Rad Grapes redesigned website is live

It has been a long time coming, but the day is finally here. My good friend and web-designer-extraordinaire, Jon Hackett just finished and launched the redesign of www.radgrapes.com .

There have been a number of wines and links added to the website. I think the last update was in April and Rad Grapes has probably added 20 wines since then. Some minor changes, additions and tweaks need to be made, but the design stays. I really like the clean and elegant look. Thanks Jon!

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Yes January is slow. WTF now? The Flu?

The beginning of January is one of the slowest times of the year in the wines business. It’s like NY gas a massive hangover and overspending problem that makes everyone pause, hibernate or withdraw from society and especially drinking for a couple of. I think it may have something to do with all those people lying to themselves with an “I’m going to be drinking less New Year’s resolution”…As has been well documented that more than 70% of New Year’s resolutions are broken within two weeks. LOL. Today was our busiest shipping day so far this year. It only took two weeks… Where’s my wine!?

I tend to look at the glass half full, so I guess getting a nasty case of the Flu at the beginning of January was not the worst time, since it’s really not that busy – well, at least until today. Hopefully I can fully recover and get me palate back ( I can’t taste shit right now!) over the weekend. I miss my wine…

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Wine portfolio plans for 2015

Life or business doesn’t always go according to plan, but planning is still a necessity. Ok, so what is the plan for 2015? What new wines would I like to add to the Rad Grapes portfolio? Great questions, which I attempt to answer.

As our wine portfolio grows and adapts, I seem to get pickier and more conservative about what new wines we actually do add. There are seemingly always categories or wines I see the room and need for in the portfolio, but finding the right wines and the right price point is much easier said than done. That only happens when I actually taste the right wine. Bingo! I wait for my palate to lead on wine quality…

Part of our late year success in 2014 was due to several Italian wines we added from Vino et Spiritus, like the iPrandi and La Giareta wines from the Marcato family. We have also had great success with any wines we carry from HB Wine Merchants and the Domaine Cabrials Pinot Noir and Chardonnay we added mid year are no exception. Finding new homes for well made artisanal wines at very good price points, is pretty close to a no brainer. With the success of the recently added wines, I’m almost slightly intimidated in trying to keep the streak going. Look, the Rad Grapes portfolio consists of about 70 wines and we certainly have room for more. It’s just a matter of finding the right wines and then planning accordingly to add them to our portfolio ahead of the proper season. What the hell does that mean?

Well, if they are good, inexpensive wines, white or red, I don’t hesitate adding them to our portfolio no matter what time of year it is. Quality “everyday” wines that can sell at $10 – $12 a bottle retail will do well any time, almost any place. Most of the new wines I find don’t necessarily fit that price category and one must be more careful when to add them to the portfolio in order to try and maximize the impact they will have. If we are looking at new quality white or rose wines, by far the best time of year to add them to the portfolio is March and April. This way we have all season to maximize what we can do with the wines out of the gate and throughout the season. Our customers generally work with the seasons when picking new wines. I am much more likely to entice a customer with new white or rose at the beginning of the season, when they actually may be looking for those wines.  White and rose wines sell way better during the Spring and Summer months and I can analyze the performance of said new wines by being able to sell them from the beginning of said season all the way into the Fall, when white wine sales tend to slow compared to the warmer months. Almost the reverse is the case for red wines. Good reds are best to the mix in early Fall, when the vast majority of our customers are actually looking for new red wines and consumers drink way more red in the fall and winter to boot.

So where does leave us with the Rad Grapes wine portfolio for 2015? We have several new white wines that we added in this past Fall with our new Vino et Spiritus relationship, which we have sold a little, but have yet to sink our teeth into, like the iPrandi Soave, Marcato Soave ‘Il Pigno”,  La Giareta Pinot Grigio and the Senorio de Rubios Albarino. So we already have several wines that were technically added ‘out of turn’ to our portfolio, so I want to see what they can do during the busy season for whites. I have high expectations for several of the wines. In terms of other new white wines, we look forward to acquiring some Lava Cap Sauvignon Blanc and perhaps bringing back the Domaine Lamourette Sauvignon Blanc and Maudry Sancerre. Sauvignon Blanc is another very popular category that we do not have the ‘coverage’ we should. That is my fault and I’ve been working to remedy the situation. There are a few other wines I’ve tasted and though would be good additions like a Moscato D’Asti, a delicious Verdicchio and a great Chardonnay from iPrandi, but I need to pace myself…right now, there are no concrete plans for any of them, but that may change. Time will tell…we could certainly use the new wines, but given all the recently added wines and planned new additions, my plate is full. It is imperative the proper attention is given to all new wines. adding way too many new wines at the same time or to close together is bound to have something fall between the cracks and ‘homey don’t play dat’…Building wine brands takes lots of time, effort and work. Those cannot be rushed.

In 2014 we were ill prepared with our Roses. The category is still growing like wild fire and we ran out of the two Rose wines we had by mid August. Not enough Roses or enough inventory…That is not good especially since the Rose category has become one that sells year round now. To remedy that situation, we have already committed to twice the Del Rio Vineyards dry Rose we bought last year for their 2014 vintage about to be released; have found a new Provencale Rose thanks yet again to Bob Shack and HB Wine Merchants – the Domaine Belle Eouve Coteaux d”Aix en Provence 2014 Rose should be available by March 15th; we also look forward to the return of the Domaine Lamourette Rose from the Loire and maybe, just maybe we can get our hands on a deliciously inexpensive Italian Rose. That should leave Rose covered going forward.

There are plans to add new reds, from Dolcetto,  Sangiovese, Merlot, Prokupac (yes, some new Serbian wines on the horizon), to Amarone. I will have to see how the next few months pan out business vise, before I can plan ahead properly for Fall red wine additions. I will tackle that in detail sometime in the Spring.

Beyond the planned wine additions, my main goal in 2015 is to re-connect with a number of customers, that we have let fade of the page in 2014. Rad Grapes is a glorified one man show, which can be overwhelming at times. I need to become much better at keeping up with all our customers and way better at retaining customers. yes, we have quite a few very good customers, but I need to work harder on those outliers. The Holidays have given me time to analyze our business better and in more detail. I’ve concluded a better job needs to be done with customer relations. That’s on me. More work…thank God I really love what I do.

Here’s to 2015! Cheers.

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Happy New Year

Wishing everyone a healthy and happy 2015. I hope it’s better than 2014 was for you and me. Have fun tonight and please be safe.

Girls are out with friends until later. Laura and I are headed out for a sushi dinner with the Kayes then home to chill.

Whatever you do, just don’t drink and drive. We will all be better off.

Bom Ano! Feliz Ano Nuevo! Sretna Nova Godina! Happy New Year!

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What Would Jesus Drink? A Class Exploring Ancient Wines Asks #WWJD

Talk about a great question! Well then?

“Inside the Boston Wine School, Jonathon Alsop places empty glasses and plates of figs and cheese before a small group of students. Alsop, who founded the school in 2000, is doing a test run of a new class that poses the question: What would Jesus drink?

“This is … a cheese that Jesus might have eaten,” he tells students. “It’s called Egyptian Roumy — it was a cheese that was introduced to the Egyptians by the Romans. It’s a sheep’s milk cheese.”

He opens a red blend from Lebanon. “This is something that citizens in biblical times would not have been acquainted with — the screw cap,” he jokes.

Alsop founded the school 14 years ago and has taught food and wine classes on everything from pairing wine with meat to tasting the wines of Tuscany. Alsop came up with this latest idea after reading the Gospels.

“This picture of Jesus as a foodie and a wine lover, slowly but surely, starts to emerge. I mean, his first miracle was turning water into wine,” he says.

As Alsop opens a bottle of Italian wine, he explains to his students that the wine they are sampling bears little, if any, resemblance to wine during Christ’s time.

“It’s clean. It’s clear. It’s in a bottle,” says Alsop, holding up the wine glass and examining it. “These wines were shipped around the Mediterranean in ceramic or wood casks; they would have taken on that flavor. This is almost certainly different.”

rest of article from NPR

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Colognole Chianti Rufina…yes, real Chianti

Part of the first round of Italian wines we have added to our portfolio recently includes the incredible Chiantis from the Colognole estate located in heart of Chianti Rufina. The area is about 20 kilometers from Florence, nestled in the foothills of the Apennines and is known for its warm summer days and cool nights, rolling hills and perfect weather for making Chianti.

The first references to Chianti Rufina date back to the 15th century, being officially recognized as a unique growing area in the 18th century and achieving its DOCG designation as recently as 1984. What’s DOCG? It’s the highest ranking of provenance for wine in Italy basically meaning “Denomination of Origin Controlled & Guaranteed”. The Chianti Rufina Consortium totals 20 wineries, even though the Rufina DOCG is the smallest of all wine appellations in Chianti, the wines are re-known for their elegance and balance. The Colognole estate and winery has been around for several centuries.

The Spaletti family has owned and been running the Colognole estate for a long time, since the days of Contessa Gabriella Spalleti and they don’t just do wine… You can stay at the old family house that has been converted to an Inn and also dine at the family restaurant next door, Il Colognolo or get a tour of the winery. The whole estate as picturesque and historically preserved as it is, still tries to incorporate all modern day aspects of agri-turism. Enjoy the full effect of a working Tuscan farm and winery, with all the culture, food and wine built in.

I had the fortune and privilege of selling the Colognole wines in my old Lauber days and know the wines well. When the opportunity presented itself via Vino et Spiritus, the winery’s current US importer, for me to represent and distribute the wines in NY, I jumped at the opportunity.

The wine we started with is the current release, 2009 vintage of the Colognole Chianti Rufina DOCG. Yes, 2008 is the current vintage. The winery tends to make and age its wines the old fashioned way, about 18 months in barrell and another 18 months on bottle before release. This tends to add to the terroir that makes the wines lush, elegant, well balanced, slightly rustic with great acidity and a long finish. The extra bottle age makes the 2009 Chianti Rufina that much more sophisticated and well, drinkable… Sometime in 2015 we will add the Colognole Chianti Riserva to our repertoire as well. There are a number of stores already carrying the Colognole Chianti Rufina around NY, but you can always reach out to us at Rad Grapes if you need help locating a bottle or two. By the way, a bottle will run you about $19-$20. Not bad at all…Cheers!


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Doubled Stonedwino memory

I personally get rather frustrated when I visit a website and it takes a little too long to load. That’s something I noticed happening with the Stonedwino site, which is frustrating. The buck stops with me, so with a long Holiday weekend upon us, finally have time to fix it.

Just doubled server RAM memory yesterday. Stonedwino seems to be loading much faster. Way cool…

Hope Santa was good to you.

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Merry Christmas

I tend to look at life as a glass full, whether during the best or darkest of times. The last few years have been a very rough ride for Rad Grapes and our family. It has taken lots of hard, smart work, sacrifices, long days and weeks, some much needed help from family, friends, our suppliers and customers to put us on the right path again. It felt at times that the light at the end of the tunnel was another oncoming train, but isn’t that the way life is?

With experience (you know, what you get when you don’t get what you want) and having learned from my mistakes, I have become way better at picking the right wines at the right prices for our growing wine portfolio. Lately, the vast majority of new wines I have added to our repertoire have performed admirably. That has helped us immensely in helping Rad Grapes recover and get back to positive growth, along with the fact that I’ve learned to run the business more efficiently. Getting the business back on track after taking a beating and almost going out of business after the downturn, has taken longer than I though, but the lessons learned in managing the business have been indispensable – like earning an MBA from the Wharton School of Business, yet I’ve done it in practice and not in theory…practice does make perfect (close to perfect anyway…). All in all, 2014 was a good year, with things improving across the board as the year has gone by. It’s going to take more work to keep the trend going into 2015. The strengthening economy should help.

Wisdom, comes with more grey hair…I’m not sure you can get one without the other. Feel so very blessed, having a healthy, happy family, great friends, cool customers and supportive suppliers. On top of that being a business owner, doing something I love is an added bonus.

The American Dream requires continuous work and sacrifice, but there are times we need to take pause, rest and be thankful for the blessings we have. Christmas is as good a time as any to do just that. Looking forward to the long Christmas weekend with all the pageantry of the season, even a little fly-fishing with the warmer than usual weather.

Merry Christmas!

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Stonedwino blog photography

If you are a repeat visitor, you may have noticed the many cool pictures that pop up at the top of the page. The photographs are all mine. Taken by yours truly over the years. My interest in photography emerged when I was about 13 and has continued to be one of my passions, besides wine, the NY Jets and fly-fishing.

Just wanted everyone to know if you like the photography, thanks. I enjoy taking the pictures with my Nikon as much as I enjoy sharing them.

DSC_0005Here’s a winter vineyard shot from a couple of years ago. I think it was taken on the north shore of Long Island. Cheers!

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In Wineries Vs. Weather, Drones To The Rescue?

This is such a cool article from NPR about a rather productive use for drones in studying new, changing weather patterns and how climate change is affecting the grapes…very, very cool. Using drones for real scientific purposes. Well, wine is more than just science…it tastes great and makes us feel all fuzzy inside to boot.

“Tucked behind a hill in Sebastopol, Calif., with a 5,400-square-foot cave that holds some 500 barrels of wine, DRNK Wines exudes the quiet charm that a visitor might expect. But the grapes in some of the wines that are sold here are under a growing threat — which is why DRNK’s winemaker, Ryan Kunde, can sometimes be seen in various vineyards testing his fleet of drones. Their mission? To one day collect aerial images that will help determine the vines’ vigor, ripeness, flavor and harvest dates, which due to rising soil temperatures have inched up in Sonoma County over the past few years.

Welcome to wineries versus weather: the global warming edition, where flying drones in the Russian River Valley are just the beginning of a worldwide response to shifting patterns in grape growing and harvesting for our sipping pleasure. Winemakers, of course, have plenty on the line — a nearly $292 billion industry — as experts warn that rising temperatures and declining rainfall could threaten renowned regions such as Bordeaux and the Rhone Valley in France as well as Tuscany in Italy.

Many other areas are also feeling the heat. By 2050, some 60 percent of the vineyards sprinkled across California could become unsuitable for wine production, while 68 percent of those in Mediterranean Europe and up to 73 percent in Australia could be in trouble, warns a report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a scientific journal.”

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