We had the good fortune of connecting with Amanda Greenbaum and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Amanda, can you tell us more about your background and the role it’s played in shaping who you are today?
I am from Los Angeles, California. Born and raised in the Malibu Coast, a newer wine growing region in Southern California that spans from Oxnard through to Santa Monica.
I was raised by two very strong individuals. My mother took hold of the fashion industry from a very young age working in sales for trim (buttons, lace, ribbons etc). By the age of 24, she was not only the youngest, but also the most successful sales representative in her company. She will never let my brothers and me forget that SHE put the downpayment on our first house when she was 27.
My father started working for his company, Input 1, at the age of 16 when he wrote the code for his grandfather’s insurance premium finance company. While studying at UCLA, my father worked full time for Input 1. At the age of 25 he purchased the company from his grandfather and grew it from a company underwater to a multi-million dollar corporation leading the charge in premium digital billing systems.
My mother’s father was a leading surgeon in Obstetrics and the first doctor on the West Coast to allow fathers in the delivery room.
Needless to say, I come from a line of truly hardworking, intelligent individuals. My family has always been very honest and open with me. They’ve shared the secret to their successes…which by the way isn’t much of a secret. It’s hard work, honesty, openness, and kindness.
This is what I grew up with, which inspired me to be successful in my own right and forge my path. When my father purchased our house in 2010, it had a half-acre hillside of vineyard planted to it. And at a young age of 14, I knew that pathway was through the wine and spirits industry. My excitement for wine and my passion for spirits never goes unnoticed. At every family gathering, I’m behind the bar. At every harvest, I’m directing my team crafting AJA Vineyards wines.
When you are doing what you love every day, you’re not really working so I feel blessed to be able to do what I love every day. And because I love what I do, my personal goals overlap with my career goals. I set a goal to write my book and I wrote it. I set a goal to become a sommelier, and I became certified.
Being a woman, and being young in this industry is not easy. I’ve gotten a lot of push back due to my age and have dealt with working with misogynists time and time again. But I always remember what my father has taught me: You become successful by your kindness, work ethic, intelligence and merit. In fact my father’s COO is a woman and over 50% of his managers, directors and vice presidents are women. He just reminds me, that these women hold these positions because they deserved the job; they worked hard and they earned it. There’s nothing else to it.
I am fortunate to be in a city where women who are in the industry lift each other up and remind each other that we can conquer anything. And I am fortunate to have such incredible family members who continually support me every step of the way.
Alright, so for those in our community who might not be familiar with your business, can you tell us more?
I own and operate my family’s winery AJA Vineyards which is a boutique winery in the Malibu Coast making award winning red, white and rosé wines. I am the youngest Wine Proprietor in the Malibu Coast starting my tenure officially at age 22.
My family’s winery was a hobby turned into a a business through passion. Founded by my parents, AJA was created to make beautiful wines from the Malibu Coast. At the young age of 14, I became passionate about wine and fascinated that you could even grow wine in Malibu. I began meticulously researching and joining my father on ventures to the winery, at harvest, and during aging and blending trials.
The Malibu Coast is a rare place to be growing wine. Less than 5o wineries are from the area making this a very small AVA. However, the Malibu Coast is a very special place to grow wine. With unique soil structure, the terroir of the Santa Monica mountains and the proximity to the ocean without it getting too cold makes these wines unlike any other area that grows wine.
Tasting a wine from the Malibu Coast, there truly is nothing like it. The region grows remarkable fruit, and allows us to make wines with Malibu flavors but pays homage to Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley where the grapes originate.
Being a boutique winery in an unknown region is difficult. Yes, people know Malibu, but what do they know about the wine growing region? With a small budget, expensive overhead, and a boutique production size, it’s been difficult to promote our brand but we’ve found an extreme uptake and people actually aware of our name as we’ve grown in size and have did our best to promote what we think are fabulous wines.
As we’ve expanded, we’ve found lots of opportunity to give back to our community of the Malibu Coast. We’ve worked with several charities including Interface Children Services, Hadassah Foundation, Gary Sinese Foundation, Cancer Schmancer, and Mending Kids to name a few. We really enjoy working with these foundations as many of them support causes close to our hearts.
I also run the Millennial Wine Beer & Spirits Competition with my business partner Olivera Markovic, which is a wine and spirits competition created to cater to the Millennial wine and spirits consumer.
Millennials are now the largest generation currently existing. And though we don’t hold the entirety of the purse strings, we like to drink, and we are changing the way brands are marketing. The Millennial generation sees the world differently. They care more about the core values of the company, to the point where it’s just as important as the product. For an industry such as the wine and spirits industry which has been set in their ways, in order to keep up with the times and to promote continued success, they have to start catering to the millennials.
Our competition was created to bridge the gap between the millennial producer and consumer. We want to provide insights into the millennial market about products and brands that help producers gear their products and marketing towards millennials.
One of the ways we do this is through our double blind tasting where we produce a judge of Millennial Tastemakers (as we call them) which is a panel of wine and spirits industry members who are millennials as well as influential millennials (i.e. celebrities, social media influencers, youtube stars etc) who taste wines and spirits completely blind sent into competition and provide ratings based upon their own palates. Those ratings are then presented to our clients as well as are available to the millennial consumer.
We’ve been finding great success with this company. In the first year, we were able to double our revenue and we’re hoping to once again double our triple our revenue this year. This competition is the first of its kind and we’re hoping to provide the best possible information for our clients to cater their product and marketing towards millennials. But we have a long way to go and a lot of lessons to learn as we climb the mountain of success.
Any places to eat or things to do that you can share with our readers? If they have a friend visiting town, what are some spots they could take them to?
First of all, call me up, let’s have you taste some AJA! But in Los Angeles, there are a ton of great places to go! Los Angeles is huge so you can spend each day doing something different.
Top five places you need to spend time in LA:
– West Hollywood: Great food, fashion, and club scene. Restaurants like Catch, EP + LP, and Gracias Madre are must visits. The Fellow Traveler is a great new wine bar as well you should go see.
– Santa Monica: Iconic but also has fantastic bars and food like Élephante and the Misfit. Take a walk on the beach or up into Brentwood.
– Downtown Los Angeles: This area has been popping in the past couple of years. Visit the arts district and check out the breweries, distilleries and excellent restaurants like Bavel.
– Malibu Coast/Santa Monica Mountains- a great day to hike and drink wine! Visit some of the Malibu Coast wineries like Cielo, Rosenthal or Calamigos Ranch (And of course come see me at AJA!).
– Newport- some people consider it part of Los Angeles, others say it’s too far. But if your’e making the trip out here, you must visit the Newport area for the day. Some of the most beautiful beaches, layback experience but also has some great restaurants. You can also rent out a boat for the day and cruise around the Newport marina. A must in my opinion. Shoutout is all about shouting out others who you feel deserve additional recognition and exposure. Who would you like to shoutout?
Huge shout out to my parents Todd & Heather for their constant love, support, guidance and advice. Without them, I would not be the person I am today. To my brothers Alec & Jack for being my backbone and my best friends. To my Grandparents Pam and Ed for sharing their love of wine with me. To my Bubbie Doreen for her continual support, love, and dedication to the success of all of her grandchildren. To my late Zaida who proved to all of us that anything is possible with a little chutzpa. And to my loving boyfriend Josh who makes me feel like a million bucks and pushes me to be the best version of myself every day.
Instagram: @ajavineyards @sommthing.rad @millennialcompetition