Hamline News

A Life From the Vine

life from wine article

Dave Ready ’74 was not the stereotypical undergraduate Hamline student. He didn’t live in the dorms and he didn’t pick up his mail in the Student Center. Instead, Ready lived in an off-campus apartment with his wife and young son.

“I was a Vietnam vet. I came to Hamline in a period when the college was trying to diversify its student body. I was a new breed of Hamline student,” he said. “I was a twenty-six-year-old sophomore when I received an academic scholarship from Hamline. Financially, there was no way I’d have been able to attend a college of Hamline’s level. My education there was outstanding.”

While the scholarship offset his tuition, Ready still had a family to look after. To pay the bills, he worked part time in a liquor store. His boss had an interest in wine and encouraged Ready to learn about the industry and taste different brands. Ready fell head over heels for the vine and it turned into a consuming affair. “I don’t know how I got away with it,” he said, “but at Hamline, I managed to write all my papers about wine, regardless of the subject.”

After graduating with a speech and communications major, Ready started a wholesale business selling wine to restaurants and liquor stores in the Twin Cities area. That business sold after three years, yet Ready stayed on under the new ownership as he loved the industry and found it challenging. “There was a lot of pioneering work,” he said. “At that time, Minnesota wasn’t a wine-drinking part of the country. Initially we only had eight or ten restaurants in the area interested in fine wine. Now there are eight or ten in a two-block radius.”

Eventually, Ready wanted to dip his toes in a larger market. “If I was going to stay in the wine business,” he said, “I figured I should move to California.” It was a smart choice. Once settled in Sonoma County, Ready started Winery Associates, a second wholesaling business built off his hard-earned experience in Minnesota. He represented wineries, selling and marketing their brands across the United States. It was a success and in three years’ time he’d gained the attention of two local wine growers looking for a business partner.

In 1985, Ready founded the Murphy-Goode Winery with Tim Murphy and Dale Goode. Murphy and Goode brought land, established vines, and growing experience to the table; Ready brought sales and marketing skills.

“We started with really modest goals,” Ready said, noting that the Murphy-Goode brand only sold two wines at first—a fumé blanc and a chardonnay. Over a period of twenty years, however, the brand flourished. It added zinfandel, merlot, and cabernet sauvignon to its repertoire and now sells 150 thousand cases a year of wine that Ready described as “big bodied, fruit forward; totally dry but rich and balanced.”

Ready spent most of those years on the road. “I traveled two weeks out of every month,” he said. “I was traveling to great cities, selling our wines to restaurants and stores. I made a lot of friends throughout the country but it is a tough business. You’re always getting up and moving on. That’s the nature of sales.”

“The wine business is very intoxicating. It is a very social, very romantic business,” Ready said. He knows that many wine aficionados fantasize about a career among the vines. Although he counts himself lucky to have crafted a life in the industry, he cautions would-be winery owners. “The reality of it is that wine makers are farmers,” he said. “Instead of selling bushels of corn, they’re selling tons of grapes. It is very agricultural. It’s hard, sticky work. You’re not wearing an Italian suit and making wine.”

That said, however, Ready’s oldest son has gone into the business and is now the winemaker at Murphy-Goode. His younger son is the cellarmaster. They work alongside Murphy’s sons, who run the ranch. While the business seems as if it’s securely in family hands, it was actually purchased by Kendall- Jackson in 2006. Yet the wine will retain its name, label, and character. Ready’s son remains the creative force behind the taste.
As for Ready? He’s looking forward to retirement, but admits the transition will take some time. “I was needing a project,” he laughed, “so I grew a beard.”

By: Kelly Westhoff