Owner Profile: Ann Colgin and Joe Wender
Ann Colgin and Joe Wender look at their business in terms of decades, even centuries – tilling the richest, rocky soil to plant the most luscious grapes for some of the world’s highest rated wines at Colgin Cellars. But when it comes to day-to-day operations, time is a commodity they refuse to waste.
As long-time Flexjet Owners, now in the Phenom 300 and Legacy 450, this power couple is able to maximize the time they have without sacrificing the high value they place on face-to-face meetings – including time with each other.
“If you combine the desire to do things face-to-face – important things – with the view that time is our most valuable assets, it makes what Flexjet does a very important part of our business,” said Joe Wender, an Advisory Director at Goldman Sachs and co-CEO at Colgin Cellars, founded by his wife, Ann Colgin, in 1992.
Maximizing their time is important, but so is safety, they both said.
“Safety is always our biggest concern,” said Ann. “What some of our friends bring up with us – those who own their own aircraft – they want to know if we feel safe. And we feel very safe with your team and equipment.”
“I think the pilots you have are a very important asset and flying with pilots I have flown with before is comforting, as is knowing that they have been flying for a long time,” Joe said. “Particularly in the Red Label Program with pilots assigned to a specific aircraft.”
Their business takes them to Europe regularly and Joe said he appreciates the continued growth of Flexjet’s European operations and his ability to use domestic hours to pay for their European flight time. “I am very encouraged by your ability to handle the European flights efficiently,” Joe said. “We have had a very good experience with Alex Peake in London.”
There is another family fan of Flexjet, Ann said. Their dog, Gevrey Chambertin, a sweet fluffy Coton de Tulear named for a village in Burgundy.
“Joe and I share a love of aviation. Joe has a long-time relationship with American Airlines. I’m sure he’s the only Flexjet Owner who has a pair of first-class American Airline seats in their home,” said Ann Colgin with a chuckle. “That means Joe has flown A LOT.”
The AA DC10 reclining seats in the Wender-Colgin home sat in their original condition until Joe finally gave in – after 17 years – to Ann’s appeals to recover them.
“Now they are quite pretty,” she said.
“And they still recline,” he said.
Ann Colgin began her career in the art world, at Sotheby’s auction house in London. While studying there, she attended many wine tastings and discovered her love for wine that inspired her dream of launching her own brand. In 1992, she established the Colgin label and subsequently bought a Napa Valley vineyard originally farmed in the 1880s by Josephine Tychson (pronounced Tick-son). History tells us that Tychson traveled from Philadelphia to the Napa Valley with her husband, but after Mr. Tychson’s death, Josephine persevered and launched the wine brand and raised their children without him. She became the first woman to build a winery in Napa Valley. At the time that Colgin bought it, the soil on the property – a rocky beautiful soil, as Ann described it – hadn’t been farmed since Prohibition.
“I love the history. Josephine had been such a dynamic, determined woman,” Ann said. “Her pioneering spirit was very inspiring to me.”
Today, Colgin Cellars wine is one of the most exclusive and sought after small-production wines in the world and is cultivated, harvested, crushed, fermented, aged and bottled on their properties in California’s Napa Valley. Typically rated by wine critics in the high 90s (multiple wines even rating a perfect 100), Colgin Cellars wines include: IX Estate, IX Estate Syrah, Cariad and Tychson Hill.
The exclusivity and desirability of Colgin Cellars wine is harnessed by Colgin and Wender to boost their philanthropy.
“Giving back to our community is one of our top (philanthropic) priorities,” Ann said. “Over the course of time, we have raised over $15 million from donations of auction lots including Colgin Cellar wines and experiences. We feel it is important to support the Napa Valley community here – including health care, community services and farm worker housing.”
Colgin, a trustee and executive committee member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (better known as LACMA) since 2008, chaired the Collector’s Committee Weekend and incorporated a food and wine element to it.
Helped by her efforts, the museum has been able to acquire $30 million of art pieces for its permanent collection over the last 10 years.
Joe’s two principal philanthropic activities focus on the local St. Helena Hospital as a board member for the last 18 years and the Actor’s Fund of New York for the last 30 years. The Actor’s Fund supports actors with health and housing.
Recently, Colgin and Wender partnered with Bernard Arnault’s Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) group – a move that will assist them in taking Colgin Cellars wine to another level – on the world stage while continuing their pattern of thoughtful growth. Colgin Cellars is now part of the vins d’exception along with Château Cheval-Blanc, Château d’Yquem and Clos des Lambrays.
The team that got this wine brand to where it is today remains at the helm, which was important to Colgin and Wender when they considered the partnership. Ann said, “Mostly I have been very determined to make sure the people I surround myself with in pursuing this dream to make one of the best wines in the world, are the right people to make that happen.”