Thursday, January 18 , 2018, 10:16 am | Fair 62º

 
 
 
 
Wine

Laurie Jervis: Santa Ynez Entrepreneurs Package Regional Wines for Costco Sales

Boutique Wine Box features six wines from either Santa Barbara County or Paso Robles

The winemakers with wines featured in the Santa Barbara County version of the six-bottle box from Boutique Wine Box are, from left, Bruno D’Alfonso of Badge Wines, Blair Fox of Blair Fox Cellars, Peter Stolpman of Stolpman Wines, Andrew Murray of E11even Wines, Michael Larner of Larner Wines and Kris Curran of Badge Wines. At right is co-founder and CEO Bob Sweeney. Click to view larger
The winemakers with wines featured in the Santa Barbara County version of the six-bottle box from Boutique Wine Box are, from left, Bruno D’Alfonso of Badge Wines, Blair Fox of Blair Fox Cellars, Peter Stolpman of Stolpman Wines, Andrew Murray of E11even Wines, Michael Larner of Larner Wines and Kris Curran of Badge Wines. At right is co-founder and CEO Bob Sweeney. (Boutique Wine Boxes photo)

As part of my endeavors to highlight one-of-a-kind efforts to market and sell our region’s wines, I offer a story about Boutique Wine Box.

Making wine is just half the battle — winemakers themselves must market (or pay someone to market) their wines in order to get them out the door.

The founders of Boutique Wine Box are Bob Sweeney and Tim Jones, chief executive officer and chief marketing officer, respectively. The two men bring a wealth of publishing, videography, wine touring and web marketing to their joint endeavor.

They reached out to winemaker Andrew Murray, who now describes himself as a minority partner with the founders. Murray is owner/winemaker of Andrew Murray Wines, which includes a second label, E11even Wines.

Also involved as a partner from the ground up, so to speak, is Buellton-based Coastal Vineyard Care Associates, Sweeney said.

Boutique Wine Box’s total production is 11,000 six-pack boxes — 5,500 each of the Paso Robles and Santa Barbara samplers, he said.

The Santa Barbara version of the six-pack is selling briskly at Costco stores throughout Southern California and on the Central Coast (including the Santa Maria and Goleta stores), according to Sweeney.

It is also available at El Rancho Market in Santa Ynez and at the California Fresh Markets in Pismo Beach and San Luis Obispo.

The six-packs are $49.99, a price that Sweeney calls “a tremendous value” for “a cross section of high-quality wines.” Costco is an ideal retailer because of its “volume of curious consumers, especially during the holidays,” he added.

The Paso Robles box debuted this month at Costco stores in select Northern California locations, Sweeney said.

Murray said he worked with the selected winemakers to ensure Sweeney and Jones purchased the “highest quality” grape juice for the debut vintage. The first sampler pack includes what the trio call the “best of Santa Barbara” and features six 375-ml bottles of wine: a petite sirah from Blair Fox Cellars, the aforementioned 11Eleven Chenin Blanc, a syrah from Stolpman, the Badge Pinot Noir, Carr Cabernet Franc and a grenache rosé from Larner Wines.

Click here for additional details on the six wines. On the website is a video of each of the participating winemakers sharing thoughts about the project.

The Santa Barbara Boutique Wine Sampler includes six 375-ml bottles.
The Santa Barbara Boutique Wine Sampler includes six 375-ml bottles. (Boutique Wine Boxes photo)

The Paso Robles version of the sampler box includes Cass Winery Malbec, Brian Benson Cellars’ “Kandy Red” (50-50 zinfandel and grenache), Alta Colina Grenache Blanc, Midnight Cellars’ Zinfandel, Bodega de Edgar Tempranillo and San Marcos Creek Rosé of Grenache. Click here for more details.

Previously, Sweeney worked in magazine publishing and, for 25 years, owned a marketing agency. Twelve years ago, he switched gears and started leading tours of wineries and horse farms on the Central Coast.

During those tours, he said, Sweeney imparted to his guests wine know-how about viticulture and the basics of how to swirl, sniff and sip wines.

Along the way, “I taught myself wine marketing,” he said.

Marketing wine is “all about education” for potential buyers, he explained. Sweeney’s tours — and now, the wine boxes — are “opportunities for consumers to upgrade their palates.”

The team’s future plans include six-bottle boxes of both Napa and Sonoma wines, a “Best of California” four-pack sample box by Christmas 2018 and, down the line, six-bottle boxes of wines from Oregon and Washington.

Sweeney’s co-founder, Jones, a native of Colorado, graduated from USC’s film school and launched into a career of production and directing as well as creating radio programming. In 2001, he founded Table Creative Agency, through which businesses and nonprofit organizations can share their stories via web, media and film.

— Laurie Jervis blogs about wine at www.centralcoastwinepress.com, tweets at @lauriejervis and can be reached via [email protected]. The opinions expressed are her own.

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