Adam Beak is senior vice president and head of the premium wine group at Bank of the West in Napa. Working in wine-industry banking offers a “constant challenge” that he particularly enjoys, Beak said.
“It’s a very interesting and dynamic and complicated industry,” Beak said.
“I can’t imagine a better place to be.”
What’s a common question or misconception you get about your work?
That it’s all long lunches and long dinners. The wine business is a wonderful business, but at its heart it’s agriculture, and its route to market for the product is not always smooth and simple.
Why the wine industry?
I lent to the high-tech and heavy-equipment industries for a while. The wine business has a relationship component that really appealed to me. I’d rather be in the Napa Valley than Silicon Valley any day of the week.
What’s your advice to someone who wants to get into the wine industry?
You need to experience all the different parts of the business. So, plan on starting at the bottom and working your way up. And be patient.
You said you grew up in Mendocino off the grid. What was that like?
My dad decided that he wanted to raise his kids in the woods. He took us from Davis to Mendocino and built a house with his own hands. In the early years we were roughing it. There was no electricity in the beginning and for a period of time there was no running water. He runs the property off the grid to this day — it’s all solar. It was a great place to grow up.
What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?
I moonlight as a partner in a wine company. I’m also part owner of Sean Minor Winery in Napa.
What’s new at your business?
We’re in a new location right above Fish Story restaurant in the Riverfront (complex).
If you could be anywhere right now, where would you be?
I’m just where I want to be: working in one of the most beautiful regions in the world and in an industry that I’m connected to in an important way. Second runner-up would be someplace warm and tropical with my family and friends.
Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?
“Grande dame of Champagne” Barbe-Nicole Clicquot, Jacques Cousteau and Jimi Hendrix.
If you could give your younger self any advice, what would it be?
Become a professional surfer. That’s a good quest.
What’s on your to-do list?
My wife, Wendy, and I look forward to teaching our three young sons to scuba dive and taking them to the Great Barrier Reef.
More from Beak
What job would you like to try/not like to try?
Not try: Elementary school teacher — those kids would run right over me.
What was your first job?
Teaching summer school sports camp to 7- and 8-year-olds.
What’s the worst job you ever had?
Working at a sewage treatment facility when I was 16.
What is the biggest challenge your business has faced?
Keeping up with the growth in our portfolio and building the great team we have in place to grow and manage the business.
Whom do you most admire in the business world?
Steve Jobs for his innovation and perseverance and John Wooden for his positive leadership and team-building.
What is one thing you hope to accomplish in your lifetime that you haven’t yet?
Play Augusta National with my dad and younger brother.
If you could change one thing about your business, what would it be?
Have more time with my counterparts in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Milan and Florence to discuss the global wine industry trends and challenges.
Reach Beak at 501-5136 or firstname.lastname@example.org.