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Month May 2014

Getting Your Local Independent Wine Store to Pick Up Your Wines – James Melendez / James the Wine Guy

Originally titled:  How To Get Your Local Independent Wine Store To Carry Your Wine

Note: This was published on another site (that no longer exists); I felt it important and still relevant for this title hence I am posting it here.


Getting a wine retailer or a ‘retailer that sells wine’ can be a hard thing to do if you are not prepared and have no written strategy.

Above I mention a wine retailer and I specifically mean a specialty wine retailer versus a big box wine retailer.  And above I also mention a retailer that sells wine… These are food retailers that happen to have a smaller set of wines to give their customer a fuller shopping experience (these are retailers are not top of mind but should be of consideration).

There is a plethora of wine SKUs in the market place now and many more to potentially be released.  Last year’s TTB COLAs were north of 120,000.  That is a staggering number but don’t let that be a deterrent.   There are many labels that go to market without a well-constructed marketing plan or a plan at all.   Hoping and believing in selling “a lot of bottles” is a recipe for not selling a lot of bottles.

The best wine brands go to the market place planning and methodically so to achieve a foothold and to development their wine label.  Thinking of your consumer is where it begins… your wine brands name and subsequent labels are the books cover…. Though many people try not ‘judge a book by its cover’ certainly many do.  Consumers still buy wines simply because the label is beautiful and the overall packaging is so compelling.  A professionally designed label is the foundation for your branding experience.  A back label is a place for deep richness and a way to grab your consumer’s attention.  And think about it—your label is not only important to the wine consumer it is important to the wine merchant that you want to sell your label.

Your written strategy doesn’t need to be a staggering voluminous document but something that you can create a road map to help getting your wine to be picked up by a wine retailer.  When you have your strategy documented then you can be prepared for questions that wine merchants will most likely ask.  Also it is a way for you to think ahead of what sets your wine apart from other wine labels.

Questions / actions for you to answer or at least think about prior to your appointment:

  • What sets your wine apart from wines produced in your region? What are your points of difference?
  • What is your experience?
  • What’s your vision for your wine?
  • Is your wine available by on and off-premise establishments?
  • Work on one state at a time—working on two- three states at time is a promise for a high learning curve for multiple states ABC laws and expending precious resources too easily and inefficiently; California is a great place to start and to focus
  • Consider both on and off premise
  • Get your wines reviewed – it is never too early to start to get some press and recognition
  • Look for low cost opportunities to enter your wine in a competition
  • Find the appropriate wine event to pour your wine (San Francisco has a plentitude of wine events through the year) –and this may be present a low cost and effective way to get some elementary customer foothold

Preparing for your wine buyer appointment

  • Ask for an appointment; rare is the wine buyer that has “open hours”
  • Samples are requisite – two of the same vintage is routine
  • Bring your business cards, sell sheets and any other press that your wine may have received
  • As with any other appointment be punctual (wine buyers will often stagger consecutive meetings next to each other) and stay within your allotted time
  • After your meeting; follow-up with a thank you email and periodically check in—a ‘no’ may not always be a ‘no’
  • The wine world has both a peculiar and unique inventory position—there is only so much of any vintage—not the same with other product categories—spirits, beer or even books
  • Pre-shop your wine retailer before you ask for your appointment (get a snap shot of their current SKU set).  Your wine may represent an opportunity especially if your wine may help to fill a gap in their inventory set
  • Present and pitch wine reviews / awards has your wine review receive?
  • Develop your SRP – suggested retail price point.   Wine labels develop their SRP over time and manage it well enough to increase that over time (above inflation).  Your suggested retail is a guidance and though they may not follow your SRP it does give them a basis to price your wine; over time you can manage your brand and not just to a buyers margin needs
  • Before you close your appointment time ask for sale; you may be told that they are well stocked but your wine may be of potential interest;

Other considerations

  • When you start selling your wine to a wine retailer always think about diversification—you never want to depend on one or two wine retailers but rather through several
  • If a wine retailer says they won’t carry your wine—ask why—perhaps there are kernels of learning or perhaps key indicators why they might not buy now

Smaller wine retailers have a great ear and voice with their consumer base and many consumers depend on a smaller wine retailer to introduce them to new wines.  The hand sell of wines is important for smaller wine brands.  Many wine labels try to go large chain wine retailers as a sign of success but those opportunities can be difficult to manage and may not meet your expectation.  The larger wine retailer may have requirements that a newly established wine brand may not be able to deliver.  If you visit many specialty wine retailers they tend to carry often the same brands year over year.  Now, retailers that carry wine (where wine is not their mainstay product category) hand selling is not a focus because their associates need to know a larger variety of SKUs and categories—however—many are open to having educational and tasting opportunities for their staff.  This focus can set you apart from the many wine labels that do not do that.

There are abundant opportunities for you and a concerted and focused effort and creating your strategic plan will help you to make not only a good impression but to have a lasting wine label that is something consumers can seek year over year.  And best of all you took the time to develop not only your wine but your brand as well.

Now, put hand to keyboard to get your brand road map completed and then get ready to drive on the map you created.

— James Melendez


Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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Canela Bistro…. A San Francisco Treasury for Spanish Food & Wine – 9.5 (95/100 Pts) – James Melendez

Earlier this year I had the privilege of sitting with Mat Schuster and Paco Cifuentes.  I had visited Canela Bistro for their second year anniversary in business.  San Francisco is such a tough restaurant town–both because of the many competitors and very particular tastes and culinary interests of San Franciscans.  Spanish restaurants are not as numerous as Italian or other fares in the City.  But therein lies the opportunity to present the best of Spain food in San Francisco.

Mat and Paco are bookends when in comes to the dining experience.  Mat is the chef and interpreter of Spanish cuisine and Paco is the wine expert.  They compliment each other not just in the food and wine department but are life and business partners as well.  Canela Bistro has mastered the fine art of service and superb Spanish cuisine.  Elegant and graceful service is the cornerstone of any restaurant and combining both local and Spanish ingredients is evident.  Paco has assembled a well-edited Spanish wine list.  In northern California, Northern California wines often outpace wine lists from other regions but at Canela Spanish wines are the star.  Not just wines from the usual suspects of Rioja, Rias Baixas or Priorat but Reuda, Ribera del Duero, Campo de Borja and Cariñena.

Mat is most comfortable not just directing his food but loves to be making food.  While many chefs are busy in the office Mat enjoys and prefers cooking.  Mat has a great link to Spanish cuisine–Paco’s mother.  Paco’s mother has passed many glorious recipes to him and through experience Mat has perfected each dish.   I asked about what patrons want and expect in Spanish cuisine and Mat said that Bay Area residents like heat in their cuisine and sometimes expect that in Spanish cuisine.  It is hard to imagine for some that Spanish cuisine is not like Mexican food.  If you look at other Latin American cuisine they are not based on a hot and spicy canon.

Mat and Paco love their neighbourhood bistro; a rare address of Market Street is easily accessed; and I love coming into this comfortable zone from a busy main street in San Francisco.   Mat strives to keep on his game to present the best of Spain in San Francisco and wants the world class always to shine here.  Mat often utilizes Tempranillo in many of his dishes thus reinforcing the Spanish through and through approach.

I tasted the following dishes with Paco and Mat:

  • Tortilla Española
  • Gambas
  • Patatas Bravas
  • Lamb Skewers
  • A selection of Jamon Serrano, Chorizo and Manchego

Tortilla Espanola

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Each dish was well executed and beautifully plated; the Gambas and Lamb skewers were superbly fresh.  The portions were larger than I expected.  Canela is a place to share each plate with your guests to get the full allotment of flavour discoveries.

The Spanish wines are very well selected and the servers are well educated in picking up what each patron is seeking and suggested wines to fully express and optimize with the foods selected.

A great experience and one that I will have a repeat visit.

¡Buen provecho y Salud!

James Melendez

James the Wine Guy


Canela Bistro

2272 Market Street

San Francisco, CA  94114

415 552 3300







Demystifying Wine…One Bottle at a Time from all wine regions around the world.

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© 2014 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

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Schott Zwiesel Pure Collection Champagne Flute – 9.5 (95/100 Pts) – James Melendez

I am big fan of Schott Zwiesel stemware and in particular my favourite line is the Pure collection.  There are 17 silhouettes or styles all together (including Champagne flute).

I have used almost every major fine stemware producers glasses and have landed solidly on Schott Zwiesel for several fundamental reasons.  This brand produces a compelling and full line of stunningly beautiful wine glasses that are so distinct that only one producer could have such a great design.

Not only is Pure a great design it is fully functional.  The performance of this stemware is optimum in terms of tasting and maintenance.  When cleaning—either by hand or dishwasher is no longer a worry if the stem you are cleaning will snap off easily.  I had worried so much with other producers stems that I don’t think I cleaned as thoroughly as I would have liked.

Schott Zwiesel calls their glass material Tritan; the key feature is that it does not contain lead instead it contains titanium.  The durability while handling is solid.  The weight of each stem is slightly lighter than many leaded wine glasses.  Also, the performance in dishwasher is outstanding-no streaking or film over time.  I no longer worry about how long I will have a certain stem.

The investment in fine wines is only as good as a solid investment in fine stemware.  I have depended and will continue to depend on Schott Zwiesel to continually deliver high quality wine glasses within a reasonable price point.




Here is a promo code to purchase directly from the US Distributor.  You will save 15% off of each stem:

“JAMESTHEWINEGUY” (all caps) on

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© 2014 James Meléndez / James the Wine Guy— All Rights Reserved – for my original Content, logo, brand name, rating, rating graphic and award and designs of James the Wine Guy.

James the Wine Guy also on Facebook, Twitter and most major social medias.

Follow, subscribe, like, browse: