Q. Any advice for someone wanting to get into the wine business?
Here’s my advice if you’d like to make a small fortune in the wine business: Start with a large fortune.
Q. Talk about the challenges you have faced getting your wine carried in local restaurants and on store shelves?
When I started I had a list of about 80 to 100 restaurants that I wanted to contact. Once I had contacted all those and had a pretty good success rate, that’s when things got a little bit tough. I have to rely on the sales staff at Southern Wine & Spirits.
Q. How have sales grown since you introduced the wine in December 2009?
In year one, we were at 1,200 cases. We doubled that in year two. This year should be significantly better since we added Publix and the new wine (the Pecorino). Interestingly, the white outsold the red at a recent appearance. The store managers were surprised. I wasn’t. Once people taste it, they really love it. The hardest thing has been getting the people that are already carrying the red to automatically carry the white. You’d think it would be a no brainer, but it’s still got to be sold.
Q. Who were the people in the industry that believed in your product from the beginning?
Anthony Bruno from Anthony’s Runway 84, Brian Johnson from Joe’s Stone Crab, Darryl and Oliver from Café Maxx, Bill Schwarz from Whole Foods Market in Boca Raton, Lee Schrager from Southern Wine & Spirits, also Doris Italian Market & Bakery and Crown Wine & Spirits. The minute that I was able to use those names, other restaurateurs immediately said, "We’d like to try it".
Q. Is your wine more popular for on premise or off premise sales? Why do you think that is?
The key to getting the wine on shelf at an off premise location is to make your wine successful in the on premise location. People taste your wine at a restaurant and then they say, “Hey I had that!” Hopefully they go buy the bottle at Doris, Crown or Publix.
Q. Where and how did your love of wine originate?
Cakebread baby. At Chef Allen’s in the early 1990s. I was a beer and Crown Royal man growing up, but an old radio boss of mine used to take us out with record company dollars (the good old days) and he taught me how to enjoy wine and food together. I was hooked on that Chardonnay, and then one day I read an article that said once you start drinking red wine, you’ll never go back.