Q. What has been your biggest challenge?
Teaching people how to say Montepulciano D’Abruzzo.They’ve got giant companies with huge marketing dollars trying the do the same thing that I am, get my wine into their store and on their menus. It’s not automatic. I have to make a connection with somebody at the restaurant or store and they really need to want my product.
Q. Tell us about your role in the wine business and how much time you spend on it.
I spend about 10 to 15 hours a week working on the wine whether it’s through marketing or contacting restaurants. Thankfully I’m not the winemaker but the face behind the product. I also do radio commercials every day for the wine on all five radio stations that the Paul & Young Ron Show are heard on. That’s been the single biggest reason that the wine has taken off. Everyday I hear somebody say, “I’ve heard about your wine, I’ve got to try that.”
Q. How much money did you invest in launching this business?
Initially, it was a five figure investment, when you account for the hard costs and the time invested. My deal with the Galasso family at San Lorenzo Vineyards is that if my land can’t keep up with the demand, I can contract out with them for more grapes and more juice. It’s beneficial to both of us.In the first two years we also laid out quite a bit of advertising dollars with Clear Channel, my broadcast company (another five figures). It was a smart move, who better than my audience to expose my wine to.
Q. When do you expect to turn a profit from it?
Profit? What’s that? I think we’re one or two years away. I’m still investing every penny back into marketing and promotions. We’ve done some unique in- store promotions as well. For instance, we sent the managers of the top two Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza locations that sold the most Castronovo wine to our vineyard in Italy. We have sponsored a couple of different charities as well. We also have laid out quite a bit of product each year at the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. That’s a necessary evil, where else are you going to get your wine in front of hundreds, maybe thousands of people at one time.
Q. Tell us about how your partnership and arrangement with the vineyard and your partners works?
I don’t know anything about the actual wine making. I’m leaving that up to the Galasso Family, they’ve been at it for five generations. What my wife Gina and I do is actually decide which varietals we are going to sell; we’ve chosen and designed the labels and handle most of the marketing. I’m the face of the wine. Shaw-Ross imports the wine and opens many doors and Southern Wine and Spirits gets it out to the on and off premise locations.
Q. Celebrity-endorsed wines aren’t necessarily successful. What do you think makes your product and situation different?
I think it’s because the people that are drinking the wine know me and have for many, many years. I’ve developed a certain amount of trust with my audience and the product is really, really good. Some celebrity wines have come and gone overnight, why? You have to do more than just pop your name on a bottle and hope that it sells. You have to work it. Dinners, signings, appearances, etc. That’s what I’m doing, and I have a radio show to tell people A) about the wine and B) where I’m going to be.