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Claude Blankiet was a pioneer in stone washing denim and is now applying the same innovative thinking to wine making. While visiting New York from France, he noticed very traditional styles and a lack of ingenuity in fashion. He moved there in the 1970’s to continue his work in the jean business, eventually creating a technique of washing denim in pumice stones to create worn, lighter wash jeans. Years later, he operates his Napa winery using the same inventive mentality. Upon entering the wine business, Blankiet began work with experienced, yet stubborn winemakers. Professionals were limited by their own knowledge making the wine high quality, but not progressive, just as the fashion industry had been. Blankiet shifted his business away from such mentors and now relied solely on his own taste, which has led to his success.
Blankiet describes his way of thinking as interpretive management. This is what allows him to transition between businesses, while applying the same skills. He is not so much a creator, as an interpreter of outside ideas and talented in finding an appropriate application for them.
He experiments with non-traditional methods of production in all of his businesses in order to problem solve and maximize productivity.
One example of innovation in Blankiet’s vineyards is used to combat the intense Napa sun. Blankiet uses fabric covers to protect the fruit from direct light and was inspired by the Palm Desert to replicate a fine mist that cools the grapes without wetting them and affecting the wine production.
“The necessary thing to be successful in fine wine is to find a site and to be respectful of the site and to let the site produce the natural flavors that it is capable of making… The key for me was when I could make decisions about winemaking and let go of the hired talent and just do what I felt needed to be done.” - Claude Blankiet
“I am not a true innovator… most of what I do is using other people’s ideas, or equipment, or technique, or chemical, and finding a proper application to help me out.”- Claude Blankiet
“As a true innovator you are a lifelong learner and always learning lessons and adapting to the lessons that you learned.” Kym McNicholas
“Because of your adaptability and your ability to go and look at other industries, see what they are doing there, and bring those (solutions) in, you might be able to withstand.” - Kym McNicholas
“If your mindset is to try new things, you will find the correct solution to your problem.” - Claude Blankiet
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