Lieb Behind the Scenes – Jan-Feb 2017

sauv blanc


Whew.  Just like that, a month and a half has passed since my last blog post.  They say time flies when you’re having fun.  That’s certainly been the case.  Well, having fun and getting sh*t done!

In past posts, I’ve referred to Feb and Mar as “bottling season.”  This year, bottling season came early for Lieb Cellars.  As of today, all of our 2016 Bridge Lane whites and rosé have been finished, bottled and filled in boxes and kegs … and picked up by our distributors.  January distributor orders can be tough because it means rushing to get all of our dry goods (empty glass, screw caps, labels, etc.) here by the end of Dec and then bottling non-stop starting the minute we get back from the holiday break.  It was a bit of a mad rush.  But it’s also a GREAT sign that demand for the wine is picking up.

There were practical reasons for early orders this year as well.  With our Bridge Lane Sauvignon Blanc being new, our distributors wanted to get a head start on introducing it to their markets.  Other wines (like our Bridge Lane Chard) have been sold out for a few months, so our distributors were anxious to re-stock it.  And with rosé, well, the rosé craze continues, and that means wine shops and restaurants are now tasting new vintage rosés as early as Feb and Mar instead of Apr.  Which begs the question … Is rosé poised to become a year-round wine in the Northeast rather than a just seasonal summer sipper?  I know I for one drink it well into the winter.  Some spicy take-out Asian on a chilly Friday night paired with a dry, crisp, fruity rosé?  Yes, please.

As for the wines themselves, the team and I completed our annual “new vintage tasting” with Russell a couple weeks ago.  We invaded the winery and tasted (either out of bottle, tank or barrel) all of the 2016’s.  We shared our own observations (mostly, “holy cr@p, this is GOOD!”) and also had Russell explain his technical approach to each wine and how it’s compared to years past.

This is the third year in a row that we’ve tasted as a group like this, and I think I can confidently speak for everyone when I say we’re all psyched about the 2016’s.  Each year, as we continue to work together and collaborate, our wines become more focused and our house style more defined.  The 2016’s are clean, fresh and balanced.  They’re classic cool-climate, low alcohol, expressive wines.  And man, they’re fun to drink!

I know a lot of you out there (hi, Dad) are still into big, jammy, oaky wines from warm regions like Napa and Argentina and Southern Italy.  I get it.  I still drink them on occasion as well, by a fire or with a steak.  But if you haven’t given lighter, interesting, cool climate wines like Rieslings from the Finger Lakes, reds from North Italy, whites from the Loire Valley in France or Sauvignon Blancs from Long Island a chance – I’m telling you, you’re missing out.  Go.  Go now and get them!  Our director of sales, Mike, likes to say that he doesn’t like a red wine unless he can see through it.  Amen, Mike. I FEEL YOU.

As for other “behind the scenes” happenings, spring prep is the name of the game.  We’ll finish bottling (Lieb Reserve whites next) at the winery and pruning in the vineyard.  In the tasting rooms, we’re finalizing our event schedules for the year and making plans for some outdoor upgrades.  We’ll be announcing the March wine club selection soon and just ordered the labels for our new “Members Only” wine which will be released in super limited supply to wine club members only (hence, the name J) in June.  It’s a special two varietal white blend that Russell’s been working on.  A blend that he’s always wanted to try.  Only 80 cases.  One time only.  Pretty cool, right?

On the marketing and product development side, we’re also in prep mode.  I’ve been telling you about our plans to pursue canned wine, and it’s go time.  We’re in the process of securing a mobile canning partner and sourcing all of the packaging.  We won’t be officially launching canned wine until 2018, with the new (2017) vintage.  But as we’re not a very patient group, we’re working on a way to introduce a “test batch” as early as this summer.  Fingers crossed.

You may have also noticed that our Bridge Lane logo features illustrations of our 3 current formats: bottle, box and keg.  The introduction of a 4th format means that our logo needs a tweak.  But, since we have to tweak anyway,  we figure – why not take this opportunity to give the brand a complete re-fresh.  Our current Bridge Lane branding was introduced in 2014 and was a risk.  Clearly a departure from our Lieb branding and very narrowly targeted to a younger, more casual consumer.  It’s been received extremely well, and Bridge Lane sales have tripled (!) in the past 3 years.  But we’re over-achievers.  And we always think we can do better.  So when we introduce our canned wine test batch, we’ll also begin rolling out our branding re-fresh.  A fun update on our current look, complete with canned wine illustration in the logo.  I.  Can’t.  Wait.

Finally, on a personal note, I’ll be heading out to DC next week to sit on the “Social Media Do’s and Don’ts” panel at the US Wine & Beverage Expo.  The expo is in its second year and serves as the preeminent trade show for East Coast wine, beer and spirits producers.  I was asked to contribute to the social media panel by sharing my experience with managing our social media, as a start-up wine company with limited resources focused on original content.  We’ve certainly done a fair share of experimenting over the past 2 years and have a pretty solid idea of what has and has not worked for us.  I hope I can be a resource to other wineries out there who have been hesitant to take the plunge.

If the first 6 weeks of this year are any indication, I anticipate being pretty dang busy this year.  As such, I’ll likely be posting every couple months instead of monthly.  Thank you, again, for following our journey.  We hope to continue to surprise you … in a good way.

Cheers!  (me with a glass of our newly bottled 2016 Bridge Lane Sauv Blanc)

Ami Opisso

GM & Certified Sommelier