Disengaging 3 | Off-Balance

Disengaging 3 | Off-Balance

by | 'Jun 22, 2017' | Disengaging | 0 comments

Chi-Yu Cannon

Winter afternoons in the winery are peaceful but it’s hard to escape the chill that seeps from the stone walls. I was heading to the winery office to check on some shipments (and warm up by the fireplace, I admit it). In the hall that leads down to the cellar, I saw lights on—Peter and Jacob were sampling, again. Peter is so thrilled to have Jacob back in California, and even more excited that he wants to be a winemaker, a vintner. And, I am happy for Peter. It was so tough when his first wife took Jacob back East with her after their divorce. Having Jacob here completes his family.

But, as I came around the corner and saw the expression on Dominic’s face, I couldn’t help but feel for him as well. Dominic—the head vintner at Cannon Bridge, and Peter’s partner in making the glorious 2005 Syrah—is not at all happy to have Jacob here.

Jacob has Pete Sr.’s outspokenness, but nowhere near as much drive. Yes, he is creative, but he lacks follow-through. The blending room is strewn with his abandoned projects, and he leaves a mess wherever he goes. I wonder if he believes that just because he graduated from UC Davis’s Viticulture and Oenology Program, he is qualified to take over Dominic’s job. And Peter doesn’t want to disappoint him. Peter must be worried Jacob will head back east to live with his mom again. So, Peter encourages Jacob, and apologizes to Dominic.

I hope Mia will be home for dinner this evening. She enjoys working at Clear Lake with her cousin Grace, (who’s actually old enough to be her aunt). Grace is a good role model and I am glad she’s taken Mia under her wing. But, being around Joyce’s bitterness over Pete Sr.’s will is affecting Mia. Jacob’s bravado about being a 20% shareholder of Cannon Springs isn’t helping either. Jacob seems to have invented a sort of conspiracy theory that Pete Sr. didn’t want Mia and Jay to be shareholders because of their Asian ancestry. Peter says Pete Sr. must never have read his will carefully, and that leaving Mia and Jay out must have been unintentional, but it’s clear to me that Jacob believes otherwise.

Pete Sr. was welcoming enough when Peter and I married and Peter chose to adopt Mia and Jay. He took them for rides on his tractor and gave them little toys he carved from old wood. But he was tough as old oak, conservative in his viewpoints, and not always comfortable with Peter’s expanded family. Pete Sr. also doted on Jacob, who truly was an adorable little boy. Did Pete Sr. simply believe in bloodline over all? And why did he allocate the Cannon Spring shares so differently from the Cannon Bridge shares? I guess we’ll never know.

Matthew Portman

My mom, Joyce, just left Potter Valley. Wow. She is definitely tense today. My sister, Grace, says she’s always tense before board meetings. I used to think board meetings were rough when I was working for a venture capital firm in San Francisco—you’ve never seen someone’s hands shake until you’ve seen a founder of a start-up face a grilling from a bunch of seasoned venture guys. But these family business board meetings with my mom and my uncle are something else entirely—my mom stops listening and just complains about how unfairly she’s been treated, and my uncle Peter withdraws or gets defensive. Jacob will be attending this next meeting—gack. I am not looking forward to him spouting wine-making esoterica and piling onto the debate at all the wrong moments.

Grace blames Uncle Peter and the winery for a lot of the struggles we’re going through here at Cannon Springs Farm, but between us, I don’t think that’s exactly fair. I’ve been around Cannon Springs Farm and Cannon Bridge Winery all my life, and I think my dad has the best take on the situation—he says it has never been the same since Pete Sr. died. I don’t think he means that Cannon Springs and Cannon Bridge are failing—they’re not—or that Mom and Uncle Peter can’t run them—obviously, they can. It’s just that Pete Sr. always knew exactly where he was headed, my dad says.

Right now, I would like my grandfather’s advice on what to do here in Potter Valley. Between crown gall and pests, our harvest is going to be decimated. And, on top of that, we have to find a customer for the Muscat harvest. Uncle Peter has apologized for changing direction so suddenly, but his apologies don’t solve the problem of having acres of the wrong crop. We should have required Cannon Bridge to commit to a long-term purchase agreement, but we trusted that they would be long-term buyers. Shame on us.


Looking for some behind-the-scenes commentary? Listen in to The Family Business Podcast | Episode 6