Hey guys! Wow… and just like that it’s been another 2 months since I last posted. It’s APRIL already!? This is my 4th year at Lieb and I can tell you that the first 3 months of this year flew by faster than any previous year. It’s like I blinked on January 1st and opened my eyes to bud break.
Why? A combination of things, I think. But mostly being busy. In past years our wholesale business didn’t really get off the ground until March. This year, as I mentioned in my previous post, the orders started coming in January and they haven’t let up. For me personally, that means a ton of communication with our distributors, and since we fill kegs and boxes in small batches (vs. all at once like we do for bottles), it means keeping a close eye on inventory to ensure we have enough supply on hand to meet distributor demand. Each order that comes in, I have a mini panic attack about whether or not we can fill it. JIM, DO WE HAVE ENOUGH CHARDONNAY KEGS?? YES? OK. PHEW. (And then we fill more and wait for my next mini panic attack.) Of course, stress over keeping up with demand is the kind of problem we LOVE to have. But it’s certainly keeping us on our toes.
The tasting rooms have been busier than normal as well. Tasting room sales so far this year are tracking 20+% ahead of last year. In past years I remember feeling the winter lull. Some days dragged on and we could go an entire day without seeing a single customer pull into the tasting room parking lot. Not this year. Perhaps because it was a mild winter? Perhaps traffic to our region is up overall? Perhaps it’s because we continue to raise the bar in our tasting rooms with customer service and value in our wines and it’s catching on? I could debate the reasons. But there’s no debating the fact that “tumbleweed Tuesdays” and “off season” are becoming terms of the past at Lieb Cellars. With all the visitors and activity, winter around here passed in an instant.
There are the new initiatives keeping us busy as well. Launching our wines in NC, SC and GA – check! The truck picked up their opening orders on Monday and Russell, Mike and I will be traveling down to SC in a few weeks to meet the sales teams. A work trip to Charleston in May? Sign me up!
Canned wine is coming along as well. We’ve secured a mobile canning partner and identified suppliers for cans, labels and cardboard. Next step in the process is to design the labels. But before we can do that, our Bridge Lane brand refresh must be completed.
As explained in the past, introducing a 4th format (bottle, box, keg and now CAN) for our Bridge Lane wines means needing to update the logo. While we’re at it, though, we’ve decided to go one step further and redesign the labels on all of our Bridge Lane packages. As a certified brand geek – my professional background is in marketing/branding – experience has taught me never to mess with a brand that’s 1) young and 2) growing. Why change a good thing? And why risk confusing consumers?
Well, I’ve also learned over the years that some of the best branding comes from taking risks and challenging conventional wisdom. Lieb Cellars has a simple, classic look and targets a slightly older, more traditional demographic. It’d be a big mistake to change Lieb branding right now. Bridge Lane, on the other hand, has a more casual vibe and targets a younger consumer who 1) isn’t loyal to particular wine brands 2) likes trying new things and 3) is used to brands constantly updating and innovating in order to stay relevant and avoid “brand fatigue.” Think about Apple. Even the most iconic brand of all time has changed its logo 5 times since its founding in 1976! We’re no Apple of course. But now that our Bridge Lane brand is growing, we want it to stay fresh and grow more. Now that the kegs and boxes are successful, we want to introduce cans. It’s risky to change things up only 3 years in, but you’re ready for it, right? Against the odds, you embraced Bridge Lane boxed wine. You clearly “get” us. We have faith in you, and we’re going for it.
Back story and rationale aside, the new logo and packaging will be fully rolled out in 2018. You’ll get a sneak peak, though, with the small “test batch” of canned wines that we’ll be releasing this summer to friends & family and Bridge Lane wine club members. They’ll have the new logo and new package design. Want in, but not a friend, family or club member? You have 3 months to correct that. Get on it! (We take bribes in the form of homemade chocolate chip cookies or coffee from Nofo Roasting Co.)
Sales and product development have made for an exciting, lightning fast start to this year. I can only hope that future winters fly by like this one did. Of course, winter ending means that spring is now ushering in the start of the growing season. Bud break (the start of growth on our vines) typically occurs around May 1st on the North Fork. Because of the mild winter, it may be sooner this year. In a couple weeks, add “2017 growing season” to the list of our to-do’s. In a couple months when I post again, our tasting rooms, wholesale business and vineyard (farming) work will be in full swing. Game on, 2017. Game on.
Before I sign off, I want to mention that we’ve recently hired two new full-time #TeamLieb-ers. Please join me in welcoming Cory to our Bridge Lane Tasting Room and Alice to our Lieb Cellars Tasting Room. Alice will also be helping out with content for social media, so if you see any cute, noticeably inspired Bridge Lane Insta pics – that’s her. Alice IS Bridge Lane. Before we hired her, she was posting pics of Bridge Lane box wine in the basket of her bike at the beach. We’re so lucky to add these smart, creative gals to our team.
Until next time, cheers! (me with a glass Bridge Lane Sauvignon Blanc because … spring!!)
GM & Certified Sommelier
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