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True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution

ISBN: 978-1-57660-150-1
240 pages
November 2003
True to Our Roots: Fermenting a Business Revolution (1576601501) cover image


True to Our Roots sets forth the simple but powerful management principles that enabled Fetzer Vineyards under Paul Dolan to become one of America’s biggest and best-known wineries even as it was turning into a model for sustainable businesses everywhere. Today, Dolan and Fetzer are leading the California wine industry toward profound change in how wineries and grape growers preserve their environment, strengthen their communities, and enrich the lives of their employees, without sacrificing the bottom line. This is truly a management revolution in one of the most globalized, competitive industries on Earth.  

The principles Dolan discovered and developed at Fetzer can be applied to any business and by leaders at every level:
  • A business is part of a much larger system
  • A company’s culture is determined by the context created for it
  • The soul of a company is found in the hearts of its people
  • The future can’t be predicted, but it can be created
  • There is a way to make an idea’s time come

Filled with personal anecdotes and practical wisdom, this book offers inspiration and guidance to business managers who see the compelling need to build and grow healthy, sustainable organizations. For all readers, True to Our Roots provides both a fascinating glimpse into the California wine industry and heartening proof that business can do well by doing good.

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Table of Contents



In this undated memoir, found after his death, Bernard "Barney" Fetzer describes finding and buying the run-down rural ranch where he ultimately founded Fetzer Vineyards.


Sustainability: Fetzer's Business Revolution
Fetzer has balanced economic success with environmental and social responsibility for more than ten years, winning innumerable awards for wine quality and sustainable business practices while growing the business 100 percent.

Chapter 1: Your Business Is Part of a Much Larger System
We are not alone, we are interconnected, and we can make a difference. This awareness opens up unlimited opportunities for transforming relationships with employees, suppliers, business partners, and other stakeholders.

Chapter 2: Your Company's Culture Is Determined by the Context You Create for It
With the right business context, sustainability is no longer a management concept or social philosophy, but a practical framework for concerted action by everyone throughout the organization.

Chapter 3: The Soul of a Business Is Found in the Hearts of Its People
Sustainable businesses must accomplish a transition from mere accountability—doing what's expected—to broader responsibility for maximizing profits in a way that heals the earth and supports human rights.

Chapter 4: True Power Is Living What You Know
Integrity is the root of sustainability. At Fetzer Vineyards, this awareness has driven everything from waste reduction and energy conservation to large-scale organic viticulture, worker housing programs, and "green" facility construction.

Chapter 5: You Can't Predict the Future, but You Can Create It
Fetzer creates its future from the future, by painting vivid pictures of new possibilities and managing its business "backward" from those pictures rather than forward from a present that's tied inexorably to the past.

Chapter 6: There Is a Way to Make an Idea's Time Come
Fetzer Vineyards has taken public stands on sustainable winegrowing, vineyard development, and zero waste. These stands have already begun changing the context for the California wine industry, by expanding people's understanding of what's possible.

Afterword: Grapes Into Wine
Making great wine is hard work—even when you've been doing it for decades. At the same time, growing premium wine grapes without synthetic chemicals is a choice that the entire industry could easily make.

Fetzer History and Future Development.

A Fetzer Vineyards Time Line Follow the company's progress from a small family operation to one of America's largest premium wine producers.

Fetzer Environmental Record Fetzer's efforts on behalf of the environment have been recognized locally, statewide, nationally, and internationally.

The Future of Fetzer: A Vision of 2005 How Fetzer has created the future from the future.



List of Illustrations.

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Author Information

Paul Dolan believes that business leaders can help make a better world, and he sees Mendocino County, California, as fertile ground to grow this vision. As president of Fetzer Vineyards (1992-2004) where he also served as winemaker (1977-1992) and managing director for new products and strategic development with the wine group of Brown-Forman Corporation, he led a transformation that put the company at the forefront of organic viticulture and sustainable business. With the creation of Mendocino Wine Company (MWC), a partnership of the Dolan and Thornhill families, leadership in sustainable winegrowing continues, cradled in the open, creative atmosphere of Mendocino County. A native Californian descended from three generations of distinguished winemakers, Dolan graduated from Santa Clara University with a degree in business and finance and holds a master's degree in enology from California State University, Fresno. Dolan serves on the boards of Wine Institute and Business for Social Responsibility, and is a founder of Wine Vision. He participated on President Clinton's Council on Sustainable Development, and chaired the California Sustainable Winegrowing Alliance Board. Dolan continues to advocate for sustainability and organic farming based on the simple premise that his natural view of our relationship with the world is not only the right view, but also delivers better products and healthier lives.
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"Paul Dolan has not only led the way to sustainability in California viticulture but has demonstrated that one person in one company can transform an entire industry. If only there were a roomful of Paul Dolans in America, we would be a profoundly different and better country in twenty years. May it be so."
Paul Hawken
Author, The Ecology of Commerce

"There are but few companies worldwide that are actually taking positive and active steps toward sustainable commerce. Paul Dolan has led Fetzer Vineyards with a strong commitment to define new business principles for the future. I commend Fetzer for forging this path and Paul Dolan for documenting the defining principles in this book."
Yvon Chouinard
Owner, Patagonia, Inc.

"Paul Dolan is my hero. He's the best example out there of how to create genuine sustainability in a business while being part of a publicly traded company. This is no small feat. Dolan pulls it off because he manages truly from his heart. His book is an inspiration."
Marjorie Kelly
Cofounder and Publisher, Business Ethics magazine
Author, The Divine Right of Capital

"Businesses have a new bottom line to work towards: sustainability. Read True to Our Roots to understand its importance and how to achieve it.  It may make the difference between success and failure."
Harry Paul
Coauthor, FISH! A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results

"Paul Dolan writes compellingly of new possibilities for business and the potential to change the way we work and live and sustain our planet for future generations. Going beyond the conventional wisdom, he demonstrates how we can, with enough courage and imagination, reshape the world in a more equitable way when business invests in the well-being of its employees, the community, and the environment."
Arnold S. Hiatt
Former CEO, Stride Rite Corporation
Chairman, Stride Rite Foundation

"Paul Dolan is a provocative and creative leader who has provided an insightful pathway of excellence not just for the current generation but for generations to come. True to Our Roots was illuminating to read—and reread—containing gems of wisdom that go beyond our vineyards and wine cellars to rules of conduct for everyday life.  His axioms and guidelines can be applied to all competitive enterprise."
John A. De Luca
Executive Vice Chairman, Wine Institute

"If you know Paul Dolan, it will come as no surprise that True to Our Roots is honest, thoughtful, and inspiring. This is Paul's story. It’s about his respect for nature and for humankind and how he has found a path to serve both in creating a successful and sustainable business. Paul’s ideas are of great importance. If his writings were wine bottles, you’d carry them to friends you care about."
Robert H. Dunn
CEO, Business for Social Responsibility

"Higher-quality products. Lower costs. Fifteen percent earnings growth for a decade. The largest-selling brand in the industry. Sound good?  In True to Our Roots, CEO Paul Dolan shows how he used the challenges of sustainability to catalyze a business revolution at Fetzer--to the benefit not only of wine connoisseurs and shareholders but also workers, communities, and the planet. A very important read for anyone interested in learning how to create truly sustainable value."
Stuart L. Hart
S.C. Johnson Professor of Sustainable Global Enterprise,
Johnson School of Management, Cornell University

"Ever wondered what sustainability tastes like? Paul Dolan knows. Uncork. Savour. Understand. Adopt. And adapt."
John Elkington
Cofounder and Chair, SustainAbility
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