Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I love Chinese Glass

Every morning my wife asks me what I plan to do today. The answer is simple and always the same, "I plan on getting drunk." Ever since I was demoted from winemaker to vigneron, I don't plan my days. Work always finds me. I don't have to look for it. I actually thought I was getting a promotion until I found out 'vigneron' is a fancy French term for flunky.

This morning at 7:45 I received a call from Bill, my winemaker, that the foil dispenser was not working and he needed me, le vigneron, to hand apply the foils on 4600 bottles. Thank god for short-run days.

It was our first run with our new Chinese glass and it gave me a chance to examine the quality up close, one fu©ƙ1ng bottle at a time. I was amazed. The glass was beautiful with a nice full punt and polished finish. The light reflection on every bottle was mirror perfect. (I remember watching St. Gobain 9952 go down the line. It was like watching life in a fun house mirror.) All the corks seated perfectly and the boxes from our supplier, Saxco, actually closed perfectly. We probably saved 50% on case glue alone. Trying to seal boxes from California Glass, Saint Gobain, and Consumers takes gobs of glue -and more gobs of glue.


Doing menial jobs gives the Grumpy Winemaker a lot of time to think - probably a bad idea. I wondered about the US wine industry as our American wine was put into a Chinese glass by an Italian monoblock, followed by me placing French foil capsules on the Chinese bottles before the Australian labeler put - you won't believe this - US-printed labels on the bottles. I guess you can say we make 'world-class' wine.


We tried a Seattle printer who gave us a good price, until we bought all the dies only to find the price double the next year - thinking we would be too dumb to switch. Plus their 'rubber stamp' labels can't compete with offset. Flexo sucks. Label One in Portland still treats us well.


My son, Joseph, does catalogs for an outdoor company. All of the catalogs are printed in Asia. I wonder how much longer we will have our labels printed in the Yoonited States? $4.55 per case is a lot of money when you have to sell wine in Seattle for $9.99. Every penny counts for the wineries as bottle manufacturers are finding out the hard way. The wine industry is not a cash cow ready for milking. I think I said that before. Grumpy people tend to be repetitive.

St. Gobain will continue to make glass in Seattle as long as they cut great deals with St. Mickey's. They have pretty much said they don't want our business of 7500 cases a year. But sooner or later, even St. Mickey's will discover the quality and price of Chinese bottles - if they haven't already.

One thing was a little suspicious about the bottles. They looked a lot like St. Gobain 9432 (Mister Rogers, "Can you say 'identical'? I knew you could. I like the way you say 'identical'.") - only cheaper. If I worked for St. Gobain in Seattle, I would be looking for a new job real soon.

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