Foster wanted to be a teacher, but after attending the CU in Boulder, he realized he wasn't cut out for it and returned to California to work in the family business to learn how to make wine.
When he learned the Centennial State's Western Slope had a blossoming wine industry, Foster and his wife, Natalie, jumped at the chance to return to Colorado, where they worked in wineries in the Palisade and Grand Junction area. Like many Coloradans, the Fosters got the entrepreneurial bug and decided to open a small wine shop in Fruita offering a variety of wines from across the state. At the same time, they launched Talon Winery in a small room in the 1,700-square-foot shop.
"We were located in the busiest welcome center in the state, and we were happy to see two or three people a day," Foster recalls. "We ran it for three years and decided we needed a production facility. Now we have hundreds of people a day."
The Fosters got lucky when they found a package of three wineries for sale. The deal included a large production facility and two retail locations in Palisade. They bought Meadery of the Rockies, St. Kathryn Cellars, and Confre Cellars from Connie and Fred Strothman, who were ready to retire. The Fosters phased out the Confre Cellars label, moving the most popular wines from the brand to the St. Kathryn label.
Today, Talon Wine Brands makes about 40 different wines under three labels: Meadery of the Rockies, St. Kathryn Cellars, and Talon Winery. Its mission statement: "We share the joy of wine."
The Meadery of the Rockies label is honey wine -- Foster describes it as "sweet but not overly sweet." Though honey wine is not well-known, Foster says awareness and demand is increasing. It is now the most widely distributed of Talon's labels. The St. Kathryn wines are made from fruit and botanicals like lavender -- think Peach Passion, Blueberry Bliss or Sweet Scarlet. More traditional wines are found under the Talon Winery label.
"These wines are really good," Foster said. "We understand winemaking, and we stay on it. I was in production for a very long time."
Challenges: "Winemaking is not the challenge -- I'm good at it, and I can teach it to the right student," Foster said. "Leadership is a big challenge. I was the youngest in my family. I never had the opportunity or need to take on leadership skills. I was left to my own devices and really enjoyed myself."
Over the years, Foster been coached in professional development and studied leadership practices. "I know how important it is, and I'm developing leaders within my company to help."
Opportunities: The big opportunity Foster sees with the business is its local appeal. "People want to drink local wines," he said. "If people really like traditional wines, they can support a local winery, not pay through the nose for it and get a good-quality product."
There also are opportunities with Foster's other wines, particularly the honey and lavender varieties."We're very innovative," Foster said. "We have some wines that are very uncommon and very delicious."
Needs: "We just need people to try the wines and have an open mind," Foster said. "Our wines are very user-friendly. Selling wine is pretty easy if people try it."