Denis Mackenzie is the COO of an international marketing company. His company is largely focused on marketing wine and spirits across the United States and Europe. While he is only 40 years old, he has been in the business since he graduated from college and had risen rapidly through the ranks of his firm.
At the beginning of his career, Mackenzie worked in a small marketing firm concentrating on local advertising and promotions. He started at the bottom as an assistant and later came to hold several accounts of his own. He helped several small companies build their brands and expand their reach.
He was later offered a position in his current firm. He traveled extensively for work, spending time in wineries in France, Italy, and Greece. He speaks French and Italian, enabling him to deal directly with business owners and colleagues.
Denis Mackenzie’s dream was to open a winery in his hometown near Erie, Pennsylvania. He purchased a small, struggling winery in 2001 and worked to make it profitable again. His marketing expertise helped him grow his business through local connections. In a few years’ time, his winery became successful and self-supporting. He visits his winery whenever he can, hoping to turn it into his full-time business.
Denis Mackenzie is a valued local business owner who contributes to many charitable causes. His winery hosts sip and paint events to support local charities. He enjoys opening his winery for tours, showing off his hobby to locals and travelers alike.
What is your hobby?
My hobby is owning a small winery in the Lake Erie wine growing region of Pennsylvania. It has grown a lot over the past five years.
How did you get started with this hobby? What inspired you?
I’ve always had an interest in wine and spirits. Whenever I entertain, I try to introduce my friends to something new. When I traveled around Europe, I grew to have a solid understanding of how vineyards work and how to make one profitable. I hoped to open a winery one day, and when someone wanted to sell one near my hometown, I found the perfect opportunity.
Tell us what you love about it.
Having a winery is a fascinating hobby. I love the farming aspect, and I love the process of making wine. My vintner handles most of it from day to day, but he has taught me a lot about it. Improving our product is a challenge that I enjoy.
Are there any groups you’re a part of or events that you attend related to your hobby?
I am part of a local wine business group. We help each other with marketing and special events. I’ve been able to apply my marketing skill to help my local colleagues. We have a website where we post events and visitor information. I find it rewarding to work with other wineries in the area. Of course, the local wineries compete for visitors and sales, but we work together as a group.
Have you had to invest in equipment and if so, please share some of the things you’ve bought.
Owning a winery is an expensive proposition. We have had to buy a lot of equipment over the years. Our biggest purchase so far has been a new bottling line. We have produced a lot more than in the past, so we’re not able to hand bottle our wines anymore. This has sped up our production and made us more efficient.
Where do you buy most of your supplies?
I like the Vintner’s Vault website. They have reasonable prices and knowledgeable staff. They can always help you with any questions you might have. My vintner and I make all of our purchasing decisions together.
Are there any good books for beginners?
First Steps in Winemaking by C.J.J. Berry is a great starting point for the home winemaker. It is a practical book that breaks down the steps and shows you how easy it can be to make wine at home.
How has this changed your life?
I’ve enjoyed giving back to the local community. Since I grew up near my winery, I’m able to involve my family in the business. Since I spent so much time abroad, I missed spending time with my family. Rebuilding those relationships has changed my life.
I’ve also learned patience. It’s a long process between growing and harvesting grapes and making wine. Wineries are always focused on the future because our product has to age before it’s served.
What advice do you have for others starting out with this hobby?
Winemaking at home is a rewarding hobby. You will need plenty of space and a good source of fruit or grape juice which will make great wine. Make sure you follow your recipes closely at first.
Are there any other hobbies you have?
Languages are my other hobby. I already speak French and Italian, and I’m learning Greek. Greek is more difficult than French and Italian since it has a different alphabet. Next time I travel abroad, I’ll be able to surprise some of my old friends when I greet them in their language.