Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Into the home stretch

Monday, 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.

Estate bottling

Monday, June 30th, 2014

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

One of the things that you as a winery are always happy to put on a label is that the wine is “Estate Bottled”. Unfortunately, the vast majority of wine does not meet the requirements, since the grapes and wine pretty much need to be, at least in theory (more on this later), under the control of the winery from beginning to end of the process.

While there is a general perception (which may even be backed up by some evidence) that having “estate bottled” on the label helps when it comes to sales and/or pricing, there is less evidence that “Estate Bottled” wines are really any better. Or maybe it would be more accurate to say that they are really any better because they are Estate Botttled.

Or, put another way, I do think it is probably fair to say that, broadly speaking, estate bottled wines are better. But correlation does not equal causation. And I certainly would much rather have grapes that are well grown by an outside farmer than grapes that aren’t as well grown under the direct control of the winery. Which is all kind of obvious. And there is no particular reason to think that the winery will, necessarily, do a better job of it than a dedicated farmer.

Of course, it can be argued, with some legitimacy, that the winery’s goal is to produce grapes that will produce superior wines. The farmer may have other goals, such as higher yield. However, it is really hard to sort all of this out, as one winery may in fact be more interested in yield and one independent grower may more interested in quality. It’s hard to come up with any across the board generalization.

But I do think it is fair to say that a winery that can control the entire process from vineyard to bottling is going to have deeper pockets than one that cannot. So to the extent that “estate bottled” implies higher quality, I think it’s more because of more money behind that winery than anything pertinent to the estate bottling process itself.

“Estate bottled” in fact implies a little bit more than it necessarily delivers. What it requires is somewhat limited. And, to some extent, irrelevant. While the winery is supposed to have a certain degree of control over the grape growing process, that degree of control is really not very great. With many estate bottled wines, the winery in fact does have a very high degree of control and in many cases actual ownership and stewardship. However, neither is in fact required. A fairly loosey-goosey supervision passes muster.

Some of the requirements to qualify as Estate Bottled really are more in the category of crossing T’s and dotting I’s. If you remove the wine from the “estate” even for a short period of time for some fairly minor processing, you lose the right to call the wine Estate Bottled.

There is also the designation which I see from time to time “Estate Grown”. As far as I can tell, this is not an official designation of any sort. At least in theory, I would assume that it means that it meets the requirements for estate bottled up to the point of harvest. But as a legal matter, I don’t think it means anything at all.

So like so much in the wine world, what on the surface seems fairly clear is anything but once you get down into the nitty-gritty.

Good Reads Wednesday

Wednesday, May 21st, 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.

Wine and food pairing: don’t overthink it

Steve Heimoff

http://www.steveheimoff.com/index.php/2014/05/13/wine-and-food-pairing-dont-overthink-it/

I agree with Heimoff that except for a few relatively basic and very simple rules, there is no reason to get all hot and bothered about food and wine pairings.

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

Good Reads Wednesday

Wednesday, May 7th, 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.

Tiny Suisun Valley and Behemoth E.J. Gallo

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/04/28/tiny-suisun-valley-behemouth-gallo/

Suisun Valley’s hope for the future, weighing in…

Wine Blog

http://www.wine-blog.org/index.php/2014/04/29/suisun-valleys-hope-future-weighing/

For another view (not all that dissimilar to mine—see my Monday post) of the purchase of Ledgewood Creek by Gallo.

The South Pack: Reimagining Australian Wine

Lauren Mowery

http://palatepress.com/2014/05/wine/south-pack-reimagining-australian-wine/

This post begins: An entire country can’t be made to pay for the mistakes of, well, a lot of the rest of the country, can it?” Sadly, as the post itself acknowledges, the short and simple answer to this question is “yes”. A small group of small producers is trying to buck the trend of Australia being viewed as the supplier of an ocean of mediocre wine. I wish them the best, but, in the end, the answer remains “yes”.

Wine competitions, judging, and blind luck

Wine Curmudgeon

http://winecurmudgeon.com/wine-competitions-judging-and-blind-luck/

More on the futility of wine judging. If “wine experts” can’t give more or less the same medal to the same wine on the second tasting, what’s the point?

Is everything we know about wine wrong?

jamie goode’s wine blog

http://www.wineanorak.com/wineblog/uncategorized/is-everything-we-know-about-wine-wrong

Another take on the subject of wine judging. While I would like it if Goode’s view (that wine judging can be done well) were true, I don’t think it is.

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

Good Reads Wednesday

Wednesday, March 19th, 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’m not sure what’s going on here. The week before last, I had nothing to recommend. Then last week, there was a ton of stuff. This week is a goose egg again.

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