Tuesday, November 3, 2009

How to Sell Wine in Seattle


I've been in the wine industry in Washington for almost 25 years and I have finally figured out the secret to selling wine in Seattle. I get a kick out of new wineries that are only going to sell to "upper end restaurants and wine shops." Well, there go two cases. I've sold my friends one hundred cases, so what do I do with the other 398 cases of my 500 case special grand reserve Parkerized lot?


First, we tried knocking on doors. "Hey, we are a new boutique winery and have a limited amount of product to sell. I'll bet you would love to get your allocation." Response, "Come back when you are famous." My wife even asked a particularly snooty wine buyer at the University Village Safeway, "When are we going to get an end display?" Answer, "Lady, you ain't never going to get an end display." (Wrong, I now get them regularly because I learned the secret!)


Second, we entered contests and sent free wine to wine writers. (There's a racket if I have ever seen one. I think I will get into it when I retire and don't have access to copious amounts of free wine.) I have drawers full of medals. I don't even know what to do with them. My wife suggested we mount them on a board (actually lots of boards) and display them in the tasting room. Well, there is not enough wall space. And, all those awards don't sell wine. Nobody gives a rip if you won a gold medal at the LA County Fair (Yes, we have on our Morrison Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon.)


Third, we tried advertising. Yeah, get the word out. Advertise in wine magazines and newspapers. Get a website. People will read about you and knock down your door. Sure! I've come to the conclusion that print and air advertising are really good for newspapers, magazines, and TV and radio stations. They do nothing for the advertiser. So, what is the secret?


Under $20 is supposed to be a magical price point according to the Wine Expectorator. Most of our wines have been under $20 since the beginning of the winery and that didn't work. In fact, all those fancy Walla and Woodunville wineries now have second labels. The $50 brands are now $25, the $40 are now $20, and everyone is trying to do the $15 wine. It doesn't work.


How do you sell wine in Seattle? First it has to be good wine - and Bonair has always produced good wine. Second, you have to sell it cheap - under $10 is cheap. I am shipping out four pallets to my distributor today. Look for it in Seattle for $9.99.


The only problem is, I just received Esquin's newsletter in the mail. As Esquin Wine Merchants say, "This wine is so good at the price, it seems like a scam. Something has to be wrong! What happened? Well... the answer lies in the beauty of declassifying fantastic premium Syrah into a regular bottling." The new $9.99 is now $7.99. It's a great time to be a wine consumer. How many wineries and which ones will survive in this climate? Stay tuned.

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