The Unglamorous Side of the Wine Business

Contrary to popular belief, it's not all roses and daisies working in the wine industry.  In fact, this business can humble you in ways you never thought possible.  And I don't mean humble in a bad way.  I just mean bring you back down to earth.  Sort of like a reality check.  Recently, I had one such occasion to be reminded of just how challenging and competitive the wine sales world is.

As part of our ongoing relationship with key retailers across the San Francisco Bay Area, we were fortunate enough to be selected as a wine feature during November and December at Mollie Stone's.  For those of you that don't know, Mollie Stone's is a wonderful gourmet grocery store and they do a fantastic job.  For Dry Creek to be given prime spotlight during the holiday selling period is a wonderful thing.  As part of our feature, we also agreed to do a series of in-store demos at each of the Mollie's locations.  Being a team player and the winery cheerleader, of course I had my hand in the air right away to pour at one of the stores.  As I made my way down (on a Friday afternoon grinding through traffic) I told myself that I was going to have a positive attitude.  You see, sometimes, what initially sounds like a good idea, doesn't so much feel that way when the time rolls around to actually do the deed.  Nonetheless, I was determined to make this a positive experience.

Upon arriving at the store, I was given my area to pour wine.  It was very small and due to ABC regulations, I had to have people who wanted to taste step "inside the ropes."  That, and DCV Wine Display at Mollie's StoreI had to check every single ID plus make customers sign a sheet of paper saying they acknowledged that what they were tasting is alcohol.  Well duh!  Government bureaucracy at its finest.  Anyway, as the night began, I found that most shoppers were, well, they were focused.  After all, it's a Friday night, folks are headed home and they just want to grab their dinner fixings and get home as soon as possible.  Not that I could blame them - I'd be the same way.  But, hey I'm the wine guy - I've got wine to taste here!  I found myself seeking recruits in the aisles - "Sir/Miss - I've got some terrific wines over here to taste!  Trust me, you'll want to taste them!"  A few people raised their eyes and kept moving.  Some looked at me like I had horns on my head.  One guy said he was a recovering alcoholic.  Whoops.   After a while, I started to get discouraged.  Did no one like wine in this store?  Did I smell bad?  As the night wore on, people began to loosen up and I did have a few people taste and actually sold some wine.  Short of me throwing myself in front a shopping cart - it was pretty hard to get people to stop and spend a minute with me.

In the end, it was a good experience.  But humbling.  Definitely humbling.  I can say one thing - from now on, I am going to be endlessly nice to all those free sample people in Costco because I know what they go through!

Bill Smart, Director of Communications

| | Comments (3)


Tim McD Author Profile Page said:
December 11, 2012 3:02 PM

Great post Bill, and yes, a humbling activity nearly every single time. You probably helped facilitate a few sales of DCV. 1 customer at a time...cheers!

dcvprguy Author Profile Page said:
December 11, 2012 3:08 PM

Thanks Tim. I did sell some wine and created a few new fans for the winery. And you're right, it is one customer at a time (which seems crazy but true). I did not lay down in front of shopping carts but definitley contemplated it to get people to stop. Amazing that it was a Friday night and no one was in the wine tasting mood!

JohnLopresti Author Profile Page said:
December 13, 2012 10:35 PM

There is one special location of that gourmet supermarket which, indeed, has knowledgeable and rather opinionated super relaxed, high achiever, lofty income customers; with an admix of neighborhood characters. It's all situated about one city block from a wharf, on which a gent in a rain slicker and fishing boots is a common sight among the yachts and "anchor-outs".

In all, a challenging demographic to bring inside the ropes to have a sip of the DCV wines which still favor the schooner, spinnaker unfurled, label trademark picture.

Mollie has a few similar competitors in the county. I suggest conferencing with both Mollie and the other gourmet place five miles north. See if the Dry Creek presentation attracts better levels of interest if the small display area assigned is reconfigured.

It sounds like a wonderful idea for Mollie stores to try to make the presentations more effective.

Because I worked in the trade, and studied the industry technology for years, and because I shopped Mollie's alone just before 5:00 p.m. often, I sometimes encountered a friendly question seeking wine information. And Mollie's shelf price ranges are quite well adapted to DCV's target clientele. This looks like a good resource mutually for both Mollie's and DCV. Worth another try after a few meetings to refine the concepts involved.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by dcvprguy published on December 11, 2012 11:38 AM.

Feeling Thankful was the previous entry in this blog.

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