Frank Sterns, Vice President – AV Specialty/Custom Integration, Sony
MJ: We know you have a love of cycling, photography and wine making; tell us about the wine making.
FS: I remember visiting Napa Valley in 1986 and just fell in love with the place. I was also a wine enthusiast, so I decided that someday I would have my own winery and wine brand. I was involved for a few years and produced my last vintage in 2008. I’m looking forward to getting back to it in the near future.
MJ: Ambitious! Did you have training as a winemaker?
FS: Not at first. I was a hobbyist but once I got started I took online wine making classes from University of California at Davis. Interesting side note; my professor was the woman who discovered the origin of Zinfandel by tracing its DNA all the way back to Croatia.
MJ: How much time were you spending on this venture?
FS: I had a full-time winemaker who did the day to day winery work. I spent a weekend per quarter on site tasting and collaborating with my team. Most of my nights and weekends were dedicated to selling, marketing, bookkeeping and the other more mundane aspects of running a business.
MJ: Tell us about the brand and the winery.
FS: The brand name is Aurielle. Aurielle – from the Latin root AUR meaning “golden” and “sound” and inspired by the qualities of the golden ratio, the mathematical principle that describes perfection and balance in the most classical sense. The golden ratio is represented in the spiral of a Nautilus seashell and by the most pleasing compositions in music, art and architecture. The winery is headquartered in Napa. I didn’t own an actual vineyard, I just contracted with premium growers in the hillsides around Napa. Another interesting note, about a third of the grapes came from Robin Williams’ estate.
MJ: Did wine making bring a sense of harmony or balance to a high stress career?
FS: Being in the vineyards and the cellar was definitely a calming influence. I always looked forward to my Napa trips as a chance to unwind and clear my head. I really enjoy walking the vineyards, especially in the early mornings when the fog is still on the vines. It was a great place to renew and refresh. There are a lot of wine lovers in CI and I would frequently bring the latest vintage of Aurielle to dinner to share. It brought me great pleasure when people tried the wine and saw how good it was.
MJ: On a business note, where do you see the growth for Sony, specifically in the CI channel?
FS: As you know, Sony has a corporate strategy to develop more premium products and the CI channel is a focused channel of distribution to launch these products. Growth areas are 4k TV obviously, but specifically OLED TV and larger size TV (75 inch and above). Additionally, Sony sees great potential in short throw laser projectors that can function in a traditional home theater or in a more “media room” type environment. They are a great way to get a picture size greater than 85” without the logistical hassles of such a big panel. On the audio side, HiRes continues to be a focus as does Dolby Atmos and DTS-X. Finally, while more and more content is streamed, we are excited about 4k Blue Ray as most homes don’t have the bandwidth to stream the ultimate quality of 4k video that our 4k projectors can display.