Saturday, July 26, 2014

Is it the Right Time to Start a Second Label?


Can I have Seconds?

It's that time in the cycle again. We are between balanced and long on grape supply in certain varietals and regions and we're facing an unprecedented 'three-peat' of great yields and quality in California after the upcoming harvest. The dearth of balanced supply with inevitably be the dearth of some business models over the next several years.
One consequence of these types of atmospherics is that clients start calling to ask me about the availability of financing and want my thoughts on the wisdom of starting a second label. That's an idea on its surface that might seem to be a low-risk proposition - after all, you have been blessed with inexpensive grapes or available bulk - but building a business strategy on a temporary supply issue can make an already bad situation worse in most cases - but not all.
There are some instances where starting a second label makes a lot of sense, so please email me if you're a client and want to talk about your specific case. But for the benefit of others in the wine community to spur a little discussion hopefully, here are several real stories of wineries who faced the decision to start a second label in the last 15 years and some examples of success:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Easiest Way to Improve Club Profitability

While away on vacation the past few weeks, I've had some time to catch up on Dilbert which is a muse for all business revelation. The above comic got me thinking about Tasting Room compensation and specifically how staff are rewarded for new club member signups.

Of course paying for new club members makes sense because you need new members. Asking the next obvious question then .... why do you need new club members? You might think the answer is to increase your direct sales but for many the real answer is, you need new club members just to keep your wine club from shrinking.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Anti-Winery Sentiment is Building


The Winter of Our Public Discontent

John Steinbeck
Consistent with the farming traditions of the past, the wine business has long been known for its collegial, collaborative and giving ways. There are always exceptions but people in the wine business historically have worked together for the common good of all.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

How Much Do Wineries Really Make?

Our most popular post is brought current with the most recent 2013 CPA prepared and SVB agglomerated financial information. The question at hand is: "How much do wineries really make?
The answer of course is ......(drum roll please ....) Not enough. Finding the facts are almost as hard as chasing unicorns in this business because the wine business is private and they don't publicize their financial statements. Its a family owned industry with even the largest; Gallo a family owned company. But it's really quite amazing from the perspective of what is shared between neighbors in the wine business. There isn't the sense that your neighbor is a rival or competitor. Its more of a club feel in many ways. If you need something, its quite normal to check in with your neighbor. Need a tractor because yours went kaput? No problemo. Need a little welding and custom fabrication on a pump? I'll be right over with a welding rig.
Of course there is also a competitive side that abounds in the business as well. But when it comes to sharing financial information, metrics, and customer lists, good luck! Ask a winemaker neighbor how it's going financially, and you'll get a mixture of liars dice, false bravado, partial truths and ..... well ..... the following video is the best explanation of how that game is played.......

Saturday, May 31, 2014

What Will The Wine Business Be in 20 Years?

Its been pretty amazing to see the changes in the wine business in the past 20 or so years. The ways in which the business is different today would make today's business unrecognizable to someone pulling a Rip Van Winkle and waking to see what the business has become. No longer the pioneering slow-moving cottage industry, today the business is moving forward at an ever quickening pace.
One thing that was unimaginable even a decade ago would have been 'for sale' signs on a winery. Today its not that uncommon to find real estate professionals handling smaller winery and estate transactions, or straight vineyard sales. Similarly, a decade ago there wasn't much in the way of dedicated M&A advisors handling winery transactions. Silicon Valley Bank made an early attempt at it but couldn't really make it into a business. Today depending on how you count, there are between 3 - 5 dedicated practices selling winery properties. Makes you wonder where the business will be twenty years from now?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

2014 Secrets of A Successful Tasting Room

Over the last couple of months we've discussed some of the results from the SVB/WBM tasting room survey. There have been some fascinating discoveries and the ensuing discussion has been equally rich and enlightening. Wine Business Monthly published an article in the May Edition of their publication discussing some of the findings.
To finish that up, On May 15th we presented a live video telecast from the SVB Studios in Santa Clara California discussing findings of the survey. To improve the dialogue and give it added color, in addition to me and Cyril Penn, Sr. Editor of Wine Business Monthly, we also included two front line people: Mary Jo "M.J." Dale, VP of Marketing and Consumer Sales at Crimson Wine Group, along with Lesley Berglund, Co-Founder and Chairwoman of WISE Academy.
While biased, I think you'll agree the added content of the live video chat presented a wealth of current information and advice for the direct wine business. If you're interested, a reply of that event is available by pressing play in the above widow.
There we're a lot of questions from the 650 people who tuned into the event. The chat also contained a lot of exchanges between people who attended the live event. As is common in the wine business, there was a lot of winery helping winery. The full version of that chat can be found [here].
As promised, the panel took on many of those questions in the following redacted transcript. We hope you find the Replay, Tasting Room Slide deck, and the follow up questions below helpful in developing your own club and direct programs.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Supply 2014: Is it Too Much or Not Enough?

This is the time of year when we all hold our breath. In California, some vines are flowering and some are about to. We are mostly out of from the threat of frost but not entirely, and clearly we are not out of a threat from rain in this era of seemingly increasingly unpredictable weather patterns. Nobody likes to see their crop impaired or ruined but this is a year in a macro way, we really wouldn't mind seeing a reduced crop load, as long as it doesn't come in our own vineyard holdings. It depends who you read these days in getting a read on the grape markets.