The Big Bad Wolf

The big bad wolf came up again. It's a sign of the changing times in this industry. Distributor consolidation. Click photo to enlarge!

30, 20, even 10 years ago, many of our U.S. distributors who market and distribute our wines were privately owned businesses. Some were like Pat Ellsworth at Vintage Wine Marketing. Pat was our distributor in Northern California throughout the 70s and 80s. It was through working with him and his people that I learned the fundamentals of wholesale wine sales to the trade. Eventually Pat got out of the business and we selected a larger more powerful distributor to take over the entire state for us. It happens to be Wine Warehouse and they happen to be an excellent distributor. Over the years, we've made similar changes throughout our distribution network. But, there were small pockets of hold outs...where the little guys still prevailed and, in those wholesalers, we formed long and lasting relationships. We're kindred spirits, those of us who have privately held family owned businesses. Duking it out with the big boy distributors of the world of wine.

I am frequently confronted with how vividly things have changed in this industry in recent years and never more so than in a recent meeting with our national sales partner, V2 Wine Group.  This talented group is charged with managing and ensuring sales execution at the distributor level.  It's no easy task and we are thrilled to have them on board.  That being said, as part of our review meeting and business planning for 2012, the sticky issue of distributor changes was brought to the table by V2.  Now, I'm not going to name any names here, but let's just say that V2 made some recommendations about where we should consider changing distributor partners.  The Husband and I were less than happy.  In one case in particular, we would be ending a 40 year relationship that dates back to when my father first founded the winery.  Ouch.

And really, this is the ugly truth of how things are these days.  V2 is right.   This particular distributor is too small to grow our business to the next level.  And yet, how can we walk away?  These people are like family.  Is business really just business, as they say?  Honestly, I'm torn and see both sides.  I wish it wasn't like this, but there is a cold reality to getting business done. 

I'm not sure what the outcome is going to be.  But sitting in this meeting, I was struck with just how much things have changed since the days of my Dad and hand shake deals.

| | Comments (5)


Ziggy, The Wine Gal Author Profile Page said:
December 14, 2011 9:38 AM

Hang in there Kim... decisions and change are never easy! You ROCK!

Bill Smart said:
December 14, 2011 11:40 AM

Thanks Ziggy. It's definitley a wrestling match for the entire family. It will sort itself out though. Happy Holidays to you my friend.

Bruce Carlson said:
December 15, 2011 11:17 AM

Don and Kim:

What makes you (DCW) special to me is your personal care and personalities. We (the U.S.) are being overtaken by power in $$, but I believe there is more to life - like ABC's network attempt to get everyone to "buy American." There are other values.

Your decision, but in my ignorance, I'd say stay with whom/what you like, as you describe your choices in creating your wines.

Sent off a DVD yesterday with 80 original and 80 revised photos. Hope it arrives intact and that maybe you can use some of the photos...

Happy and Merry...

Bruce (and Nancy, at Ikebana class as I type)

December 15, 2011 8:38 PM


Go with your heart and feelings. A "40 year relationship" is hard to throw under the bus.
Also, check with your dad on how this "Relationship" has survived.

When I was in business, I used to tell people "Before they tear done a fence, find out why the fence was originally built!

If in the end it is the right thing to do, then just "Do it!"

JohnLopresti said:
December 16, 2011 4:13 PM

I guess the farmers markets in the town squares strengthening in many cities still are not the venue for bulk cases sales from traditional family wineries. Clearly, I have not been engaged in the modern workings of the trade. I hear v2 and I think of the genius necessary for America to begin contemplating a space program based on von Braun's v2 design in liquid fuel rockets >50 years ago.

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Kim published on December 14, 2011 8:12 AM.

Budgets, Bloody Budgets was the previous entry in this blog.

Bidding 2011 Farewell is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine sit back, take a sip and enjoy!

about me

our wines

our winery

our events

contact me

privacy statement

favorite posts

A Lifetime in Wine

Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery

The Dreaded Family Meeting

Board Meeting Jitters

Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?

The Case of the Overweight Bottle

Wine and Dementia

Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery

A Sea of Wine

The Heroes of Our Industry

monthly archives


Hopes & Dreams

Owning a Coastal Cottage

Sailing for 6 Months

Getting a 100 Point Score

Favorite Haunts

Coast of Maine

Dry Creek General Store

Dry Creek Kitchen

Healdsburg Bar & Grill


Sonoma Country Antiques

Baci Cafe & Wine Bar

The Farmhouse

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Bad Ass Coffee

Bistro Ralph

Bits of Press

Food & Wine Magazine

The Wine News

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Spectator

Press Democrat

Sunset Magazine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences

Cruising World Magazine

Oprah Magazine

The Washington Post

Coastal Living Magazine

Wine & Spirits Magazine

People Magazine

SAG Awards Magazine

Forbes Magazine

Favorite Magazines

Coastal Living

Down East


Country Living

Quarterly Review of Wines

Wines & Vines

Wine Spectator

Wine Enthusiast

California Grapevine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Practical Winery & Vineyard


Vineyard & Winery Mgmt

Blog Buddy List


Hip Tastes

Pinot Blogger

All The Best

Julia Flynn Siler


Winery Web Site Report

The Pour - Eric Asimov

Dr Vino

Steve Heimoff

Start Up Ladies

Good Wine Under $20

Blind Muscat

The Wineroad Blog

Gabe's View

Wine Peeps

Vici Vino

Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk

Uncork Life

WineVine-Imports Blog

The Wine Witch


Honorable Mentions

Wilma Hits The World of Blogs
Most Intriguing New Wine Blogs of 2008
Midwest Wine Guy
Winery of the Month
Julia Flynn Siler
Meritage wines - and a fascinating glimpse into family business
Winery Web Site Report
New Winery Blog: Wilma's Wine World
Start Up Ladies
Insider's View of Family Owned Dry Creek Vineyard
The Glue that Keeps the Whole Thing Going
Atlanta Dish
Blog of the Week
Blind Muscat
The Merits of Meritage
Boston Wine Expo exhibitors, and the reason why winemakers are so darn happy