Building a community-first wine brand, with Janie Brooks

In this episode, we’re joined by Janie Brooks, Managing Director of Brooks Wine and Oregon’s Wine Person of the Year.

But wine was not always Janie’s path. When her only brother died unexpectedly in the middle of the 2004 harvest, the local wine community rallied together to keep his dream alive. Struck by their generosity and guidance, Janie knew that Brooks needed to carry on that legacy of community and collaboration.

Today, she shares her experience building an award-winning purposeful wine business.

More about today’s guest:

Portland native Janie Brooks Heuck spent more than a decade in the health care industry before finding herself responsible for the business operations at Brooks Wine. Struck by the generosity and guidance from the Oregon wine community after her brother Jimi’s passing, Janie quickly realized the importance of Jimi’s lifework and has been keeping the Brooks boat afloat since 2004. Janie is passionate about Brooks, family, travel, and Riesling. She loves to golf, sail, work out, and take photos when she isn’t working.

To learn more about Janie and her work at Brooks Wine, visit:



And you know, COVID was scary and strange for everybody. And it was obviously something that we experienced that, you know, who knows we will again in our lifetime. But it was definitely new for the vast majority of us in terms of something so significant. And I kept getting all these emails. It didn’t matter what industry they were in, but they were all the same transactional email but didn’t address that we were in a strange time or ask me how I was or “are you healthy and okay”?

And it got me so frustrated that I thought, I need to connect with my community, right? I can’t go see them and they can’t come into the tasting room. But like, how am I going to stay in a relationship that I’ve worked for so many years to build?

And so I started writing an email once a week. I write it personally, it takes me about 3 hours a week. I share stories, sure. I talk about wines, I talk about what’s going on at Brooks.


Do you talk about  yourself and your family, you know, talk about what’s happening in the world around us?


Yeah. I put my email and my cell phone number on every single email – and people have reached out, which is amazing.


That’s the thing that I would really love to focus on for a minute is: 21,000 people every week get your personal email address and your personal phone number. And honestly, you’re the only brand that I know that does that. You’re probably a bit more of an extrovert than I am, you know. How did that play out?

Does your family look at you and say, Mom, Janie, what are you thinking? Why are you putting this out into the world? What has the response been when people are getting back to you? You know, are they are they sharing information that is effectively like the qualitative data that is so hard for businesses to get out of our audience?

Are they giving you high fives? You know, are they telling you when things are wrong?


Yeah. You know, it definitely has made me approachable. So I do hear great things. I do hear high fives. I hear, you know, criticisms and critiques and they are duly noted. But I do think that over the almost three years –  people if they do come to the tasting room and have suggestions, they let me know and they know that I’m going to respond to them, and then I’m going to address it.

And so I’ve really built a lot of trust in just giving them a person behind the brand. I think that so many brands in our world, regardless of the industry, there’s people running them, but they stay so objective and stale and non-personable and there’s no reason. I mean, I’m this is my life. This is what I’ve committed my energy to for 18 years.

And, you know, I’m doing that for all the reasons and just enjoying life and being human. And so why not have that connection to everybody who comes across our product?

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Portrait of Polly Hammond

Polly Hammond

Polly Hammond is the Founder and CEO of 5forests, which means every buck stops with her. As the public face of 5forests, she splits her time between Barcelona, Auckland, and California, consulting, writing, and speaking about the trends that impact today’s lifestyle businesses.