Lots of speculation about that Paul. The Bryants don't come off too well - they tend to sue their employees and partners fairly often and it seems as if they're trying to keep the winery out of the financial picture while they're at the same time borrowing against it.

My guess, based on nothing whatsoever, is that the market for "cult" wines is shrinking. Those were a US phenomenon, created in part by the followers of Parker. Politics can make French wines more acceptable to the Chinese and perhaps to other Asian countries, and with Parker no longer reviewing or writing, there's no hot winery for people to compete for. And when you see Bryant at Total Wine, it's no longer that special, even though the price is still high.

Agree with GregT.   One can reasonably guess which other wineries could be having trouble - bottles > $250 or so, no waiting list, no secondary market, top-heavy line up.

At first the inventory number was shocking but at the $500 a bottle price point it seemed like a moderate backlog.  I purposely carry back inventory on some bottles, especially the cabs,  because I know there will be a library market for them in the future.

I thought though it reinforced something I've been saying for a few years that there are less than a dozen wineries with actual waiting lists anymore.  That entire paradigm of selling wine is likely extinct.   

Paul - you meant the paradigm of creating waiting lists right?  I wonder how many of those were real too - maybe people were just told that they weren't eligible even though there was plenty of wine?

Kind of like Studio 54 in the 1980s. Lots of room, just not room for YOU!

Partly that may be a result of their own success. When there were four or five wines with bottles over $200, maybe it was really something to get one, but now that everyone with a few bucks can hire the same wine maker to make high-priced wine, one "cult" wine is as good as another so if you don't sell to me, it's no big deal.

I think the paradigm of cults in general.  Once the formula was well and widely known there was an explosion of instant cults and pre-made cults.  Do you remember Levy McWhatever?  Did they make wine for more than 3 vintages?  

That formula was heavily dependent on the 'Explorer' category of buyers and that group moves on after 2-3 purchases.  If there was no marketing plan beyond that then there was no chance of adding any other category of buyer. That meant there was no chance of a flip which meant no reason for those explorers to stay past their usual couple of buys.

I think we could still see real new cults, the kind that last more than 3-5 years but the old formula is dead.  If that was what I wanted to do today, I'd use the Fyre formula.  Screw the consulting winemaker (who visits maybe twice a year) and the parker points.  I want models in bikini's sipping my wine and taking videos.  You want this wine?  All yours for an 'Experience VIP Ticket' of $5000.  Ticket includes one bottle.  I'm sure I could book a better band than Blink182

Nobody's more vulnerable to the hype than me, but I've never had a $250 Cali cab that was even four times better than $50 Cali cabs that can be found. Got enough 2002-2016 special occasion trophies in my cellar to last the rest of my life. I'm out of the triple digit bottle market, excepting my Odette allocations.


redmeat posted:

Nobody's more vulnerable to the hype than me, but I've never had a $250 Cali cab that was even four times better than $50 Cali cabs that can be found. Got enough 2002-2016 special occasion trophies in my cellar to last the rest of my life. I'm out of the triple digit bottle market, excepting my Odette allocations.


Odette is triple digits and I think it is fantastic wine. I’m pretty tired of the > $200 bottles just not being overly special.  Had a couples bottles of Brand the other night and they were “ok” at $350 each. 

Always trying to find great Napa wines below $100.  Sherwin is not...but it is one of my favorite at the moment.  


I think The Sisters from Jones Family may be the best deal in Napa for a Cab based wine.


napacat posted:
Always trying to find great Napa wines below $100.  Sherwin is not...but it is one of my favorite at the moment.  


I'm not closely connected with what's going on in Napa but there's a wine Stefania buys every year that's in the $75 range and always shows up as best value in Napa when we discuss those things here.  She's been regularly talking with that winemaker and he's talked about his difficulties selling even a $75 bottle.   It just makes me wonder what's really going on with that man behind the curtain and how sustainable it is.

Here we have what we call vanity vineyards.  People put them in and lose money every year on them with no end in sight.  Generally they sink $50-$75k in installation and they lose 5-15K every year in farming costs.  Obviously those installs are being done for people for reasons other than making a profitable operation.

It makes me think that Napa is full of vanity wineries, at 10-100 x the revenue hit of a vanity vineyard.  AS long as there's a new stream of suckers looking to feed their ego all is well.  If that stream dries up, or the economy pulls back though the collapse could be epic.

Funny you mentioned Levy and McClellan - I wondered what happened to them. But apparently they're still around, or were rather recently - I did a Google search and they have a website (horrible) and a 2015 on sale at a few places. Man, for $639 it better include all those hot chicks you're talking about and a lot more. (Or the female equivalent - we're equal opportunity sleazebags here!)

I think the last one is going to be MacDonald - they're small, have a great story, came out just before Parker retired, and even Andy Beckstoffer is speaking highly of them at least as he's quoted in the most recent WS that just arrived yesterday. But I think your point is on the money - when there were only a few cult wineries, they were nice Veblen goods. But once everyone could hire the same wine maker and by the same grapes and put out the same wine built to spec, there's nothing special any more. 

But I like your idea - sell the experience!

Respectfully your wrong about Macdonald. Not the same winemaker, not the same grapes and not the same wine built to spec. Truly something different, special and not priced to squeeze every dollar the secondary market would allow them to. They are channeling the soul of Robert Mondavi and his greatest wishes as well as their grandparents

Macdonald isn’t your typical cult.  I’d probably put them in the group of the Mondavi, Heitz, Diamond Creek.  

I agree guys!

I meant they'd be one of the last "cult" wines, not that they hired the same consultants, etc. In fact, were I to buy those kinds of wine, that's the one I would go for specifically because they're not part of the same genre, and having tried the wines, I know they're really good. And not jammy confections.

I just meant that the idea of cult wines is a bit passé at this point because anyone with money can hire the right team and build a wine to spec. Kudos to MacDonald for doing their own wine instead.


Last edited by gregt

Disregarding the contentious terms of "cult wine" and "mailing list wines", it's worth noting that more and more wineries, especially in Napa, are selling more and more wine directly to consumers, building their brands one person at a time. Perhaps this could be considered a kind of "democratization" of the mailing list approach, where instead of consumers clamoring to be added to a list, wineries are datamining for new customers.


That's true. It really seems to be a model all over. I just came back from Washington and British Columbia and that seems to be the marketing plan for a number of the wineries up there, particularly the small guys who can't get picked up by any larger distributors. Ditto in Santa Barbara and Paso Robles.

Maybe that's why there's so much push back from distributors these days, with states rolling back shipping options for consumers.

it was to ranty.  I'll tell you though I could claim I have a distribuir in Ohio and one in Rhode Island.   You know what they do?  They take 15% for passing though orders from retailers in those states.  By pass through I mean the retailer contacts me, places an order, works out pricing and then the distributor steps in.  I ship the wine to the distributor, they change trucks and take it to the retailer.   Nothing else and they take they're mafia cut.

Now the Ohio one is small, but Rhode Island I'm shipping by the pallet to the largest retailer in the state.  You think, maybe think, the distributor might go; "hey this wine is selling, maybe we could open some other accounts."  Nope, the only thing I aver hear from the retailer is; "check is in the mail", when the account gets +60 or +90.

In California I've had and fired three.  I went out on my own and opened 75+ accounts.  The best where two high profile national steakhouses where we were the Cab by the glass and one other local steak house also cab by the glass.  Each one of these moved 3-5 cases a month.  The first two couldn't even keep those serviced.  I kept getting calls from Flemings that they were out of wine and the distributor wouldn't call them back.

The last one at least serviced the accounts but they opened exactly zero new ones without Stef or I doing a ride along.  Why in the F am I taking 50% less and paying someone 15% to drive me around to open accounts?  I have a Fing car.

I think the bottom line is I'm an old dude and I've spent 30 years in a day job working with great sales people in those jobs.  I know what a good sales person can do, and the sales talent at the distributors is bottom of the barrel at best.

Yep! Good stuff.

I hear you about those distributors though. You are kind of stuck as a winery. You find a big guy and the staff is unionized and only focuses on the big names. Too much trouble to try convincing the customers to take smaller houses. Or they have accounts and it's mostly a continual cash stream so they're not putting much effort into your brand. Or you find a little guy who is stretched and can't do enough. Or if you're lucky, you find someone who is all fired up and works like hell until he can get big enough not to care about you any more.

It's a really inefficient model too. I remember carting wine all over the city and for what? So someone can tell you he forgot you were coming or doesn't have time or decided they don't want to taste today come back tomorrow. You waste a lot of wine trying to sell your first bottle. It's only because people are willing to work for peanuts that anything new gets sold.

Anyway, glad you're doing well!

Last edited by gregt

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