Ask Me Anything about entrepreneurship, wine industry, or business-related questions. I am Danni Lin, Founder and CEO of GREAT WINE, Inc. I founded GREAT WINE, Inc. in 2015. As an entrepreneur, I have achieved many accomplishments with the company, including being elected in Medium's Best Businessmen of 2017 list and listed in Huffington Post Limit Breaking Female Founders list.

Danni Lin
Feb 28, 2018

Starting your business may sound attractive as first. However, success does not come in easy ways. As an entrepreneur, you will face not only financial challenges, but also psychological challenges. 

For anyone who is interested in this uncharted path to business ownership, I will share my advice on mentorship, finding investor, recruiting, and even marketing strategy for startup.  Also, I understand how stressful starting a business can be, so I will also share with you how I cope with stress. 

GREAT WINE, Inc. isa huge success in promoting the new drinking trend in both the USA and Asia. GREAT WINE, Inc. just opened its tasting room in Downtown Bellevue. The opening event was in June 29, 2017. Two guests of honor were Mr. Lawrence Tang, Head of Investment Promotion, Government of Hong Kong; and Mr. Conrad Lee, former Mayor of the City of Bellevue. The participation of these two guests spoke about the "glocal" nature of our company. The company is named by Apex Manual (the most widely-published luxury lifestyle magazine in China) “The Representative Winery of the USA.” GREAT WINE Tasting Room is also awarded Qminder Best Wine Tasting Experience


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Do you think your company will have a good market in Europe than in the Americas?
Mar 3, 1:15PM EST0

It is really hard to say. What my company is trying to do is to promote a new conversation about wine: we can understand drinkers better with technology, and there is a possibility of pairing wine to diners but not the dine. Europe is a place where wine drinking traditions have a long history. We still have to learn how drinkers will receive our new wine concept and new product. 

Mar 5, 1:17PM EST0

How to get on Medium's Best Businessmen of 2017 list? 

Mar 3, 10:33AM EST0

Our marketing team presents our company story to different media outlets. I felt honored to be on Medium’s and Huffington Post’s lists, but this is a team effort really! Our Director of Brand Marketing has extensive experiences in PR and Marketing in multiple industries. As a Princeton- and Columbia-educated professional, she knows how to pitch journalists. We in turn saved much money on hard advertising for effective branding campaigns.

Mar 3, 7:44PM EST0
Do you have plans to produce some affordable alternatives to luxury wine varietals in the future?
Mar 3, 6:42AM EST0

Actually our wine collection PERCIPIO is a affordable wine product line. The retail price of our wines range from USD $13 to $20. When GREAT WINE, Inc. was founded in 2015 in both the USA and China, it was one of the few companies in the industry that successfully caught the changing tides of the market. Young professionals now prefer affordable wines with traceable origins, and stop chasing after high price tags. 

In future, we are going to introduce a luxury wine collection for connoisseurs and  wine collectors. Stay tuned!

Last edited @ Mar 5, 1:21PM EST.
Mar 5, 1:20PM EST0
Did you gain knowledge of various fermentation techniques and technologies before starting your company?
Mar 3, 5:09AM EST0

Yes, I studied about wine technologies before I started the company. I have passed The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 Advanced Certificate, and I am currently pursuing Level 4, an internationally recognized wine and spirit Diploma for professionals in the industry. I also hold certificates of the American Wine Expert Study program and the Business of Wine Study program.

Having said so, book knowledge is still not sufficient when it comes to practical application of technologies. Our company works together with Tim Hanni, MW. He was one of the first Masters of Wine in the USA, and he brought with him into the business over 35 years of experience working in the wine industry. We worked together to determine the wine styles.

Mar 5, 1:24PM EST0
What was your team when you first started? Was it diverse enough to face all the challenges?
Mar 2, 11:45AM EST0

Our team when we first started included I and three other key members:

  • A CFO is the marrow of the company, because a business needs to be financially healthy for sustainable growth. Many founders take on this role themselves. If you have no prior knowledge of managing money, I strongly recommend consulting someone who is an expert in advising and even handling risk management tasks. In my case, I took this role myself. I hold a Master’s degree in Computational Finance and Risk Management. Some of my classmates and friends who work in investment banks gave me advice too.
  • Second, experts in fields the company engages in are the minds of the company – and the “marrow” that connects the “minds” to different dynamic parts of a company. At GREAT WINE, we have experts in wine production and wine business. One of them is my business partner Tim Hanni, Master of Wine. He was one of the first Masters of Wine in the USA, and he brought with him into the business over 35 years of experience working in the wine industry. We worked together to determine the wine styles, targeted consumer group, and finding the best deals to make wines. “GREAT WINE, Inc. opens a new chapter for the concept of ‘vinotypes’,” Hanni said. “Great wine is wine that suits your taste, not the one that is expensive,” he added.
  • Third, PR and Marketing professionals are also important. I see them as the face of the company to draw potential clients’ attention to the brand. GREAT WINE’s Director of Brand Marketing has extensive experiences in PR and Marketing in multiple industries. As a Princeton- and Columbia-educated professional, she knows how to pitch journalists. We in turn saved much money on hard advertising for effective branding campaigns.

I was lucky enough to have these crucial members as the key members of GREAT WINE team because their expertises in their fields were great inputs to the company's development. 

Mar 3, 12:53AM EST0
How will you rate your work-life balance? How often do you taste your own wine produce?
Mar 2, 11:43AM EST0

I think my work-life balance is great. There were times I would host wine tasting sessions for friends and business partners so they could give us feedback on how to improve our wines. In November 2017, we participated in the Hong Kong International Wine and Spirit Fair 2017. That was a very good opportunity to showcase our wines to a diverse body of drinkers who had given us excellent feedback. All these opportunities allow me to taste my own wine so I keep reflecting what is the best to our clients.

Last edited @ Mar 2, 4:38PM EST.
Mar 2, 4:37PM EST0

What red wines would you recommend for summer for someone who isn’t keen on whites?’

Mar 2, 9:30AM EST0

As a company that encourages the concept of "vinoptype," how wine preference was determined by cultural impacts and individual sensory abilities, I'd love to introduce you toour smart wine recommendation platform myVinotype (https://www.myvinotype.com/en/) to discover your personal wine preferences. Finding out your wine personality is important because it will help you to find the perfect wine that suits you anytime of the day, any day of the week, or any season of the year. 

Personally, I am a big fan of Cabernet Sauvignon. To me, it is them perfect wine for every season. 

Mar 2, 10:47AM EST0
Having visited wine regions across the world, which do you find yourself drawn back to?
Mar 2, 2:50AM EST0

Since our tasting room is in Seattle, Washington State of the USA, I have started to revisit wineries in WA again and again. Happy to see that the region is a energetic one, winemakers there are obviously reinventing winemaking traditions. I see a lot of excitement in the region, and I look forward to seeing the potential of more wines from WA.

Mar 2, 4:28PM EST0

What wines or regions do you think are the most underrated?’

Mar 1, 11:26AM EST0

I would say Lodi, CA. It is a producing region famous for old vine Zinfandel (also known as Primitivo). But now, hardworking grape growers and winemakers have proven that the region has more to offer. Most importantly, Lodi is telling a wine story very different from that of Napa's. Some said you either love or hate Lodi wines, but I will let drinkers decide what they think is a "great wine!" 

Mar 1, 4:39PM EST0
And where would you tip as up-and-coming wine destinations that people might not be aware of?
Mar 1, 9:37AM EST0

I would also say Lodi, CA. It is a producing region famous for old vine Zinfandel (also known as Primitivo). But now, hardworking grape growers and winemakers have proven that the region has more to offer. Most importantly, Lodi is telling a wine story very different from that of Napa's. Some said you either love or hate Lodi wines, but I will let drinkers decide what they think is a "great wine!"

Last edited @ Mar 1, 4:39PM EST.
Mar 1, 4:38PM EST0
Do you think that has had an impact on your career choices and where you are today?
Mar 1, 8:48AM EST0

Hi Westhilldan, thank you for your question. I hope I answer your question right. 

My knowledge of wine did have a huge impact on me in the past, especially how I trained myself to act like I enjoyed certain wines although I was not. I have been a sweet wine lover, but the critics refer to my wine preference  “child-like and unsophisticated taste bud.” I thought to myself that why it had to be so stressful to enjoy the wine you like. However, I was unfortunate enough to meet Tim Hanni, is one of the first Americans to become Master of Wine. He introduced me to the scientific concept of “vinotype,” wine preferences and sensory abilities of people. The concept transformed me from a wine novice to a wine educator who encouraged consumers to speak their mind – what they really enjoy drinking and experiencing. That was why I decided to build the company based on the concept of “vinotype”. My mission was to “create a destination for people to freely express their personal preferences of wine” and “let customers define what great wine is.” And, I have been so grateful for every steps and achievements I make in this journey as I get to see more people enjoy wine in an unstressful environment and become more confident in their wine choices. 

Mar 1, 4:44PM EST0
Did you have an extensive knowledge of wine before starting Great Wine? How did you gain that knowledge?
Feb 28, 4:02PM EST0

Yes, I studied about wine before I started the company. I have passed The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) Level 3 Advanced Certificate, and I am currently pursuing Level 4, an internationally recognized wine and spirit Diploma for professionals in the industry. I also hold certificates of the American Wine Expert Study program and the Business of Wine Study program.

All wine specialists who lead tasting sessions in our tasting room are WSET certified.

Last edited @ Feb 28, 4:08PM EST.
Feb 28, 4:07PM EST0
Have you noticed trends in wine drinking particular to the US compared to Asia? What is Americans' preferred choice of wine? How is it different in Asia?
Feb 28, 9:54AM EST0

Thank you for this great question. 

What we discovered from our experience is that unlike US drinkers, Chinese drinkers are really concerned about food safety. This is also why we emphasize that our wines are made of grapes with tracable origins. This gives drinkers confidence that our wines are their healthy choices. 

Another interesting phenomenon is that most American drinkers are given choices of low to mid-priced wines in wine stores or supermarkets. However, wines in China have always been relatively expensive because of the heavy tarrif imposed on imported liquor. Chinese drinkers also used to have an idea that all red wines must be very expensive, and price is the reflection of wine quality all the time. 

When GREAT WINE, Inc. was founded in 2015 in both the USA and China, it was one of the few companies in the industry that successfully caught the changing tides of the Chinese market. Chinese young professionals now prefer affordable wines with traceable origins, and stop chasing after high price tags. By introducing the possibility of comparing tea flavors from pu-erh and jasmine to wine flavors, GREAT WINE carries the mission of introducing the traditions and innovations behind Californian labels to the global market.

Feb 28, 4:02PM EST0
Are you planning on expanding to Europe, considering Europeans have a particularly rich wine culture?
Feb 28, 8:58AM EST0

We are now in the global expansion phase, and we are very interested in working with more partners around the world. While we look forward to European importers reaching out to us, our smart wine recommendation platform myVinotype (www.myvinotype.com/en/) is currently availble in 7 languages worldwide including 4 European languages.

Last edited @ Feb 28, 3:52PM EST.
Feb 28, 3:52PM EST0
What are your techniques for coping with stress?
Feb 28, 7:27AM EST0

I keep a notebook and handwrite great quote whenever I see one. When I feel tired, I will read the quotes and rethink my business directions. Then, I will come back to work with a clear mind and loads of energy! Also, business owners tend to think that the busier the better for their business. However, I strongly disagree. I believe that spending your time efficiently is the best way. So, I always make sure that I exercise in the morning and spend time with my family on the weekend. 

Feb 28, 4:22PM EST0

What is the mission of your company?

Feb 28, 3:10AM EST0

Thank you for your interest in our mission. In sum, GREAT WINE produces wine to start a new conversation about wine – what is your wine character or “vinotype?” To many clients, making a choice among numerous bottles often means finding the pretty label or following what a wine critic says. GREAT WINE instead inspires clients to discover their unique preferences and perspectives by providing them with wines that cater to the taste of different “vinotypes.”It is GREAT WINE’s goal to give respect to the uniqueness of individuals and uniqueness of each wine. 

Last edited @ Feb 28, 4:22PM EST.
Feb 28, 4:16PM EST0
What are the most notable differences between a red wine from Chile and another one from Portugal?
Feb 28, 1:52AM EST0

This is a very broad question which could be a monograph! Even within Chile and Portugal, there are many different wine producing regions. They all showcase diffeerent terror, winemaking skills, grape-growing techniques.  But if you are asking the major differences between a old world wine and a new world wine, most people feel that old world wines (including Portugal wines) in general are lighter in body, displaying more obvious characteristics of tannin and acidity. Wines from the new world, including those from Chile, are often more fruit-forwarding with a higher alcohol level. 

Having said so, we need to know more about the minute differences between the two regions you asked about and what wines you have in mind before we could talk more how one is compared to another.

Feb 28, 3:47PM EST0
What is your favorite food to eat with a red wine?
Feb 28, 1:29AM EST0

Thank you for the great question. To me fruit and wine or cheese and wine pairings are my top choices.

However, our partner Tim Hanni, the first American to obtain the title of Master of Wine (and we have only 360 Masters of Wine in the world so far), always say that wine should match with the diner, not the dine. In our research, we have also seen people who like sweet wines when they have steak, for example, because they belong to the sweet vinotype. This says a lot about food and wine pairing – while it is not totally incorrect, people’s preferences should be respected. So, I'd recommend everyone to be adventurous and confident in finding the perfect pairings for them. 

Feb 28, 4:09PM EST0
Where did the idea of ​​creating Great Wine come from? Did it occur to you drinking wine one night or was it something you've always wanted?
Feb 28, 12:39AM EST0

I love your question. I have been passionate about wine since my college years at University of Washington, Seattle. So, I started the education in the discipline of wine and spirit. So, I decided to pursue the education in the discipline of wine and spirit. I often found my preference of wine different from other classmates. I could not confidently express my love for sweet wine as it is referred to as “child-like and unsophisticated taste bud.” At first, I usually categorized myself into the “odd group”, which included a small amount of people who prefer sweet wine. Then, I was fortunate to meet Tim Hanni. Master of Wine. He introduced me to the scientific concept of “vinotype,” how wine preference was determined by cultural impacts and sensory abilities. This concept had transformed me from a wine novice to a wine educator who encouraged consumers to speak their mind about their wine preferences and experiences. It is the beginning of my journey of finding GREAT WINE.

Also, I realized that wine consumers faced various problem purchasing wines. I acknowledged that in the wine industry, wine critics have great influences on customers’ choices. Many people tend to perceive the taste of wine proportional to its price. This misconception has prevented people from exploring their wine preferences. Additionally, the experience of going into a supermarket, and got lost in massive product lists and ads was shared by many. As a result, followed Tim’s mentorship, I decided to build the company based on the concept of “vinotype”. My mission was to “create a destination for people to freely express their personal preferences of wine” and “let customers define what great wine is.”

    Feb 28, 4:14PM EST0
    In your opinion, which wine do you believe to be the most versatile and why do you think so?
    Feb 27, 10:49PM EST0

    I think the most versatile wine is the wine you like! This is not an answer to avoid the question, but our research on palate tells us that food and wine pairing does not work for everyone. There are people who would enjoy wines they always prefer, no matter what they are eating. This is the new conversation about wine we would like to initiate - drinking wine is all about you.

    Feb 28, 12:34AM EST0
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