, aesthetics and culture” was a great help as well.
 
What was your first job?
 
I had a paper route for the Valley Journal, when it was still called Santa Clara Valley not Silicon Valley. I was in fifth or sixth grade and we only got paid if we could convince subscribers to pay for a paper that was free.
 
What’s your greatest extravagance? 
 
According to T, it’s our little 1.8-acre vineyard in Coombsville called Inherit The Sheep. The wine we grow and bottle is great, but I don’t have time to give it the attention it deserves.
 
What person from history would you turn to for advice if you could?
 
Thomas Jefferson, the first major wine and food aficionado in the United States and a pretty important fellow in the founding of our great country.
 
What does “success” mean to you?
 
Being happy, fulfilled and smiling broadly into the future.

 

 

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