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GB: And the other thing is when you have a winery that relies on your estate grown fruit, from year to year, sometimes mother nature doesn't do this year or next year what it did two years ago that was so wonderful. So, we're not wedded to that sole sourcing that some wineries are; we have the flexibility to decide that we're going to use more of this and less of that, or whatever, because of the way that we blend them…
BB: … that's another reason I don't like owning vineyards, is because you're locked in. No matter what Mother Nature deals you, you have to take it. The way we are, we source from multiple locations and marketplaces, we source from vineyards that we do business with as well as the bulk market, which literally has a thousand suppliers and you have choices that the [estate producer] doesn't have.
NM: So, basically, your business model is to select specific vineyards and strike up relationships with their respective growers; then from there, decide on what it is that you'd like to create.
GB: Yes… being in the wine business is expensive. If you come in with a lot of money and you buy a bunch of land and plant grapes and built a big castle-like vineyard facility, you're talking seven figures, several times over. And that doesn't put much in the bottle at that point. So, our philosophy is: spend the money with the growers who know what they're doing, to purchase their fruit or their juice, whichever is appropriate, and put that investment to what's inside the bottle. And, so we don't own the facility where the wine is made; it's made at the Sonoma Wine Company, which is out there in Graton, and which several smaller and a few large producers use, as well. We own our own barrels out there, for fermenting our wine, and we keep our inventory on site. Then we just use the amount of capital fixed investment that we need to, to support what's going on from year to year — rather than have this huge overhead that most wineries do. And that's how we're able to end up with a wine like Muy Bonito, at $22 a bottle — because we don't have that enormous overhead to support.
BB: We have a couple of vineyards with higher-priced grapes — and when you get up around $4k to $5k per ton, you can get good grapes. But it's hard to deliver a good price to the consumer with that.
NM: I like that. Regardless of how it's done, if a producer can focus on making a quality product of character and unique expression, but also make it accessible and something that's not going to be purchased purely for its cachet, and by the tiny demographic who regularly buy wines that cost $60, $75, $100 — then they've succeeded. I think that most of the people who are wanting quality are willing to spend a little bit more, but there's a limit to that. In general, especially in the more established and renowned regions, we're seeing a deadening and insensitivity to astronomical prices among Northern California wines. There's been a huge loss in perspective!
BB: You hit the nail on the head there with the value proposition. I think every good brand or product has to have some kind of proposition that they give to the consumer. Ours is that we're wanting to deliver a great wine at a great price. You're not going to taste the wine that's too expensive or is not of a very high quality. Plus, it's important to have outside confirmation as to the quality of the product: we enter our wines in lots of different contests and we like to get as many different reviews of the wines as we possibly can. Because they're good. And we feel as though this demonstrates to consumers that they really are good wines, because [the reviewers] have said so — not just the owner shaking the tree!
"I think every good brand or product has to have some kind of proposition that they give to the consumer. Ours is that we're wanting to deliver a great wine at a great price."
NM: The interesting thing is — I've always felt this, but am hearing it progressively more, lately in the international wine media — there's an increasing realization that there exists a hole in the continuum of price and quality in California. There's a huge gap. There isn't a whole lot of wines of quality in the range of $15 to $25, maybe even up to $30. But that's exactly what I feel your wines are doing; you're contributing to filling that gap.
BB: That's our target; that's our sweet spot right there. We do have some wines that are more expensive — some $39 Cabernets and $39 Chardonnay, plus a $55 Stagecoach — but far and away, most of our wines are in that sweet spot you just mentioned. I think that's where we want to be.