Yesterday saw the release of a new California sparkling wine called Under the Wire. Haven't heard of it? That's not surprising considering that the release of its initial two wines totaled 120 cases. The new winery is brought to you by Morgan Twain-Peterson and Chris Cottrell, both of slightly more recognized Bedrock Wine Co. Bedrock is known for producing an array of syrahs, zinfandels, and red and white blends from heritage vineyards found in all corners of California. Twain-Peterson, along with a group of other like-mind producers (along with his Ravenswood co-founding father) actually established a non-profit organization, The Historic Vineyard Society (HVS), devoted to preserve California's precious old-vine vineyards.
But the HVS, Bedrock or the newly released sparkling wine are not really the subject of this post. I have not even tasted the hot-ticket bubbly (but am looking forward to doing so...).
After much anticipation, Under the Wire released a mere 960 bottles of 2011 Brosseau Vineyard Chardonnay Sparkling Wine and 480 bottles of 2012 Bedrock Vineyard Sparkling Old Vine Zinfandel late yesterday morning. I happened to sign up for the mailing list over a year ago, so I was one a few people to be offered the chance to purchase one bottle of each ($50 and $42 dollars). Even though I hesitate to purchase wine that costs more than $40 without tasting it (or in general, actually), I jumped at this chance knowing what I do about Morgan and Chris. I have purchased (and consumed) Bedrock wines and think that they offer great value and quality. Being able to drink wine that so much thought, care and effort went into made the decision that much easier.
When I finalized the purchase, I noticed that shipping was $25 for two bottles. I've paid close to that (per bottle) before, but still cringed that I was basically adding 25% to my cost to just get the wine sent to me. I knew I wouldn't see the wine sitting on a retail shelf anytime soon, so I bit the bullet and ordered the wine.
So did hundreds of other people. Within minutes other wine geeks posted their order numbers, over on WineBerserkers.com, as they tried to not sully their keyboards with their effervescent glee.
And then the complaints came. No less than 30 minutes after the release went live, a vocal few complained of the high shipping costs. And yes, $12.50 per bottle (shipping was a flat $25 even if the allocation was only one bottle of the Brosseau!!) is an outrageous shipping charge. But, supply and demand being what it is, I ended up ordering anyway.
One thing that both Morgan and Chris have done well (in addition to making wine) is dealing with customers, both current and potential, via social media. They could have pulled a Dick Monfort and told unhappy customers to take their money elsewhere. But these guys aren't that stupid. And in fact, WineBerserkers.com has been a major building block for both Bedrock's and Under the Wine's mailing lists.
It only took nineteen minutes for a response to appear on the public wine forum. Morgan and Chris went above and beyond of the obvious cry on our shoulder and we'll pat your back response. They offered an explanation and then a solution to the issue. They decided to piggy back Under the Wire shipping onto Bedrock orders for only $10. Not only did they appease those that complained, but they probably increased the sales during the upcoming Bedrock Fall release. They were not obligated to do anything about the shipping costs. They set the terms of the sale by setting the price of the wine and choosing the fulfillment company to handle all shipping functions (shipping entails more than just FedEx picking up a box...). Selling 1,440 bottles of wine is a walk in the park for a winemaker with a reputation like Twain-Peterson.Yet, they turned a few minor complaints into a major positive interaction with their consumers and potential consumers. That's exactly how Morgan and Chris made their reputations. They listen and respond to their customers. They turn small negatives into major positives.
In today's world, selling things of value is all about building relationships. Those that know how to use social media to interact with and create trust with customers (both current and potential) are going to succeed. The wine business (for most, but not all wineries) is more about how one reacts to the challenges and problems encountered with consumers than it is about the wine. It is very rare that good wine just sells itself. Good wine and great customer service is an excellent recipe for success. Less than a day into its official existence, Under the Wire is well on its way to being widely successful. Oh, and if the wine is as great as touted, the future is looking really bright...