Saturday, December 16, 2006

Getting Our Wine Out Into the World

We get lots of requests from our customers for a place to purchase our wine closer to home. It's something we'd like to do -- have at least one wine shop in each city within a few hours radius of the winery. That way customers can pick up a bottle for everyday occasions, rather than having to wait until their next visit to the winery. And it'll help get our name out to those who haven't yet visited the winery.

Of course, with our size, selling wine to shops creates a few problems. As most of our customers know, we have a hard enough time keeping our wine in stock at the winery, much less other locations. And because we're so small, it doesn't make sense to go through a distributor. So we're distributing it ourselves.... well I am.

I've had varied experiences in dealing with wine shops. Some come to us and make the process wonderfully smooth and easy. But for most, it's more work dealing with individual small winery owners rather than a distributor. I can understand that -- I deal with the same thing purchasing items from individual artists for the winery's gift shop.

A few have been incredibly difficult to get to. I'll get a request from a customer for us to contact their favorite wine shop. I call and call and call, drop off wine for them to taste, and they never bother to answer calls or respond. I set up appointments and the buyer is not there when I arrive. And I never know how much to push. Do I need to call them again? Or do they just not want to bother dealing with an individual winery?

Yesterday, we added Dusty's Cellar in Okemos to our list of retailers carrying our wine. They were lovely to deal with. We had a customer in common who wanted some of our wine for Christmas. Within a few days, we had several wines in their shop, including the Staccato she wanted. I left more wine for them to taste, and hope to expand their selection soon.

So our wine is now available in Jackson, Clarklake, Flint, Grand Rapids, Okemos (Lansing), and Suttons Bay. It's my first New Year's resolution of 2007 to expand to Ann Arbor, Detroit, Toledo, Kalamazoo, and anywhere else our customers request.


Jeff Gunnis said...

Glad to see your trying to spread the good news about the great local wines in the area. What are the possibilities of your wine showing up in local puds / bars?

I have heard various stories from owners of the establishments ranging from indifference to "impossible to do with Michigan Liquor Commission rules". Have you explored this? I (we) would like to open a bottle now and then when we are out for dinner, or just drinks.

Keep up the good work.

Heather said...

Hi Jeff,

Thanks! If you have some favorite pubs or restaurants that you'd like me to speak with, please let me know. I'd be happy to approach them.

When the shipping laws were being discussed (a year or two ago), there was also talk about requiring wineries to go through distributors, but it was never made into a law. So there's nothing preventing a bar owner from dealing with us directly. Except that it's more work for them to deal with individual manufacturers. But, on the other hand, I can give them more background information, point of sale items, etc than they can get from a distributor representing a large number of wineries.


Jeff said...

Thanks for the reply and good news. Let me do some checking, so as to assess the desire on the owners part, lest you waste your time.

Heather said...

Thanks, Jeff! We'll hope for the best.