Elevating Wine, One Single-Serving at a Time
Elevating Wine, One Single-Serving at a Time

"This is such a beautiful, happy, middle place of being able to indulge, but still doing it in this kind of health and wellness mindset of being mindful of what's going into your body." 

- Dana Spaulding

It all started when Dana Spaulding, founder and CEO of Wander + Ivy, wanted to mark a special life event without the guilt of opening a whole bottle of wine. What she and her husband came up with has not only transformed their lives but has also made a significant impact on wine enthusiasts everywhere.

In this week's conversation with Elizabeth, Dana discusses her transition from a nearly decade-long career in finance at JP Morgan to becoming a certified sommelier and launching Wander + Ivy. She shares insights into the world of organic wines, her global wine sourcing practices, and her approach to balancing work and family through time blocking. Dana also emphasizes the importance of embracing her CEO role's strengths and representing her brand authentically. Plus, she talks about the stylish yet practical single-serve glass bottle that has become a hallmark of Wander + Ivy's success.


    Elizabeth Stein 0:00
    Hi, everyone. I'm Elizabeth Stein, founder, and CEO of Purely Elizabeth. And this is Live Purely with Elizabeth, featuring candid conversations about how to thrive on your wellness journey.

    This week's guest is Dana Spaulding founder and CEO of Wander + Ivy, a female-founded company that partners with award-winning family-owned vineyards around the world to bring you a premium line that is made with certified organic grapes packaged in chic yet convenient single-serve glass bottles. In 2017, after almost a decade in the finance world, the former JP Morgan banker turned certified Som founded Wander + Ivy to be the premium and organic single-serve wine brand. In this episode, Dana shares all about her journey creating Wander + Ivy when she is personally tired of wasting another bottle of wine and couldn't find a high-quality single-serve option on store shelves. We talked about what it means to be organic in the wine space, how she sources her wines from around the world, utilizing your superpowers to perform and do your best, how to prioritize work and family, using time-blocking steps for manifesting some of her favorite ways to feel her best. I had so much fun catching up with my friend Dana. Keep listening to learn more. And if you want to try her wines, which I highly recommend, as my fridge and pantry are stocked with beautiful bottles, visit wanderandivy.com. And use code LIVEPURELY for 20% off.


    Dana, welcome to the podcast. Such a fun way to spend a Friday morning with you.

    Dana Spaulding 2:03
    Thank you so much for having me. I'm so happy to be here.

    Elizabeth Stein 2:06
    I'm a huge fan of yours and your brand. I must say we just had our team off-site this week. And we took a party bus to a farm dinner. And it was the absolute most perfect thing because we filled a cooler with all of your Wander + Ivy products and everyone in the company just absolutely loved it. So, thank you.

    Dana Spaulding 2:27
    That is so awesome. I'm so glad everybody enjoyed it. What a great setting for it.

    Elizabeth Stein 2:31
    Yeah, it was perfect. So let's start with your background. You certainly haven't always been in wine. Curious, actually. What did you go to school for?

    Dana Spaulding 2:39
    I went to school for Business and Economics. Interestingly, I chose Fordham so that I could be in a business school. But I was also a dancer my whole life. So, I wanted a strong business school and a performing arts school in New York City where I could potentially pursue both paths. I ended up going down the finance path. But I studied, did all the dance opportunities and the finance internships and then ultimately just decided to keep dance as a hobby.

    Elizabeth Stein 3:09
    Do you ever dance now?

    Dana Spaulding 3:10
    Oh, gosh, I turned it more into yoga once we came to Colorado. I fell in love with core power once we came here. It's harder, it's less accessible than in New York City. I was working at JPMorgan crazy hours, then I would still find time at 9 p.m., for evening senior dance class, which I loved. So it was accessible for a couple of years. But when I came here, I fell in love with yoga, which I didn't do a ton before. So, it's been a shift for me and I love doing it. But I dance a little less. I dance with my kids all the time in the kitchen.

    Elizabeth Stein 3:49
    That’s fun. Love core power, too. Let's talk a little bit about your time at JP Morgan and ultimately how that landed you on this path to starting Wander + Ivy.

    Dana Spaulding 3:58
    Yeah, I went to school for business. My dad has been an entrepreneur ever since I could remember. So, I always thought it would be cool to start something. I was always very inspired by my dad. I didn't know what that looked like. That's why I went to business school. For me, that translated into finance and then more of the traditional finance internship opportunities. And I landed a few and then ultimately with JPMorgan, I loved private wealth management. It was, for me, this wonderful mix of the analytical side of finance, but also the people side because it's managing wealth for very successful individuals and their families. I loved that and then just as I mentioned, decided to keep dance as a hobby, pursue that professionally, got a full-time job, and then spent almost 10 years, my whole professional life, up until founding Wander + Ivy there. And within private wealth management, your job with your team is to manage well for successful entrepreneurs and their families. But in New York, my team focused on hedge fund principals and Wall Street executives. So, very different, incredible experience that I had. But then when I came to Colorado, I had the opportunity to be on a team that focused on food and beverage and health and wellness and a couple of other industries that I was like, wow, like this is pretty exciting.

    Elizabeth Stein 5:22
    And was that your choice or that just happened like, okay, this could be interesting?

    Dana Spaulding 5:27
    Well, what was great was that the Colorado market and the Rockies region for the bank at that time were being built out. And there was also this amazing time here when there was so much wealth being created. Whereas for both coasts, particularly in New York, it was a lot of older generational wealth, new wealth, too, but especially here, it was this huge wealth generation, and especially the food and beverage category with these big names 10-15 years ago, making a splash for the Rockies region. I raised my hand for food and beverage, but honestly, no one was fighting for the times. There were one or two big names that were making a splash in the category. And I just loved it. So I covered biotech, food and beverage, health and wellness, those were my core areas. And I was like, how fun and exciting are these? I a little bit got to carve it out because of the situation that the Rockies were in this era of wealth generation. I knew I wanted to ultimately start a business, but I had no idea what it looked like. So when I came here and got to experience so many founders like yourself, I was like, wow, this couldn't be more inspiring. They're building just these new innovative companies that are in this category. That's exciting to me. So Gus, my husband, and I were often throwing out these crazy ideas like classic ideas. One evening, I was celebrating some minor when at work, and I came home and made this big, fancy dinner, and I was going to open up a bottle of wine. And that's what he said to me, “Again? You're going to do this? You're gonna waste another bottle?” And I was so frustrated, my whole excitement for the evening…

    Elizabeth Stein 7:08
    A way to bust my moment.

    Dana Spaulding 7:12
    Yeah. I was so, at the moment, annoyed. And now I give him so much credit because he was the one that was like, “Hey, you're opening up bottles a lot. And I have a glass of whiskey or beer.” He at the time, wasn't as much of a wine drinker as he is today. And it was just like, come on, you gotta at least start looking in the alternative wine category. I didn't know a ton about it. But I just personally looked at the cans the boxes and the bags. And that was when I had the initial spark that none of these feel like a luxury to me, especially in that specific moment where I just wanted to treat. I wanted to have it be this wonderful celebration at the end of a long day. And at the same time, not wasteful. I didn't find any of those other packages to feel like that. Then when I dug a little bit deeper, I identified that there's very little focus on clean, natural, and organic ingredients here. And I care so much. Like I'm eating my Purely Elizabeth, I'm eating all these other foods from Whole Foods and caring so deeply about what goes into my body. And when I just did the research, it was very eye-opening to me to see that there's not a lot of transparency around what is in your wine. And that was fascinating to me. And that was when there were enough of these aha moments and differentiators that I could bring to a brand, that that to me felt like, if I were to do something, this feels like there's this gap. There's this huge opportunity in the market. So, why don't instead of going out and finding it, just create it myself?

    Elizabeth Stein 8:43
    I love that. I mean, there are so many amazing pieces of the brand that you're building that hit on all of the marks. And to your point, we care so much about what we're putting into our bodies, what we're consuming, the lotions, and things on our faces. And I feel you're bringing it to market but that conversation is still not there and alcohol. People are drinking regular wine and grapes are dirty dozen. So, it's certainly one that we want to be having from the best sources. Can you talk a little bit, and explain, because I know I just asked you this the other night, what does it mean to make with organic grapes and this distinction on that?

    Dana Spaulding 9:23
    Yeah, I love the question. To your original point of just has it been as much of a part of the conversation. That was what was so exciting to me was that I think it's just the early days of people getting more educated and I'd love to be a part of that education with folks.

    Elizabeth Stein 9:39
    I also think it's not only that, but the previous experiences of natural organic wines haven't been good. They’ve been not a luxury, not a good wine. So, I think people haven't experienced what you're bringing to market.

    Dana Spaulding 9:59
    Oh, thank you. I'll talk about the two differences. And then maybe I'll touch on a little bit about that as well, in terms of, some organic wine can be funky and be different. There has been this negative connotation of what it is. But from a regulatory standpoint, two terms are regulated by the USDA and the TTB. I think people are familiar with USDA, but TTB stands for Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau, just another national regulatory agency. There are clear rules for what can be organic wine and wine made with certified organic grapes. It's confusing sometimes to people because those sound similar, but there are some differences. Both of them require all grapes to be grown 100% organically. Just like the food that we eat, all the grapes must be grown organically, with no synthetic chemicals, no fertilizers, no genetically modified anything, or anything that the USDA deems harmful or potentially toxic. So, that's the grape-growing process. The other piece of the winemaking process, which I think is certainly the lesser known of the two. Like, oh, that could be non-organic. But there are over 50 additives in wine in the US at least that can be included. And what the USDA and TTB say is that there's a list of allowed and prohibited substances that just cannot be included in the winemaking process. And that's really important. Again, to the educational piece of not understanding initially that things like gelatin and other color additives and things that were in your food, you'd probably be like, I'm not going to buy that. But what I found interesting was from a regulatory standpoint, ingredients aren't required on wine. So, that is one of the reasons why consumers don't necessarily know what's in it. However, the USDA and TTB require this allowed list of substances and prohibited list.

    The core difference between organic wine and wine made with organic grapes is sulfites. Naturally occurring sulfur dioxide happens in the winemaking process. All wine has naturally occurred to an extent, but then you could also add sulfites as a preservative. A lot of the mass-produced wines have a very high level of preservatives. And for 100% Organic wine, no sulfites can be added. Sometimes that can lead to a little bit of that funkiness or wine just not being as shelf-stable because it doesn't have any. Not that all wine for sure is that on the organic side, but I think that has led to some of the negative feedback. What I've been focused on, is that our brand is wine made with organic grapes, which still of course has to follow the organic grape regulation, so no synthetic fertilizers or anything along those lines. But then we can have 0 to up to 100 parts per million of sulfites. So a very small amount of sulfites. Often the analogy is that the amount of dried fruit, for example, has oftentimes even more sulfites than that. So still a very small amount of sulfites is used to keep it shelf stable. So especially for international lines, like ours were a global importer, it's very important to us for the journey of the wine that it stays healthy, stays shelf stable for consumers once they buy it, so, we have a very small amount of sulfites. So, that's the key difference. If someone is truly allergic to sulfites, they must avoid it. But oftentimes, what people are experiencing is a reaction to a very high level of sulfites that can be in these mass-produced wines.

    Elizabeth Stein 13:46
    And is it also people reacting to a lot of sugar at it too?

    Dana Spaulding 13:50
    All of the research that I've seen shows that it oftentimes is the combination of alcohol, all the other additives that can be included sugar, and all of it together. And, again, everybody's different. But when you have so many things combined in one wine. Oftentimes you can have a negative reaction. So it's not that surprising, like the flush cheeks or bad headaches. What I always say is in the way we think about it or food, if you're aiming overall to be as clean as possible, why don't we think about that in the wine set as well? No added sugar like our wines, the organic grape, so none of the harmful toxins there, and just be as clean as possible, knowing that it isn't indulgence in alcohol, alcohol is still in there. But let's make it as clean as possible so you feel good the next day.

    Elizabeth Stein 14:36
    Absolutely. And it's a single serve, so perhaps you're less likely to drink so much.

    Dana Spaulding 14:42
    Exactly. That's the other piece of it as well like, I tried to live such a healthy lifestyle but also loved to indulge, but as Gus very clearly pointed out, I was being wasteful. I think I hear all the time and it just warms my heart because I love that so many people have had the same experience, I either end up drinking a whole bottle because I feel guilty about it, or I don't open it at all. Then I'm like, well, I wanted to cheat myself. So this is such a beautiful, happy, middle place of being able to indulge, but still doing it in this health and wellness mindset, of being mindful of what's going into your body.

    Elizabeth Stein 15:20
    I love that philosophy. I feel the same way. You mentioned it's a beautiful experience. And that certainly leads me to the beautiful packaging and the glass bottle, which is so unique and beautiful. Did you have that vision from the beginning? Or when did that come into play?

    Dana Spaulding 15:37
    Well, thank you. Yes, I have. The first thing that I experienced, funny enough, was I went out into this exploratory stage, I got the bags, and the cans of boxes, and I put them in my fridge. And then I further annoyed Gus, because I just let them sit there. And that, for me, was interesting. Because I found myself, I wasn't noticing it right away until he highlighted it. There was an experience where I felt like that would be a luxury where I wanted to celebrate something. It still felt like settling. And it was from a packaging standpoint because, at that point, I hadn't even tried what was in the package. It was really like that doesn't feel like a luxury. It just feels like settling. So if that wasn't enticing to me, from the beginning, I knew that this was going to be the first thing that consumers experience with the brand that has to be innovative and then also luxury, because at that time, there also was a flood of cans to the market. They've done an amazing thing showing portability and accessibility. But at the same time, there were so many of them. And every ride brand was diving into cans, very well-known wine brands. So I thought if I'm going to create something from scratch, this needs to stand alone and stand apart from everything else on the shelf. So I wanted it to feel like a luxury. And I needed it to be different enough. So that was a big focus of ours. And I look at other beverage categories and what other brands felt like fancy water, for example. And I was like that feels super sexy and chic, because of the packaging for some brands. Can I do that in a way in wine that felt still unique and special to Wander + Ivy in a way that we could ultimately patent which we did? But then also draw inspiration from other categories that I think have done a nice job of having it feel elevated just with the packaging alone.

    Elizabeth Stein 17:35
    I love that. I think it's so interesting to look outside your category to draw inspiration. I feel like sometimes that's where the best ideas come from. And certainly, it did. When you say you have a patent, does that mean that nobody else can put wine in a similar bottle? Or what does that mean, exactly?

    Dana Spaulding 18:00
    You're going down a legal path. Pretty complicated. I tried hard to wrap as much protection around the brand as possible. So our bottle has enough differentiators to stand out in the category. So yes, our bottom line is labeled design, patented such that ideally, the goal is that it causes other brands to not step into something that you're doing. Of course, I'm sure our legal team will say that there are exceptions always. But the idea is…

    Elizabeth Stein 18:27
    We share the same legal team.

    Dana Spaulding 18:31
    Who I love. What I had said to them was what we're doing is so different. I'd like to protect it as much as possible. It's hard in the food and beverage category to wrap yourself around it because so many of the images are similar. We tried hard to build enough things that made us stand out. For example, a punch on the bottom of our bottle is meant to replicate a traditional wine bottle. We have our very specific habit, which is designed for the look but also functionality. So we tried hard to do so much around the bottle design to protect as much as possible. Does that mean no one will step in? Who knows? And can we protect it? The goal is yes, always. But my goal is also to demonstrate to all partners, team partners, and investors that what we've done is so different and stands out so much that we were able to go through the very long, complicated process of getting patented and I'm so proud of that.

    Elizabeth Stein 19:32
    It's amazing. Looking back to the night that Gus told you to stop opening another bottle of wine, what was the time that it went from that? That night, were you like, this is an idea or this is an idea and I think that this is going to be something? At what point did you feel like this is it?

    Dana Spaulding 19:52
    It wasn't that night. That night was what I thought let's explore this category. Shared a very personal interest in shopping that night. So, it was when I went out and bought what existed and then brought them home and was like, this feels like something, especially when he was like, “You're not even drinking what's in the refrigerator.” So, that was the first spark for me. Then it was about a six-to-nine-month process of digging in, understanding the category, especially not coming from the wine industry, learning the category, and building out an actual business model. Like okay, if I did this, what on earth would it look like? And honestly, it was also talking with other people in the industry and also founders saying, is this a good idea? Picking their brains, initially sharing the business model. Is this worthwhile? Because I worked hard. I wasn't leaving a job that I strongly disliked. It was something that I always wanted to build. I wanted to build a company, but I had no idea what it was. And I was like, I'm gonna do this. I feel strongly about what I'm doing because I'm leaving a pretty comfortable place that I've worked hard for. It took some time to build up the courage, but it was probably nine months in total until I left my day job at JPMorgan.

    Elizabeth Stein 21:17
    Was there anything specific you remember that put you over the edge as far as building up your courage?

    Dana Spaulding 21:23
    Yes. One, Gus is incredible and he was so supportive, thankfully. I think if you have a partner, and they're not, I think that can hinder you, for sure. That was first and foremost. But also, interestingly, I was in the process of getting people's advice on, what do you think of this? How does it sound? I had that conversation with a lot of other founders and one in particular, I so appreciated him saying, because the way I positioned it was, “Hey, I'll probably do it and it will be a side hustle.” And I appreciated that he had said, “This is a good idea. If you don't do this now, someone else will and they'll do it better. And you're gonna be upset about that. So, dive in with your whole heart today.” And he said it just like that. And it was like a little bit of a tough love that I felt like I needed to push me over the edge. Because enough people had already said this is a great idea. But he was someone that I didn't have a personal relationship with. It was primarily business. So, I think there's the worry and talking with friends and family of like, “Great idea”, and just being your cheerleaders, which is wonderful. But having more third parties say this is a great idea. And him saying, “You have to do this now. Don't do it as a side. I understand the need to plan as much as you can financially”, which we did for those nine months. “But you can't be doing this on the side. Go all in and do it today.” And I was like, Yeah, you're right. And then I did very shortly after that.

    Elizabeth Stein 22:58
    It's such good advice. I think it's always all about timing. And that was a case in point for you. So building the brand by sourcing your grapes from around the world, how difficult was that initially? Getting those partners, sourcing, finding, and also, I guess, let’s take a step back before that, touching on that you got your sommelier certification.

    Dana Spaulding 23:25
    Yeah. Honestly, I remember sitting down at the beginning, saying, step one. You're trying to build the steps, especially at the beginning, when you have no idea of what that roadmap looks like, and trying to build it for yourself. I knew not coming from the industry, I wanted to build my knowledge and credibility, knowing that I was going to be an investor-backed company that that was a plan for me to raise. I wanted the credibility of having my self-certification. So signing up for that and going through our process was very early on. And a couple of days after leaving, I knew what that looked like. Then within the business model for the partners, I look back and it's interesting, I love how I went about finding partners but this is one of the pieces that if I came from the category, I would have known there are brokers that you could go through and they can help you in the process, you pay for them. I love that we all go direct. I never even knew that brokers or these third-party intermediaries were a thing. Because now, we're five years in and we're still sourcing from a lot of the same partners who I love. And we have such incredible relationships and they’re direct relationships. I think I shared with ones for example in Valencia, Spain. They invite us. Next year though for example, they're gonna invite us for paella with him and his father and just have such a cool, deep relationship and they say things along the lines of, “We remember when you source 1000 leaders versus now 50,000+ at multiple times a year.” So, that's been cool. But my process honestly felt comfortable because it felt similar to building this universe of prospective people. I wanted to work with JP Morgan, you built the universe.

    Oftentimes, they're challenging people to get in front of or get to know. But you just put yourself out there. We of course now have built it out to a much more sophisticated process. But at the beginning, it was just me not knowing that anyone else third party existed, reaching out to the suppliers that I identified were in our universe. And that checked certain boxes of criteria. So for us, it was certified organic and recognized by the USDA. I learned quite quickly that other global wines are oftentimes not, if they're organic, for example, New Zealand, they're likely not hitting all the boxes of USDA. They use some of the specific prohibited substances on the USDA list. It'll be one. I was so excited, for example, with this one New Zealand supplier. And with the time difference and a bit crazy hour, so excited. And I find that they put potassium metabisulfite which is a random one ingredient that the USDA doesn't allow. I learned quickly that I had to dig into their ingredient list, and it needed to be approved by the USDA. I wanted them to be award-winning and internationally recognized in some way, demonstrating their success in the industry and family-owned. For us, because the packaging is very exploratory in many ways for consumers, I wanted the grape and the region to be very recognizable and familiar to folks. Like going up and being like, okay, that's from California, okay, that's a Spanish red blend. That feels comfortable. The package is exploratory. So, that's cool. So I focused on renowned wine regions and the most popular grape varietals that if they checked those boxes I sampled initially. And then we went through multiple consumer focus. Again, this has evolved into even more sophisticated processes, but it still involved, to an extent, consumer focus groups, and industry experts. Which don't always overlap like the master soms and the female millennial. So it's been important to have both of their perspectives. Our internal team has been built out greatly, which I'm so appreciative of and grateful for, the amazing talent on our team. And then the industry experts also taste and provide their feedback. That helped us hone in on who we want to partner with. And we've had these amazing partners for years now.

    Elizabeth Stein 27:44
    I remember you invited me over to drink wine and try some things out. How many wines did you go through to pick your cab for example?

    Dana Spaulding 27:55
    Yeah. Shipping the wine, especially at the beginning because you're covering those costs, it was also a strategic decision on, okay, they have to check every single one of our boxes. And I would say one other piece of it is pricing as well. Because of course, it could be a gorgeous wine. But if it's per bottle $500, it's not going to land on the shelf where I want it to be. So, if they checked all the boxes including price, then there are probably 5 to 10 of the varietals that we would consider. And it's funny all the time. Gus would say like, “I don't hate this new role that you're in.” because some of the early taste testers, it was just me and him. Then we build out the consumer focus groups and the industry expert groups. But it was exciting to hear people's feedback and what they will be willing to pay for the particular varietals and the vintages that we were looking at. But I didn't go crazy with it, especially because we were taking on the cost of shipping internationally and reviewing so many different varietals in the beginning. So probably narrowed down to 5 to 10 varietals at the beginning. And now we're just hyper-selective and we have a pretty good understanding of the taste profile. So, I would say it's anywhere from 3 to 5 that we're tasting, that we're truly considering. Because not that many will check every one of the boxes. So, it's not even worth going through that tasting process.

    Dana Spaulding 29:22
    It’s still pretty hard to hit those benchmarks. So if someone has not had Wander + Ivy, they're new to the brand. What do you tell them? And people have their preferences for the type of wine. But if someone says, “I like all wines”, what do you tell someone to start with?

    Dana Spaulding 29:37
    So we have a mixed varietal pack. So, fortunately, that's by far our best seller because people love it. After all, it's a way for them to experiment. If they're just in a wine shop and want to get one bottle, I tend to ask them a couple of questions. Like where do you typically lean? Do you like super dry or red? Sometimes I would say people have a specific opinion on whether they're red or white. They know that but then people get a little nervous to dig into any weeds. But if they like o

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