“What Big Wine is doing to the US wine market”

I had to share this eye opening news about the state of the US wine business thanks to the Wine Curmudgeon.

“Big Wine tightened its grip on the U.S market in 2013, with new figures showing that three companies accounted for more than half of all the wine produced during those 12 months. E&J Gallo, The Wine Group, and Constellation Wines totalled some 187.5 million cases of the 370 million produced.

Throw in the next three biggest companies — Bronco, home of Two-buck Chuck; Trinchero Family Estates; and Treasury — and that total rises to 241.4 million cases — about two-thirds of the wine made in the U.S. The top 30 by themselves account for some 90 percent; in other words, all the wine that those of us who write about wine love to write about? Hardly anyone drinks it. No wonder availability is such an issue.”

You may read the rest at Wine Curmudgeon

These guys are the reason I started Rad Grapes. I used to work for big distributors that peddled some of these wines. Consumers and wine lovers need to make just a little effort to find some great wines, many of which are no more expensive than the wines the behemoths produce and are much, much better alternatives.

Rad Grapes and what we do is the antithesis to these big “wine manufacturers”. Rad Grapes sources all of our wines directly from small, independent artisanal producers. Really cool, quality wines from cool people that care about their vines, as much as they care about their wines. Cheers

Rapper’s Delight the Jimmy Fallon way…

OK, enough already…

It’s taken a lot of cold and snow, a broken down snow blower, which in turn forced us to shovel our entire driveway by hand after the last snow storm, which in turn has been causing my lower back to throb the last week – making me realize why many old farts move south when they retire. It dawned on me while I was shoveling the heavy wet snow after last weeks snow/ice storm, how much I dislike that part of winter. I can totally see how the thought of moving south almost eliminated the need to deal with heavy duty snow falls.

The last time we had a winter like this, if my memory serves me well, was 1996. Man did we get buried by snow then and it sure feels like a reprise this year. Some cold and snow is good for wine sales, but not two months of polar vortex weather, repeated snow storms and Nor’eaters is not helping things at this point. With another mean looking Nor’easter looming for Thursday, I sure as hell hope my snow blower is repaired and returned to me by tomorrow, or I am royally screwed…

Ok, enough already…

 

Cold weather red wines

Happy New Year! If you live anywhere in the upper midwest into the northeast, you are experiencing a brutal old fashioned winter. Frigid and snowed in is what we are…I don’t know about you, but my drinking and eating habits tend to change and evolve with the seasons. When it gets to be Arctic-like, as it has been for the last few weeks my wine selection focuses on big, bold and juicy.

Thank God we have a nice selection of big, bold and juicy wines that fill the needs for the category rather well in the Rad Grapes portfolio. Just like my food, when a cold winter descends with its chilly might, I prefer my wines to be the stick-to-yo-ribs type. Let’s talk food first, a good reason why the wines we are about to talk about pair up so well. Tonight the menu is bangers and mash – a very traditional British staple, veal sausage, mashed potato and pickled red cabbage…if that doesn’t say stick-to-yo-ribs enough, tomorrow’s menu has some braised short ribs!

Well, what about the wines dude? Here’s a few of my favorites to pair with “hearty” food and weather; Latente from Bodega Cuarto Surco in San Juan, Luyan de Cujo, Mendoza (literally at the foothill of the Andes)  2012 Malbec or 2011 Cabernet Reserva. Both wines are aged in French oak, elegant, lush and beautifully balanced. Any one of the Fiddletown Cellars wines from Amador County is ideal juice for hearty weather and food, with the 2010 Barbera (yes, Barbera – massive, yet elegant and drinks like a Barbaresco – will kick your ass…gently) being my first choice, followed by the 2011 Old Vine Zinfandel which is one of our perennial best sellers in NY. Next I have to mention the Lava Cap Winery 2010 Chardonnay and 2010 Cabernet, both what I cal full-throttle Cali and oh so damn deliciously balanced form El Dorado County, in the Sierra Nevada foothills. We can add to the list the Camaraderie Cellars wines, especially so their Cabernet Franc and their Syrah…the wines are rather old world in style and aromatics, yet juicy and very structured, like what we are used to with Washington State wines. Last, but certainly not least are the awesome and also Washington born “Wild Child” Merlot, “Moonspell Cabernet” and “She Devil” Syrah from Bergevin Lane which are perfect examples of the big, bold and juicy I’ve been talking about.

After long, cold days on the road this time of year, I really enjoy coming home to thaw out, enjoy a few glasses of wines and a home cooked stick-to-yo-ribs family meal.

If you need assistance in finding our wines anywhere in NY state please go the FAQ section of the Rad Grapes website to see contact information and e-mail or call us

Stay warm, enjoy and be safe. Cheers!

Gov. Christie will never live this one down…

New Year, New Moon means new things for Rad Grapes

Happy New Year! We just started January 2014 and with a new moon to boot. A new moon to start the year is a very good thing, but it is also rare – the last time was 19 years ago – so we should grab the bull by the horns and make changes for the better, to improve and renew ourselves. I’m taking that to heart, on top of having learned a lot from my mistakes and become more pragmatic and realistic, especially about my business. Rad Grapes is coming off our best year since 2008 and let me tell you the last 5 years have been a painful learning lesson in life and in learning how to really run a profitable business. I need to make sure 2014 is even more successful than 2013.

Our busiest time of year in the wine business is September through December. However, being on the wholesale side of the business, our sales slow down ahead of the Christmas Holiday and usher in some well deserved down time and long weekends for yours truly. Once we get past the actual Christmas holiday and I’ve had the time to decompress, relax and enjoy myself, comes the time for introspective deep thought, analysis of the past year and decisions about what to do next. Some decisions have already been made for the better or worse, just by analyzing sales of individual wines and having planned ahead for some new stuff. I’ve learned the hard way that it’s better to pull the plug on a non-performing brand quicker, for quite a few reasons, beyond the fact that it’s the fair thing to do for myself, Rad Grapes and the supplier.

Heading into 2014 we will be parting ways with several suppliers and also adding some new ones; Sadly, we have not been able to get the job done on the UNUM, District and Crush Farm wines. Great quality, amazing wines, but on the expensive side for us to sell enough. I had to be honest with my friend Laurence and let him know that we can’t do the job that the wines require in NY, mainly due to the way our customer base is structured, which limits the amount of high end wine we can sell. It’s not fair to Laurence, the wines and it does not make sense for Rad Grapes to sit on inventory that we barely move. Part of the lesson learned from the last few years of hard business, is that Rad Grapes is best situated to sell quality artisanal wines at value prices. What does that mean? Well, in our case it is limiting the wholesale prices of our wines to below $300 per case at best and keeping the vast majority of our wines below wholesale prices of $180-$200 per case. We will continue to concentrate on quality first like we always have, but with a keen eye on pricing and value at prices where we know for certain that we can move some wine.

Our Oregon portfolio has done very well, with Del Rio and Rock Point leading the pack, along with solid success with the Labor Wines brand from my buddy Corey. That has left the great wines from Blakeslee Vineyard as the orphan child and unfortunately given the soft sales and recent considerable price increase from the winery, it makes no sense for us to continue with the wines going into 2014, especially given the success with our other Oregon wines.

Rad Grapes has also parted ways with Eradus Wines. Michiel Eradus makes some of the best wines for the money from New Zealand I have ever tasted and we have much respect for his craft and wines. Given the quality of the wines, the pricing leaves them at the high end of the category, one that is drastically changing before our very own eyes. The re-orders and new placements of Eradus wines have been slowly eroding since 2010. Even though we started out of the gate very well with the Eradus wines a few years back, the New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc category has changed drastically, mostly driven by pricing. I view pricing and volume driven category changes as the end the beginning of  the end for successful categories. the lowest common denominator game. Just like what Yellowtail has done to the Australian category (basically killed it), I see the price driven craze with New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs destroying the quality and category for the sake of volume and pricing. I just saw the first 1.5L bottle of NZ Savvy from Monkey Bay about two weeks ago, selling for $15. I think I know where the category is going.

I have also decided that the experiment with the amazing wines from Vinarija Aleksandrovic is over. I am a proud Serb, but trying to sell Serbian wines at the current way-too-high-for-the-US-market prices is like pissing into the wind. Not until there is a full realization in Serbia that you cannot price your wines like premium California selections and expect to sell much, will Serbian wines be able to gain a significant foothold in the US market. I tried, but not worth the effort at this point. If I can find some good wines at competitive prices, I will reconsider. Until then we will focus on wines we believe have a much better chance of being successful for us, from other appellations.

When it comes to adding new wines, we already have several things in the pipeline. The first new wines added this year we will see, probably in March, will be some amazing values from the Colchagua Valley in Chile. very exited abou the Finca El Reparo wines and brand. Beyond that, I’ve been working on resurrecting our Spanish portfolio, concentrating yet again on great value at the price point, with additions of some great values from La Mancha and by the looks of it, some great wines from Rioja by the Fall. Beyond those additions, the only other current planned new wines will be some selections from Lava Cap, which has shown us tremendous potential just in the first few months we’ve had the brand in NY.

Looking for a Successful and Healthy 2014! Cheers.

Merry Christmas

The last couple of months have been very busy, which is a good thing on most levels. We’ve been busy selling wine almost non-stop since September. Not perfect, but much better than it has been. It’s rather fulfilling to experience a solid Holiday season, after a few down years (actually, best one since 2008). I feel blessed for my healthy family, for the fact that I love what I do; that I’m really learning how to run the business and thankful for our two young Rad Grapes recruits, George and Nik and all that they’ve contributed this year. The Jets could have done better, but isn’t that the case most years…All in all I fell like one lucky guy.

Here I sit at home on Christmas Eve, rather satiated after an amazing family dinner out with my wife, our girls and my in-laws, looking forward to a full plate tomorrow.  Christmas Day at our house is fun filled for sure. Big breakfast, opening gifts, enjoying new toys, naps & then dinner at Grandmas. Blessing abound…I can only hope and pray the same for the rest of the world.

Wishing you and yours a Very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous New Year. Cheers!

 

2013 Harvest at Del Rio Vineyards

Great wine comes from great grapes. harvesting those great grapes in order to make those great wines, at the perfect time is hard work. Most folks have no idea how that’s done. Thanks to Jason Wallace from one of the wineries we proudly represent, Del Rio Vineyards, from the Rogue Vally in Southern Oregon – you can experience harvest time, without the back breaking work. maybe next time you sip some Del Rio wines you will have an even greater appreciation of the amount of work and effort that goes into a good bottle of artisanal wine. Cheers!

So Thankful…

Life should be viewed as an adventure and I believe way to may of us are focused of the goal, instead of just letting go a little and just plain old enjoying the ride. We don’t know how long we will be on this earth and planning for down the road and retirement is obviously a great idea, but what about now? today? Just live! Have some fun.

I love wine, all about wine, the wine business, good food, great restaurants and feel blessed and grateful that I get to do something that I love to do on a daily basis, have a blast along the way and make some money. Wow?! Right? I say hell yes…

It’s been a hard few years since I can say business has been good, but after the lats three months, I can say that again for the first time since the fall of 2008, as the financial crisis and recession began. Since then it has been lots of blood, sweat and tears. Things aren’t perfect, but is life ever? Take the good with the bad and pray the good way outweighs the bad. That’s I feel so blessed and am so thankful.

First and foremost, we all have our health. Business seems to have finally turned the corner nicely. Our two young bucks are adding to sales and helping me grow the business again. We have some amazing suppliers and partners, many with saint like patience, but it seems to pay off for us all in the long run. Finally I am thankful for the amazing and mystifying world of artisanal wines that keeps my interest peaked daily and makes me strive to learn more and become even better at what I do.

Happy Thanksgiving

Rad Grapes welcomes Lava Cap Winery

There are still some of our customers that remember the old Lava Cap wines and label, as we take the newly arrived wines around over the last few weeks. I had the opportunity to taste a few of the current releases from Lava Cap Winery a few months ago and loved the wines. Clean, well made and well priced, especially so for California. That’s part of the beauty of wines from the Sierra foothills…The 2010 Chardonnay is French barrel fermented and aged, yet so well balanced with great acidity. The 2010 Cabernet is structured, with some dark berry fruit, lush and well balanced. Rad Grapes material for sure…

It was a rather quick decision about six weeks ago to start representing the wines in NY, as the busy season was approaching, but I believe a good one in the end. Our California portfolio is kind of thin, especially so with price point wines and starting out with some Lava Cap Chardonnay and Cabernet for the fall was a no-brainer. I describe the wines as no excuses, full-throttle California, just with some great balance and acidity thanks to those cool summer El Dorado nights.

Our first wine order came in two weeks ago and today I already had to re-order. We’ve also had the chance to taste a few of the other Lav Cap wines like the Sauvignon Blanc and the Petite Sirah, which we may be adding in the Spring.

Lava Cap Winery is situated about 45 miles east of Sacramento, just 5 minutes off Highway 50 in the town of Placerville, El Dorado County. The American River runs right by the winery and I hear the fly-fishing is top notch too. We already love the wines and I for one, cannot wait to visit and wet a line. Cheers!