March 2009 Archives

I've been spending a lot of time on the road lately. Literally in my car, or as the case is now, on an airplane heading to the East Coast for a sales trip. Market work or “road trips” are a necessary evil in the world of wine sales. For most wineries, it's practically a requirement if they're going to stay in business.

These trips are designed to introduce our new releases, solidify distributor relationships, attend trade tastings, call on accounts, and present our wines to as many people as humanly possible.   And, of course, all the while I will attempt to be enthusiastic, upbeat, and utterly charming day after day. (This in itself can be a challenge.) Generally these trips include a lot of evening events followed by early morning wake up calls to head on to a new city. It's probably not unlike the life of a rock star except you're not treated (or paid!) like one.

I bring this up not to whine or complain, but to shed another dose of reality on the true life of a vintner. Road trips or market visits, as we call them, are a vital part of a winery's marketing plan. The trouble is everyone's doing it. In the olden days, wine distributors were thrilled to have a supplier visit their market. People were thirsty for California's new quality wines and accounts welcomed us with arms wide open. These days it's a bit of a different story.  Distributors are inundated with supplier visits from the 1000s of brands they represent from all over the globe.  And the accounts have more wine available to them than they do actual customers. Navigating through this maze to reach the end consumer takes persistence and patience, trust me.

So I'll be out of commission for a while. Hitting the streets in pursuit of the holy sale. Wish me luck… I've been on enough road trips to know I'll need it!

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I'm often asked if my children will take over the winery someday.  I usually don't know how to respond. On the one hand, I know how good it would sound to simply reply “Yes, of course. Junior already has a developed palate and is planning to go to UC Davis to study enology and viticulture.”  But then again, I've never been very good at stretching the truth so I usually just nod and say “I dunno.” Because I just don't know.  Neither of our kids have much of an interest in winemaking, vineyards, wine sales or marketing, or frankly anything else that is remotely related to this industry. In fact, my hunch is that they actually see the lifestyle and demands of running a winery as a boring waste of time.

Until now. My 11-year-old son recently shared his latest plan with me. He has gone through many phases in his short life from wanting to be a sportscaster to a professional fisherman. But now there's evidence that he might actually want to work at the winery someday. This news is simply too good not to share! The Grand POO BAH himself (my father) ought to be thrilled, as am I. Of course, a lot can happen in the next 10-15 years. But I now have a glimmer of hope and actual evidence that there might be a third generation interested in carrying on the torch at Dry Creek Vineyard. 

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Congratulations to the winners of the 2009 American Wine Blog Awards! Sadly, Wilma's Wine World did not make the final cut, but I am very proud to have been a finalist in two separate categories. I'd also like to thank all of you who voted on my behalf. I was overwhelmed with your warm wishes and encouragement, and can't thank you enough.  It means a great deal to me folks. So, while I work on my next blog post, you might want to check out this year's winners. They deserve our recognition and hearty congratulations. Because blogging is hard work, trust me!

Best Writing on a Wine Blog
Best Single Subject Wine Blog
Best Winery Blog
    Michel-Schlumberger's "Benchland Blog"
Best Wine Reviews on a Blog
    Bigger Than Your Head
Best Wine Blog Graphics and Presentation
    The Good Grape
Best Industry/Business-Oriented Wine Blog
    The Wine Collector
Best Overall Wine Blog
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Like many businesses these days, we have several operating forecasts for 2009. We have the original plan developed back in early November. It was based on sales and production data from the previous year, along with projections and goals that we hoped to achieve for the upcoming year.

We were then asked at our last board meeting (l can not say enough about having a good board of directors-especially for family businesses!) to come up with some contingency budgets, just “in case.”  (That was in late 2008, when there was still some debate that the U.S. economy was even entering a recession.)

Like our federal administration, I call them the Obama plans. I've divvied them up into several categories depending on the state of the union:

Budget A - If Obama Gets Elected (original plan and the most optimistic)
Budget B - If Obama Does a Good Job
Budget C - If Obama Does a REALLY Good Job

Budget D - If Things Go to Hell in a Hand Basket (This is also known as the “we can always drink up our own wines” plan.) 

On any given day, I'm not sure which budget we're operating under, since business is a bit inconsistent. Some days it's rocking and rolling with lots of orders and strong sales. Other days, it's not. What I do know is there's a paradigm shift occurring which is affecting all facets of consumer spending. From cars, to clothing, to wines, people are searching for products that offer good bang for your buck. In the case of wine, the new sweet spot is $10-$20, which according to recent Nielson research data, is the only wine category currently growing. (Thankfully, the majority of our wines are priced in this category.)

So, what does this all mean?  Value is in now in vogue. After years of out of control wine pricing, it is now cool to be affordable. Frankly, I feel like our ship has finally come in. (Excuse the nautical pun.) Ever since our first vintage in 1972, we've had a reputation for wines that offer solid value.  And, here's where I've got to tip the hat to my old man. My father preached value since day one. Long after the winery was a rousing success, Dad still drove a modest Ford Reliant K car (ugh!) and avoided flagrant displays of showiness or wine snobbery. In hindsight, this frugal mentality was rather unpopular and may have held us back from achieving the “cult” status reputation to which we vintners all aspire. However, Dad was content to run his little winery under the same guiding principals that propelled us from the very beginning: Make Great Wines and Offer Them at a Fair Price. 

Today, we're turning heads once again. Because, value is back in vogue –thank goodness. Now it's a question of getting the word out every way possible. I figure this blog is a good place to start.

2007 Chenin Blanc - Sunset Magazine

2007 Fumé Blanc - Connoisseurs' Guide to California Wine

2007 Chenin Blanc - Wine & Spirits

2005 Cabernet Sauvignon - Wine & Spirits

2006 Chardonnay - Wine Spectator Magazine

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from March 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

February 2009 is the previous archive.

April 2009 is the next archive.

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