The Unicorn of Napa Valley

Phillip Stutts
4 min readFeb 8, 2019


Photo Source: JaMCellars

Let me ask you a question: How do you like your chardonnay to taste? Minerally or buttery?

If you answered “buttery,” you probably know the wine that John Truchard built from the ashes of the Great Recession.

Now, let me ask you a marketing question: How important do you think a great brand is to your business?

This leads me back to John, who leveraged his amazing brand, solid price point and high quality standards to build a nine-figure (valuation) wine company in only a few years.

You have to read his incredible story…

But first, let me tell you right out of the gate, making and selling wine in California is hard as shit! The supply chain is massive and the distribution roadblocks are endless. You must also take into account the onerous regulations and taxes that all California business owners endure. And that’s before any economic disruptions or natural disasters come into the picture.

I tell you this to understand that it’s extremely difficult to build a successful wine business (in California or anywhere really).

And that’s why John Truchard is a unicorn in the wine industry.

John’s story is amazing. Here’s the short version…

He is a lifelong winemaker in Napa Valley. His high-end wine, named John Anthony Vineyards, was established over 20 years ago with blood, sweat and tears. It became successful and very profitable.

Then the 2008 recession hit. While John Anthony Vineyards survived (and is still making delicious high-end wines), it was also a wake-up call for John and his wife, Michele.

What do most entrepreneurs do in tough, challenging times? They get scrappy, innovative and create opportunities — and that’s what John and Michele did.

And you won’t believe what happened next…

John and Michele are the creators and majority owners of JaM Cellars — with their signature wine being…

BUTTER Chardonnay

That’s it. One brand name for a wine that disrupted an entire industry. Brilliant and obvious.

But that’s not all!

The name is so distinctive that the consumer knows exactly what they will get. If you don’t like buttery chardonnay, you will never buy BUTTER. Thus, their brand hits the bullseye 100% of the time with its market. This subtle branding tweak only increased the rate of raving fans and loyal customers.

Oh, but there is one more thing you must know…

A name brand is only as good as its quality, which is why Truchard sources high end chardonnay grapes. It’s a non-negotiable for him. BUTTER is not the cheapest wine on the market — it hovers around the mid-market price of $18 a bottle — it’s affordable, but not the “two-buck-chuck” cheap either.

Simply put, John and Michele’s brilliant brand building + non-negotiable standards has created one of the most successful wines in the world.

Here is how you can build a brilliant brand like BUTTER:

  1. Find out what your customers want before you create a brand. In this case, John’s customer base loved buttery chardonnay. So tap into the obvious, and remember, you must be relevant and distinctive in the customer’s eyes, not yours.
  2. Once you identify the brand name, you must have a high standard of quality that is non-negotiable. The brand may get your foot in the door but your principles for high standards will blow the door open to long-term success.
  3. Read more about John and his amazing company, and follow them on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.


P.S. — I have a uber-successful business friend and mentor named Paul Belair. He believes we are on the verge of an economic downturn and wants to help fellow business owners (he’s not selling anything either). If you would like to check how prepared your business is for the next recession, take his simple survey: I have no financial incentive here, just know we all need to be ready for the next downturn. Paul’s survey will help you see it as an opportunity, not a calamity.

P.P.SIn case you missed it, I had the lucky opportunity to sit down with one of the smartest entrepreneurs of our time, James Altucher. We dove deep into exploring today’s industry and everything from innovation and disruption to business and politics. It’s one conversation that tops my list, listen here on The James Altucher Show.



Phillip Stutts

Founder/CEO: Win Big Media | Founder: Go Big Media | Repped by Vayner Speakers & Keppler Speakers | Author: “Fire Them Now: The 7 Lies Digital Marketers Sell…”