Our first Wine show....

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Hokapsig

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well, its been some time since we posted about our winery.....

We are now 9 years into our winery and STILL no location for a storefront. This has good and bad implications. The bad is that we have no where to point customers in the winter months for tasting and bottle sales. The good, from a business perspective is that our overhead costs have been kept in check, allowing us to flow more to our bottom line and keep our cash flow positive.

The pandemic caused us some problems (having a winery is all about solving problems). The state closed down the alcohol state store system, yet allowed wineries to be labled as essential businesses and stay open, though we weren't allowed to offer tastings. This was a HUGE positive impact for us. We were able to post on social media about what wines we had available and we created a tag which stated "Covid Survival Pack" which we put on our 3 bottle boxes. People loved the marketing and sales soared. Even with the pandemic shutting down our festivals, the farmers markets were still open and we sold well there. However, we ended up about $5k under the previous years sales.

The pandemic also caused us issues with sourcing grapes as the vineyards were unable to keep up with the demand for juice and we ran out of some key varietals for selling and blending. Enter our farmers at farmers markets. They approached us with over ripe fruit which they could not sell and gave us about 400 pounds of peaches, and pallets of strawberries and raspberries. We then juiced the fruit and came up with several fruit wines which saved our season. With leftover pinot grigio, we took the shredded coconut from not having a cookie exchange and blended it with some lime wine (from a test batch) and created a Pinot Colada wine. Other wines found their own following due to no other grape wines in the wine tanks. We created a "party wine" by combining small lots of dry reds and named it Winemaker's Blend, which now sells well enough for us to recreate the wine now that more juice is available.

Although our search for a location was put on hold, we were able to make some contacts for a local storefront, which has yet to come to fruition. However, by offering a wine tasting to parents during Halloween, we were able to meet a new neighbor who didn't taste the wine, but just stood by observing the parents tasting the wine and thier comments. We then talked with our new neighbor and found out he manages a large grocery store (Giant Eagle) and asked us to sell our wine in his store. This has provided us with a passive income by just selling to the store who uses their liquor license to resell the wine.

The summer of 2021 started with our farmer's markets again and we expanded our markets from 2 markets to 4. Although the markets were not as robust as the economy was opening up, the wine festivals which opened up saw an increase in sales of 40 to 50% which made up for downturn of the farmer's markets. The farmer's markets still allow us to move some wine and to test new wines to see how they would be recieved.

We took first place in a local wine festival and will return this May to defend our title. We are still missing 3 BIG wine festivals, but supplemented the loss of those with smaller shows with better attendance. Hopefully those festivals will return in 2023. In the meantime, we were able to recall our festival staff for working the wine events, though we did lose some good employees. We are still looking to increase our production as the festivals are coming back in 2022 and with the farmer's markets and our grocery store, it has been tough to keep up. The grocery store wants us to increase the number of stores by 200%, with eventually being in every store from Pittsburgh to Altoona. Though this would be a blessing, this would also strain our logistics for making the wine for sale. Our bottle source has increased their pricing and bottles have moving toward a scarcity, though we keep at least pallets available at all times.

Just more problems to solve.
 

baratras

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I moved from a country where wine is a way of life, yet I don't particularly like wine.
 

Hokapsig

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update, we were able to defend our Best Beverage title at the wine festival. That makes 2 years in a row and we were able to get some more loyal customers to follow us to other festivals. Those are the easyist sales as they come to us and want to try the new wines. We were also invited to another wine festival which we had not been able to participate in due to us not either being "known" enough or not having a storefront. We sold well (almost a 100% sell out despite 12 other wineries) and were able to gain new customers when we get back to that area in July for another nearby festival.

Costs due to the economy have skyrocketed. Our bottle costs and sugar have both increased about 25%, gasoline for picking up supplies, going to the farmer's markets and festivals is a challenge and we have not increased our prices to make our wines more economical for our customers. We did have to increase our Blackberry wine cost a dollar a bottle due to the shortage and increased costs which went from $10 per gallon of juice to $45 a gallon, and it's now not available.

Manpower to work the shows is also a challenge as availability has gone down and costs per hour have gone up. Our family has graciously chipped in thier time to help during the markets and an occasional festival.

We are flattered that other wineries are not only copying our wines, but also copying our printed materials (at times verbatim). We are still flattered, but whatever helps the local wine trail is helping us all. We are waiting on a decision to finally access a property for a storefront and will prepare to make it a destination for our community. Hopefully this takes off and i can retire to just doing the winery business. Currently working from 6 to midnight is getting old along with a full time day job.
 

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