story by Bryan Holt
When you’re walking into a store like Micky Finn’s to purchase a bottle of wine, it can be a little overwhelming. There are times when I want to personally pull my hair out and scream with all the wine selections that are out there; I’m partially responsible for this madness. With wines ranging in price from $2.99 to over $200.00, it can be daunting to figure out what you’d like to drink for the evening. Many people have the assumption that you have to pay more (twenty-five dollars or higher) for a decent bottle of wine – that only the great Cabernets start at fifty dollars or higher. Sometimes they are right but a lot of times they are missing the boat with awesome wines in the $10.99-$15.99 price range.
I became a wine buyer back in 2005. This was the height of the Australian wine boom, Yellow Tail and Lindeman’s were producing wines that retailed for under $5.00 and Fred Franzia (California) came up with the infamous Two Buck Chuck wines. So back then you either had good wines with a retail higher than $25.00 or “eh” wines with a price under $6. In that same timeframe, a lot of wineries and vineyards were noticing one thing. Do we want to sell one bottle at $45 or three bottles at the same retail? Domestically speaking one of the first wineries, that I can remember, to address this question was Duckhorn Vineyards.
Duckhorn Vineyards was founded in 1976 in Napa Valley, California with their first case production coming out in 1978. Duckhorn quickly became one of the Valley’s premier wineries and received both a domestic and international following. Depending on which grape varietal you purchase (Cabernet, Chardonnay, Merlot or Pinot Noir) and which vineyard site the juice comes from (St Helena, Howell Mt or Stag’s Leap) you can expect that price to start at roughly thirty dollars and going to eighty or higher. Then the epiphany came around 2005.
Decoy was first made in 1985 as a Napa Valley red blend. Its grapes came from St Helena and were consistently produced as a Napa Valley wine for the next few decades. With the introduction of a new label in 2005 and the price being in the mid to high twenties, Decoy was beginning to gain momentum in the wine industry. Seeing this growth, and placing a lot of the credit to the growth with its competitive retail price, Decoy became more than just a second label for Duckhorn and in 2008 became its own focused winery with an expanded wine portfolio; including Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Merlot, Zinfandel and Sauvignon Blanc sourced from Sonoma County. All of our Decoy wines are competitively priced at $17.99.
So all of this boring history and rambling comes down to one simple statement: “Please don’t base your opinion of a wine with the retail you see.” I guarantee that you can come into our stores and find a wine priced at $12.99 that drinks like a $20 bottle. In fact, there are so many wines to choose from in this range, hundreds actually. The market has sustained these prices efficiently, crashes and recessions haven’t affected them at all. In fact, the only thing that may affect these wines and the supply of them in the market is the growth of Cannabis farms in California. A lot of wine and beverage companies are actually pulling up grapes in California to meet the demand for legalized Cannabis. Currently, Constellation Brands is discontinuing the production of Cooks Champagne, Clos du Bois, and Mark West in favor of Cannabis production.
There are several wineries that do the same as Duckhorn, I just personally like Decoy and chose them as an example. Stretching from California to France, Italy, and Spain to Australia hundreds of wineries have second and third labels to get to the mid-tier prices for the everyday consumer.
Bryan Holt and Gonzalo Guzman, head winemaker at Vina El Principal on a summer trip to Chile.
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