On each release I've set aside a pretty good chunk of the available cases for local events. I thought it was important to help us build a following here in the South Bay that we have wine to do things like trade shows, restaurant, and charity events.
On our first few releases I set aside 10 cases of each wine. On the spring release I set aside 25 cases of wine. It seemed like a lot, but we went through the 10 cases pretty fast last year. I enjoyed many of the events we did, especially a private dinner we cooked and paired wine at for a group called Friends of the Winemakers.
Lately though I've been swamped with requests for wine. The pitch is almost always the same: "This is a great opportunity for you to promote your wine." The thing is though, I'm finding out it's not. The guests at these events are never really there for the wine, and we get far better response when someone on our mailing list brings a bottle to a neighbor than we have from all these events. It's a great event for the restaurant or event to promote itself, and that's about it.
People ask us for a lot of wine. Usually they want us to pour or donate 4-10 bottles. That's $350 out of our pockets. That might not seem huge, but put dozens of those together and it is huge. Combine that with the trade off, $350 is a new bin, or 4 barrel racks, and those things we need right now. We're trying to make this a profitable business, and giving away wine isn't helping. We actually had one group ask us for four cases! $1600 and their offer to us was 'a mention in the event letter '. They were insulted when I told them we couldn't do that.
I guess part of it is people just assume wineries are swimming in money, and winery owners must have money to burn. We sure don't. Every dollar goes back into the winery and vineyards and this is not a profitable business yet. We still are putting our own savings in to cover costs.
Bottom line. I'm more worried about the bottom line now. I'm canceling some events we have scheduled and being much more picky about the ones we attend. I'm going to keep some Syrah for the Friends of the Winemakers event, and we'll keep some to pour at dinners we do with people on our mailing list. We enjoy those events. The other 10 cases we have left I'm going to offer out again on the Fall Release Letter. It makes so much more sense to get the wine to people who enjoy it than saving it for events where people don't care what they are drinking.