Why you really don’t want to hear how a winemaker spends his day.

by Jeff Miller of Artisan Family of Wines (Seven Artisans, Sly Dog Cellars, Red Côte Rosé)

jeff-smSteve Heimoff recently wrote, in connection with how easy it would be to do a winemaker’s blog, “As for what to say, if you’re a winemaker, all you have to do is describe what you did yesterday or this morning.” Wrong. To show why, I’m going to give you a short summary of what is, all too often, a typical day in the life of a winemaker.

Get up, down some coffee, and think about going to the winery. But more urgent to pull out the checkbook and pay some bills. A couple of hours later, bills paid, start thinking about how to pay the next set of bills (or, on a bad day, the last set). Start beating the bushes to remind your distributors about past their due invoices. By the way, isn’t it time to order up some more product? Hopefully the answer is yes, so that the bills a few months down the road can get paid.

It would be nice to head to the winery, but need to confirm a trip to Chicago, or Albuquerque, or New York, or wherever, to move the product into, and hopefully out of, the market. Confirm dates, go online to book some plane flights.

So it’s already late afternoon. Maybe I’ll get to the winery tomorrow.

I don’t think I could make a steady diet of this stuff on the blog. And I especially don’t think you’d be that interested in hearing about it day after day.

At least I will make it to the winery one of these days. Or, even better, to the vineyard. Weather permitting, I’ll head out there tomorrow. Maybe that would be worth a post.

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8 Responses to “Why you really don’t want to hear how a winemaker spends his day.”

  1. randy says:

    A possible solution to getting to the vineyards and winery and also getting those darn bills paid.

    It sounds like you distribute. A winery can’t rely anymore on dependable three-tier distribution. If a winery can’t market and sell most of its product through a local retail (tasting room) venue and wine club, you’re making too much vino or you’re not making a style that doesn’t age well. Exclusive tasting rooms are the best, but co-op’s work well too. What? You mean you don’t like getting into a car and leaving your family and home behind to get on a plane and kiss the ass of some guy you hope will but a few pallets from ya next year? And then comes the discount… 50-65% seems to be the range in which us wineries discount to the three-tier distribution. In a tasting room setting, one gives 25% off a case and they (end consumers) appreciate it, you make a solid personal contact with a new club member (thereby creating good will and client loyalty) and you get to put part of the difference into paying those bills.

    Wine County tourism continues to blow up even in these uncertain times. Americans are coming out to WC in plane loads. Local NorCal folks are checkin out their backyards. Placing the tasting room in a key location is much of the battle. Hopefully the TR is at the winery so in those slower periods of the day, the wineguy can get out and pull samples or run some lab tests.

    It’s true Jeff, we who grow it, make it and sell it don’t have tons of time, but the last thing I’d do is LEAVE wine county for some crap hole where at BEST you give it away half off, spend thousands of dollars each year travelling, are away from your life at home and oh yeah, hope they pay in 120 days. There’s too many retail tourists in wine country to leave.

    DTC is not only the future, it seems to be the only future for small wineries.

  2. Greg Harrington says:

    That is so funny. One of the truest things I have ever read. All he is missing is: call bank, beg bank for money, bank says no.

  3. Steve Felten says:

    You mean you actually get a distributor to schedule a work-with? You get one to return a call? When you’re doing the work-with, you’re allowed to go into the store with him when he’s taking orders for someone else?

  4. admin says:

    That’s all true. Though the degree to which it’s true does vary quite a bit. One workwith is a big success, another largely a waste of time.

  5. Jeepers, Jeff. From the looks of things, you sound kinda beat down right now (IMO). I can sympathize and hope that the outlook improves!

  6. I can sympathize as well; yet I could not go on without time in my vineyard or winery. I am always amazed that every morning, despite my effort to go straight to the vineyard, it is always 11am when I am done with the first round of ‘business chores’. The vineyard is like my meditation or stress relief. It reminds me why I do the juggling, begging, etc. etc. I hope you can get to your vines or wines daily!

  7. haha a lot of of the opinions many people put up are a little out there, now and again i ask myself if they in actual fact read the content articles and content before writing or whether they simply just read the title of the article and compose the first thing that pops into their heads. anyways, it is actually pleasant to browse smart commentary once in a while as opposed to the same, outdated post vomit which i commonly observe on the internet

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