Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Should Wineries Specialize?

Have you ever walked into a winery that you knew for its exceptional Chardonnay and ended up trying a particularly vile Pinot? Ever tried any of Rosenblum's Bordeaux attempts? (ugh) Did you know that Ravenswood makes a Cabernet Franc? I've been thinking more and more that new-world wineries should strive to specialize in a brand (or region) so as to keep a more consistent, understandable message.

We know that, in the broad market sense, Blackstone=Merlot, K-J=Chardonnay, Sutter Home=White Zinfandel, Ravenswood=Red Zinfandel, Australia=Shiraz, etc. In the small market sense, you've got the same thing (Kistler=Chardonnay, Duckhorn=Merlot, Ridge=Zinfandel, Phelps=Cabernet, etc), and for good reason, people like those varietal wines the way they are made by the preeminent producers.

When I walk into a winery known for outstanding Russian River Pinot or stellar Napa Cabernet, and they are pouring a particularly mediocre Dolcetto or Tempranillo, all I can think of is what a nightmare that becomes to manage and understand for both the consumer and the winery. Starting with grape sourcing, through keeping additional lots separate in the winery, to extra bottling runs, to confusion in the marketplace - it all becomes a distraction from the winery's message.

Its all about core competencies - stick with what you do best. Just because Turning Leaf offers a Pinot Grigio doesn't mean that you need to expand your line. Make a few experimental barrels here and there, but don't expect that 1,000 cases of Monterey Pinotage is going to drink itself.....

While I realize that its nice to have some additional offerings in the tasting room, how many cases of Lemberger are you really going to sell? If you are known for growing great tomatoes, don't offer the public generic cucumbers....


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