Spotlight on Blue Moon Wines
Once in a blue moon. That's about how frequently we find deep-value driven wines in the marketplace that are actually worth more than the bottles in which the come. At the $7 or $8 per bottle price point, it's frankly next to impossible to get anything decent, especially among California wines. In fact, I generally recommend against spending anything below $10; my belief is that it's better to spend a couple of extra dollars in order to really get your money's worth. But there are exceptions. One of these is Blue Moon Wines, a California producer with New York Italian roots that produces a few lines of value-driven wines, which can be found in some west coast markets for about $7 retail. I met with the company's president, Anthony Scotto III, to talk about his mission for providing budget-conscious customers with solid California wines as well as his views on the value market as a whole.
"Consistency. That is the key with our value brands. That's why we've been able to capture a market." With these simple and straightforward words, Scotto describes the thrust of his contribution to the wine market as the fifth generation president of a family business whose lineage began in Italy, continued in Brooklyn, and carries on today in Northern California. And while the company has maintained its commitment to making good, solid wines accessible to the masses, the business model has since moved away from the overhead of a storefront: "We are pushing the thought, the feeling, the emotion behind the wine, without having the brick-and-mortar — that's why our business has been successful. We can then put all of our efforts into marketing and sales, and into putting into bottle the best possible product we can."
Blue Moon's three lines of entry-level, everyday wine, arguably the company's bread and butter, are Brown Stone, Stonewood, and Black Ridge. In speaking about these, Anthony says, "I came out with those wines at a very inexpensive price, vintage-dated. And what happened was that I went to small wholesalers, who did not have value wines to sell to on-premise accounts to compete with the other bulk wine producers from California — Gallo, Constellation, etc. So I became important to the wholesaler; I gave them a wine whose quality exceeds the price tag. I became important to them; I was their go-to supplier for value-driven wines." When asked what separates these wines from any of the number of those similarly priced and positioned in the market, Scotto asserts, "My products are different from everything else on the market, because they're value wines made for the small retailer. First off, small retailers are getting those wines at a price where they can make a full margin. Secondly, we supply those retailers on the value side with wines that aren't going to be in Safeway, that aren't going to be produced all over the place and sold all over the place — they would typically not even have a wine that they would recommend at $8; they have those wines at $20 and up.
Blue Moon also puts out a line of wine in the mid-range that was recently taken on as the house wine for Sullivan's steakhouses nationwide. A full-bodied, powerhouse of a red blend made primarily from Cabernet Sauvignon, the wine is appropriately called Heavyweight. Anthony explained a bit more of what went into choosing the name and correponding label featuring a vintage boxer: "What we did with this brand is that, because it had originally had what was perceived as a feminine label, our wine wholesalers back east — very over-the-top macho guys — complained: 'Anthony, why are you giving me this girly wine to sell?' So that's why we came out with Heavyweight Red. But we also wanted to have vintage, old-school look to it, something for the guy who typically drinks beer…" True to its name, this wine is substantial, with a good deal of extraction and a lot of fruit: "That's the style we want. We want the average guy who usually drinks a cocktail or a beer to drink this and consider it a good red wine." Another thing of note about the Heavyweight Red is its bottling in heavy-gauge glass — far from typical for wines at this price point. Scotto explained that this was an assertive marketing choice made in the interest of conveying a quality that, once again, exceeds its price point.
To learn more about these wines and how to get them, visit Blue Moon Wines online.