Surviving the Annual Sales Meeting
Sales meetings are like going to the dentist. No one looks forward to it, but you have to do it anyway. I've sat through what feels like 100's of the things. Ultimately, these meetings all have one thing in common. Management tries to figure out how to sell more wine at a higher price to keep the doors open and the lights on. Sales people try to convince management to do just the opposite and from there the negotiations begin! I don't care if we're in a recession, a depression or a time of great abundance and wealth. It's all the same thing.
This year, we tried something a little different. We gathered our very talented sales team at the winery and asked them three things:
We made them promise to be honest. And above all else, not to tell us something just because they think it's what we want to hear.
First we reminded everyone of our mission: To make wines that command respect. That is truly at the heart and soul of every decision we make around here. Then we reminded them of our vision: To be amongst the TOP WINERIES in California. Everyone agreed that our wine quality is superlative. And without hesitation, each wine surpasses the bang for your buck test.
But, there were a couple of suggestions that nearly made my hair go straight. They've come up repeatedly, and this time, I was forced to listen. The resulting decisions are significant and might surprise some of you, especially if you've been reading this blog for a while.
For one thing, we're getting screwed. Screw caps that is. Starting with our 2008 Dry Chenin Blanc, we are switching over to a screw cap instead of a traditional cork finish. Seems this alternative closure is vastly preferred by restaurants and is viewed as hip and modern by a new generation of buyers. And, of course there's the added benefit of eliminating the possibility of cork taint. Personally, I've never been much of a fan, but if this is what it takes to be a 21st century success, then I'm all for it. For now, the screw caps will be limited to our Chenin Blanc, but who knows what the future entails.
The other major change comes with our Sauvignon Blanc program. This has been the bread and butter of our white wine production for over 35 years. We've always called ours Fumé Blanc, and have fought hard to educate people on this somewhat dated name. No, it isn't oak aged. No, it's not from South Africa. And, no it isn't a poor man's Chardonnay. We even launched a website, www.whatisfume.com, to help dispel the confusion.
While it took me a while to get on board, I've pretty much come full circle. The next vintage will be released under the Sauvignon Blanc name and in a spiffy new package. Produced from Dry Creek Valley fruit, it will be distinctively different, yet inherently Dry Creek in style. For diehard fans, we will also continue to bottle our flagship Fumé Blanc (in the current label) for those who want the tried and true.
Ultimately, our sales team convinced us that these changes were necessary to appeal to a new generation of customers, without losing our loyal base. To ignore the facts is to be in denial. And the fact is, like me, our customers are getting older and we need to attract younger wine enthusiasts, at all levels, restaurant, retail, and consumer.
SO, as the saying goes, THIS AIN'T YOUR DADDY'S OLDSMOBILE.
I'm excited about the changes and can't wait to unveil the new Dry Creek. Much of 2009 will be dedicated to this. Maybe the American auto industry should take note?
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