For this “Secrets of the Biz” article we sat down with Sean McKenzie, Senior Winemaker of The Dreaming Tree Wines.
Sean, a New Zealand native, has spent a lifetime perfecting his craft of winemaking around the world. At The Dreaming Tree, Sean repeatedly demonstrates his ability to preserve the integrity of California’s most prestigious growing regions and their respective styles, through their portfolio’s stellar lineup.
Tell us about The Dreaming Tree in 140 characters.
The Dreaming Tree is a collaboration between Dave Matthews and myself where we grow and produce sustainable wines from the coastal appellations of California.
“If you build it, they will come” – How do you continue to build a community around The Dreaming Tree brand?
More and more people want to know where the food they are eating and the wines they are drinking come from, it’s just as important as this how they are made. With The Dreaming Tree wines, we work hard on sustainability in our productions and distribution, and also on giving back to the communities in the form of donations to national environmental organizations. People value all of this and like to play a part, so we’re happy to share.
Tell us more about your sustainability story. What are the greatest challenges associated with educating people on the importance of sustainable winemaking?
All of our internal vineyards and wineries are certified California Sustainable. That shows that we are committed to this cause personally and as a company. There are a lot of different measures and certifications for being sustainable, and there are also other options for producing environmentally positive or neutral wines. Trying to explain this and how they compare can be difficult. Anything that people are doing in this field is positive, and it is good to see more and more movement in that direction.
“A real foundation of being a great winemaker is someone who loves community and that shared feeling. That parallel between what he does with music and what we do with wine is amazing.” – Sean on Dave
Making wine is a balance of art and science, and making music is similar in terms of requiring artistic talent, but also making something that works and is enjoyed. Both can be shared intimately and on a larger scale and that’s done in both realms.
If you were to highlight some key moments throughout the winery’s life-span, what would they be?
Meeting Dave Matthews and seeing what a great guy he is in terms of being personable, fun and really wanting to help people was important. Getting this project up and going and seeing fast success was great. I’m really happy to see that earlier this year we reached $1M in donations to Living Lands and Waters and The Wilderness Society in California and over have donated over $150K to Tree Canada since our Canadian launch in 2013. This past year Tree Canada was able to plan over 500 trees thanks to our donations.
You are 8 years into The Dreaming Tree being an operational wine. Where do you see the company in 10 years?
Continuing to give back to environmental organizations, pushing new technologies in sustainability and maybe including a couple of new blends or varietals in our Dreaming Tree portfolio.
We heard through the “grapevine” that you have something new rolling out, can you tell us more about that?
We’re always looking for something new and interesting, stay tuned…
Tell us about what you’re most excited about!
I’m most excited that every single day that I go to work on the Dreaming Tree Wines is different and has new challenges, so that really helps keep things interesting. I also like the direction the Dreaming Tree is going in terms of sustainability and giving back to the community, I find this very rewarding.
Tell us a secret. Don’t worry we won’t tell.
Dave Matthews was born in South Africa, and I was born in New Zealand and both of our nations are passionate about rugby. Dave Matthews has told me that he doesn’t really follow it, until the time the All Blacks (New Zealand) lost to the Springboks (South Africa)… Now I call him out on it whenever they play.