By Barbara Barrielle
A Napa native, Lindsay Hoopes spent her childhood walking the vineyards with her family, and in so doing, developed an unparalleled love for farming and her surrounding community. Today, Lindsay is passionately committed to ensuring Napa’s long-term economic success by adapting products and experiences to the evolving marketplace, implementing socially responsible farming practices in her vineyards, advocating for small-business friendly regulations and political support, and pivoting and embracing new ways to reach the wine-consumer. Lindsay Hoopes is determined to ensure that the agricultural core of Napa Valley remains a viable part of the community today and for generations to come, while making sure that Napa stays relevant to the next generation of wine consumers.
First choosing a career in law, Hoopes graduated from UC Hastings College of Law, pursued a Masters of Law at Trinity in Ireland, and was hired by Kamala Harris as Assistant District Attorney in San Francisco. Despite her passion for community advocacy and public service, Hoopes was forced to make a life-changing decision after her father’s near death in 2012. Generally kicking and screaming, Hoopes made her way back to the Napa Valley to save her father’s life and help him with the family farm. A “tough decision at the time,” she recalls, Hoopes chose her family’s forty-year legacy over her career. This would be Hoopes’ first dramatic career pivot, but it wouldn’t be her last. Innovation, transformation, and creative reimagining are concepts that repeatedly return to Hoopes’ experiences.
Lindsay’s childhood memory of the wine industry cemented a nostalgia for what Napa “used to be.” Hoopes remembers a primarily agricultural community. Most of the farms and tasting experiences of Hoopes’ childhood were focused on extraordinary wine-quality and authentic exposes of the families and their agrarian way of life. Hoopes wanted to remind visitors that Napa is a farming-first community, and re-introduce visitors to the behind-the-scenes life on the farm. Napa had changed while she was advocating for community betterment in San Francisco. Now she wanted to put her fingerprint back on the community of her birth.
Lindsay’s experience outside Napa inspired Hoopes to bring her real-world perspective on consumer wants, the role of Napa wines in the international marketplace, and, in general, the challenges facing small businesses hoping to succeed in a very different Napa – and international wine – marketplace.
Lindsay is leading the charge in making Napa economically viable for years to come by way of designing experiences that new consumers want. While many are leaving the area or turned off by its perceived ostentatiousness, Hoopes motivation has been finding a way to welcome them back. Encountering local regulations limiting her opportunities to directly connect with consumers, she spent over two years searching for solutions and brainstorming original ways to create unique, personal and emotional encounters with locals and travelers alike. Not just for the privileged few, she felt that the beauty of Napa should also be enjoyed by working families seeking suburban refuge. Thus, she finally acquired and transformed a lush eight acre space into the new Oasis by Hoopes.
Offering a different kind of Wine Country, Hoopes’ family-friendly refuge is approachable, offering premium without pretension. A sanctuary for rescued farm animals, with flourishing organic gardens to gaze upon and sleek airstreams to lounge by, Oasis by Hoopes is a haven rich with nature and authenticity. More than a retail location, this outdoor retreat is a regenerative farm, a safe COVID-era attraction and a place to recharge one’s batteries. Bringing guests closer to the Hoopes brand and history of the land, the Oasis introduces visitors to a fully immersive experience, focused on activating all six senses, not just a thirst for fine wine.
Developing the Oasis educated Lindsay personally about how prohibitive regulation can functionally eliminate or restrict the economic viability of small businesses. Effectively reducing any opportunity for diversity in business, Hoopes sought to speak out for change with the hopes that Napa, like all industries, needs to evolve to stay relevant to changing consumer wants and needs.
Hoopes has also deftly taken the reverence for Napa wines into the virtual marketplace. Focusing significant effort into virtual experiences, including cooking classes featuring Top Chefs from various cultures and backgrounds, hosting bespoke virtual tastings, and educating the consumer about the brand pillars through social media, Hoopes is marrying traditional Napa with new consumer engagement platforms.
“Lindsay was raised with no barriers if someone tells her no she will ask them how no becomes yes. Nothing can stop her. She thinks differently than everyone else in the room. Her creativity knows no bounds.” says Hoopes Vineyards’ star consulting winemaker, Aaron Pott of Pott Wine and Huis Clos Consulting. “She is constantly thinking how she can make things better when others have the feeling that they are the best they can be. She is always changing, evolving, rethinking, reshaping and recreating and does not stop.”
Hoopes meets crises head on with creative solutions. No stranger to pivoting plans, 2017 laid another big challenge at Hoopes feet; smoke from Napa Valley wildfires tainted the grapes in their vineyards making them useless for premium wine. When crop insurance did not cover the losses, she took an innovative approach and teamed up with Master Distiller Marianne Barnes to distill the tainted wine into Napa’s first “Cognac”. Of the reimagining of wine into spirits, Hoopes explained, “We had a choice—to find a solution and make something beautiful out of a tragedy, or to lose everything. We chose to rise from the ashes, literally, and explore the rebirth of grapes into spirits. Nature is a master of innovation, and we took her cue. Responding to a crisis with resilience, we found opportunity.”
Never one to keep good ideas to herself when they could benefit others, she is also involving other wineries who’ve experienced smoke taint loss in the spirits project.
A dedicated and engaged activist, Hoopes works closely with her wine community, lending her legal expertise to create a path to economic viability for Napa Valley’s family wineries. Spearheading efforts for Save the Family Farms, Hoopes is also a member of various winegrowers association, involved with the Napa Valley Vintners and NVV CIIC task force, and influential in the reimagining of Auction Napa Valley.
“Lindsay Hoopes is one of our strongest assets. She and I work side-by-side for the Napa Valley non-profit Save the Family Farms,” says Elise Nerlove Rutchick Operations Vice President of Save the Family Farms, which Hoopes helped found. “She continually provides exceptional legal counsel and creative solutions to the challenges we face and she has helped us get a seat at the table with Napa’s most influential trade organizations. The grace with which she dedicates her time to STFF, on top of running her own business, is inspiring.”
On a mission to secure economic viability for a community who has experienced fires two years out of last 3, Hoopes’ drive and out-of-the-box ideas have impressed and inspired the Napa Valley wine community. Grateful for the work she does to preserve and renew the family winegrowing history in the valley, Hoopes always forges forward, gracefully jumping hurdles and passionately revolutionizing the industry.
Caring about the future of her small business, as well as Napa as a whole, Hoopes concludes, “As with every industry, we have to find ways to evolve. We are reliant on Mother Nature, so as the climate changes, we have to innovate with sustainable practices and offer new products and new ideas that embrace these changes.”
Focusing significant energy on social media efforts and developing connection with consumers despite distance, Hoopes Vineyards has been one of the first Napa wineries to dive into the virtual tastings scene. Pushing the envelope, Hoopes also partnered with Top Chefs and other notable kitchen personalities to host a never-before-seen level of virtual food and wine pairing experiences. With a portion of proceeds from each class donated to various charities, these innovative events functioned as a way to support chefs whose businesses may be closed while offering something to uplift and unite the community.
“In the wake of a very tough year with COVID and the California wildfires, she radiates perseverance and innovation, as evident with the launch of the Hoopes Oasis, a one-of-a-kind experience in Napa Valley and her venture into distilling spirits from smoke tainted wine grapes.” continues Rutchick, “Lindsay Hoopes will no doubt leave a mark on the Napa Valley and beyond.”
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