A year and a couple months ago I had officially hit the five year mark for MTGA Wines.When I started this project I looked five years down the road and figured if I could make it work I could then revaluate everything and see what the next five to ten years could hold. This year I am looking at harvest number seven, upping production and expanding into new and different areas of the country (in fact as I write this I am in Portland checking in with some awesome accounts that currently carry the wines as well as those that could be a good fit).
When I started this project I wanted the focus to be on my clients which could be a wine shop, restaurant or anyone who has come out to try the wines. My main goal was to lean on the direct-to-consumer side of things and not be controlled by the three-tier system that most retailers and restauranteurs work through. While that is still very much the case it has been amazing to work with some other killer entrepreneurs around the country. Frankly it has also helped with the almighty cash flow that is one of the biggest enemies of a new wine production.
While the money is great it is better walking into a small 20-ish seat restaurant like Roe in Portland to talk about their experience, how the wine has worked for them, talk a little shop about the wine world and connections that we share. It finally dawned on me how tight knit this hospitality industry is wherever you go. I am not quite sure why that hadn’t clicked before but it did yesterday.
Anyway, my plan continues this year by upping the production of the wines where I can. I am hoping to push the Merlot towards 200 cases (maybe a bit more), the Riesling to 125 cases and the Pinot to 150 cases. My goal is to get to that 500 case mark, or close to it, so there is more wine to go around because there just hasn’t been enough to do so, albeit that is a good problem to have. The other reason for that goal is to help sustain the business a bit better. At this stage it is just barely paying for itself. If I wanted to stay this small and really make it work I’d have to hike up my prices more than just a little bit which is what I don’t want to do. I still want to keep these wines as “everyday” options as much as possible; hence the advent of the Single Barrel project for those looking for something extra awesome.
Looking forward past 2016 and into 2020 my dream is to have this project hit the 1000 case mark (gasp!). Still super tiny but large enough that I can have options to add new varieties and styles while keeping the old reliables, the Merlot and Riesling, as the backbone of the project.
In one sense I am totally scared, mostly because of the monetary implications of trying to grow a wine business, but also because this is continuing to push a project that was once 40 cases total to 25 times that much. The last thing I want to do is sacrifice quality for the sake of growth as well. Luckily with 1000 cases I am still looking at maybe 40 barrels, which seems like a lot, but is small enough to manage quality standards effectively and efficiently.
It is crazy to think that a few years ago I was just winging it with this production and here it is in a few different states and getting out and around the country (thank you by the way!).
Usually this kind of post is reserved for the start of a new year or the fall season as you reflect and plan for what is to come but I felt like mid-May was as good of a time as any. So here’s to forging ahead and chasing those dreams!