Friday, April 30, 2010

What I've Learned...and Still Learning

It has been an interesting process to say the least in evaluating the final choices of wines that Local Wino will be carrying in to the middle of the year. Now that we are just about to announce the full categorical lineup, I thought I'd share a few brief points of what I've learned in both listening to consumers and wine professionals in making some key changes to how we are presenting the wines.

Some recent observations as follows:

1) Consumers love to have a trusted resource and crave good guidance. I know this seems obvious, but I have had numerous encounters lately that continue to point to the fact that once we earn that respect with helping make smart choices, we have customers for life. Whether at a restaurant, out wine tasting, the wine shop, shopping online, or just for everyday wine reference, everyone appreciates a good referral. We are that 'local source' with our ear to ground to the best that wine country has to offer. Everyone loves the "inside scoop" and relishes having access to a trusted referral source.

2) People need a pretty good reason to purchase new or unknown wines. Again, a bit obvious, but the key here is presenting the wines in a manner that is more logical (categorical) that better fits either an occasion, a favorite varietal/type, or palate profile that resonates with the consumer. We've taken the course of organizing our wines in what we consider "Best Of" categories (with the consumer in mind) from all of our diligent tasting processes throughout the year across mainstream varietals and blends. We like to think the best reason to try new wines is that we've become that trusted source for any palate or occasion.

3) People want value. Let me clarify though. Value to us does not mean price or discount. And, value means varying levels of things to different people respectively. The wines we offer present the best overall values above $25 for premium representation within their varietal category. We're in the business of specialty wines that do not reach mass distribution and therefore are in their own category. For everyday value wines below $25, there are numerous outlets to consider and there's nothing wrong with a great perceived find under $20. However, the specialty wine market is its own niche and the overall value point is between $25 - $50 and the higher-end good value point remaining under $100.

4) Working beyond judging wines on ratings. We do not publish wine scores and I am not a wine score buyer, but there are many. Personally, I believe the system is somewhat broken and does not serve the general consumer properly or fairly. Wine scores do nothing to take in to account a person's individual palate, preference profile or several other factors that go in to account properly matching the right wine to the preferred palate. This is much bigger discussion we'll tackle later. Local Wino is going to be extra diligent to do our very best to ask, listen, probe, explore and learn about preferences in matching wines to individual "Personal Palate Profiles" (more on this coming soon...). Persons can then use this discovery with all their wine purchases with us or anywhere.

5) Staying relevant. I believe one of the most valuable benefits (resources) we offer is being in the heart of U.S. wine country and keeping up with the nuances of an ever-changing industry. Winemakers change, vintages (growing seasons) are different, processes and laws vary, new techniques are introduced, new trends with varietals being developed and the wine making art is very dynamic. Being here in Napa, we are dedicated to being everywhere we can to absorb all that the industry has to offer. From one-on-one meetings with some of the most influential people in the business to sitting next to a visitor at the local hangout. This is the core of our business that we bring direct to the consumer through these experiences.

We are very excited about the next phase and lineup of wines. It is the best presentation of value, access, and categorical varietal specialty that wine country has to offer. All you have to do is become a customer once and you'll marvel at the discoveries we consistently offer.

There's nothing like local knowledge...because locals know best.


Thursday, April 8, 2010

A Successful Tasting Evening Indeed

What do you do when you have 52 wines to taste and 10 great palates in the same room? You take your time (6 hours total), savor the moment (literally) and just hang on to enjoy the ride!

(Thanks to Page Wine Cellars for hosting)

That's exactly what we did on the evening of April 2 for the second Local Wino tasting panel where wine experts came together to help us evaluate wines for the next catalog and web phase launch. It was actually hard work and kudos goes out to everyone who participated along with all the wineries that contributed their wines for the event. (See the panel video intros here).

Cutting to the chase, the main purpose of holding a blind tasting like this is to create discussion as we taste through all the wines as to the consumer appeal of each of the wines within their respective categories. We tasted in six distinct categories - 1) Sauvignon Blanc, 2) Chardonnay, 3) Pinot Noir, 4) Red blends, 5) Cabernet Sauvignon < $50, and 6) Cabernet Sauvignon > $50 (under $100). No points ratings per-se, rather open forum discussion about the purpose of each wine.

When you have so many differing palates in the room, it is hard to get too many clear consensus winners, and there were many factors considered in tasting through each category. However, the one primary goal was to make sure we were thinking of things from the consumer point of view of how approachable (i.e. palate friendly) the wines were related to the varietal or category. Additionally, the wines had to be great overall values for the varietal represented. That being said, there we several good discoveries and at least (2) wines in each category that were clear favorites of the group and many others that had above average marks or comments.

We will be zeroing in on the final (24) wines we are going to choose for the next phase in the coming weeks. These wines will be announced here once all the notes are gathered, the wines revisited in some cases (i.e. singly tasted again) and details of each wine discussed directly with the producers to insure proper availability to the consumer.

Make no mistake, all of these are special wines that combine outstanding quality, great values and ideal varietals (or blends) organized categorically for the consumer to enjoy. Now the real work begins in pairing down to the wines best suited for the Local Wino offer wine enthusiasts everywhere.

Stay tuned...

Local Wino Team