Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Plot twist in winery-retailer spat: Stolpman to visit nearby store

Sometimes in journalism you just run the facts you have, and the rest comes out later.

On Monday I ran a bewildering story about a winery, Stolpman Vineyards, that didn't seem to want its wines promoted at Frank's Wine in Wilmington, Delaware.

It turns out that there was a good reason, one that Peter Stolpman didn't disclose when complaining in a comment that I didn't contact him for the original post.

Stolpman is actually visiting a competing Wilmington wine shop about 1/4 mile away this coming Sunday to promote his wines -- which, though on sale, appear to be more expensive than at Frank's.

Check out this portion of an email newsletter from Moore Brothers Wine Company:

I don't care who Stolpman chooses to sell its wine through, in Delaware or anywhere. If Stolpman can sell wine for a higher price at Moore Brothers, more power to them. Wine drinkers might like to buy them cheaper, but Stolpman doesn't have to assist in that.

I asked Peter Stolpman to explain by email and this is what he told me:
"I am indeed doing a tasting at Moore Brothers in Delaware this Sunday.  Mr. Moore was recently out with me touring the vineyard, barrel tasting, and shooting video for their website to promote the event and my wines.  

As you read, my rep intended to do an in-store tasting with Frank the weekend prior to my scheduled tasting, furthering my brand across both stores' customer base.  Then Frank blasted promo prices that undercut every retailer in the country, I assume including Moore Brothers' planned promotion for my visit.  This obviously created an uncomfortable situation for my rep, after all, I'm on my way to do a tasting, Moore Bros has already taken a research trip to see and document my operation, and now there's a retailer down the street advertising prices lower than everyone else in the country.  My rep was not happy to be caught in the middle of this, nor was I.  Extremely bad timing.  

So yes, the situation was exacerbated by my pending visit."
I spoke to a different winery owner by email yesterday who says this happens all the time. Wineries insist on keeping certain prices, and a retailer sells below those prices, and the winery complains. So maybe it's business as usual. I don't know if most consumers are aware that this business-as-usual goes on, though: producers don't want you saving money on their product.

I want to add this.

Peter Stolpman wrote this as a comment on my Monday post:
"Frank definitely had a nice marketing bone thrown his way with receipt of the email from an upset distributor rep. It's certainly an effective sales pitch: 'priced so low, I got the producer pissed at me'."
The implication is that Frank was somehow exaggerating. But it turned out to be an honest sales pitch, and Frank used it to promote Stolpman's wines without apparently knowing that Stolpman was going to be personally visiting his competitor, but not him, the following week.

Frank was, according to Stolpman's email to me, "advertising prices lower than everyone else in the country." Is that a bad thing? You tell me.

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Jeff said...

As a wine buyer for a store in a neighboring state, I'm familiar with both stores involved in your post.

Moore Brothers does generally charge more for their selections. Their angle is that they are a 'specialty' wine store with a small, curated selection. It isn't often that the wines they sell are found at other retailers (my store is one of them, as well as Frank's, as we are both full-selection liquor stores with national brands AND smaller sets of selected wines).

My defense of the situation is that wine and liquor stores work on slim margins, more akin to supermarkets. Wine is typically the best mark-up in the store (compared to spirits and beer, which is impossibly thin). When a retailer chooses to promote a specific brand and sell it without much (or any) profit, it hurts the other retailers.

It's a race to the bottom. The internet means that this race is far from over, and the wineries are right for protecting their image and brand amidst this craze. If even 'expensive' wine (choose your price range) becomes commoditized, then the specialty retailers will go the way of the independent bookstore and we'll all be left buying wine from big box stores. An exaggeration, maybe, but the clear trend in the US.

The end of the wine world? No. But a shame? Yes.

Unknown said...


It appears I am no longer the party with the "deaf ear" here.

Are you really under-selling Frank to the point that he doesn't know what the wine retailer down the block is doing?

On Monday he emailed me "Hope you stop by while you're in town this week. Safe travels!"

This was the day before your anonymous poster supposedly alerted everyone to my in-store tasting.

I probably will stop by and say hello to Frank.

W. Blake Gray said...

Hey Peter, very interesting of you to accuse somebody else of writing something without revealing the whole truth. Let's take another look at your comments on this blog on Monday, shall we?

Unknown said...


I'm not sure if there are any angles left to cover. I forgive your "winery hates customers" tweet which provoked me to defend myself. I understand your intent was to draw attention to an interesting story.

Since all parties involved have moved on, I suggest we do the same.

In other news, I'm now subscribing to your blog.

From Manhattan,

Pete said...

So I just googled "Stolpman Pagliaro" to see who else may have picked up this story and came across this link which reminded me that I've been buying Pete's wines for years. Local blogger Maria Valetta reports on her experience at a yearly fundraiser that I host... notice that one of her top wines was the Stolpman 2006 Syrah! My point is I've always been a fan of Stolpman's wines... enough so to feature them at my marquee wine event of the year. As much as I'd love to continue to support Stolpman wine and sell them in my shop, I have a real problem supporting the local supplier who I have to purchase them from... Sussex is the 3rd supplier in 5 years to represent Stolpman, I think I'll just have to wait for #4. Sorry Pete :-(

Jonas Landau, everydaywineguy said...

Pretty interesting little pissing contest. But that is retail and it happens here in Jersey all the time. If Frank wants to offer the wines at deep discounts to move product, I suppose that's his business. It seems odd that the the wholesaler would be that upset since most wholesalers have no problem closing out something they are having trouble moving, whether it hurts the brand or not. I can see Peter's point though as well, though I doubt there would really much damage to the brand as his wines are probably allocated anyway and he can probably still get his price at the winery. Sometimes, spats like this lead a wine to only be offered to restaurants, which is what's happening to La Crema here in Jersey (not comparing La Crema to Stolpman).

W. Blake Gray said...

Jonas: La Crema, restaurant only? Wow, that's interesting. Nothing against La Crema, it's a good value brand, but it's not what I think of as a sommelier special

Jonas Landau, everydaywineguy said...

You're right about La Crema Blake but it is extremely popular and there are plenty of restaurants that aren't "sommelier" types. It's what I heard from a big retailer here as he was not going to be able to order more. Because of La Crema's popularity, there were always heavy price wars with the product. I certainly could have flawed information I suppose.

W. Blake Gray said...

It's also possible that Jackson Family Estates is ultra-sensitive to discounting. I know Kendall-Jackson Vintners Reserve Chardonnay is frequently discounted as a loss leader because it's so popular, and I know that used to drive Jess crazy. said...

Funny… I never heard a story of Jess telling Total Wine and Costco to stop selling his KJ Chardonnay or get his supplier involved in their pricing :-)