Lieb Behind the Scenes – January 2018

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Lieb Behind The Scenes – January  2018

Hey all, happy 2018! This new year is especially happy for us here at Lieb because we have A LOT in store.

In my last post, I reviewed what I learned while working as a harvest intern at our winery.  Since then, we successfully completed harvest (the last bins of grapes were picked the first week in November), started pruning our vines to get them ready for next year’s growing season and have been working on getting our 2017 vintage wines ready for bottling…or in our case, “filling,” since many of our wines will not only be bottled but also boxed, kegged and canned!

2017 was banner year for Lieb Cellars.  Outside of our vineyard yields being a little low (which meant having to source some grapes from our neighbors for our Bridge Lane wines), Lieb’s business was stronger than ever.  Our tasting rooms saw an increase in visitors and sales and a ton of positive feedback on our staff and service.  I’m obviously biased but believe there to be no better tasting room team out here in terms of knowledge, friendliness and service than #TeamLieb, and it’s reflecting in our popularity every year.  Our Internet sales were up, too, and our Wine Club has grown to almost 800 members.  Across our 10 distributor states, our wholesale sales grew almost 40% which is a huge number.  That means more and more people outside of Long Island are discovering our wines and becoming loyal supporters.  We’re going into this year with serious momentum and that’s exciting.

That being said, here are the 5 things I’m most excited about for 2018:

  1. CANS!  If you’re a regular guest of ours or have been following us on social media, then you know that we’ll be rolling out our full line Bridge Lane wine in cans in a few weeks.  Last summer we completed a test batch of rosé and have been working on the other 4 wines since then.  The cans are single serve (well, 2 servings actually), lightweight, portable, recyclable, they chill quickly and they’re AWESOME for the beach or boat.  Not to mention, the wine we’re putting in them is really good!  It’s the same wine that goes into our bottles – light, dry, fresh, fruity – NOT sweet and crappy.  Our distributors are begging us for the cans since there’s so much demand for canned in wine in general.  And our test batch sold out in weeks at our tasting room last summer.  There’s so much hype, I’m worried the actual product won’t live up to it!  Just kidding, I’m not worried.  So get ready and follow us on Instagram for updates.  2018 is the year of cans!
  1. Bridge Lane Brand Refresh!  We’ve been working on the updated logo and packaging for about 8 months now.  It took us that long to complete design, government approvals, tweaks and printing.  The new logo incorporates an aluminum can illustration so that we now have all 4 formats represented.  Many of you may not even notice the change, but since I’m branding nerd – I’m ALL about it.  Bridge Lane has undergone quite a transformation over the past 4 years.  We rebranded completely and introduced box wine and plastic kegs in 2014.  Last year we discontinued the Bridge Lane White Blend in favor of introducing a Sauvignon Blanc.  This year we’re launching cans.  We’re going all in on alternative formats and not looking back.  Last year, alternative formats represented 38.3% of all the wine by volume that we sold.  In 2018, I expect that number to be pushing 50%.
  1. Lieb Cellars Members Only Malbec – Petit Verdot.  Last year we released a special “members only” Pinot Blanc – Vognier blend that was made available to our Lieb Cellars wine club only.  As only 80 cases were produced, Russell was able to pay special attention to this wine during the winemaking process and was especially proud of it.  Members loved it and we were psyched to offer them an exclusive.  As a follow up, Russell’s making a Members Only Malbec – Petit Verdot blend this year that will be made available to members in March.  I’ve personally never tried a Malbec – PV, so to taste it will be a special experience for me as well.  Our club continues to grow and we plan to continue to offer members exclusive wines as a unique perk and a way of saying THANK YOU.  We depend on our wine club as a source of income and because our members are our most passionate brand ambassadors.  Hopefully this new wine will give them more reason to love being part of our club.
  1. Shows!  This year I’m speaking at the US Beverage Expo in DC again, and I was invited (for the first time) to speak at BevNY.  The former is the foremost trade show and conference for craft beverage producers on the East Coast, the latter is essentially the same thing but for New York producers only.  I’ll be speaking on a canned wine panel at USBevX and giving a lecture on “Low Budget and Low-Tech Tips for Winery Social Media” at BevNY.  Fun topics but speaking is not the reason I go.  I go to network and to keep a pulse on what else is going on in our industry outside of our (small) region.  What are other wineries doing?  What are they making?  How do we stack up?  How can we continue to stand out?  These conferences are an opportunity to gain perspective on where we stand in the industry, not just in our region – and I think having that perspective is so enlightening and important.
  1. Florida?  We’ve been flirting with the idea of expanding into Florida this year.  Part of me feels that we have 10 states and need to focus our resources on growing them.  Another part of me (the one with ants in my pants) believes we should keep our foot on the pedal and take advantage of our momentum.  As opposed to pitching our brands to potential distributor partners down there, we decided to take a more passive approach this year.  If a distributor really wants us, they’ll find us.  And if they find us and it’s a good fit, then we can let it happen but not force it.  A week ago I got an email from a distributor in FL who heard about our cans and wants to sample them as soon as they’re filled.  They know Lieb because one of the owners used to live in New York and has tried and loved our Pinot Blanc.  It may be a fit, it may not be – but there’s certainly potential.

Momentum and potential.  That’s our story going into this year.  We have so much to be grateful for and so much to look forward to and it’s not lost on me that the readers of this blog, our most loyal fans, are a big part of that.  I hope you’ll stay along for the ride this year and … DRINK CANS!

Cheers everyone!

Ami Opisso
General Manager & Certified Sommelier