Most of my Napa trips are to make wine and search for new wines to be represented by our Indiana distribution company: Tiedemann Wines. In addition, I am always on the lookout for wines that might go in my personal wine collection. This trip, for the most part, was all business which included a lot of meetings.
As the cost of bulk wine and the cost of grapes continue to rise, small producers such as myself have to make some serious decisions. Frankly, you either need to grow your company, or at some point you will need to shut down your operation.
One of the options of growing our company is to increase Direct to Consumer Sales (DTC). You do that by having a Type 2 Winery License. Currently, most wineries derive anywhere from 50% to 80% of their revenue from DTC sales. This is the direction I have chosen to pursue. Of course, it isn’t easy with all the regulations that are associated with license changes and dealing with government agencies. Once completed, we’ll be considered a winery and will be contracting for tons of grapes. If we are successful in getting the necessary licensing I hope to work with Ballentine Vineyards and Winery in St. Helena to do our crushing, barrel storage and bottling there. It is more expensive to get started but if done properly the rewards are worth the risk.
On this trip I met with wineries, grape growers, and suppliers for bottles and corks. I also retained a new wine compliance company that we’ll work with to make changes to our business model. A lot of hard work and major changes will be coming in the next six to eight months to add the Type 2 License. You will hear more on all the proposed changes in the weeks ahead.
On my first evening in Napa I ate at one of my favorite restaurants: Angéle. It’s located in downtown Napa at the south end of Main Street, right on the river. They serve French bistro-style food and I always eat there at least once when I am in town. Their outside dining area is terrific. Here’s the summer menu at Angéle if you want to take a look.
On my second night I ate at Bistro Jeanty. They also serve French bistro-style food. The first evening I was joined by Connor Burns and his partner Alonso Garcia. Connor is an expert in Direct to Consumer Sales (DTC). I have asked Connor to help us with a new Glenwood Cellars Wines wine club and assist us with getting our own DTC program up and running. All this will happen towards the end of this year.
The following evening, my third night, I was back at Bistro Jeanty having dinner with a good friend, Roy Chapin IV, of 4 Winds Winery. He started 4 Winds several years ago and was willing to share with me the many issues he had as a start up.
For lunch on my final day in Napa I ate at Mustards Grill, a long time standard in the Valley. The food there is excellent. For dinner that evening I ate at Press, another top-notch place.
Wines and Vineyards
My first winery stop was at Ballentine Vineyards to blend our new 2016 vintage wines. While working with winemaker Bruce Devlin we blended the following wines:
2016 Adler’s Blend
2016 Glenwood Cellars Cabernet
2016 Glenwood Cellars blended Merlot
The wines will be blended and stored in oak barrels until January 2019. At that point the wines will be bottled and stored for another six months before they are released. I will report back on the blends and the blending experience in the weeks to come.
After blending wines in the morning, I made a stop at Ashes & Diamonds Winery in the afternoon to meet with my friend Connor Burns. Connor is the son of a hunting buddy, Craig Burns.
Connor is the Director of Hospitality at Ashes & Diamonds. And, as I mentioned earlier, Connor is a specialist in Director to Consumer Sales. I wanted to meet with him to not only pick his brain on DTC but to taste some of the Ashes & Diamonds wines. Of course, in a weak moment, I bought two cases of some excellent red wines.
The following morning I went to visit with Haley Wight, winemaker and owner at Hayfork Wine Company. I had just purchased 240 gallons, in oak barrels, of Hayfork’s 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon for blending our wines and wanted to meet Haley and taste her own Hayfork Cabernet. All the grapes for Haley’s wine and mine came from her family’s Lewelling Ranch vineyards.
I was fortunate to taste two outstanding Cabernets with her. Only 70 cases of Haley’s 2015 Field Select Cabernet were produced, and it has scored 95+ out of the standard 100 range. Through Hayfork’s Wine Club, the price of their 2015 Field Select Cabernet is $125.00 per bottle. I highly recommend you purchase some of this wine. I purchased some and cannot wait for shipping season in the fall (due to the high temperatures in the summer the wines will not ship until the fall).
I also tasted the Lewelling Vineyards 2015 Cabernet Sauvignon which was equally as good as the Hayfork wine. Unfortunately, the winery has sold out of this wine.
Later in the afternoon I went to 4 Winds Winery to meet up with good friend Roy D. Chapin IV. We toured his new 3-acre vineyard that he just planted on the hillside of his family’s property in the Stags Leap District of Napa Valley.
Roy and I have been friends for a number of years. I met Roy and his mother Jane at a Dean and Deluca Cabernet Sauvignon tasting. For more information on how our two families have crossed paths for two generations please see my May 5, 2016, blog posting on 4 Winds Winery.
After touring the vineyards, we headed to Bistro Jeanty for dinner and to taste his latest Cabernet. Overall it was a fun and exciting trip and very productive business-wise. I will continue to update you on the pending changes and new vintages in the weeks ahead.
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Until next week,
Calendar of Events
- August 1st – International Albariño Day
- August 18th – International Pinot Noir Day
- September 3rd – International Cabernet Day
- September 15th – International Grenache Day
- November 7th – International Merlot Day
- November 12th – International Tempranillo Day
- November 15th – International Zinfandel Day
- December 16th – National Wine Club Day
- December 20th – National Sangria Day
- December 31st – National Champagne Day