Napa’s Scale Wine Group finds a new balance for top sommeliers
Tim Carl Aug 2, 2018 Napa Valley Register
Napa’s recently launched Scale Wine Group assists small wine producers to showcase their products.
Working as a hired sales and marketing team, this group of wine experts provides a collection of selected, mostly local, wine brands the ability to obtain broader exposure throughout the United States. Other companies do this type of outsourced work, but what’s unique about Scale is that their team includes some of the world’s leading wine sommeliers.
“Our goal is to help our clients have a greater voice out in the marketplace,” said Desmond Echavarrie, a certified Master Sommelier and the founder of Scale. “We basically fulfill the role of being national sales managers and directors of sales for smaller brands who don’t have the resources or experience to compete with some of the more established brands.”
The Scale Wine model provides not only access to a broader wholesale network, it is also a sort of screen that provides an expert’s stamp of approval on the client brand’s quality.
“We are pleased to be included in the Scale portfolio,” said Henry Cornell, owner of Cornell Vineyards, which makes about 500 cases of Cabernet Sauvignon from their mountaintop vineyard in the hills west of St. Helena. “Their team, like our own, includes some of the finest wine professionals out there, and that makes a real difference for clients who might be making decisions on which new wine to enjoy.”
Making wine is relatively straightforward, but selling wine is a whole different animal. First, there are legal restrictions to selling wine that vary by state and sometimes even by county.
Whereas producers of wine can sell it directly to restaurants and retail shops within California, most other states around the country require a middleman (distributor) to sell wine to such accounts. And each state often has a collection of different distributors, one of which is typically dominant.
What most smaller wineries prefer is to sell all their wine direct to consumers so that they bypass the distributors altogether. But what happens for the vast majority of brands is that they find a need to sell within the wholesale market. Why? Because if a winery can’t sell all of its wine through the direct-to-consumers channel, most brands hope that the exposure of being in a restaurant or shop will bring more people in contact with their wines.
Yet because of the complications and complexity of wine sales, many of the small producers find it nearly impossible to justify the expense and time of engaging with the wholesale market. So, there you are, a new wine producer who has been toiling away for years to make what you hope is a fine wine. It has taken years to get to the point where you might sell your first bottle. Your hope is that it will sell out in no time because who wouldn’t want to buy such a fine example of wine?