Finally open

July 21st, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

The day that I thought would never come actually came a week ago Saturday. That was the day that we opened for business and had our first customer. It was a very soft opening because we really didn’t know whether everything that we had put in place would work, and we certainly didn’t want to have a bunch of people and a major foul up at the same time.

So all we did was put up an open sign. I was not expecting very many people, but even so Saturday was quite a disappointment. Three people showed up.

But Sunday was quite a bit better, with maybe 20 people coming through the door. I didn’t keep count of what percentage of people bought, but it had to have been north of 80%, so we were pleased by that.

We are still trying to figure out what hours makes sense for us. As an experiment, I tried staying open late Wednesday afternoon, but it was a bust. I’ll probably retry that experiment when we do more to publicize our existence, but at this point I have no plans to repeat that experiment in the next few weeks.

Yesterday, Friday, we tried opening again and didn’t get as many customers as we did on Sunday, but sold nearly as much, so that was heartening.

It is unbelievable, however, how much time you spend on the most mundane of things. We have twice scheduled delivery of a number of pallets of wine, and we still don’t have them. We ended up picking up enough to get by with our pickup trucks, but we are still waiting for our major delivery.

The first trucking company flaked out on us at the last minute. Just decided that they weren’t interested in the pickup we had scheduled the week before. No real excuse except that they got busy with more established customers.

The second trucker showed up at the warehouse. The trucker said the warehouse knew nothing about them. The warehouse said that the trucker knew that they needed to schedule a pickup before hand, and not just show up unannounced, and that the product was waiting on the loading dock. The one person who could have actually figured it all out happened be on lunch at the time, so, bottom line, the trucker left, and we did not get our wine. And, of course, when the trucker ran into problems, instead of calling the phone number that I given him he called my home number where, of course, I wasn’t, since I’d gone to the winery to receive the shipment. And all this time I was frantically trying to get a hold of anyone and only reaching voicemail. So it was not a good day, to say the lease.

ln the end, it really doesn’t matter. The trucker and the warehouse can trade barbs til hell freezes over, but we are the ones that are still sitting here waiting for our shipment.

So at this point I have spent countless hours picking up wine in my pickup truck, contacting what at this point has to be a dozen truckers trying to arrange shipment, when what I really need to be doing is focusing on getting the word out that we are here and open. So that is as frustrating as it could be.

But, at least, we are open. And so for that, at least, I am thankful.

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Good Reads Wednesday

July 16th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

I have been crazy busy this last week, which led me to miss this Monday’s post altogether. Sorry about that, and hopefully that dereliction will not recur.

3 Secrets of Successful Wine Social Media

by Liz Thach, Terry Lease, Gergely Szolnoki & Carsten Hoffmann

http://www.winebusiness.com/news/?go=getArticle&dataid=135492

The subject of this study is the use of social media to increase wine sales. Clearly, respondents to the survey believe social media works. However, since these results are based upon self reporting without any objective backup, they have to be considered somewhat suspect. Nonetheless, it is some evidence that social media actually works.

I love natural wine, but…

jamie goode’s wine blog

http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/natural-wine/i-love-natural-wine-but

Goode believes that any wine that fits this definition should be considered natural:

Organic/biodynamic viticulture
No added yeasts
No added acidity
No sulfur dioxide additions, except a bit at bottling if needed
No filtration

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time believing that very many wines really meet this test. Nor should they. While I certainly subscribe to the notion that interventions should be kept to a minimum, I think it was Einstein who said that explanations of things should be kept as simple as possible, but no simpler. I think the same thing applies here. While interventions should be kept to the minimum possible, they should not be go any lower than that.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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Good Reads Wednesday

July 9th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

It took me about 5 minutes to go through everything and find nothing worth recommending. Sorry.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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Into the home stretch

July 7th, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

I think we are finally getting to the point where we are going to be opening our winery and tasting doors soon. We had our final building inspection on Thursday and more or less passed. A few loose ends but nothing that we shouldn’t be able to take care of in a few days.

Of course, the list of things that we need to address seems endless. Our facility is, to put it as graciously as possible, basic. Four walls, a ceiling, and a concrete floor. Our main furnishings are macro bins, a destemmer/crusher, and a wine tank. We do have some furniture and a trestle table which is going to be our tasting bar, but there is certainly going to be no mistaking us for a high-end Napa destination.

So we are going to need to sink or swim on the quality of our product and what I hope will be our customers’ perception, real enough, of our commitment to what we are doing.

But there is no question that as you try to push forward with what you really want to do, you are constantly fighting a myriad of distractions which must be dealt with whether you want to deal with them or not.

Our latest, and hopefully final, delay, was due to the fact that the pathway to our adjoining office mate did not meet ADA requirements. It had to be 4 feet wide, which it was. However, you are only allowed a 4 inch intrusion into that 4 foot wide path. Unfortunately, the Pacific Gas and Electric meter sticks out 7 inches, or 3 inches too much. So the pathway needed to be widened. That cost us a week. And so it goes.

We have not acquired a forklift yet, which requires that our wine be delivered by a truck with a liftgate. Only our warehouse doesn’t have a liftgate truck. So we need to find a transporter who has one. Not that big of a deal, but another few hours finding somebody, getting a quote, haggling over the price (to no avail), and making arrangements. So I think everything is on track for our wine to arrive on Wednesday, but if there’s a slip up then that will push our opening back some number of days more.

Every item is like that. Every item that you need turns into a mini project. The printer that you need to print out receipts doesn’t just magically appear. It needs to be selected, matched to the other equipment, priced, purchased, transported… You get the idea.

I purchased a number of items a while ago on the assumption (delusional) that we were about to open. I had been kicking myself for buying these things prematurely, but now I am glad that I did since it checked those items off of my list of things that need to be done now. I have $1000 glassware that’s been sitting around since January. It’s has been bugging the hell out of me for six months, but now all of a sudden seems like a gift from heaven.

I am certainly feeling like I wish I had the resources of a larger winery that could simply hire somebody who knew what they were doing when it comes to starting a tasting room. I’ve read what I can, but still feel like reading cannot substitute for experience. My partner actually started a tasting room once, but never really operated one, but that still puts him a leg up on me.

I am sure that we will learn by trial and error, which is not the best way, but that’s how it’s going to need to be. But there is no question that one could easily spend hundreds of thousands of dollars getting a tasting room going. Having been to several in Napa Valley, I am sure the tab was in the millions. Of course, those tasting rooms are in a totally different league than us. They need to do numbers that we could only dream of just to survive.

At any rate, after all this time, at least we will get a thumbs up or thumbs down. I am certainly hopeful, although I have little doubt that it will be a rocky road, especially at first.

But I do believe that what we are doing represents the future, if there is one, for the small winery. Unless the small winery has already established national or regional distribution, it has very little hope of doing so going forward. Even if it should succeed, it will be the rare winery that can move enough product at sufficient prices to make a reasonable return. And even if they do, as time goes on, the environment is going to become more and more challenging as distributors become larger and larger, the smaller distributors either are bought out by the larger ones or fail, and the larger distributors become less and less interested in the small volumes that a small winery produces.

Of course, the volume of wine that can be sold through a tasting room means that a small winery must be truly small. But at least, on paper, the winery can keep a significant portion of the retail sales price of what a bottle of wine sells for. That cannot be said for a bottle of wine that sells through the national distribution system. So Direct To Consumer is really the way of the future, and probably the only way of the future, for the small winery.

At any rate, stay tuned.

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Good Reads Wednesday

July 2nd, 2014

jeff-smby Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte)

Every Wednesday I post my recommendations of the best of last week’s postings concerning wine, whether blogs or news. I list them in the order I read them, so you shouldn’t infer anything about the order in which I list these posts.

Eight stunning grower Champagnes

jamie goode’s wine blog

http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/champagne/eight-stunning-grower-champagnes

When I visited Champagne a number of years ago, I was blown away by the number of small Champagne houses producing incredibly good sparkling wines at about half the price of comparable product from the large houses. I don’t know if these recommendations are that good, but my guess is that they are.

For keeping up to date with what’s going on the in wine world, the best all around source is http://winebusiness.com.

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