PCH Driven: Eleven Eleven Wines’ Founder Ellie Anest on the Career Change That Led Her To Start a Wine Business

Jamie Williams
­Jamie Williams is the host of the “PCH Driven” podcast, a show about Southern California entrepreneurs, innovators and its driven leaders on their road to success. The series celebrates and reveals the wonders of the human spirit and explores the motivations behind what drives us.
Eleven Eleven Wines’ Founder Ellie Anest
Image courtesy Eleven Eleven Wines

Some of us spend our whole lives attempting to avoid becoming our parents… only for it to come full circle in the end.

Ellie Anest grew up on a farm in Nebraska, and spent most of her childhood preparing for a nine-to-five career in SoCal, eventually ending up in finance. Now, she owns a winery in Napa Valley.

On this episode of the PCH Driven podcast, Eleven Eleven Wines’ founder discusses how she used lessons learned from working at a fast food corporation to build a booming wine business.

“I would not have ever guessed it in a million years—knowing how hard farming is and how volatile it can be,” Anest said. “Even my father at the time when he was alive when we were first buying it, he said, ‘Are you sure you want to go into this?’”

Anest stumbled upon the property for Eleven Eleven Wines as if by fate. She was working in corporate consulting, and real estate on the side along with her now business partner Carol Vassilliadis, when a call about a rental property in Napa Valley led her to stumble upon “the most beautiful landscaping” she’d ever seen.

“So that vineyard kind of called us to meet up with Kirk Venge who is a three-generation winemaker here in Napa Valley, born and raised,” she said. “He really thought the quality of the grapes were fantastic, and he felt like this is something we should do—make wine.”

After mulling it over and “crunching the numbers,” Anest decided to go for it. She and Venge settled on pinot noir and chardonnay as their first two wines, because both do well in cooler climates. They’re also varieties they observed nearby competitors having success with.

“And literally before I could blink, we’re making three varietals,” she laughed.

Anest said she had to keep reminding herself early on to be patient. Wine-making is not a speedy business; you have to wait for the grapes to mature.

“Up front there's a lot of investment because you wait,” she said. “Even the forecasting and the planning of this business is not one year out. You look at your first year and then it impacts the next two years. So you're always looking out two to three years.”

Today, Eleven Eleven Wines now makes about 16 different varietals of wine. If Anest’s parents were still alive, she thinks they’d be proud of her commitment throughout the challenges of getting her business up and running.

“I look around every day, I have those moments where I'm very grateful that we have the facility and we have the equipment, and we have the people that are believing in the vision of Eleven Eleven,” she said.

Subscribe to PCH Driven on Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, iHeart, Google or wherever you get your podcasts.

dot.LA Social and Engagement Editor Andria Moore contributed to this report.

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