Thursday, May 17, 2012


I haven't said anything yet because I didn't want to let the cat out of the bag too soon, but I think it's safe to come clean now. For the past few months I've been working up a business plan to start my own small wine wholesale business in Kansas. My partner and I are far enough along in the process now that it's definitely going to happen. Most of the paperwork is filed, I've started talking to wineries, we have a domaine name, business account, an attorney and a graphic designer working on our logo. For better or worse, we've reached the point of no return. We've crossed the Rubicon. I'll be partnering 50/50 with the husband of one of my wife's dear business associates. Chris is an IT guy who loves to crunch numbers - things I'm loathe to do. He will handle all of the operations, web design, tax reporting, etc. leaving me able to devote 100% of my time to wine sales and deliveries. I think it is an ideal distribution of responsibilities.

I think I've planned this thing conservatively enough that expectations are realistic. It should be profitable from the get-go, but just so. Slow and steady growth will be the key to our success. I don't have any insane expectations of competing with the big boys and their deep pockets. I don't have any false hopes of stealing Mondavi or Gallo from a competitor's portfolio. I want to start off with 6-8 small wineries and grow the business from there.

That leaves me with the question of what to do with this blog, my constant companion of the last 3+ years. Ethically, I'm uncomfortable posting glowing reviews of every wine in my soon-to-be portfolio. But once the business is up and running, I'll also be selfishly hestiant to devote much cyberspace to praising wines carried by my competitors. What say you, my legions of adoring fans JFO, Dennis and Claire? Is there room for compromise? A disclaimer to preface my own wines? Somehow, I think even that would be uncomfortably self-serving. Claire, do you have a different approach to blogging about wines you do or don't represent?

We've chosen the name Amphora Distribution, LLC for our company. My wife originally came up with the name and I liked it the second I heard it. In fact, I didn't even really consider anything after hearing that. I love the historical reference to the vessel that ancient Greeks and Romans used to ship their wine in. And it's certainly appropriate for someone in the business of selling and delivering wine.

I'll release more details as contracts are signed and cases are being stacked in the warehouse. Until then, I'm open to any good thoughts or advice you care to spare.....


  1. Wow, you don't do enough already; how many clones of you are there?
    Bill, this sounds exciting.
    Let me recommend (If you want to keep your blog going)that when you try a wine that you want to write about, just give us your notes and provide a link to the winery? You don't give points anyway, and maybe you could refrain from saying this is "the greatest wine I've ever had." ;-)
    Also, since you do a great job with cuisine, you might want to develop that aspect and gives us a pairing.
    I would be very sad to see you go altogether.

    1. Thanks, Dennis. I think I can keep the blog running. I'll probably just put a disclaimer at the top and not review any of the wines I represent.

      And I think I might open a seperate "official" blog for the company. A place where I can post pictures from events, info about new products, etc. If a winery can have a blog and talk about its wines, then I suppose a wholesaler can, too.

    2. Why not? Skurnik, Empson, Winebow, Jorge Ordonez...they all do it.

  2. Great job amico! Seriously, I wish you all the best luck in the world. And I got more than a little chuckle at your "strike through" text above.

    Overall, I think it's tough to post reviews on wines you sell. Many people have remarked to me in the past how they waffle regarding Wine Enthusiasts reviews in their magazine because they often sell wine. And personally, I got squeamish about posting glowing reviews about Banfi or Dry Creek wines because of my friendships with those wineries. But I'm honest and ultimately, if I post a glowing note on a wine that sucks, my credibility will go in the toilet. I think the same is true for you.

    If you rave about a wine that you know isn't that good, it will only hurt you in the long run. Word of mouth travels faster than an F-18 and bad news always spreads faster than good. I think as long as your fair, people will realize that.

    As for the blog, you can always write about wines you don't sell. Are you going to change the name of the blog?

    Will contact you offline about a few other points.

    1. I'll admit, I'm gloating just a little because you told me before you announced it. =P I'm really excited for you.

      Offhand, I don't think I've ever actually made a wine that my company distributes the focus of a post. I may mention it, but I have yet to go into any depth. I've often thought about what I would do if I chose to write about one...I mean, I do drink a lot of our wines & spirits. You know, because they're really freakin' good. I think I could get away with just saying like "In the interest of full disclosure, this wine is distributed by the company I work for", or something like that.

      I think setting up a separate blog for the business is a great idea. A friend of mine did that with his company.

      I see your point about not writing great reviews on your competitor's wines, but I don't really think about that. While I work for a distributor, at the end of the day, I'm still a wine lover. That's a big part of who I am, & there's just too much good wine out there. Credibility is key...& this is just my opinion, but part of me thinks that it's better to write about both wines you represent & wines that you don't so that you don't come across as constantly advertising, if that makes sense. For example, when I go to a friend's house for dinner or for a party, I don't always bring wines from my company. I don't want to be *that* person, you know? Now, if I'm bringing spirits, it's kind of a different story - we carry some top notch stuff, & I really like bringing them along to watch people's reactions when they realize that it's so much better than say Grey Goose or Maker's Mark.

      Did I answer your question? If not, you know you can always email me.