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Meet Tawnya Falkner of Le Grand Courtage in Westwood

Today we’d like to introduce you to Tawnya Falkner.

Tawnya, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.

Having grown up in a 3-street farm town, I recall Sunday dinners and backyard barbeques as some of my fondest memories from childhood. My small-town roots evoked a feeling of wanderlust early in life, and having traveled around the globe, I realized that food & wine are the great common denominator of all cultures and the *pop* of a cork evokes a universal feeling. 

A few years ago, I took the leap, gave up my career as a designer/real estate developer and moved to France after seeing a gap in the sparkling wine industry relating to price, palate and packaging. I set out to create a distinctive and aspirational brand which offers an affordable every day luxury. My journey resulted in Le Grand Courtâge (LGC), a 90+ point winning French sparkling wine, and our newly launched, Très Chic Rosé.  My goal is to embody the French spirit of the ‘Joie de Vivre’ (joy of life) and to both elevate and celebrate the every day. 

I was educated at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and previously co-founded two still successfully operating firms, Strategic Development Solutions and Domus Development. I served as a developer as well as a policy strategist and consultant for government agencies, corporations and nonprofit groups. From my experience in launching businesses in both real estate development and wine, I understand how to implement a vision and address market opportunity, while balancing financial realities and navigating complex regulatory requirements.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?

Building a company will test you to the core, but it is also phenomenally rewarding to bring a dream and a vision to light and get to live the proverbial American dream.

Owning Le Grand Courtâge has been surreal, exciting, and scary. Every time I see a bottle on a shelf or in a restaurant, I’m still a little surprised and smile. With any success comes a lot of work and perseverance. There will be days when you want to collapse in exhaustion and cry, and you will want to pack it up and call it quits. Owning your own business will test your mettle, and you will give up a lot of your life for a few years. Be prepared. It is difficult to be your own cheerleader as well as everyone else’s, every day but… the hustle, sweat and tears make the utter joy of success even sweeter in the end.

The romance of wine (and food) was of course the allure, but I didn’t comprehend the sheer volume of work and new things to learn related to an alcohol company. It is sometimes daunting and overwhelming and I definitely didn’t realize when I embarked on this path that I would have to become a mini-expert in compliance, the legal vagaries of each state, production logistics, supply chain, importing, securing distributors and of course simply building consumer awareness. 

When you consider the big picture, the two greatest obstacles are 1) raising capital which in short is brutal and 2) trying to gain distribution in a fragmented industry. If you aren’t high tech or a direct to consumer, digitally native brand, it’s very hard to raise money. Women get <3% of capital and the lack of capital truly is what is the biggest impediment to growth, or success for most companies. With regard to distribution, there are only a few players controlling the majority of the business, and it’s hard for a small business to get the mind share without deep pockets.

 

In the beginning of a business, you are capital and human resource constrained. Both time and money become precious commodities. There are days where you wonder how you got yourself into this mess and how you are ever going to make it happen, but by breaking things down in steps, it becomes manageable.

The inbox will never be empty and as an entrepreneur there is always more you can do and try. Don’t get so caught up in being busy that you forget to pay attention to ‘you’. Take time off and do what feeds your soul so that the creative juices are restored; and make sure to come back to your ‘why’ you started as that will help to fuel you through the tough times.

We’d love to hear more about your business.

My journey to France resulted in Le Grand Courtâge, award-winning French sparkling wines, and our newly launched Provence style, Très Chic Rosé.  In our obsession to be connected with technology, we’ve lost so much sense of connection. To me the table is about bringing people to share food, wine and laughter.  I aim to be the best 15 minutes of someone’s day by reminding them that it’s the moments in life that matter and that we need to take time both celebrate life. It’s about elevating the every day and adopting a champagne state of mind in everything you do.

Our 90+ point wines are designed to be crisp, light and refreshing with a nice dryness and acidity on the front of the palate, and then a fruit and floral on the finish to provide for a balanced profile and wines which are cuisine and cocktail friendly.  I wanted to create something which is approachable, affordable and versatile.

We are distributed throughout the US and have grown into a true brand in terms of our size, ranking and acceptable with marquee accounts which is exciting.

I am fortunate that the brand is gaining traction with national groups like Kimpton Hotels, MGM, California Pizza Kitchen, T Mobile Arena as well as the Four Seasons, JW etc.,  We have also amassed a fair amount of earned media with the Today Show, Tasting Panel, Vogue, People, InStyle, Forbes, Martha Stewart Weddings, AOL, Drink Me Mag, Newsette 

Brand Video – https://vimeo.com/289578894

What were you like growing up?

I have led a somewhat unconventional path. I grew up in a three-street farm town of 400 people in upstate New York, and then later my Mom moved us to California in search of new opportunities and a better life. 

I have lived many places domestically and then internationally in Berlin, Thailand and France as an adult, but my small start roots really sparked a curiosity and led me to traveling the globe. These experiences provided a unique perspective and really showed me that all people of all cultures regardless of whether rich or poor gather to ‘break bread’ and share a meal.  Ultimately, I saw a gap in the category and thought if I could combine my love of people, food, wine and travel, that would be the ideal.

I am the first in my family to graduate from college, but I often credit the work ethic and values that I gained from family and community. I was fortunate to have a lens into various socio-economic levels and cultures that really acted as a school of life and opened my eyes. As an American we are very fortunate to live in a country where one can forge their own path and where the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well.

Pricing:

  • Le Grand Courtâge – 750ml  $22
  • Le Grand Courtâge – 187ml  $7
  • Très Chic Rosé – 750ml   $19

Contact Info:

  • Address: Le Grand Courtâge
    1281 Westwood Blvd #107
    Los Angeles, CA 90024
  • Website: https://legrandcourtage.com/
  • Phone: ​310-473-0516
  • Email: tawnya@legrandcourtage.com
  • Instagram: @legrandcourtage
  • Facebook: @legrandcourtage
  • Twitter: @GrandCourtage


Image Credit:
Tami Reed, Night & Day Images and Makers & Allies

Getting in touch: VoyageLA is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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