Behind the WHY of what motivates Eric Flanagan of Flanagan Wines

Behind the WHY of what motivates Eric Flanagan of Flanagan Wines






From Dirt to Grape to Barrel and, Ultimately, to Glass 

Flanagan Wines and the process of producing it are a beautiful intersection of science, the natural world, and human ability. Uncorked Monthly is honored to be able to get behind the WHY of what motivates Eric Flanagan as a husband, father, and vineyard owner.


Eric’s daughter Riley’s first vintage that she made was four barrels of 15 Chardonnay in 2016. She was the Flanagan Wines summer and harvest 2016. Riley started introducing some of her wines that have gone on to be successful. Riley helped her dad plant her first grapevine when she was two years old.


When Riley was seventeen years old and working with her dad, she approached him and said, “like, you know, Daddy, I always want to work with you, but, you know, like, no offense, but you’re, like, a little bit old and extremely stubborn.” Riley Flannigan said. 

Riley continued poking at her dad, asking him if he would ever let her do anything or change anything? Eric said that’s a great question, and Riley responded, “So what’s my job going to be if you’re never going to change anything?” Eric said, fantastic question. What do you want your job to be? Riley said I want to make my wines. Wines that young people could afford to try and that is well made.

So the first wine the two of them made was a 2004 Cabernet. They made one barrel, and Jeff and Riley and Philippe and his wife Sharia and their daughter Chloe, who is Riley’s age, hand bottled that in 2006, and it was super fun, Jeff said. The family called that wine Riley’s Rows, and they used a label that Riley drew when she was four years old after she and her dad picked the first grapes.


Riley’s passion for the process and the art of winemaking led her to Cal Poly. “She didn’t do a wine major because it was business-focused, and she’s like, her Daddy, I’ve been running a wine business for me my whole life, so I don’t want to sit there and have somebody else tell me about how to run a wine business. But she did chemistry because, for winemakers, the thing they find challenging is just the chemistry piece. And Riley ended up teaching chemistry to the wine and vintner majors.” Eric said.

I asked Eric Flanagan what got him into winemaking, and he responded
it all began with drinking and traveling. He got into wine in his late twenties. Eric was working in New York and getting out to dinner a lot, and people exposed him to fabulous wines from around the world and would invite Eric to some fantastic wine events. He also traveled a lot, and during his travels, he visited wineries in Australia, New Zealand, Greece, Italy, Portugal, Spain, and France.


Eric told me that occasionally, he meets someone in the business who doesn’t like wine. He asked me if I could imagine trying to talk about wines if I didn’t drink them. The best part of the wine business, he said, is the people that you meet. The wine business is not financially fantastic. “You can do okay with vineyards if you buy the right vineyard and know how to manage it,” Eric said.

If you develop relationships with good wineries that will buy your fruit at a fair price, you can make money owning vineyards. You also have the operating income from farming, and then you have some appreciation in the asset. Eric tells me that you can even improve the vineyard’s reputation, which creates value in what it does above and beyond any flat market increase in value. 

There’s an opportunity to make money in vineyards, but building a wine brand is challenging, and people have no idea, Eric said. When you look at Flanagan Wine’s past, Eric bought the ground in 1999, and he planted their first grapes. Eric said they got one barrel of wine, one of which probably cost Flanagan Wines a million dollars.

“Well, at this point, I have paid to plant the vineyard, right? I paid to farm the vineyard for four years before we got the first fruit, and we finally got a little fruit,” Eric said.

Flanagan Wines realized back in 2013 that they had to grow. They were doing about 1300 cases in 2013 and realized they had to get to 4000 cases to make wine, whereas if they sold 4000 cases, primarily direct to consumers, Flanagan Wines would at least have a chance to break even or make a little money. Flanagan Wines could never be profitable if they made less than 3000 cases. So the strategy becomes expanding and a lot. Eric knew that to expand, he would have to buy a lot more grapes and hire extra people. This would also mean more glass, corks, foils, labels, cardboard boxes, and storage space at the warehouse. And produce all this wine and not see any revenue from it for years.

But there are great moments, for sure, Eric said. At the beginning of this interview, I asked Eric, “what’s the best thing about being a winery owner,” and he replied the people you meet. When Eric travels, he meets people around the world and even has an opportunity to connect with people through his friends in the wine business. He even stated that you could have fantastic experiences with other winemakers worldwide, everywhere you go. In a way, like being in a country club or something, they’re very welcoming. But that’s the reality of the wine business.


Each time we conduct a featured interview, we do a New Bottle Experience. Flanagan Wines shared three exceptional wines with us to taste.

Chardonnay: Russian River Valley

A typical day in the Russian River begins with cool fog that fades by mid-morning as the warm sun transforms the vineyard into a warm, welcoming place buzzing with bees. In the late afternoon, the ocean air sweeps in from the west, cooling the vineyard. Soils of clay and volcanic rock, carved into rolling hills by the Russian River, are the bass line to the melody played by the sun, wind, and fog.

The staff at Uncorked Monthy thought this Chardonnay had a bright appearance, with light/present aromas of grapefruit, lemon, and orange blossom. A light-bodied White with lemon, orange blossom, and fruity flavors. The finish is layered/complex. An overall good/excellent Chardonnay from the United States.

Pinot Noir: Sonoma Coast

The Sonoma Coast AVA is becoming the top source for cool climate Pinot Noir. Our Pinot Noir is founded on letting each site and each vintage express itself. We do not have a dogmatic approach to wine-making. More than any other grape variety, Pinot Noir is made in the vineyard.

The staff at Uncorked Monthy thought this Pinot Noir had a bright/intense appearance, with full/intense aromas of fruity, aged, and fresh. A medium/full-bodied Red with fruity, aged, and fresh flavors. The finish is layered/complex. An overall good/excellent Pinot Noir from the United States.



Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 Bennet Valley

Balance is the key to our Cabernet. Mountain fruit with excellent structure and concentration is the foundation of our wine. The Cabernet is beautifully delineated and has excellent aromatics. It is a harmonious intersection of site-driven fruit, the finest new French oak, and classic winemaking.

The staff at Uncorked Monthy thought this Cabernet had an Intense appearance, with full aromas of black pepper, clove, and spicy. A medium/full-bodied Red with black pepper, clove, and spicy flavors. The finish is layered/complex. An overall good/excellent Cabernet Sauvignon from the United States.



To learn everything about this incredible family, their vineyard, and their wines, please visit

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