The Wine Hustle Series | Tawnya Falkner of Le Grand Courtâge
Last week we heard from the triple threat Somm Victoria James. This week’s Wine Hustle Series is a story of a woman who, inspired by her roots, culture and overall joy for life took a leap of faith to create a romanticizing sparkling wine! Tawnya Falkner, the proprietor of the French sparkling wine company, Le Grand Courtâge takes us on her journey through her “Great Courtship” of embracing life, dreaming big, and accepting all invitations and how it lead her to her dream come true - Le Grand Courtâge. So, grab your sparkling and prepared to be whisked away into a French fairytale.
How did you get your start in wine and what was your initial inspiration?
I grew up in a three-street town amongst miles of farmland where ‘farm to table’ was a way of life and backyard barbeques and Sunday dinners were the norm. People didn’t have much money, but time spent with family and friends was the cornerstone of everyday life, and bore a lot of resemblance in some ways to European lifestyle.
The isolation of the small town made me desirous of seeing the world and the reality is that as I traveled around the globe, it brought me back to my roots and really made me realize that food and wine are the great common denominator of all people and cultures. Sharing a meal is what brings people together for conversation, laughter and it epitomizes the human connection.
With a passion for food, wine and travel, a few years ago I took the leap, gave up my career as a real estate developer/designer, and moved to France with a business plan in hand. My goal was to create a wine that embodies the French spirit of Joie de Vivre (joy of life) and offers an affordable luxury to celebrate life’s simple pleasures. My hope was to develop Le Grand Courtâge after seeing a gap and an opportunity to showcase the versatility of bubbles at a great price point.
Love the name Le Grand Courtâge, what is the story behind the name?
Our name means “the Great Courtship” and symbolizes the courtship between French and American wine culture, grapes from different regions, and the old and new world styles. The name, these wines and my story, also symbolize the courtship and negotiations as we journey through life and love.
“Embrace Life. Dream Big. Accept All Invitations” is the caption on the back of every one of your bottles. I absolutely love and share similar views! Can you explain a little more about this moto and the meaning behind it?
Since the year I started college, I’ve had a poem on my desk entitled Dream Big that reminds me that we only get one chance at life, and despite the trial and tribulations, we must push ourselves.
As we all struggle to maintain balance in life, we often forget to slow down to appreciate the journey. “Embrace Life. Dream Big. Accept All Invitations.” is on the back of every bottle with the hope of reminding people to never stop a) pursuing their passions, b) celebrating the every day, and c) not letting life pass us by with our ever present ‘to do’ lists. For me, it’s about trying to maintain a ‘champagne state of mind’ and enjoying a glass of wine with family and friends, or while enjoying a warm bubble bath or reading a book in a hammock.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love strategy and creating, but at the core, it’s the people that I meet which motivate me. People are amazing, and our history and stories so unique, that I really love being about to bring people together to share in this experience of life.
What is the best advice anyone’s ever given you? Do you have a “mantra” you stick to?
First, have the audacity to believe and secondly, never let reality get in the way of your imagination. There will be lots of critics that cross your path, but you must quiet the naysayers, believe in yourself, and get comfortable living with a fair amount of uncertainly as an entrepreneur.
At WINEFARER, we love hearing about the unexpected journeys that stem from wine. Can you share your favorite wine journey with us?
While living in France we posted a Craig’s List ad about wanting to rent a home for a few weeks (this was before Airbnb or VRBO were big in Europe) in Florence and Tuscany. The ad had stated that I was making wine in France and looking to holiday in Italy. A painter at the Uffizi responded to the ad, and with wine for bartering, the ad parlayed into renting a beautiful home on the river in Florence, a hilltop villa in Tuscany, and we even went truffle hunting in the countryside. Much like the philosophy on our bottle, by being open to life, you never know what might unfold.
It seems like you love wine as much as we do, in three words, describe your love affair with wine?
To me wine is art and science, and conjures up emotion, connection, conversation and triggers positive thoughts. In short, as Robert Louis Stevenson said, “Wine is bottled poetry.”
Finally, what advice would you give entrepreneurial spirits who want to start their “wine hustle” but are hesitant to take that leap?
Have some industry insiders help advise and give insight. Do your homework and know the numbers inside and out. Go into any wine endeavor with your eyes wide open and aware of the fact that this is a phenomenally complicated industry, and is far more expensive than most realize. Plan on raising capital sooner than you think you’ll need it…. But above all else, have fun and enjoy the journey. I truly believe this is the happiness business.