Wine losing on-premise sales

Once in a while I feel the need to systematically take apart arguments from folks who sound like they know the wine business, but are unfortunately not as clued in as they sound. One such instance is this article/post from Wines and Vines about wine losing on-premise sales. The same goes for guys who write about wine and just write about “what the guy said”, without doing extra research. The article is just as bad as the guy they picked to interview and this is a respected outlet for all things wine. Presenting reasons why and delving a little more into the subject would have achieved a greater purpose.

Let me preface this for all those who don’t know me: I have over 25 years experience in the wine business. As the President or Rad Grapes, I choose, import, distribute and sell wine daily on the road. I see what goes on, like an old fashioned analyst, since I am in and out of wine shops and restaurants 4 days per week for the last 25 years. That helps me stay ahead of the trend. You want to reach Millenials and their wine tastes? Buying wines from large liquor distributors in certainly not the right answer now, is it? Wine sales keep going up, except at corporate on-premise restaurants? It’s because you guys are doing it all wrong from the start. Beer labels, wine labels, are out. People want authenticity. Very few mass produced products have authenticity – unless it’s made by Apple…Unique takes extra work and knowledge.

“The Millenial drinkers wineries seemed confident of winning, are not playing the game right…” ummm. no dude. These wineries that seemed confident “manufacture wine” thinking they know what the Millenials or cinsumers want. Millenials want real wines; natural wines from small artisanal producers, now juts another fucking label invented “for millenials” by Bronco or Gallo or one of the other behemoths. the problem facing these large wine manufacturing operations is that Millenials, thanks to their iphones and mobile web have figured out that 80% of the “labels” in the market are produced by 5 companies and are available for a few bucks right down the block from your nearest corporate dining hall. The jig is up…beyond the fact that artisanal beer and spirits have it figured out and have certainly stolen market share from the behemoth wine producers (see my earlier post about mass produced crap)…Millenials want authentic products they can relate to, not another label created by some graphics design guy and produced by a wine company (notice I did not say winery) that already has 110 other labels in the market…they are labels, not real wine.

Sandy Block, the executive in charge of Legal Seafoods beverage program is right about one thing, that people going out want to be entertained. We don’t just go out for a good meal and a drink, but want to be serviced and enjoy it all in a pleasant atmosphere. We all want a real experience. Drinking the same crap your neighbor servers at his BBQ that he bought at Walmart is not what we want to drink going out to dinner. As for why Legal Seafood wine sales are down though, he is unfortunately utterly clueless. I doubt Mr. Block will ever read this blog, but I am going to explain to him why his wine sales are down, and it’s not because customers prefer beer and cocktails. ‘Patrons want to be perceived as drinking something hip.” Really dude? Jesus…Yeah they want tattooed guys shacking cocktails?! Wow…it’s like treating the symptom instead of the disease. The disease is the fact that the wine selection at Legal Seafood is run-of-the-mill at best. They give the wine business to the guys from Southern that sell them all that booze. If your craft beer selection is selling so well, along with the craft liquors, dude – how about trying some craft wines!?

Let me clue you guys in…a few of the comments below this post from Wines and Vines actually give us a great clue as to why on-premise sales for the corporate restaurants are going down. I, just like a few of the winemakers that commented on the original post opt for a beer or let’s say scotch when at a restaurant that has a crappy, commercial grade, over priced, mass produced wine list. then again, because I know I cannot get good wine, which I really enjoy with a good meal at these corporate restaurants, I AVOID them. Read that again…the vast majority of corporate outfits do not put any effort what so ever into their wine selections. Real wine drinkers are turned off and consume something else. Overpriced crap – that anyone can Google on their iphone – because it’s for sale everywhere, including you liquor discounter down the road, that has it for $7.99 bottle, while Legal Seafood is trying to get away with charging you $10 a glass for the garbage. Duh…

You cannot hoodwink consumers, the jig is up and “restaurant executives” like Mr. Block are in all honesty, somewhat clueless! If they included good, quality, artisanal wines in their wine programs, even the likes of Red Robin, Houlihans and Legal Seafood would see much better sales. The unfortunate factor is that all these corporate dining outfits want corporate products that are easy to replicate and proliferate. The problem is that when you’re trying to offer customers “a unique dining and entertainment experience” and you serve run-of-the-mill-crap…you loose. Millenials certainly don’t want that and neither do I ( Gen X). Consumers have been very educated and cannot be coned, which is exactly what trying to sell the the overpriced, mass produced wine really comes down to. They are not buying it! Today consumers want “something different” and that ain’t happening with their current wine selection.

Look, this is the reason I got into the business. The reason Rad Grapes exists is to provide the perfect alternative to the mass produced, mass marketed crap that the average winery that thought the had Millenials figured out with that latest cute Moscato label. We have wines from real wineries, made by real winemakers, coming from real artisanal vineyards. That is not possible for wines made in large amounts – just like the difference between artisanal cheese and something like Kraft American slices. There is a world of difference in taste and authenticity. People prefer the real stuff, any day you offer it…

I would be happy to offer my consulting services to Legal Seafood and anyone else who would like to turn their wine program into something more cutting edge and profitable than it is now. If you want to appeal to adapting consumer tastes and Millenials? Asking someone with real expertise in the matter may be a good place to start. Cheers!

The millennial drinkers wineries seemed confident of winning aren’t playing the game right: They’re increasingly enchanted with cocktails and craft beer.Read more at:
Copyright © Wines & Vines
The millennial drinkers wineries seemed confident of winning aren’t playing the game right: They’re increasingly enchanted with cocktails and craft beer.Read more at:
Copyright © Wines & Vines
The millennial drinkers wineries seemed confident of winning aren’t playing the game right: They’re increasingly enchanted with cocktails and craft beer.Read more at:
Copyright © Wines & Vines

A belated & very warm welcome to Zagarron Bodegas

We’ve had several false starts with Spanish wines, which was for the most part my fault, for a number of reasons. In running any business, we make mistakes, sometimes very expensive ones. The hard lessons are hard to forget…I know I’ve learned a few valuable lessons, running my wine business through these tough economic  times over the last few years. Learning from ones mistakes is the key though.

In developing our Spanish portfolio anew, it was very important to start with some quality, well made wines, at good entry level price points that have identity and representative terroir. Sometimes you just get lucky…Zagarron Bodegas and Rad Grapes found each other to be the right match in NY and the first wines started going out the door in April. The reaction and feedback form our customer base has been very positive, but have only scratched the pad…lots more work to do.

So, where is Zagarron from and what makes the wines so special? Zagarron is located in Mota del Cuervo, near Cuenca, in the heart of Castilla La Mancha. The winery has been around since 1948 and is run by a bunch of growers – you know, the guys who work the vineyards and tend to the grapes. Call the wine shepherds…Thanks to the rich soils of the area and the ideal climatic conditions, our vineyards, planted in a traditional way, with tight spacing, produce grapes of the finest quality. The vineyards are located 700 meters above sea level with low temperatures during winter and high temperatures during summer (cool nights though) enjoying 3000 hours of sun per year. This is particularly the case, among others, of the Natural Park “Lagunas de Manjavacas” a frequent stop for tourists and nature lovers  – this is where our organically grown grapes are cultivated. Yup, organically grown…

Zagarron has several lines of wine varietals. We opted for the Zagarron moments line featuring A Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat, Grenache, Tempranillo and Tempranillo Crianza. The wines are all amazingly refreshing and fruit forward, with the great length, acidity, balance, varietal character. The Sauvignon Blanc is crisp & dry. Muscat is delightfully fruity, refreshing, with a touch of nectar sweetness. Grenache and Tempranillo are extremely good examples of the varietals and lights out for the money…Crianza is old fashioned, with loads of dark cherry, cedar, sage, leather, tobacco and earth.

The sales started out very well and we continue to broaden our distribution, with lots of room to grow. Zagarron was a very good start to the Rad Grapes re-entry into the Spanish wine category. We will be adding some more wines from Spain going forward – Rioja, Albarino and Ribera del Duero. Chin-chin!


“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!