The bad economy has many winemakers doing business a little differently in an effort to stay profitable, or perhaps, to stay in business.
Retail prices have dropped for some brands and tasting rooms have been hurried open to create new revenue streams. Now we hear that the very winemaking equipment is being used to get those dollars flowing.
Santa Barbara winemaker Joshua Klapper at La Fenetre Wines has instituted a program he's calling "Adopt-A-Barrel." Here's how it works: Pony up $1000 - the cost of a new barrel - and you can personalize your barrel any way you'd like, get two cases of the wine you have adopted, an invitation to an "'I Adopted A Barrel' Dinner" during the 2010 harvest and a personalized "Thank You" message on the website. The "Thank You" will go directly on the wine's label if you adopt all the barrels for a given wine.
Klapper unabashadly says that "the rising cost of barrels set against the cash crunch our economy is in has necessitated some kind of action." Is it a dire situation? "Adopt a barrel or we start crushing for Gallo"? Klapper assures me the scenario is not that severe. This is a proactive measure designed to cover some production costs with a promotion which allows a nice spin to be placed upon it. It gives a more interactive feel to the tried-and-true "futures program" and, Klapper hopes, will bring in extra money during a time of year when many small wine producers find themselves stretched a bit thin.
The winemaker explains that he is only buying 20 new barrels for 2010, and encourages those who wish to take part to get in early for the best choice of varieties and vineyards. He is certainly lucky to be involved in a business which his customers find attractive in a participatory way. How many folks would want to "Adopt-A-Vat" for Budweiser, or "Adopt-A-Grinder" for Jimmy Dean Sausage? Not many, I'm guessing. But wine drinkers always seem to want to be in on the action.
Well, here's your chance to have direct involvement with the winemaking process without even having to roll up your sleeves. Just get those check-writing fingers limbered up. If you'd like to find out more about Klapper's offer, you can email him - josh@Lafenetrewines.com - or call him at 310-977-5615.