Subscribe to Blog via RSS
Search for Events
Recent Blog Articles
- 6 More California Rhone Wines to Try at Rhone Rangers
- Lodi Zinfandel Goes Native
- Study: Researchers Discover New Taste
- He Wasn't Talking To You, Mr. Outrage
- 16 North Coast Rhones to Try and a Toothsome #WineChat
- How Many Wines do Critics Taste per Day?
- Howell Mountain Spring Tasting Wrap Up
- Of Tasting Notes and Photographs
- Rhone Rangers Tastings and Rhone-Variety Wines Tasted
- How Critics Taste Wines - Glassware
- More Thoughts on Blind vs. Non-Blind Tasting
- A Great Tasting on Balance
- How Critics Taste Wines - On Blind Tasting
- On "Unexpected Napa Valley Wines"
- Robert Parker's Advice to Wine Writers
- Biodynamic Cabernet of Grace from Wise Acre Vineyards
- Back Labels I Can Get Behind
- Napa Valley Premiere - Competitive Juices Yield Record Prices
- Robert Parker Scores and Misses
- 18 Delicious Zinfandels You Need to Try at ZAP
Recent Wines of the Day
- 2010 Moone-Tsai Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
- 2009 Hawk and Horse Cabernet Sauvignon
- 2010 Skinner Vineyards Estate Mourvedre, El Dorado
- 2012 Masut Estate Vineyard Pinot Noir, Mendocino County
- 2010 Gallica Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
- 2011 Harney Lane Old Vine Zinfandel Lizzy James Vineyard Lodi
- 2006 Santana Supernatural Rosé by Mumm Napa
- 2011 Jekel Riesling Monterey and 2011 Jekel Pinot Noir Santa Barbara
- 2012 Matthiasson Chardonnay Linda Vista Vineyard Napa Valley
- Review from the Cellar - 2010 Qupé Mourvedre Ibarra-Young Vineyard
- 2012 Tres Sabores Rosé “Ingrid and Julia” Napa Valley
- 2011 Testarossa Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
- 2009 Lucia Pinot Noir Garys’ Vineyard Santa Lucia Highlands
- Review: 2009 Buccella Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley
- 2008 Vin Roc Cabernet Sauvignon Atlas Peak Napa Valley
- 2009 Cornerstone Cellars “The Cornerstone” Napa Valley
- 2009 Laetitia Pinot Noir Single Vineyard La Colline Arroyo Grande Valley
- 2010 Lange Twins Chardonnay Estate Grown Clarksburg AVA
- 2012 Borra Vineyards Artist Series Kerner Lodi AVA
- 2010 Wren Hop Pinot Noir “Fire Messenger” Sonoma Coast
NorCal Wine Blog
A Good Winery is Closing, Another Gets Back to Basics
- General Interest
- Written by Fred Swan
- Wednesday, 07 December 2011 01:08
There are roughly 3,400 bonded wineries in California. The vast majority of those are small businesses and family-run. Operating a winery is rarely a tremendously profitable venture. It is even harder to succeed now, given this economy. Consumers are spending less. Banks are lending less.
The winery business is very capital intensive, yet also low-margin. There’s usually at least a two-year gap from the outlay of cash for grapes and barrels to the release and sale of a red wine. That means you’re always two years from getting paid for one vintage and one year out on another while trying to sell bottled inventory from yet a different vintage. Those sales don't happen overnight. In the meantime, all the bills need to be paid.
For most small wineries, direct sales are the best shot at profitability because fewer middlemen means higher margins. But how do you get people in the door or to an online store? Advertising is expensive. Reviews are helpful, but not something to be relied upon. Social media has helped many wineries. But, once everyone is using social media, it’s no longer an advantage but just one more thing you must do to avoid losing ground.
Recently, Ortman Family Wines announced that their wine business, including the downtown Paso Robles tasting room are ceasing operations as of December 23. I profiled Ortman Wines here a few months ago. In their announcement regarding the closure, Matt and Lisa Ortman were frank, “We are unable to meet the demands of our lender during these tough economic times, and the lender has chosen to call in the loan and liquidate the assets.” The Ortmans worked very hard and made some really good wines. They just couldn’t generate enough revenue to cover the expenses that had mounted up. And, not only have they lost their investment, they are also out of work. If you’d like to buy some of their final vintage, it’s still available at the tasting room and the online store.
Much better news, though still highlighting the issues facing small, family businesses, Emtu Estate Wines is going to re-focus on their original business model. I covered John and Chris Mason’s small Forestville winery in one of NorCalWine’s first articles. At the time, their wines were sold almost exclusively in person during tastings at their backyard picnic table. The wines, in particular the Pinot Noir, are quite good. So, Emtu also sold to handful of fine restaurants and shops.
As the winery built momentum, they were encouraged to do more outbound promotion, become active in social media, etc. That’s really hard for a two-person operation to maintain, along with an estate vineyard, winemaking and business operations. Especially when those two people also put a huge focus on charitable work which takes them out of the country for months at a time to places such as Haiti and Kyrgyzstan. And Russian hackers shut down your website with malware. And you need to take time off for surgery to donate a kidney to your sister. Seriously.
So, the Mason's are going back to their old way of selling. John puts it simply "one of [my] goals is to meet everyone who drinks our wine. Well that is what we want to do, to share wine with a small group of people who we can call friends." I asked their permission to share that opportunity with you. It's something I have enjoyed.
The pricing is easy to remember. Before the holidays, buy a case or more and your price is just $20 per bottle plus shipping (but no tax). Make that about 79 cases of 2008. I just sent an email.
Follow NorCalWine on Twitter for breaking wine news, information on events and more. Become a fan and join the NorCal Wine community on Facebook. Also check out our comprehensive Northern California winery listings. They are very useful for planning a tasting trip or just getting in touch with a winery.
This article is original to NorCalWine.com. Copyright 2011 NorCal Wine. Photo of John Mason in the Emtu Estate vineyard courtesy of the winery. All rights reserved.