Wines Of The Times

Fresno local Sara Baronian’s Nativ Wines…

Withn the first few minutes of a conversation with small business owner Sara Baronian, her commitment to the local area and her mission are crystal clear. The founder of Fresno’s NATIV Wine, Baronian checks all the boxes for making a grassroots business work, from maximizing on her long history in the wine industry to operating a female-owned business while also being a mom.

These skills and experiences are reflected in the way she operates the virtual wine store. She believes in building trust with her customers and nurturing personal relationships while serving and educating the community. A shared interest in wine has turned out to be the way she can practice her belief and give back to a place she has grown to love.

Photos Courtesy of NATIV Wine

Baronian’s wine industry roots run deep. She grew up on a vineyard in rural California, and while she ventured away from the family vineyard to attend Fresno State, she eventually returned to work there for eight years. “I started as a cellar rat and a vineyard hand so I could really learn the ins and outs of grape growing and wine production.

This gave me tremendous insight when working on the business and sales side of things, helping our diverse wholesale customer base all across the country,” says Baronian.

In the end, Fresno called her back. She returned to start her own family and pursue her business idea. “I find Fresno to be fun and vibrant with a great sense of community,” she says. “It’s been a great place for my small virtual wine store to operate because we have a base of wineries working hard to make a name for our local Fresno-Madera wine region.”

NATIV Wine customers benefit from Baronian’s expertise in selecting high-quality wines of the local region while incorporating selections from regions throughout the state. In addition to having greater access to wines produced a few miles away, Baronian explains, “My customers can also have a taste of great artisanal and boutique wines from some of the best wine-growing regions in California – while avoiding the price tag that goes along with those regions and name brands.”

Photos Courtesy of NATIV Wine

Baronian has put as much special care and planning into her business as she does creating relationships with her customers. After the goal and vision for NATIV Wine was cast, she worked herself back through the steps it would take to succeed.

Part of that vision was a wine cafe, a spot to share her wines and connect with the community. The first step, though, was creating an identifiable brand and nailing down the perfect label and logo. This process led to the next step, which unfolded as the virtual wine store. These steps worked in favor of NATIV Wine as the unexpected pandemic swept the nation, forcing brick-and-mortar establishments, including wine cafes, to close. “There was no pause for us, no bump in the road,” says Baronian, referring to the pandemic’s impact on her business.

While local events kept her connected and networking with the community prior to the changes, she now keeps a level of connection through next-day delivery in Fresno and Clovis, and monthly deliveries in Visalia. “People have always been really excited about their monthly wine deliveries, but even more so during this pandemic. It’s an extra comfort and consistency that they rely on to provide normalcy and excitement to their lives,” she says.

Photos Courtesy of NATIV Wine

While the development of a wine cafe as envisioned remains unpredictable, Baronian has no intention to give up on her mission to serve and educate the community. “Wine is still a big question mark for so many people,” she says, speaking to the opportunities for wine education and helping consumers find something they truly enjoy.
NATIV Wine continues to offer a monthly wine club with discounts on purchases. Baronian has expanded the offerings with seasonal gift packages that feature local foods and drinks. The mimosa bundle is a customer favorite and it includes locally made Farm Dog Juice with NATIV Wine’s Twinkle & Glisten Brut.

Involvement in fundraising opportunities has been important from the start. In 2020, NATIV Wine participated in a fundraising effort to support Creek Fire evacuees, and they offered support to healthcare workers with proceeds helping those on the front lines.

Photos Courtesy of NATIV Wine

When it comes to expanding NATIV Wine beyond the Fresno area, Baronian’s hesitation speaks of her loyalty to supporting the local community. Moving to more shipping and less delivery could mean losing personal contact. “You can’t develop that same relationship with someone on the Internet in another city,” she says.

Describing the brand, Baronian says, “We have the feel of a small local winery with an urban vibe.” It’s this feel, this vibe, that she intends to prioritize in her virtual store, in customer communication through their mailing list and with any adventures that lie ahead for NATIV Wine.

NATIV Wine • www.nativ.wine

About Lori Rice

Lori Rice is a photographer and writer with a passion for food and farms. She is the owner of Fake Food Free Productions and the winner of a 2019 International Association of Culinary Professionals Food Writing Award. When she’s not telling stories and sharing photos in Edible San Joaquin Valley, Lori works with food brands, agriculture boards and publishers providing food and farm photography.

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