Lillian Winery recently made small waves in the wine buying community by doing away with their mailing list and releasing the 2010 Syrah on a first-come, first-served basis.
Maggie Harrison, who learned the craft from Manfred Krankl of Sine Qua Non, has been making widely-acclaimed Syrah at Lillian since the 2004 vintage. In years past, the wine was always sold via mailing list with a guaranteed allocation based on prior year’s purchases. Although the wine was widely sought after by collectors, I’m not sure Lillian ever had a waiting list for their wines and they did periodically appear at retail. The explanation on why Lillian did away with the mailing list was somewhat convoluted:
“Transactions between wineries and individuals—between you and us—are, in their own way, conversations that inform the basis of our relationship. But the reality is, our relationship has evolved and can evolve further.
To this end, we are doing away with allocations.
It started with a idea; brilliant in it’s crystalinity: If we have 500 cases of wine and 1000 customers, each customer will have six bottles of wine held in his name. Ideas, however, get corrupted, changed. What started out as an idea based on equality and loyalty has morphed into something less noble. Somehow we’ve begun to rely on an overly complicated system that at its best is fairly annoying and at its least attractive, wrought with conceit.”
This does raise the larger question of whether or not other wineries with an allocation release model will also stop their mailing lists. To answer this, I think you first need to consider why Lillian made the decision they did. If I had to guess, I’d say Lillian did away with the mailing list due to time constraints – running a fair and efficient list must be extremely time consuming, wrought with hours upon hours of paperwork and management. It is likely that Lillian can now sell their entire production without dealing with allocations and deadlines.
I highly doubt this is the way of the future. Wineries like Cayuse, Saxum and Carlisle have loyal, passionate mailing list members. In those cases, saving the work involved with list management twice a year would hardly be worth alienating the winery’s customer base.
Time will tell.
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