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Hokapsig

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well, we have made it through Covid, actually better than worse, Our governor decided to shut down all businesses that were not deemed essential. Lucky for us, wineries were determined to be essential and when the state shut down the state run liquor stores, we had a captive audience. We started a "survival kit" which was a 3 bottle box of wine with a nice hand made card that my wife loves to make. We advertised on social media. Sales zoomed. We decided that when we had someone order a case from us, we would deliver for free and we announced the delivery to that area on Facebook and advised anyone else to order wine in that area that we would also deliver for free. We were filling the back seat of the pickup and the bed with cases of wine for delivery. Doing that allowed us to move our inventory and get us out of the house.

With Covid waning, we have now retreated back to our 2 farmer's markets, however, the state is not letting us provide tasting samples yet. We solved that problem by providing a sheet with tasting notes of the wine. People which were leery at first bought one bottle, only to return the following week and buy anywhere from 3 to a case. My wife promoted the fact that the customers were able to talk to the winemaker (i was able to steer them to the wines by chatting with them). People seem to like that, Our bottom line flourished by selling wines without the tasters affecting the bottom line, allowing us to drive more profit to the bottom line by cutting expenses. With the extra time from not doing day long wine festivals, we have been able to concentrate on making and testing new wines and catching up on bottling some dry reds which had been sitting for 4 or more years. People seem to like the aged reds as they sold well,

Although we have had 2 events schedule to return later this year, we had written off this year and were ready to declare a loss in the revenue column, but as of this post, we are 3K ahead of last years pace even with the most lucrative wine festivals cancelling, We have taken the time to learn how to REALLY sell our wines. This is paying very nice dividends.

We gambled our funds set aside in the winery account that will be used for buying property in the stock market, betting that the economy would come back strong when COVID subsided, We timed the market almost correctly and will use that gain to offset any losses from the loss of wine shows. We have done well so far. That money will be returned to the winery fund when we decide to sell our stocks, We have also invested in a used 4 spout bottling machine which was being sold by another winery that was upgrading. This has recently arrived and we are learning about it prior to committing to a bottling run. It feels good to be upgrading the winery assets,

We feel we benefitted by sticking to our principals of keeping our overhead low, staying debt free, changing our wine line up to meet the seasons and listening to our customers. Our business continues to be healthy as we emerge from the COVID shadow.
 

sour_grapes

Victim of the Invasion of the Avatar Snatchers
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well, we have made it through Covid, actually better than worse, Our governor decided to shut down all businesses that were not deemed essential. Lucky for us, wineries were determined to be essential and when the state shut down the state run liquor stores, we had a captive audience. We started a "survival kit" which was a 3 bottle box of wine with a nice hand made card that my wife loves to make. We advertised on social media. Sales zoomed. We decided that when we had someone order a case from us, we would deliver for free and we announced the delivery to that area on Facebook and advised anyone else to order wine in that area that we would also deliver for free. We were filling the back seat of the pickup and the bed with cases of wine for delivery. Doing that allowed us to move our inventory and get us out of the house.

With Covid waning, we have now retreated back to our 2 farmer's markets, however, the state is not letting us provide tasting samples yet. We solved that problem by providing a sheet with tasting notes of the wine. People which were leery at first bought one bottle, only to return the following week and buy anywhere from 3 to a case. My wife promoted the fact that the customers were able to talk to the winemaker (i was able to steer them to the wines by chatting with them). People seem to like that, Our bottom line flourished by selling wines without the tasters affecting the bottom line, allowing us to drive more profit to the bottom line by cutting expenses. With the extra time from not doing day long wine festivals, we have been able to concentrate on making and testing new wines and catching up on bottling some dry reds which had been sitting for 4 or more years. People seem to like the aged reds as they sold well,

Although we have had 2 events schedule to return later this year, we had written off this year and were ready to declare a loss in the revenue column, but as of this post, we are 3K ahead of last years pace even with the most lucrative wine festivals cancelling, We have taken the time to learn how to REALLY sell our wines. This is paying very nice dividends.

We gambled our funds set aside in the winery account that will be used for buying property in the stock market, betting that the economy would come back strong when COVID subsided, We timed the market almost correctly and will use that gain to offset any losses from the loss of wine shows. We have done well so far. That money will be returned to the winery fund when we decide to sell our stocks, We have also invested in a used 4 spout bottling machine which was being sold by another winery that was upgrading. This has recently arrived and we are learning about it prior to committing to a bottling run. It feels good to be upgrading the winery assets,

We feel we benefitted by sticking to our principals of keeping our overhead low, staying debt free, changing our wine line up to meet the seasons and listening to our customers. Our business continues to be healthy as we emerge from the COVID shadow.
So great to hear, Ho. That tale is inspiring.
 

Hokapsig

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I’m not far from you and would like to support your business. Where can I buy your wine? Are you selling at the winery?
We sell at the Murrysville Farmers Market on Sardis Road from 3 to 7 on Thursdays and the Monroeville Lions Farmers Market on Saturdays from 9 to noon. Stop by.
 

Hokapsig

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well, the energy company shot us down too. At this time, they will neither lease nor sell the property. So its on to plan C, which is to rent a building in an industrial park (not my idea of a winery location), but the location does have gas, electric, water and reduces our barrier to entry. We may have to sign a 3 to 5 year lease, but this allows me to walk away from the business after the term of the lease and we don't have to front the money to get started. We will incur a monthly rent fee, but we will be able to easily cover that cost. A local wing and pizza place is willing to rent the other half of the building and we can share a middle section with tables for guests. We will still keep our ears open for property.
 
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well, the energy company shot us down too. At this time, they will neither lease nor sell the property. So its on to plan C, which is to rent a building in an industrial park (not my idea of a winery location), but the location does have gas, electric, water and reduces our barrier to entry. We may have to sign a 3 to 5 year lease, but this allows me to walk away from the business after the term of the lease and we don't have to front the money to get started. We will incur a monthly rent fee, but we will be able to easily cover that cost. A local wing and pizza place is willing to rent the other half of the building and we can share a middle section with tables for guests. We will still keep our ears open for property.
After reading a few of your posts and this one over the last few months. I started putting two and two together I realized I've met you in person at a few different craft fairs/wine shows. My girlfriend is in love with a a few of your wines. I remember her saying she saw on social media about the survival kits, that was such a good idea to coordinate and have the pop up locations too. I can't wait for you to get a location, she will be thrilled to hear. It's is awesome to know you guys are doing so well even with the current less the ideal conditions!
 

ffemt128

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After reading a few of your posts and this one over the last few months. I started putting two and two together I realized I've met you in person at a few different craft fairs/wine shows. My girlfriend is in love with a a few of your wines. I remember her saying she saw on social media about the survival kits, that was such a good idea to coordinate and have the pop up locations too. I can't wait for you to get a location, she will be thrilled to hear. It's is awesome to know you guys are doing so well even with the current less the ideal conditions!
What part of Pittsburgh are you from?
 

Hokapsig

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so we've picked up a third farmer's market. The state has stopped all tastings unless you are supplying the wine with a meal. Farmer's markets are serving food, so we are covered there and are permitted to do tastings and sales for off site consumption. Despite having 9 months of shows cancelled, we are still ahead of last years sales, and we are flowing more proceeds to the bottom line as we don't have to pay the entrance fee for the shows. Luckily, we don't have the overhead of rent of a mortgage at this time. However, we receive a dozen calls per week of people wanting to visit the winery, which the state has shut down anyhow being that we don't serve food,
 

ffemt128

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What is your delivery radius? South Hills??

If you're in the South HIlls, D & O Wine Cellars is at The Original Farmer's Market M-W-F. This market starts at 5:30 We are also at the Carnegie Farmer's Market on Sundays from noon til 3:00. Our storefront is located in Crafton
 

Hokapsig

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well, it's early December in the year of Covid and allows us to look back on our 7th year of being an official winery.....

Fortunately, we were able to increase our sales by 40 to 50% in January and February (we had only budgeted a 10% increase for the year). Then Covid hit and cancelled all shows for the year. We had stocked up for some larger spring shows and were sitting on a boatload of inventory. We decided to make lemonade from the lemons the virus dealt us. We began to market our 3 bottle box of wines as a "Covid Survival Pack" and offered a free delivery with a 4 bottle purchase. My wife used her cardmaking skills to come up with a nice Survival Pack tag which was very well recieved, especially when the state shut down the state stores, but allowed wineries and breweries to continue to sell. Our sales zoomed with little overhead as compared to the wine shows.

In May, the farmer's markets began and the community embraced us by supporting local wines. We were astounded by the response, especially since we were initially not permitted to allow tastings of the wines, but then appealed to the state which gave us guidelines to conduct tastings. We picked up an additional farmer's market (giving us a total of 3). My wife and her aunt manned 2 of the markets during the week while i was working from home with my regular job. I was available to resupply the markets after my workday and my wife and I were able to work the Saturday morning market. Apparently, people being able to talk to the winemaker is a drawing card and I like to talk about my wines anyhow (plus it got me out of the house which made me happy). Cost for the markets averaged $30 a week for all three markets, so our profit margin looked very good.

We are now involved with a local liquor trail called the Laurel Highlands Pour Tour. This has directed a lot of new customers to us and provided us with many repeat sales. Not having a storefront due to Covid, we were able to steer customers to the markets for tastings and purchases. However, with those markets ending, we are now unable to do any tastings and can only offer curbside purchases and pick ups. With the state changing the rules for liquor establishments on a weekly basis due to Covid, we are relieved that we don't have the overhead of a storefront at this time.

We were able to generate some additional room in the winery and brought in an extra 600 liter tank to increase our production. We picked up a used 4 bottle filling system, but have yet to use it as we just don't have the space to fit in to the winery. We were able to donate some off spec wine to a distillery to use to make hand sanitizer during the initial days of Covid. The sanitizer was then donated to the front line emergency workers and truckers to deliver products and keep the supply chain open.

We have been vigilant for another location opportunity since the nearby farm was purchased by the neighbor that complained to the township and kept us out. The other acreage we were considering also sold. Due to Covid, a local theater closed which presented an opportunity which we are still considering, but it has issues. It originally was a Civil War era farm, which is the vibe we are looking for, but has MANY issues, the main one being the lack of a Certificate of Occupancy. We have another opportunity which is supposed to present itself next year, but more on that later as it develops. Luckily, when the economy crashed at the end of March, we took the funds we were saving for a property and dove into the market and have nearly doubled our funds (figuring if we couldn't make money selling wine, we would make in the market), Little did we know that we would fortunate to make money at both.

Although 2021 isn't looking great right now, we are still prepping our inventory for the day when we are allowed to go back to sales at shows or farmer's markets. We are toying with some new recipes and hope to add a couple of new wines to our repertoire. We added an Ice Wine and a Cranberry this year, and we look forward to bringing out a port. We still consider ourselves fortunate and we have been humbled by the response and support.
 

jgmillr1

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Flexibility is the name of the game for surviving in this environment. I consider 2020 to be the year of the small winery. While the larger wineries cancelled their under 250 person events because they were too small potatoes for them, for us that was great and we thrived on the fact no one was doing anything else. The farmers markets were the best we've seen also.

That meant our winery went through a V shaped recovery this spring-summer but we are seeing the seasonal fall-winter sales are slowing faster than usual due to more restrictions and fears.

However, we are continuing to expand of our crush pad equipment and tanks capacity. People will not stop drinking wine (thankfully). And our vineyard will keep producing, virus or no virus. Go 2021.
 

KevinL

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I was also a little worried about slower sales, and that was the way things started for me, but as it turns out Alcohol is a bit of a recession proof industry. We released our port last month. Moves a little slower than the light fruity stuff in the summer, but it's nice to broaden our offerings. Thanks for sharing! May 2021 bring more adventures, and more success!
 

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