How are we wrapping up another year already!? My sixth year at Lieb Cellars, in fact. And when I sit back and reflect on these past years, I think it’s fair to call 2019 the “year of the curveball” at Lieb Cellars. 2013 was my first year and was all about learning the business. 2014 was about planning our rebrands and overhauling the company from the ground up. 2015 was when our new brands were launched and we began to rebuild. 2016 was when we got serious and really started to fine tune and grow. In 2017 we launched cans. Last year our cans exploded, kegs went viral and our business took off. I was truthfully a bit worried about whether or not we could sustain the kind of growth we saw last year. But, as with life, business has a way of balancing itself.
This year, we faced a number of unexpected challenges. In wholesale, our most important distributor was acquired by another, bigger distributor. It essentially meant starting the relationship all over. We had to learn to work with new managers and train new sales reps who had never even tasted our wines. We had to prove ourselves again and fight to get attention as a little fish in a bigger pond.
In other wholesale markets, one of our distributors closed down and another one lost the head of their wine division. In another state we had a compliance issue and were forced to suspend sales until we got it corrected. And in yet another state, our distributor tried to pull a fast one on us and renegotiate terms in the middle of our contract. It got to the point where I was almost afraid to check my email in case more “oh, SHIT” news came through!
Back at home, we had a number of staff changes to contend with. Becca, our well-established NYC brand manager left in March to work for a NYC based wine company – go Becca! Dana, our longtime Wine Club & Marketing Manager, left in October to pursue her dream of working for a marine conservation organization – go Dana! In all, we now have five new people in five of our key roles at Lieb Cellars. Newbies all around!
Yet, the “year of the curveball” hasn’t even come close to knocking us down. We still expanded our distributor footprint. We still improved our hospitality. We still advanced the quality of our wine. And we still grew sales.
Going into 2020, we’ve added four new distributor states including Texas (yee-haw!). Our tasting rooms and wine clubs are better than they’ve ever been. Our winery is equipped with a new state-of-the-art waste water manager system, brand new stainless steel tanks, a new press and a new bottling line. Russell is at the top of his game with what he’s making and how he’s making it. 2019 was the best vintage we’ve seen in years. And our new team is smart, energized, creative and ready to take the industry by storm.
Just like a tough vintage that separates the so-so winemakers from the truly great winemakers, this year’s challenges, and the way in which we overcame them, prove this company is the real deal. Throw us curveballs and watch us smash them.
Here we come 2020!
General Manager & Certified Sommelier