Providing guests with an attractive destination, atmosphere and an immersive experience can be as much a part of selling wine as the quality of the wine itself in some cases for some wineries fueled by direct to consumer sales.
For other vintners, the shape, heaviness and design of the glass bottle is part of their look.
Jake Whitman, founder of Really Good Boxed Wine, is challenging that business model by doing just the opposite — skipping the glass packaging and tasting rooms to focus on a wine-club driven business model.
Whitman, a former consumer products brand manager with Procter & Gamble, claims he can sell a $65 three-liter box of wine containing a caliber of wine that retails for $30-40 per bottle.
The wines the company sells are sourced through a number of different avenues.
The portfolio consists of a Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Rose from the Ketcham Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, a Sauvignon Blanc using grapes from two Sonoma designated vineyards, and a Cabernet Sauvignon from Truesdale Vineyard in Paso Robles.
“Some of our wines come directly from winemakers and producers through purchase agreements,” Whitman said. “For any wines we’re sourcing, we build relationships directly with the winemakers and producers rather than go through a bulk wine broker or other path.
“For our other wines, we purchased grapes and fermented ourselves, as Really Good Boxed Wine is a licensed wine producer in California.
“We have a winemaker on retainer, Tami Collins, who both makes wines from the grapes we purchase and works with any wine we’re sourcing from other producers. All wines are either made or finished at Healdsburg Custom Crush.”
The agreements with vineyards and wineries Really Good Boxed Wine collaborates with vary. Some prefer to remain anonymous.
“We would prefer to credit that producer or winemaker with making the wine if they are interested in putting their name on the label. The 2020 Pinot Noir is a perfect example of that; all of our communication talked about the Ketcham Vineyard, and their vineyard name was stated on the back of that box,” Whitman said. “For other producers, though they love the idea, they would prefer their brand remain anonymous. The desire for anonymity is primarily driven by our price point in correlation to what they sell the same wine for in bottle, which is usually 30-60% higher by volume.
“In that scenario, the contract specifies what information we can release publicly, and we use the information we are allowed to share to educate our consumers about the wine, how it’s made, and where it comes from. We are in active discussions with a couple of winemakers who are interested in putting their name or winery on the label as a collaboration. We hope more are open to that as we continue to challenge the perception of quality in boxed wine.”
A tasting team that consists of Collins, Whitman and two Master Sommeliers manages the QA/QC process.
“When we find an opportunity to source a great new wine, we request samples to be sent to me, (Master Sommelier) Amy Troutmiller, and Tami Collins, and moving forward, (Master Sommelier) Andy Myers,” Whitman said. “We each try it separately, and if we like it, we discuss whether or not it meets our quality requirements, and any minor winemaking work that may need to be done to finish it.
“If we decide to move forward, we’ll reach back out to the winemaker and let them know we’d like to move forward and draft a contract. We always request a confirmation sample be sent just before we finalize shipment of the wine to Healdsburg Custom Crush. Prior to production, each wine goes through two sets of analytical testing.”
Because Really Good Boxed Wine is the wine producer, wine made by other winemakers would still be packaged and sold under the Really Good Boxed Wine brand.
“But we are very interested in opportunities to put the winemaker’s name or winery brand on the label as a collaboration and on the website/marketing materials,” Whitman said.