Have you ever seen a Madroña wine with a crooked label or a wrinkled foil? Chances are that you have. But understand that it’s not part of a drunken pirate employment program or using a troop of deranged baboons at the helm of our equipment. Instead, our foiling and labeling machines sometimes have a mind of their own by spitting out extra labels or chewing up foils. The machines can be a little temperamental.
So, while bottling, we diligently set aside all these marred bottles to be used as tasting wines in the tasting room. Although the label is a little askew, the wine inside tastes perfect. Smart, eh!?!
Eight months later when we finally release the wine to you (with the perfect labels), we are supposed to remember that we’ve got these other bottles set aside for tasting. Can you believe that we actually forget about these wines tucked away in some back corner of the winery? I can, since we keep finding them a year or two or three or more after we’ve already sold out of the wine.
Here’s how it happens. Each quarter we do a full-on inventory of the winery (bottled and bulk wines) for the government. Invariably, this is when we find these stashed bottles. But since we’ve already sold out of the good bottles, we no longer have a need for tasting bottles (with the messed up packaging). But the wine is wonderful!
So some 5 or 6 years ago, we decided to be proactive about getting these wines out to drink. Restaurants and stores can’t use them, but our tasting room customers are smarter knowing that it’s what’s inside of the bottle that really counts. We gathered all these odds and ends together for a single day of filling peoples’ cellars.
Our original event was geared up to last the whole day. We had over 100 cases of wine set up on $5, $10 and $15 tables. The idea is that just because the label is crooked, we’d be willing to give you a huge discount on the wine. In return, you are helping us clean up an inventory of bits and pieces that will only get harder to inventory in the future. (Imagine 30 wines made in a year, maybe 2 cases each of funky packaging, and then multiply it by 20+ years. That makes 2,340,456 bottles of wine! (Don’t check my math!)) But you can see how the inventorying could get complicated quickly with no real plan as to how to sell these great tasting wines.
OK, so back to the first year. We had planned to be there all day long selling these bottles downstairs. We figured we would open and taste some wines upon request, and it would be a leisurely day of sharing and spending quality time with our loyal customers. What ended up happening was we had a line of people outside the tasting room waiting for us to open the doors. We quickly set up some ground rules which still stand today
- Customers are limited to getting 3 bottles of a single wine (vintage/variety/vineyard)
- A customer can only fill one case box at a time
What we didn’t want was someone taking all the available Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon or whatever, and it worked.
We opened the tasting room doors, handed out empty cases, and people flooded (orderly) in to get some wine. Some left with 6 bottles, and some left with 5 cases, all depending on what they liked and what price point they were interested in. No one wanted to taste anything as everyone already knew the wines and were simply looking for their favorites!
We were sold out in just under an hour! We folded up the tables and went home. That 50 min sale has over the years shortened to just under 20 minutes of frenzy as we check everyone out.
So now, even though we open the doors at 10am, people start lining up earlier (as much as 2 hours or more). We provide coffee and even brownies (sometimes), especially if the weather is bad. What we don’t do is allow people to come in early to see what we have (that’s unfair), and you have to be here to participate (in other words, we don’t make up cases for people who live out of the area. Sorry).
I will tell you, though, I’ve had a hard time letting some of the wines go into the sale this year. The 2012 Signature Cabernet Sauvignon, the 2013 Signature Malbec, the 2013 Rucksack Barbera and the 2016 Signature Collection Dry Riesling are all wines that I want in my home cellar, regardless of the messed up packaging. But alas, I don’t need 15 cases of these wines, and I should spread the joy a bit more!
Overall this year, I think we have more than 60 different wines in the mix and over 110 cases to put out. That should provide enough for around 17 minutes of shopping fun.
So why is this a win/win situation? You help us by cleaning up our inventory, and we help you by putting great wines in your cellar at a price that is hard to beat.
Here’s a big “Thank You” from Maggie and me, and we hope to see you on March 18th, 2018!