Tuesday, March 10, 2009

An inch closer...

Brad Post:

Some random thoughts...

1. Perhaps you've heard of the small, handcrafted winemaking businesses often known as "boutique" wineries? If boutique are small wineries, then we are on our way to advancing the idea of a micro-winery. Yesterday marked a first of many small milestones to come as we advance our ideas into reality and launch our own micro-winery. We received confirmation from the Iowa Secretary of State and are excited to get the process moving in higher gear. Now comes more and more and more paperwork from the myriad of federal and state agencies positioned to stake claim to their share of tax dollars. Concurrently, we'll continue to develop our winemaking skills, purchase expensive equipment, and plan for our first big crush. A little excited, a little nervous, and very ready to make some headway!

2. Sulfur Dioxide Workshop. Last weekend we attended an all day workshop all about SO2 - the sulfite you read about on your bottles. We were hosted by the Mississippi Valley Grape Growers Association and spent Saturday testing all sorts of wine for Free SO2 using three testing procedures: Iodine, Titretes (a brand), and Aeration-Oxidation. Sulfur Dioxide serves a couple of purposes: antimicrobial (inhibits the growth of critters that can damage wine) and antioxidant (helps minimze the damage due to oxygen). Our enology instructor emphasized keeping oxygen at bay through the use of inert gas (i.e., Nitrogen, Argon, and Carbon Dioxide) in the headspace of our tanks rather than relying on SO2 (whose utility in antioxidation is becoming more questionable).

3. Mystery Shoppers. Presented research findings to a small group of very interested MVGGA winery owners last weekend. Our project involved using 31 mystery shoppers who posed as winery visitors and conducted 74 assessments of 15 wineries last summer. We learned some very interesting things about the experiences visitors report wanting/receiving; tasting room experiences; and major influences on purchase behaviors.

Happy tastings!


  1. Brad,

    Congrats on your steps towards becoming a micro-winery.

    The choice of words is interesting given the explosion of micro-breweries these past 20 years. With the micro-brewery, they became self-sustaining by eliminating the costly distribution chain and selling from one, or a small handfull, of retail outlets.

    Is this the direction you see yourself going: a storefront in lovely downtown Vinton selling micro-wine?

    Distribution is always going to be the BIG issue with micro-anything. If others are doing this, you may wish to consider becoming the aggregator or micro-wines for the purpose of distribution, or for the purpose of selling to Vinton's cafe society.

    Good luck!

  2. TJ,

    Well, my use of term "micro-winery" wasn't so much a relational commentary on the successful micro-breweries in our country as it was related to the smallness of our operations. :)

    I appreciate your comments about distribution and will surely lean on your expertise as we develop our ideas further. Your mention of being a aggregator/distributor of other micro-wines is a good idea that is currently being played out by some in Iowa already (via online marketing). But something worthy of additional consideration.

    At present we envision our distribution primarly as direct selling at regional farmers markets and through tastings set-up at wine distributors. This eliminates the necessity for a retail outlet and staffing a tasting room. Remember, for the foresable future we will only be producing betweeen 200-400 gallons per year (1000-2000 bottles) and unless you know of an Angel who is interested in helping us develop this idea futher.

    We are also exploring other innovative ways to build both fiscal and social capital which would minimize our costs. We should talk sometime so I can get an MBA's perspective (then again, maybe not) :)

    Thanks for your positive words!

  3. Brad,

    What about the mystery shoppers? What was that about? I think you mentioned it in passing over the holidays...anything worth sharing?

  4. TJ,
    I approached my enology instructor last year that I'd be interested in helping the Iowa wine industry by availing my research knowledge and experience to research problem. Interestingly enough he just had a similar conversation with industry so the timing was good.

    We were interested in understanding visitor expectations and whether their goals were achieved; assessed tasting room experiences, and influences on purchase behaviors. We had 31 mystery shoppers who visited 15 wineries and conducted 74 assessments (during spring-fall, 2008).

    Big findings were related to women and how their desired experiences were inadequately fulfilled compared to men. In particular, women are wanting much more information and education than they are getting. I begin my presentation by asking winery owners how well they know their customers - most are pretty confident, I then ask "what about the visitors that never return?" - they are less confident.

    You can read the full report at (and hear a scratchy presentation to the industry):