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Another Issue for Small Winemakers: Marketing Vineyards They Don’t Own

a random vineyard, because I need a picture

It’s almost insane to me at times that anyone would ever, want to make wine.  After all, that’s a tough process itself, but the selling of wine? That’s virtually impossible for the little guy.  One such issue, if you do not own a vineyard, can you really spend the time, money and effort to market that vineyard on your labels-only to perhaps lose access to the fruit at a later date?

Video Transcription:

Hi guys, Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures. I’m joined today, happy Monday morning first of all, by a Bassetti Vineyard. This is a Kinero which is a friend down in the central coast in Paso, Anthony Yount. Anthony makes the wines at Denner. I’ve talked about Kinero a number of times, truly one of my favorite brands in the state of California. This is a 2013 Grenache. This is the first time at Kinero he made a red wine. His day job is red wine heavy at Denner. If you’re not familiar with Denner, the short and the long story of it is Robert Parker has called the James Berry Vineyard Grand Cru, one of the five best vineyards in the state of California.

The Denner, a vineyard, is removed from the James Berry Vineyard by what amounts to a golf cart path in between the two. It’s just a truly great site to grow wine. Anthony is one of the younger winemakers in Paso and quite honestly has one of the plush jobs there, too. This is the first time he made a red. Paso’s about 10 to 15 miles from the ocean. As you leave Paso, you go through this farmland. You see grapes. You see wineries. You see goats. You see cows. You go down this two lane freeway down towards the beach towards Morro Bay, and the Bassetti Vineyard’s only three miles or so from the coast.

Almost every single time I’ve ever driven it, you’re leaving this 80, 85 degree sunny, warm, my kids are burning in the back of the car, and then you get down towards the coast and there’s fog. That exemplifies the difference between what people think of Paso and what people think of what this would be in the Bassetti Vineyard. I bring all this up because there’s one problem that winemakers run into that people don’t never talk about or really think of because we think of this … Mondavi owns a vineyard and that’s never going away, and that’s totally true. What about for the little guys? What about for somebody who’s just starting out? It takes five years to bring a vineyard online.

Even with Kinero working to bring in a state vineyard online, they’re many, many years away from being able to do so. How much time and how much effort do you put into marketing a vineyard site to your customers and really to your mailing list when you might not be making that wine forever? What if they get a better offer, and they sold the grapes to somebody else? I’m not saying that’s happening at Bassetti. Frankly, I have no clue. It’s one of the really old questions that small scale winemakers always have to deal with is how do I build my brand if I’m partially dependent on other people and other sites that I don’t get to control completely?

That controlling the vineyard goes down to … I think Bassetti allows him to decide how stuff is farmed and go from there, but not every site is like that. Not only do you not know if you’re going to get the fruit a year from now, but you might not even be able to control if they water the day before you pick. It’s one of the issues that small winemakers run into. I think it’s one of the reasons why you see increasingly number of smaller guys that are just starting out now are starting to blend from multiple sites within a single AVA and do a trade name instead of a vineyard name. I think that’s to protect themselves on an ongoing basis from not being able to source fruit from the same vineyard.

Especially if you’ve made wine from that vineyard and sold it to your list and they say, “Well, I really like, you know, blah, blah, blah, the XYZ vineyard,” and then, “Where is it? Where, why is it not here?” Do those sales then go from a small winery to a larger one that is simply paying more for the fruit? It’s one of the issues that comes up from time to time. I’ve heard it a couple times of late so I just thought explaining here made some sense. We have monthly wine club shipments leaving this afternoon. Thanks, guys.

 

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