By Mike Vieira | Feb 22, 2023

Company Details


Carrollton, Texas



Ownership Type





Wines and cocktail creams

Honoring family heritage while blurring the line between wine and cocktails is now a full-time business for co-founder Whitney Gates -- and markets outside of Texas’ borders are on the horizon.

Growing up, Gates used to spend time watching her uncle make wine in his garage from a variety of fruits for his family and friends. "As a little girl, I was really struck by the reaction that people would have to his wine," she recalls. "I used to call it 'happy juice,' because when he shared it with my parents and their friends, they all got very happy. He created kind of a high-octane, elevated alcohol wine, just using fruits, and yeast, and sugar."

Later in life, and wanting to build on her uncle's legacy, Gates began experimenting with wine making of her own. "I started teaching myself to make wine," she says, "just through self-exploration, self-study, and the very little that I knew from watching my late uncle."

After about eight years of home kitchen experimentation, Gates enrolled in college to learn more about the science and art of winemaking. She then got her husband, Chaz, interested in the process, and the couple founded WONDRY. Although Chaz is still a full-time attorney, he is also the primary winemaker for the company, creating every drop of WONDRY's products while Gates uses her background in brand management to focus more on the administrative and marketing duties.

Presently, they are the only two full-time employees at WONDRY, and they use part-time contractors to help with the bottling and packaging of the products. Their hard work is paying off, with an ever-increasing customer base and continued widening of their distribution network.

Wide exposure on the television show Shark Tank has also played a role in the success and expansion of the business. In addition to netting a financial infusion that has allowed them to purchase an automated bottling line to exponentially increase their capacity, Mark Cuban personally assisted them with connecting to Southern Glazer's for a distribution deal that currently is landing their product in stores all over Texas and will soon expand nationally.

The company also markets directly to consumers via the internet, through a fulfillment center that manages the orders, but since their retail distribution deal, WONDRY has gone from 100 percent online sales to only about 20 percent. Their early retail distribution consisted of the couple personally delivering their products to area stores and stocking the shelves with it. While the experience was demanding, Gates says it was very valuable because it taught them a lot about what retailers are looking for in choosing the products they sell.

Gates says, "We wanted to really blur the line between a premium wine and a craft cocktail. My husband and I are both social drinkers, and the issue for us is that we love craft cocktails, and when we wanted to transition to wines, we didn't find any brands that really spoke to us as craft cocktail drinkers and lovers of innovation and unique flavor profiles. That really was the catalyst for us launching this brand. We wanted to create a portfolio of beverages that spoke to us and other millennial consumers who were looking for unique flavors or unique taste experiences."

She points out that despite wine being the oldest alcoholic beverage, it generally relies on the same varietals without a lot of the innovation found in other types of drinks. "The hallmark of the foundation of our business is innovation," Gates says, "and so we are constantly ideating about how we can disrupt different categories and sub-categories within the alcohol industry."

WONDRY's wines are grape based, then infused with other organic fruits to create the distinctive flavors that the company has become known for. The grapes and other fruits are all sourced in California, and at times there have been some supply challenges with weather causing low crop yields and a shortage in availability. However, the biggest problems often come from glass, aluminum, and truck driver shortages.

With current capacity at approximately 2,000 cases per month from their 6,000-square-foot facility, WONDRY is looking to expand to a larger building in the near future in order to meet the increasing demand for their products. That will also mean an expansion in their staffing numbers to continue their growth.

"It's a 24-hour a day, seven-day a week job," Gates says. "Never would we have thought that it would require so much to run your own business. A lot of entrepreneurs really make it look easy, but running a small business is a total sacrifice. But there are great things. We're able to do something that we're super passionate about, and we're able to present ourselves as examples to those who have never seen examples of people who look like us and succeed in business."

In a noble effort, WONDRY donates a portion of its profits to help other under-represented entrepreneurs. Gates says, "Knowing what we've gone through as minority small business owners, it's incredibly important that we pay it forward and open doors for those after us who are chasing similar goals. There are number of hurdles that some communities face, whether it's race, gender, sexual orientation, or whatever. We want to help those who disproportionately have to overcome barriers that prevent their success."

Photos courtesy WONDRY

On the variety of skills she and her husband have had to acquire to run WONDRY, Gates says, "You have to be the best at crafting wines, but you also have to be the best at marketing wines, and you have to be the best at managing a business. Honestly, the easy part is to have a cool idea, but it's much harder to execute it. Then, how do you position your brand for sustainable growth? It does take a day-to-day-to-day commitment. That's the hard part, having to be the best at everything."

Challenges: Gates says, "We've got a lot of distributors and retailers knocking on our doors wanting product but given right now that it’s just Chaz and myself as the fulltime workers, we've got to really be mindful of what we commit to and make sure we don't bite off more than we can chew. We don't want to grow ourselves out of business."

Opportunities: As the company has created a retail stronghold in Texas, expansion into neighboring states in the near future will continue to grow the business. In terms of product mix, the sparkling wine category will likely be the next area of expansion.

Needs: Managing inventory to meet demand spikes and controlling growth in a sustainable manner.

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