Small Bottles, Big Idea
The Boutique Wine Sampler is small in size, but really, really big in concept. The product is targeted at wine lovers and is launching in Costco stores in California. It focuses on a collection of small production wines in a small format – and we predict the impact will be huge.
We had a chance to speak with Bob Sweeney, who co-founded the Boutique Wine Club with Tim Jones. Boutique Wine Club developed the product to fill an important need. “You have consumers who are seeking high quality wine and can’t get it,’ explains Sweeney. “You also have winemakers with no access to the market. They don’t have a tasting room and they aren’t in restaurants.”
Drawing on his experience in the wine industry as a leading tour operator, he decided that a sampler pack done right would allow small producers access to a wide market. Boutique Wine Club buys the wine from the wineries and packages it in 375 ml bottles, half the typical bottle size. The labels are identical to the full-sized bottles (okay, they are smaller) and are printed under a license with the wineries.
We like the BWS for a number of reasons. First, we’ve tried other wine sampler packs that feature 50 ml bottles. Sorry, but that is a third of a glass of wine – not enough to get a decent taste and certainly not enough to share. The Boutique Wine Sampler bottles have two and a half glasses each – much better. Also, the Boutique Wine Sampler is focusing on fantastic wine regions, including two of our favorites for starters, Santa Barbara and Paso Robles. Five thousand units of each package were produced.
Sip Santa Barbara Then Pop Paso Robles
The Santa Barbara AVA collection includes the following wines and is now available in select Southern California Costco stores and some California Fresh Market stores:
• 2016 Stolpman Ballard Canyon Syrah
• 2017 Larner Rosé of Grenache
• 2016 D’Alfonso-Curran BADGE Pinot Noir
• 2015 Blair Fox Petit Sirah
• 2016 Carr Cabernet Franc
• 2016 Andrew Murray E11even Chenin Blanc
The Paso Robles AVA collection includes the following wines and will be available in select Northern California Costco stores in early December:
• 2015 Cass Winery Malbec
• 2014 Brian Benson Cellars Kandy Red (50% Zinfandel / 50% Grenache)
• 2017 Alta Colina Grenache Blanc
• 2014 Midnight Cellars Estate Zinfandel
• 2016 Bodega de Edgar Tempranillo
• 2016 San Marcos Creek Rosé of Grenache
Why We Like It
During his time as wine tour operator, Sweeney tried to figure out the players in the winemaking business. His network enabled him to pull together a great group of wines. “We are looking for winemaking giants playing small or up and coming winemakers,” he said.
Ballard Canyon is a dynamic Santa Barbara AVA that is making amazing Syrah. Stolpman Syrah is superb. We featured a Midnight Cellars red blend at an event we organized and it was a crowd favorite. Knowing that these two wineries were included is an indicator of the collection quality and sold me on this project.
How can you not love sampler packs that include Tempranillo, Grenache Blanc, Cab Franc, Petit Sirah and Chenin Blanc? The website BoutiqueWineBox.com features interviews with the winemakers accessible via a QR code, so you can watch the videos when buying the wine or hosting a tasting party.
The suggested retail price for the Boutique Wine Samplers is $69.99, but Costco agreed to reduce their margin in order to make it available for $49.99. It’s a great bargain for consumers and also a sweet deal for wineries trying to gain new customers.
“When you consider that each box will have two to 12 people tasting it, you have a chance to have 50,000 people taste your wine,” said Sweeney. He noted for comparison that a top tasting room might get 1,000 people a week.
Plans for sampler packs aren’t limited to Santa Barbara and Paso Robles. Napa and Sonoma are ripe for their own collections, said Sweeney. From there a thrust northwards to Oregon and Washington is possible.
As the sampler packs grow in numbers, you can mix and match bottles from different regions. A nationwide push with a four pack is also a possibility.