Lieb Behind the Scenes: June 2017
Hi ya’all! Happy summer! The last time I posted in April, we were just kicking off the year – releasing new wines, ramping up wholesale, getting the tasting rooms MDW-ready and conducting some good ol’ R&D for canned wine. Welp, a lot has happened in 2 months.
On the tasting room front, we’ve officially entered the “on” season. Long sunny days, lots of visitors, great energy and a solid group of enthusiastic and knowledgeable tasting room staffers excited about the start of the season.
This past Saturday we hosted the 2nd Annual North Fork Rosé Crawl at our Bridge Lane Tasting Room, and it was SO MUCH FUN! Great turn out, gorgeous weather and delicious rosés at all 4 stops along the “crawl.” The NorthForker covered the day and put together this video:
If you weren’t able to make it this year, save the date for next year’s crawl on the 2nd Saturday in June. I love the celebratory “kick off to summer” vibe of this event and that fact that it gives us an excuse to partner up with some of our friends at neighboring wineries. I’m excited to watch it gain in popularity in future years.
In other news at Bridge Lane, we’ve debuted a new (small) outdoor bar 7 to better service guests sitting on the lawn. Every Saturday this summer we’ll be featuring live music on the lawn from 2-5pm. And while many of the wineries out here no longer allow outside food, Bridge Lane is a BYO picnic year round. So pack some cheese and sandwiches – or even better, pick them up from one of our local purveyors (Lombardi’s Love Lane would be my recommendation) – and come grab a picnic table for the afternoon. The casual vibe at Bridge Lane is intentional. We hope it continues to be a respite from some of the more serious tasting room experiences out here.
At Lieb, we’re in full summer swing. The patio bar is open, the awning is up and we’re loving the beautiful, breezy weather and bright green vineyard views. Our 4th Annual Summer Solstice Party is this Saturday. We stay open late (until 8pm) to catch the sunset views from the patio. The sunsets seem to be more epic each year, often delivering a rare moment when our staff pauses and are reminded just how lucky we are to work in such a beautiful place. Our seated reservations are sold out but we’ll still be taking walk-ins with BYO blankets and chairs on the lawn.
Our wholesale side of the business is full steam ahead as well. We opened 3 new states this year – NC, SC and GA – and are super encouraged by our distributor’s progress down there. Our wholesale director, Mike, spent two weeks introducing our wines to some of the top accounts in the major markets and the response from buyers was overwhelmingly positive. Husk Restaurant in Charleston, SC, is widely considered the holy grail of wine list placements down South, and we just received word that they’re now pouring our Bridge Lane Sauvignon Blanc by the glass. This gives us major street cred and is (hopefully) a sign of many good things to come from our SE market.
Across all 10 of our distributor states, our wholesale business is up 67% so far this year. In this industry, that’s MAJOR growth. I don’t want to jinx it but I’m thinking that Bridge Lane – particularly our alternative formats (boxes and kegs) – are catching on.
Down the east coast, state by state, one buyer at a time, we’re making converts. People are realizing that this little NY winery named Lieb Cellars is making fresh, food-friendly wines that are not only damn good but also offer great value in the category. We’re gaining believers, supporters and advocates, and momentum is building. I know we’re at the beginning of our journey and there’s so much more to do, but I’m more optimistic now than I’ve ever been. Ah! It’s happening!
Speaking of “happening,” Bridge Lane canned wine – that, too, is officially happening. It’s taken about 8 months, but we’re finally getting all of the pieces in place. The cans have been purchased from Ball Corp. (think mason jars) in CA and are, as we speak, on their way to our labeler in OH. Once labeled, they’ll get loaded back on a truck and ship to our winery to await filling. The cans tops, cardboard trays and 4-pack rings all on order and should be arriving over the next few weeks. If all of these things happen without delay, our mobile canning company will be rolling in on July 19 to fill approximately 1,000 cans of Bridge Lane Rosé. These will serve as our “test batch” before we rollout all 5 Bridge Lane wines in can early next year.
Approximately 5 weeks from now, I could be holding in my hand the first canned wine produced in New York State. Pretty damn cool!
Unsure about wine in can? If you need convincing, I urge you to Google “canned wine” and see what’s been going on with this category. The benefits – portability, convenience, price – are inarguable, and the category more than doubled in sales last year. Canned wine is most certainly a “thing.” And we’re betting that it’s here to stay.
For “research” purposes, I’ve been personally seeking out and buying as much canned wine as possible over past few months. What’s interesting is that it’s been disappearing out of my fridge faster than my tried and true bottled wines. Just yesterday my husband – an avid craft beer guy – snuck two cans of wine into our kids’ cooler and drank them at the beach. It was a proud moment for me as I realized that: 1) there’s a real, practical benefit to canned wine 2) there’s potential to attract a whole new set of customers, and 3) there’s a fighting chance that canning wine could turn out to be one of our company’s best business decisions to date. FINGERS CROSSED.
As always, thanks so much for following our journey. I look forward to checking in again in a couple months. In the meantime, the best place for (almost) daily updates on us is @liebcellars on Instagram.
Cheers! (me with a glass of our brand new, limited production “Members Only” Pinot Blanc-Viognier)
GM & Certified Sommelier