Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Grape to table - the end-goal of all wineries.

What is this "woot" thing you are doing?

#1 question I get from the national wine trade folks these days...yes, I still have my hands in Texas wine sales for very special projects (more on this later).  But if you are a winery you've got to mix up your distribution channels - control it from the mothership.  Wine.Woot! has been leading the online-deal a day wine space for years now, they created an entire new category for wine sales & marketing.  A few points:
1) Your wine club members are changing, the Gen X'ers and younger fans are about as non-committal as it gets.  We want whatever whenever, on our own terms. So what if you offer parties at the winery and special "wine club only" wines - we have more choices than ever to travel and party - and certainly find & purchase special wines from all over the world. Please make your websites better - give us a quick and simple way to buy your wines - 24/7.  Yes, there are wineries who are doing this right, but the majority out there haven't updated their websites in years. Get on it.

2) National sales reach - true "grape to table" - both of the websites listed below allow your wines to been seen and purchased from all over the USA - no plane ticket required.  This is a no brainer.  I hear this over and over "biggest day of traffic our winery ever receives is when we are featured on Wine.Woot! & Rue La La".  Wine.Woot! especially - it IS your virtual tasting room for a day.  Own the follow-up after your wine is featured too - this is the best part really. You've now got your hands on a few hundred folks that have given you moolah for your wines, show them your love.

3) Stop being a such a silly worrywart.  A discounted online offering for 24-48 hours does not hurt your brand, I know your wines are your babies - but please get over yourself.  You know how many times I dealt with 10 to 112 case-stacks being slashed on the floor of a fine wine shop or gourmet retailer? And this is while I'm uncorking a few cases of bottles to demo on the floor to move the stacks - terrible for a P&L statement.   Also, your favorite Sommeliers are going to love you more when their patrons actually thank them for listing your wine - because they've now had a chance to learn more about them and taste them direct from the winery.  A single cool-kids restaurant is not going to "make your brand" with a BTG listing.  However - brag away, tell all your facebook friends that they can now guzzle your wines while dining out at the "it" place - hopefully they will get a reservation before your wine is switched off the list.

original post

I admit, I wasn't familiar with  Wine.Woot! until an industry consultant helping Pellegrini Family Vineyards turned me onto Woot! last fall.  Notice the word "help", you all know by now that I'm in the business of wine and my passion for "helping" family owned wineries is what gets me out of bed in the morning.  After running my first campaign with Wine.Woot! and Pellegrini - I was hooked.  Smart marketing and even smarter direct sales.

In all my years of agonizing over National FOB's, begging for more allocations, fighting over margins, creating incentives for reps that work (then seeing them fail), waiting for PO's, calling for payment on the PO's,  picking up winemakers from the airport at dawn, planning every minute of a market visit, driving 5 hours to stand in a store for a demo to then stay awake for a midnight staff training at a restaurant, receiving calls from key sales reps @3pm on Friday asking if I had any samples at my home that their best on-premise account was short and needs more - (oh and can you meet me 1.5 hours away with them too), printing a forest of marketing materials - sales sheets, shelf talkers, reviews, prices, paying for lunch, paying for breakfast tacos, paying for a steak dinner and kickoff meeting for 30, paying $4 a gallon in gas to drive 2-3,000 a month around Texas to finally & hopefully sell a few boxes of wine.  Whew.  It's takes an expensive army and an ambitious leader to move millions of dollars of wine through the traditional supply chain - exhausting and a money pit.     

Room for both.  

Yes, savvy wineries have been getting this for years now.  Utilizing sites such as Wine.Woot! and Rue La La for direct sales is a smart, fast and efficient way to brand the winery to a new customer base and ultimately move some boxes.  I've heard of a few "whiny-baby" distributors attempt to bully wineries when featured on these sites, what they don't get is that these 2 channels are actually helping build the brands in their local region too.  Often on the Wine.Woot! community forums page, members ask where the wines are being poured in restaurants and what local wine shops carry the wine.  On Rue La La - well over 3.5 million members are now eyeballing the wine collections - worth more than any BTG placement at the hottest restaurant in any American town. For a winemaker it may not sound as "cool" as having your wine placed on Gary Danko's list, but you can't deposit your ego in the bank either. Also, most likely a member of Rue La La who bought a large format of your wine will jump at the chance of ordering your brand off a sexy wine list too.  Wineries have been selling direct to consumers for years through their tasting rooms, wine clubs and mailing lists - this avenue is no different except it's in the world's view - for all to see, learn from and most likely spend their money on!

White Noise. 

Wine.Woot! began in 2006, since then similar "flash sites" have popped up but nothing to shake a stick at in regards to building a lasting and loyal impression on wine consumers.  Wine.Woot! is one-of-a kind and after a few months now of getting to know the members, it feels like family.  They love a good discount (who doesn't?), love hearing from the winemakers, offer honest opinions (love it or hate it), create wine gatherings all over the nation to share their Wine.Woot! bottles with each other and spread the love for the brands they have discovered like no other group of wine lovers I've ever encountered.  Oh, and they are buying a few pallets of wine - a day! 


Big plans are in full swing for Wine.Woot! and Rue La La.  Luxury wineries are utilizing high-end features on Rue La La to drive visitors to their winery (literally) and many are using Wine.Woot! as a new release and launching pad to kick off new wines for the season.  Yes, you'll still see a good value in price but don't expect to always see 2 vintages-past featured each day.  If you are a winery and haven't incorporated these two channels into your annual sales strategy - get on it, what are you waiting for?  If you are a wine consumer - CHEERS to you with each and every click!   - Ali

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Open to the Public - Healdsburg Edition

Visiting the Healdsburg area?  Well, here's a proper list that will guarantee a solid wine experience. Wineries are listed in no particular order  - they are all #1 to me and my guests who've experienced their hospitality this summer.

Ridge Lytton Springs - Dry Creek
A warm and friendly staff is always waiting to greet you at Ridge.  Their new patio overlooking old vines makes this visit comfy and relaxing.  Beats the heck out of the zig-zaggy drive up to Montelbello in the Santa Cruz Mountains too!  If you're lucky you'll hit it while their Carignan is available.  Montebello wines are also for sale here, ask about their "Celler" selections as well, to buy not to taste  - just go for it. 

Medlock Ames - Alexander Valley
Learn about their "save the earth" philosophy while sipping on tiny production organic Merlot, Cabernet, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. Tastings are paired with small bites and wood-fired pizza sometimes too.  The real secret: Plan your visit after 3:30, the AV Bar located at the back of the tasting room opens at 5pm - everyone passing through should stop of a refreshing cocktail made with ingredients from the garden or a cold beer  - a beautiful patio to watch the sunset.

Natural Process Alliance & Salina Wine Company  - Santa Rosa (Russian River area)
This is not a stop for Cowboy Cabernet drinkers.  NPA wines are made with TLC naturally and left to do their own thing until poured down the hatch!  The wine on tap system complete with Kleen Kanteen's is the hippest way to drink since the milkman made deliveries.  Winemaker Kevin Kelly's Salina wines are also here, well he produces less than 300 cases annually, but seriously some of the most fabulous cold climate Syrah, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir on the planet. 

Arista - Westside Rd., Russian River
The Texas born McWilliams family has created an absolute magical experience high a-top Westside Rd.  The tasting room is surrounding by Japanese gardens and native boulders that take you to a far-away-land for a bit.  The family is 100% dedicated to showing you a good time,  plan ahead & schedule a vineyard tour for a real treat!  Oh and there's the wine - the Artista wines are a must have for any Pinot Noir lover.  I also can't seem to get enough of  their Syrah, Cab Franc and Gew├╝rztraminer - while they last.

Copain - Eastside Rd., Russian River
Seriously, I just want to live here.  The decor inside and out - coupled with a view overlooking Williams-Seylem and other legendary wineries along over on Westside Rd. is spectacular.   You'll encounter an incredibly knowledgeable and accommodating staff, while sipping on "anything you can get your hands on"  - ask for them - seriously good wines.  Viogner, Rose, Syrah and Pinot Noir have all been sipped and shipped among my visiting friends and family this year. Only wish I bought more Rose!

Kokomo - Dry Creek Valley
For the love of dogs!  I get my Labrador love fix walking in the door at Kokomo.  The friendly owners are followed around by their four-legged buddies.  The wines are for us humans, almost always featuring a new release or small production wine reserved for Wine Club members too. I guzzled mounds of their simple but delicious Dry Creek Sauvignon Blanc this summer - looking forward to opening a few pinots this fall.  The tasting room is no-frills, but the hip music and groovy winery t-shirts are a big bonus.

Inspiration Vineyards - Santa Rosa (Russian River area)
Yes, you are now in an industrial park next to a Baptist Church!!  Situated across from the NPA tasting room and winery, the tasting room at Inspiration makes you feel right at home- almost like it's "game night" and it's going to be awhile before you want to leave.  Small production Chardonnay, Syrah, Zinfandel, Pinot Noir, Cabernet and Viogner are all a treat, one of my favorite discoveries this year.  I first met the owners Jon and Barbara while taking their nightly walk through the vineyards off of Olivet Rd.  where they live, they are as lovely as the wines they create!

 Jordan - Alexander Valley
Call ahead to schedule your tasting and tour.  The picturesque grounds take you right to Bordeaux's Chateau Margaux.  The winery is tucked away in the hills of Alexander Valley, but extremely easy to locate.  You'll feel like a million bucks walking into the winery and will have plenty of options in how to spend a few bucks too.  I recently walked away with a bottle of 2003 Jordan Cabernet - the wines age very well and the library wines are "the get" when visiting since their distribution across the US is now everywhere from grocery stores to fine wine shops.

The "gargiste" tasting room is open Thursday - Sunday only and is a real treat to visit.  Looking for Napa Cabernet while in Sonoma County? This is your stop. Guy Davis always has a few wines open that are not in national distribution too  - just ask.  You'll be greeted by Lexi most days, who keeps things lively and fun during your visit.  A lot of the time you'll meet the family too,  Cole is Guy's right hand and often brings grandson Luke in tow. Ahh what a cutie!  Take a peek high above the tasting room bar to see the Davis Family Vineyards "Grand Champion" Saddle Trophy for winning the Texas size wine competition at the Houston Rodeo's International Wine Competition a few years ago  - yeah Davis Family Cabernet won the whole show - this is a big deal.

****when visiting Geyserville, a few minutes North of Healdsburg - a stop into Meeker Vineyards is a must, this family owned winery rocks and so do their wines. More suggestions soon! Cheers - Ali

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

Winery Dog

A fabulous offering from Porter-Bass is on Wine.Woot! today.   Must share this sweet photo again, a perfect moment in time for this dog and my camera!  Ahh, a dog's life in the wine country...

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Harvest Lunch

Oh I just booked a fun harvest lunch with friends, very excited!  If you are visiting the Healdsburg area during the next few weeks, weekend lunch is a must with the folks at Michel-Schlumberger. Here's the skinny: http://www.michelschlumberger.com/events

Sunday, October 02, 2011

A bit of Ridge

This time last week I was preparing for an afternoon at Ridge Lytton Springs, still working on a complete post of the afternoon (it's a long one!).  Exciting harvest happenings...they were bringing in Zinfandel last Sunday and playing with the 2011 Carignan.  More soon - Ali

Saturday, October 01, 2011

In loving memory

A wonderful Mother, Wife, Sister, Aunt, Daughter, Grandmother & Friend to all.  She loved this view of the Sonoma Coast, we all raise our glass to you sweet Janet.