Mark Hyman, President & C.E.O.
Mark Hyman’s challenges as President and C.E.O. are significant, despite the high quality of the wines. Many people within, as well as the majority of the people outside the boundaries of Texas remain unaware of the achievements of Texas’ Premium Wine Industry. But Mark is up for taking on that challenge.
Since joining the team at Llano Estacado in 1994, sales have more than tripled, while the reputation of the winery has soared. An important reason for this is Mark’s ability to proselytize. Mark’s role at Llano is to oversee all aspects of the company in its entirety, but he takes great pride in helping to direct marketing strategies and work with the company’s wholesale distributors to achieve mutual gain, while supervising the winery in every aspect of its operation This is accomplished by working closely with his team: Greg Bruni, V.P. Executive Winemaker; Bill Freidhof, V.P. Sales & Marketing; and Pegi Saran, V.P. Finance and Administration.
Mark firmly believes that Llano Estacado has the finest, most experienced overall winery management team in the state, and this is why the winery continues to grow while it heads toward an annual production of 200,000 cases a year. “I feel like I am in the right place, at the right time,” Mark said. “My previous corporate experience in sales and brand management meshes perfectly with what Llano needed to perpetuate our growth.”
Mark began his career in the wine industry back in the early 1980s with The Seagram Wine Company, successfully working and elevating himself to ever-increasing levels of management. He then joined Vintners International as the company’s very first Texas State Manager. In 1989 Mark accepted a position as Area Manager for the Heublein Fine Wine Group, where he was responsible for the growth of the company’s Napa Valley portfolio for Texas and the surrounding states. Over the next few years, his title and territory grew to as many as 15 surrounding states at one point. Mark joined Llano in 1994 as the Vice President of Sales & Marketing. As time progressed, the titles grew. He was appointed Executive Vice President in 1999, then President/ C.O.O. in January 2001, and finally President/ C.E.O. in 2008.
Mark believes the future at Llano Estacado to be very, very bright. “We will be faced with ongoing significant challenges and worldwide competition, but bottom line is we will continue to grow by a combination of new product innovation, as well as by following what he consumer wants and producing it for them.”
A simple statement, but oftentimes quite difficult to accomplish. Mark’s role in these developments will be critical. His position at Llano Estacado and his industry knowledge and experience make him a key figure in the Texas Wine Industry. He carries out that role by regularly attending or sitting on various industry groups, Advisory Councils, Boards, and events where he proudly represents the State’s largest Premium Winery. Yet he still sees his most important role as his relationships with customers. “I’m continuously pulled in many directions. But it is critical to keep up with what is going on in the ever-changing marketplace. We must never lose sight of who our costumers base is, what they’re drinking, and providing for them, while cultivating new and existing consumers to our wines.”
With an extremely long list of State, National and International awards, press and growing critical recognition, Mark Hyman has been and continues to be responsible for Llano Estacado’s continued success.
Greg Bruni, Vice President Executive Winemaker
Artistic Side of Winemaking
Greg Bruni's decision to leave behind his native California and come to Llano Estacado Winery as Vice President of Winemaking in 1993 was perhaps the most lucid of his professional life. For, despite all that he had to leave behind -- a well established reputation, a winegrowing climate which he understood intimately, plus friends and family -- the upstart winery offered him all that he had come to value in his twenty-year winemaking career.
"When I first visited Llano Estacado Winery," said Bruni, "I found everything that had first inspired me to fall in love with winemaking: challenge, enthusiasm, and an industry, much like California in the '70's, just bursting with potential. But the phenomenal talent of the people in charge of Llano Estacado was what made this such an irresistible opportunity for me. They wanted me for my winemaking knowledge -- and were happy to spare me the running of the business and just leave me to be as creative as possible. That allowed me to be, for the first time in my career, focused exclusively on what I loved: the artistic side of winemaking."
Greg represents the third generation of his family to work in the wine industry. His family founded the famed San Martin Winery where Greg began working in the cellar, vineyards and tasting room at the age of twelve. The backbreaking work of the cellar did not immediately appeal to Greg. In fact, upon graduation from high school Greg had no plans to enter the family business. What changed his mind was the onset of the premium wine boom in California; a moment in the history of the industry which led to great creative energies in the vineyards and winery. This drew Greg back to wine and off to U.C. Davis where he obtained a B.S. degree in Winemaking.
Greg immediately returned to San Martin Winery as Assistant Winemaker under Ed Friedrich. A few years later, wanting to strike out on his own, he went to work as Winemaker under the wing of Terrance Clancy, who was reviving Bandiera Winery in Sonoma County. In 1984, Greg took the post of Winemaker/General Manager at Arciero Winery in Paso Robles, where he was responsible for designing an entirely new state-or-the-art facility, equipping it, developing its vineyards and grape-buying program, making the wine and managing all winemaking operations. In 1989, Greg joined Byington Winery in Santa Cruz, California, another ground up venture. His Byington wines garnered extensive recognition in the U.S. and internationally, continuing his reputation in wine circles.
Greg's arrival at Llano Estacado in 1993 marked a turning point for the winemaker and the winery. Working with the extraordinary team at Llano, Greg has vastly improved the quality of the wines, instilled a new sense of urgency in the winery's grower team, and himself become a major figure in the Texas wine industry. In 1997 Greg oversaw the expansion of the Llano Estacado facilities, a major step which was followed by expansions in 2006 and 2009 that will allow Llano to further improve the quality and consistency of the wines. While not in the cellar or surveying the vineyards on the Texas High Plains, Greg enjoys growing vegetables in his home garden where all the ingredients are grown for his culinary specialty: authentic Italian cuisine. He lives in Lubbock with his wife Sharendale.
Bill Freidhof, Vice President Sales & Marketing
When it was time to find a Vice President of Sales & Marketing at Llano Estacado Winery, Mark Hyman’s first choice was Bill Freidhof. The person in this position would need to know how to communicate and market Llano wine through the complex 3-tier distribution system. As Bill had been working in the wine and spirits industry in a distributor for more than 20 years, he was a natural fit.
Today, Bill is in charge of sales and marketing for the state of Texas. He personally lives and covers the Houston area and southeast Texas. Bill has two marketing managers that report to him who cover the North & West Texas and the Central Texas areas. Their primary responsibility is working together with Llano’s distributors in a partnership to achieve mutual gain in the marketplace.
Bill is able to work closely with his distributor, creating programs and point-of-sale that strengthens distribution and presence of Llano wines in the market place.
A born people-person, Bill loves the daily interaction with others on the job. He describes the feeling he gets from it as the “thrill of the sale.” He was attracted to Llano Estacado by the family atmosphere. Being a smaller company, Bill enjoys the excellent level of communication within the company that gives it that family feel.
After achieving his childhood dream as a professional baseball player with the Kansas City Royals, Bill entered the wine industry as a sales representative for The Gallo Wine Company of Louisiana. He immediately knew he was tailor-made for sales, advancing rapidly to a manager at Allison Wholesale Company in Bay City, Texas. From there, he would remain a manager in the wine industry.
As wholesale distributors began consolidating in the 90’s, Bill moved companies a few times, eventually settling at Republic National Distributing Company in Houston. It was there that he was exposed to the marketing end of business and met the man that would hire him away to work at Llano Estacado.
After 22 years in a distributor, Bill was looking for a new challenge and a change of pace. He wanted a job with greater flexibility that would enable him to spend more time with his two children. When Mark Hyman approached Bill about taking his current position, he jumped at the chance.
“I’m glad he did,” Bill said. “It was a great move for me. I’m thoroughly excited! Llano is a company that’s on the upswing. It’s been growing for many years. We are doing many exciting things that continue to grow our business and keep it exciting for everyone involved, including the consumer.“
Bill sees Llano Estacado Winery continuing to grow through viable new products and label changes, which is an ongoing process. He wants to keep the winery in the forefront of what’s happening in the market.
Originally from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Bill graduated from Louisiana State University with a marketing degree and currently lives in Houston with his wife, Kathy, and their two children, Conner and Claire. Baseball is still a big part of Bill’s life. He is obviously a big fan, and both of his children are heavily involved in sports.