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Updated February 2010
A BEHIND-THE-SCENES VIEW TO A WINE MARKETING
Many California wineries seem to view "retailers" as competitors and
not as their ambassadors. There is not much "long range" wine
marketing, it seems, here in California. Many vintners make decisions
based on what's viable for the near-term, with little regard for long-term
One vintner, we're told, spends $50k annually with a PR agency so the winery
doesn't have to "stoop" to selling its products in retail shops.
We've been fortunate to sell some bottles of Peter Michael Winery wines since
the winery released its initial offerings. We had tasted the wines when
first marketed many years ago and found them to be of interest to some of our
customers. Despite selling the wines of this estate for something like 15
or 16 years, the winery is "pulling the plug" on sales through retail
shops such as ours.
They see, with liberalized shipping laws, the opportunity to cash in and sell
more of their wines directly to consumers at full price. Wine shops, then,
are simply not valued as an integral part of the wine industry.
Below you will find the letter from the Peter Michael Winery which was presented
to shops, having been photocopied by the very distributors who can no longer
sell us the wines of this estate.
Then, you'll find a little billet-doux from me to the winery. ((
This letter was sent on June 30th of 2006. As of mid-December 2006, we have
not received a response from Sir Peter Michael or any of his minions. ))
Following that is an interesting document seeking a marketing director for the
winery. One of the priceless "challenges" to the successful
candidate is to "maintain the image of scarcity while increasing the
Have this little "behind the scenes" look at the world of wine
PART ONE: The "Dear John" Letter from the winery:
PART TWO: Our letter to the winery
Burlingame CA 94010
Peter Michael Winery
12400 Ida Clayton Rd.
June 30, 2006
little wine emporium has been in its present location since 1961.
As noted earlier in this letter, we've supported your winemaking
enterprise since its inception, far longer than most of the premier
restaurants listed on your web site. In
Ciboulette are still listed on your web site today, even though some
closed more than 3 vintages ago!
The life span of a bottle of Peter Michael Chardonnay is far longer
than the life span of the typical fine dining establishment in this
Dear Sir Peter,
It has been with great pleasure we have been able to offer some of our
customers your various wines over the past two decades (since your first
vintage, actually). We were
sad to receive a photocopy of a letter written to Our Valued
April 18, 2006
We are one of those beloved off premise wine shops you are banishing
from your realm in favor of selling your wines directly to consumers now
that the avenue for direct sales has fewer road blocks.
We've appreciated the tiny allocation we've received from your lovely
distributor, Chambers & Chambers.
We recall, when you first started, how our sales representative had
been obliged to restrict the sale of your lovely Chardonnay to us, even
though, as she said we were the only ones with a clue
about Peter Michael wines! The
on-sale license bottles were sold to a local sandwich shop that had an on
As your wines continued to improve in quality, your reputation grew.
Prices have increased handsomely and today you're able to ask $70
a bottle for Chardonnay and more than $150 for a bottle of Les Pavots. Wine
consumers don't just fall out of bed one day and start paying these
lofty prices for bottles of wine. They
are educated by shops such as ours, led by the hand to good,
sensibly-priced wines and on up to more deluxe offerings.
You can certainly turn your back to these sorts of establishments,
but your ability to ask such premium prices is owed, at least in part,
because we work diligently to cultivate this market.
Your winery, like many other
vintners, seems to view wine merchants such as us as competitors.
Top European vintners, on the other hand, with long range
perspectives (both historically and to the future) view us as
have more contact with consumers and a longer history as a wine advisor
than do most of the sommeliers in the various premier restaurants
which you so highly favor. Further,
most top wineries in
do not sell their wines directly to consumers.
Happily, we don't rely on your wines for our livelihood.
We appreciated having the wines in the shop and know some customers
will be disappointed in not being able to purchase these here in the
future. There are, however,
many vintners around the planet, who do recognize the value we add to
I must say, as well, I'm a bit disappointed you did not send your letter
directly to me. Rather, you
merely had your distributor make photocopies of your missive and hand them
out to those accounts that are now deemed unworthy of purchasing your
wines. I would think someone
who wears the title of Sir, might have the integrity to send out
such a letter addressed to the supporters whom you are now abandoning (at
least for the present time to quote your epistle: Hey honey, I want a
divorce, but if the new arrangement doesn't work out, I may return!).
You put your distributors in a difficult position, asking them to take the
slings and arrows from many customers upon whom they must count on
for success. These firms still
have to deal with their customers, even if they wont be selling them
any Peter Michael winery wines.
An article I've read recently dealing with the Codes of Chivalry
covers various attributes of one possessing the title of Sir.
Amongst these are Largesse, Humility, Faith,
Courage and Loyalty. One
might expect Sir Peter Michael to have a bit more of this last
feature, especially towards those who have supported his enterprise right
from the start.
PART THREE: A head-hunter agency letter seeking a person for the jog
of Director of Sales and Marketing at the Peter Michael Winery
We wish Peter Michael Winery continued success in winemaking and hope they give
greater consideration to those who helped make the winery a viable economic
enterprise from the start!
A customer told us he had been "fortunate" to get on the Peter Michael
Winery mailing list. He's been a fan of the Les Pavots wine and wanted to
buy two bottles from the winery. You can imagine his surprise when the
release letter came and he was obliged to buy bottles of other wines in order to
be "eligible" to buy the Les Pavots.
"I ended up with about a thousand dollars' worth of other wines just so I
could buy the wine I really wanted." he told us.
Now you know how wineries sell wines...we are obliged to buy various wines to be
"rewarded" with the more "in demand" bottlings. This
is not a problem if all the wines are really good and in demand.
PART 4: UPDATE FEBRUARY 2010
A big envelope with a Peter Michael winery
"newsletter" was accompanied by this missive...apparently these days,
they have wine available for sale.
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