My friends and compatriots in the wine business report that consumer enthusiasm (and participation) have increased with the turn of a new year. It’s anyone’s guess how and why wine purchase trends fluctuate but, realistically, I perceive the following: holiday time (ouchy for most), tax time (zowie for many), and the freshness of January 1st (a new slate for all) create the living, breathing cycle of life we call bidness. Simple Math is and will remain quantitative, so this isn’t a report on tasting room traffic & conversions. There are spreadsheets you can buy for that. Here, it’s from the heart, and as I said, wineries all over Calfornia are saying their fans are pouring in thirsty and pouring out with full hands. Love it. Are we as vintners delivering value? You betcha. That is, if we want to keep the wheels turning. And how do we do that? I never claimed to know everything, but this is what I think:
1) Make great wine. Don’t take shortcuts. If it takes longer, then take the time.
2) Look at your costs. Put a profit margin in there if you’re feeding a family. A happy home = a happy business, and sustainability only follows balance and goodwill.
3) Do not jack up your prices just because you’ve got a healthy following, great ratings or spectacular competition results. Continue to price your wines so they remain accessible to “the rest of us” below the top 3% elite.
3)a. Offer your wines to the elite anyway, and pray that they’ll take a chance on spending less.If they tell you (and someone did tell me a few years ago!) that they won’t spend less than $150 on a bottle, send ‘em one as a gift. Maybe the light will turn on. Maybe it won’t. That’s psychology for ya – a slippery slope. But it feels good to give something away anyhow, doesn’t it? Karma don’t lie.
4) Anyone who’s built wealth will tell you they did so by being frugal. Warren Buffett advised the public, “Never buy at retail.” Well, you have to sell your wine to consumers at retail but be generous! Offer deals to fans, and the word will spread, fueled by appreciation.
5) Pursue the unique. Blending is fabulous, but typically only in the bottle. Life is too fast-paced to take the wallflower approach.
6) Forget the norms. Test new ways. Eat breakfast lying down (not too frequently, since it’s actually known to cause acid reflux). Let the power of consensus rule the day. Practice the Golden Rule. Pour barrel samples. Be a cellar rat for free. Trade peaches for zinfandel. Help Social Media entrepreneurs help you. Be your own Social Media entrepreneur. Stop relying on uber-critics and become your own judge of a great wine. And tell someone when you’ve tasted an awesome vino!
The sun is shining on a Sonoma County January afternoon, and life as I see it is fantastic. My sympathies to those experiences tundra-like conditions. It will pass. It’s looking good all around.