French-American winemaking prodigy
- Ryan's been making Internationally acclaimed French wines since before he could legally drink the stuff. He leaves the French wines to his folks these days, but still dabbles in the cellar now and again with special US projects!
- After Naked UK Angels rescued Ryan's family winery, he helped launch the business in the USA so he could pay it forward to as many winemakers and Angels as possible.
- Follow Ryan, our Naked Narrator, to get an inside glimpse at all the exciting wine and winemaker stories at the heart of this Angel-funded community.
Years Angel-funded: 2012-18
Ryan O'Connell's Story
Ryan O'Connell's Story
"Working with Angels has been transformative. When I started making wine, I spent boatloads of cash and made very little money selling a tiny amount of wine. Angels let me triple my production, sell all my wines, build a successful business in France -- and now I get to bring all that success to California!
When my family started making wine in 2005, we had to buy a vineyard, build a winery, establish a brand. We spent soooo much money. So the wine had to be pretty expensive. And because it was expensive, we had to spend lots of money on marketing it so that people thought it was worth that price. And the more we spent on marketing, the more the price went up... vicious circle.
Angel funding helped my family escape from that negative feedback loop. Domaine O'Vineyards went from being a money pit to a way for my parents to earn a living by doing what they love -- making good wine. And now Angels have allowed me to move out to California where I'm working in an Angel-funded winery under the tutelage of other Angel-funded winemakers.
I've got no overhead. I've got no marketing costs. And I have an amazing extended family of winemakers and wine drinkers. What more could a boy want? Well I guess I wish foie gras was still legal in California. But aside from that, I'm pretty much in Heaven.
Oh, and in case you want my credentials, I made wine for 8 vintages in the south of France at Domaine O'Vineyards and ran a pretty popular website about the region called Love That Languedoc. I've been written up by Europe's most popular wine journalists like Jancis Robinson, Bettane & Desseauve. I've never really been into scores and stuff (which are a much bigger deal in the US), but I did get a 90 in the Wine Enthusiast. I didn't go to school for this stuff. My dad and I just really liked wine and figured we could learn it on our own. I mean...illiterate Roman soldiers could do it, and they didn't even have Wikipedia.
And to avoid any confusion, I also work in Naked HQ in Napa. I help to recruit new winemakers and tell all the winemakers' stories. I do a lot of the tasting notes and case descripions. I work with Jacqueline Bahue at the winery to make sure all of the wines are priced fairly. All sorts of stuff like that."