"We got into this business because we were both bankers," says Justin Baldwin. "And we wanted to get out of banking."
But that doesn't mean they wanted to leave business behind. "We run our business very much like a business because of our backgrounds," adds Deborah Baldwin, who, like her husband, kept her banking job for the first 10 years of owning Justin Vineyards & Winery.
Their business approach meant they bought land in Paso Robles, on California's central coast, in 1981, when there were only eight other wineries in the appellation; eventually hired a full staff with years of industry experience; opened a small inn and restaurant on the premises; and employed a marketing company to help them secure distribution before they even had enough wine to sell across the nation.
"You have to have good dirt and good wine and good people," says Deborah, "but really, it's all about marketing. You have to be able to sell [your wine] and keep it in front of the public's eye." To that end, the Baldwins spend most of their time now being the "face" of Justin Winery and promoting the brand out on the road.
Their strategy has paid off. With 160 acres and a production of 40,000 to 50,000 cases annually, they are more than twice as big as the average boutique winery, and still make an acclaimed artisan wine called Isosceles among other Bordeaux varieties and blends.
Justin watches over production, and Deborah handles everything else. "In the beginning it was very difficult," says Deborah, "because we kept butting heads and saying, 'No, I want to do it this way and you want to do it that way.' And you do have to find your way as a couple when you both are strong-minded and you have creative ideas and you think that your idea is better. But eventually you find your way."
And that brings the Baldwins to the second reason they got into the wine business. "It allows us to be together all the time," says Justin. Deborah then finishes his thought, saying, "It allows us to have a mutual goal and an understanding of how hard it is to do this. It's not been easy, but the goal and the plan are ours together."