Sue S. Wine Industry DTC Coach and Marketing Content Creator

Santa Rosa, California

My wine-drenched life encompasses many aspects of the wine industry, including a 39+year history of managing DTC programs, judging wine competitions, being an Executive Director for the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association, opening and managing The Wine Shop on the Healdsburg Plaza, being the Wine Buyer for Oakville Grocery, having my own consulting business as a wine DTC Coach and Mentor and writing about all things wine.

As a DTC Coach and Mentor, I have a proven track record of success, having inspired hundreds of tasting room employees to effectively sell more wine, attract and maintain more wine club members and upgrade and personalize the overall visitor experience. My passion for excellence is contagious!

I have a long history of DTC success, having increased sales at every winery and retail outlet where I’ve worked, notably:

Increased revenue by 75% at J. Rickards Winery within two years

Increased revenue by 65% at Limerick Lane Cellars within five years

Increased wine revenue by 40% at Oakville Grocery within one year

My career has primarily been focused on DTC management and brand building for top Sonoma and Napa County wineries, including: Windsor Vineyards, Alderbrook Winery, Limerick Lane Cellars, Fieldstone Winery, White Oak Winery, Clos Pegase Winery, J. Rickards Winery, Martin Ray Winery, Trentadue Winery, La Rochelle Winery and St. Francis Winery.  Consulting clients include: Signorello Winery, Keller Estate, Zouzounis Wines, Russian Hill Estate, Mount Beautiful Winery, eCellar (Winery software provider), Vinteractive (Winery software platform), (DTC wine sales platform), Left Coast Marketing and more.

My specialties include:
Staff Coaching and Motivation, Tasting Room Management, Event Management, Wholesale Brand Building, Public Speaking, Email Marketing, Social Media, Direct Mail, label generation, and Wine Club Management – I have successfully managed and grown wine clubs from start-ups to over 4000 members.

Along with being an editorial contributor for Wine Country This Week for over 15 years, creating and managing content for a weekly wine column for the San Diego Union Tribune’s online entity, for 5 years, I’ve been a freelance wine writer for several years and have hosted my own wine blog, for many years. I also had my own wine-based radio show for a few years.

I am also a professional wine judge. I’ve been judging The San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition (and others) for many years.

How Sue Straight Supercharged J. Rickards Winery and Increased Their Sales by 75% Within Two Years

As a direct-to-consumer (DTC or D2C) coach and mentor, Sue has a proven track record of success backed by a contagious passion that enthralls those she works with. However, the wine industry, especially the DTC segment, is fraught with challenges. Fortunately, Sue’s background and personality make her uniquely positioned to tackle the most formidable hurdles.


Her diverse career includes brand building and DTC management for top Sonoma and Napa County wineries, such as Windsor Vineyards, White Oak Winery, and many others. Sue’s also a public speaker, wine writer, and wine judge. As a wine industry DTC coach and marketing content creator, Sue relies on her deep expertise and real-life experience to inspire business owners and staff to build successful companies and relationships.

The challenge: Transform an unknown brand into a major competitor

Sue needed to transition a small winery from being an unknown brand into a contender in the fast-paced, super-competitive world of wine. When she was hired, the winery was understaffed and undiscovered. The winery had a makeshift tasting room, a functional website, fabulous estate vineyards, a great story, and wonderful wines, but nobody knew they were there.

The solution: A three-prong approach to boost brand recognition

To succeed, Sue needed to create brand awareness on several levels and find national distributors and brokers. Although the project had many moving parts, her focus on these critical areas solved the initial challenge.

1. Increase consumer awareness

Sue created direct-to-consumer brand awareness by starting locally and working outward. First, she made sure the tasting room was staffed with top hospitality professionals, even though she was often the one behind the bar. Next, Sue built out the existing wine club and created profitable events. Her DTC awareness campaign focused on engaging with customers via the wine club and tasting room. 

2. Form partnerships

Referrals from local lodgings, transportation companies, and neighboring wineries really help drive direct-to-consumer sales, so Sue did extensive outreach and hosted industry events at the winery. She enlisted wine industry partners, such as:


  • Local transportation companies
  • Lodgings
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • Local restaurants 
  • Neighboring wineries


Before long, the referrals were rolling in, and the visitor count increased exponentially.

3. Develop a distribution network

The creation of a national distribution network was next. Sue researched brokers and distributors that would best fit the brand, hired and hit the road with them, educating and exciting the brand partners about J. Rickards Winery and wines. Sue also focused on relationship building and subsequent sales to local restaurants and retailers.

The results: A massive increase in sales

Within two years, J. Rickards Winery increased sales by 75%. The three-prong approach boosted brand recognition, helped improve customer experiences and created long-lasting partnerships. 

Accomplish your hospitality and winery goals

From staff coaching to brand building, Sue knows how to manage and grow both startups and established businesses. Leverage her experience in your business by scheduling a consultation with Sue.