Women of Wine (From the 2011 Fall issue of SONOMA)
If you’re looking for a Mom candidate among the women of wine, it’s pretty hard not to end up on Becky Larson’s doorstep.
It’s not that Becky is the prototypical stay-at-home mom. She’s not. She spent 20 years as a high-level Silicon Valley executive recruiter, a fat chunk of that time commuting from Carneros after starting a family with Tom Larson, who had roots so deep in the Sonoma Valley they run through most of the region’s history books.
But besides mothering the three Larson kids, Becky is clearly the mom of Larson Family Winery, a place where the word family assumes fresh levels of meaning.
It takes a mom, after all, to come up with crayons and coloring books in the tasting room, along with fruit juice and kid snacks, plus a petting zoo with lambs and a llama, three Labradors, various farm animals and both horseshoes and a bocci ball court. Family winery? You bet.
But creating a kid-friendly winery environment isn’t the limit of Becky’s mothering. Helping people find jobs and start careers was part of the appeal of being a recruiter and was good training for Becky’s later role as HR chief for the winery, the family’s mobile bottling business and their farming enterprise. And her people-management skills are manifest in the longevity of Larson employees, who typically stay a decade or longer, one of whom has been there more than 20 years.
“We have a great team here,” says Becky. “We’ve cultivated that. People always say we’re such a friendly place.”
Friendly is as friendly does, which starts, of course, with Becky, who adds new meaning to the word nice. Becky Larson isn’t just nice, she’s super nice. She’s like a permanently sunny day. She triggers spontaneous smiles.
Ask Becky if there is any uniquely female impact from her management and she’s hard-pressed to identify it.
Ask Tom, and the answer comes easily.
“She kind of sets the standard for the culture of the company,” he says. “She manages HR and the front and back office of all three companies. She takes care of all the hiring and firing, oversees the
financials, customer service. She likes working with people and she tries to translate that passion to the employees. We’re kind of cowboy boots and Budweiser here, it’s not champagne and tuxedoes that’s
Running a winery was not on Becky’s career path when she met and married Tom. “When Tom and I first met, he said, ‘You know, we’re never going to sell this land.’ I thought, ‘Yeah, right.’”
Despite that early skepticism, Becky now says, “I’m really proud to be a part of agriculture in the community.” And when Tom sums up their life–“We raise our own livestock, grow our own vegetables, we try to use the land we have in a way that makes sense. It’s all kind of , have fun and experience life.”–Becky nods in happy agreement and you get the feeling that Mom really is at home.
(From the 2011 Fall issue of SONOMA)