How North Coast California winemakers are finding bottles, labor and a way out of the pandemic
We pride ourselves on making affordable everyday wines and liquors with the intention of bringing value to consumers. Our intention is to create lasting relationships with customers, and we believe affordability is an important part of what we continually strive for.
Insurance has become a real challenge over the past three years and although we have an excellent track record with few to no claims, we are not exempt from huge increases due to the many losses insurers have suffered within of the industry and fair overall. .
Fortunately, our safety record is one of the best and we have managed to keep these costs fairly. We buy a lot of grapes and wine in bulk, so even if our policies stabilize a little, we know that these costs must be passed on to our suppliers so that they continue to supply the fruit needed for the next vintage. We’ve been very lucky in terms of labor turnover, but I know it’s been a tough time for many others.
How does your current level of sales and approach to marketing compare to pre-pandemic? What innovations from the past two years are you keeping or leaving behind?
As a small producer, it has become apparent that most of our wines are sold to independent restaurants. As we try to diversify into business retail, our sales have increased as restaurants have reopened and become healthy businesses again.
We had packed a good part of our wine in barrels for on-site accounts. As the pandemic has closed most restaurants, we have consequently reduced our stocks of wines on tap. We will continue to use a just-in-time inventory approach for the kegging and may run out of stock from time to time.
While 2020 was a tough year, demand outstripped supply in 2021, and that trend continues in 2022. We saw growth through direct-to-consumer and three-tier wholesale channels. Concerted marketing efforts during the pandemic have provided us with a unique opportunity to connect with our consumers and wholesale partners.
Zoom presentations, digital campaigns, virtual tastings, and good old-fashioned phone connections have all expanded our ability to connect with our audience. At the winery, while visitor numbers are stable, the diversity of experiences, including outdoor tastings, has increased during the pandemic, and our visitors have really enjoyed this transition.
Sales have been really strong, and I just wish we had more wine. We have adjusted some of our sales and reduced our business trips. The pandemic forced us to pivot and think of innovative ways to market our brand and reach consumers who couldn’t travel or visit.
We’ve adopted a robust virtual tasting program, hosting hundreds of consumer tastings, as well as partnering with companies like Google, Wells Fargo, and UBS to offer tastings to their employees instead of sales meetings and wrap-up parties. of year. It was also a great opportunity to focus on a stronger social media presence.
Rather than streaming tastings with our winemaker, we decided to partner with well-known celebrities to taste our wines on Instagram Live. It was very fun! As with most wineries, we have seen a significant increase in online wine sales (around 400%). Many people didn’t know it was possible to order wine for home delivery, but once they found out it was very popular.
We are currently experiencing a post-pandemic increase in visits. People who have been cooped up in their homes during the pandemic are eager to travel, and Napa is a popular national destination.
We experimented with “virtual tastings” during the pandemic, but it was not a good substitute for tasting wines together in person and we are abandoning this practice.
However, over the past two years we have also experimented with successful direct-to-consumer “in-market” events which we plan to continue.
As I said before, we are very focused on marketing our experiences. I think for a winery our size, it really helped our sales. It sounds simple, but someone at the winery has to ask customers who come in the door to buy wine or shop online, “What would they like?” What are they looking for?”
Our main innovation is that for two years we have been asking for reservations. It made all the difference in the world. Our Tasting Room Manager Nick Ciccolella can handle all staff schedules around our bookings. The goal is to never be understaffed and we use TOK.
We’ve actually been lucky in some ways because grocery sales have really jumped during the pandemic, but we’ve lost sales globally on the spot and those are just recovering. Overall, we are pleased to see our portfolio doing well and we will continue to innovate products using the strengths of our people and our expertise.