Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Way Things Change

Change.  Musicians want it.  Politicians want you to think that they'll bring it about.  I can't live without it.  Just ask the people around me.  I guess I always think there's a way to do things better around here.

I think back about the way things looked when we first showed up back in 2001.  I remember driving down the Sechrist toward the winery and pulling in with Kris and Carl (age 1) in the back seat.  I remember seeing the winery and the old trailers and the trash out front and the musty smell in the tasting room and the dark, dampness in the cellar.  I also remember that I had a cold and couldn't taste anything.  And, John poured us a taste of the 1997 Cadenza, and I was impressed.  

Then, he poured me a taste of the 1991 Cadenza and I was floored.  Totally blown away.  What an awesome wine.  Even with my head-cold, I could see the brilliance that this man created in his wines.

Things have changed since then.  I have lived by the mantra that a business has to spend money to make money. (John never understood that.  He lived by the Field of Dreams "If you build it, they will come" motto.  Doesn't work too well in Brogue.)  So, early on we spent money on advertising, but lately we have spent money on expanding our vineyard and production area.  And, related to this, we may be expanding our tasting/event area.

Back when John and Tim ran the winery, they produced around 4-5K gallons annually.  We're now about three times that.  They didn't really have any employees.  We now have about 23 people on staff (mostly part-time.)  They never did festivals.  We take our wine on the road as much as we can.  They didn't have other stores.  We have five.

But, you know, would I trade what we have for what they had?  I don't know.  I also have a family that this winery helps to support.  They did almost exclusively dry wines, while I end up making a lot of sweet wines.  It's just a different path.

I have to say that because of our size, we are now surrounded by some of the most interesting and special people that I am proud to call part of the Allegro family.  If we were smaller, this wouldn't be part of my world.  I also come in to contact with so many people that love our sweet wines.  And although I don't personally drink those wines, I feel good about bringing a bit of happiness into their lives.  Our winery is different and things have changed, but you know, I like it this way.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Dunkin' Donuts

It's probably been pretty obvious that I've been busy. It's the middle of March, and we're in the middle of Tour de Tanks. This wine trail event has really transformed what business is like for wineries in this region. Prior to this event, I would probably get about 75 people coming out to our winery during this month. Nowadays, we get over 3000 people.

As a winery, we're of course in the business of selling wine, and being able to get this many people through our door has been amazing. Granted, we're not the only winery most of these people are visiting. So, after we have basically fed them lunch--we go all out of the food--it does get a little disappointing to see some people leave with only one bottle from us.

But, I try to have a longer range view of things. Sure, I may not be selling a whole lot to each of them. But I know that these same people are comparing apple-to-apples so to speak. They can try our wines and try other people's wines. And, in this down economy, our wine sales at the winery are up 10% over last year. It makes me feel good.

So, as I get ready for another day talking to potentially 500 people, I remember what this means to our family winery. Even though I sometimes feel like I'm working for Dunkin' Donuts ("time to make the donuts.....")