Bill Anton | Crain's

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Bill Anton


A retired thoroughbred jockey, Bill Anton acquired a love of wine and gourmet food while traveling the world. After retiring from racing, Anton attended culinary school in Florida where his passion for wine only grew. Anton gained experience under winemakers at Castello Di Borghese in Cutchogue, N.Y., and at Childress Vineyards in Lexington, N.C. He joined the City Winery team in 2009. 

The Mistake:

As far as mistakes in my winemaking career, it's been a pretty cool path. I have been fortunate enough to be assistant to winemakers and am now a production winemaker. 

I started in my jockeying career when I was quite young; I rode my first race when I was 16. It was my passion, and I put all my eggs into one basket. If I was to do it again, I probably would have gone to college, and if everything worked out, gone back into racing and then whatever other opportunities that arose.

You think you just have to show up every day and work, but there was more to it than that. I was a little young and naive at the time, but it was a great learning experience.

A lot of people get into racing when they are very young and it's a business where you can make a lot of money and not have a whole lot of education. You tend to be a little more close-minded about the outside world even though you do travel a lot, the racetrack is in a world of its own. When you get away from it, you see that there is a whole big world out there. I think I missed out on that in my younger years.

There's more to it than showing up every day and being good at what you do.

The Lesson:

I dreamed that I would work hard and show up every day and be retired by the time I was 40 after winning a Kentucky Derby. Racing is just like any other business. There's more to it than showing up every day and being good at what you do. You have to be more of a self-promoter, and you have to market yourself.

I'm sort of an introverted person, so with any type of job where you have to sell and promote yourself, that's not a big help. It took me a while to learn that.

When I went to culinary school, I was around people on their second careers, and you get to network with people and learn from their mistakes. That's how you grow.

I always wanted to be in a career where I am always learning, and that's what I love about the wine industry. Every year is different. You shouldn't ever feel that you know everything, because that's when I feel it's time to get out.

With me being 52 years old, I'm around a lot of different college-educated people. College gives you not so much the work experience, but it gives you a little bit more worldliness, in my opinion. It gives you more confidence in speaking and interacting with people. Even though I have done that over the years, I wish I would have had that earlier in my career. 

Pictured: Bill Anton | Photo courtesy of City Winery Nashville

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