When I got into the wine business in early ’93, I knew (pretty much) nothing about wine. And so I worked it and studied it; and I expanded it, when I created the Petite Sirah wine grape advocacy group called PS I Love You. It’s through this group that I’ve learned firsthand about the following companies, going right down Wine Business Monthly’s list of the Top 30. Here are my seven (7):

  1. The Wine Group
    1. 57, 500,000 total cases of wine
    2. Concannon Vineyard is part of the above number
    3. This private company has done more to help Petite Sirah than another company on the face of the earth. For a few years, they gave hundreds of thousands of marketing dollars to give Petite Sirah a HUGE shot in the arm. I know, because I was also hired by Concannon to do PR for them, when my work was evaluated for results. Marketing director Lynn Kirimli told me – at the time – that I had gotten more publicity for Concannon’s 100+ year history in one year than what the winery had received in its entire existence. Not bragging… They had put the money into getting the results, I just did the work and it was a great story to tell, of America’s – the world’s really – first varietally labeled Petite Sirah
  2. Treasury Wine Estates
    1. 14,300,000 cases of wine
    2. Stags’ Leap Winery is part of the above number of cases
    3. A wine writer of significance told me when I got started, “If you don’t have Stags’ Leap Winery as a member, you haven’t yet arrived.” It only took a few years to get it going with them, because I appealed to Robert Brittan, at the time. At first, Robert wanted to meet me for lunch, but I wasn’t up for it. I told him, “I’d love to meet with you and we’ll feel great about each other. I’d rather have you take that same money and apply it toward membership. With membership funds, I can do a lot of marketing for Petite Sirah… the real cause. When I became brutally honest with Robert, he saw the reasoning and we gained a member. When Stags’ Leap Winery was sold to Fosters, now known as Treasury Wine Estates, we’ve survived each incarnation. Top people in this company understand how supporting the smaller factions of the wine industry does ultimately come back to them. Just think of Aesop’s Fable of The Lion and the Mouse. We just never know when one entity will help another.
  3. Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines
    1. 4,000,000 cases
    2. Rosenblum Cellars is part of the above number
    3. Kent Rosenblum was the first person to respond, when I sent out a questionnaire after Foppiano’s first annual Petite Sirah Symposium… “If there was to be a group, would you join,” with a “yes” answer. I invoice him (along with some others) and his check arrived immediately. Kent and Louis Foppiano helped to launch PS I Love You. When Kent sold Rosenblum Cellars, I thought, “There goes the neighborhood.” (Most new owners who buy into the business from other industries cancel all involvements with outside groups, has been my experience.)  But, Diageo has been right there and remains the first winery to pay into the PSILY coffers.
  4. Bogle Vineyards
    1. 2,000,000 cases
    2. Bogle is Bogle is Bogle
    3. When Patty Bogle was alive, she also joined very early on. She became a member of our board of directors, she served as treasurer, helping us with finances, and was always an inspiration. We traveled together for Petite Sirah, and I thought of her as a friend. Little did I know how much this relationship would mean, until I was asked to speak at her memorial service. It was held at UC Davis in their new auditorium. I thought that I would follow a long line of wine business guest speakers, but when I got the program, I realized that I was the only one speaking on behalf of wine, and one of her personal and professional friends was also going to speak. I had to choke back a lot, had to take one really deep breath, but my humility won out, as I said our last goodbye on behalf of wine.
  5. Don Sebastiani & Sons
    1. 1,250,000 cases
    2. The Crusher is part of the above number
    3. Don Sebastiani and his sons sought out PS I Love You to become members, so it came from out of the blue. It’s important for me to note that when I first came to California from Maine, Jose and I visited Sebastiani Winery in the town of Sonoma… It was a very first visit to wineries, five years before we moved here. I learned about the historic and iconic company. Never, in my wildest dreams, did I ever think that I could offer anything to this historic family. It is they who I should be helping, not the other way around. The family has been very generous and forward thinking…
  6. Vintage Wine Estates
    1. 1,200,000 cases
    2. Girard Winery is part of the above number
    3. Another company that came to me, versus me coming to them. When I put out the need for help with a US Army sergeant who was coming to wine country and wanted to taste some Petite Sirah, owner Pat Roney stepped forward with an overnight accommodation in the hills of Napa.. A tour and tasting happened for our soldier, Pat’s generosity has always been right there.
  7. The Hess Collection
    1. 700,000 cases
    2. Artezin Wines is part of the above number of cases
    3. This company is also another one that found us.  Little did I know that The Hess Collection has a Petite, and they do. They also are honoring historic varieties, like Zin, Petite Sirah, and Charbono, so it’s with that label that they want to market Petite. In 2010, I held a wine and music tasting at The Hess Collection. I gathered writing and had a jazz CD that we listened to… Scoring the Scores.

Each one of these companies above have a focus on the internal community of the wine industry. You know that 80/20 rule for sales?

  • Approximately 20 percent of your customers produce 80 percent of your sales.

I can turn that into a membership breakdown for wine advocacy groups, as well.

  • Approximately 20 percent of your members come from large companies; while the other 80 percent, come from small producers.
  • The large companies offer support, while the smaller companies need the exposure to build their brands.

The real benefit from the big guys?

We all benefit. The power of one is one. The power of two is squared, so it’s the power of four. The power of 80 members? It’s 6,400. This is what has allowed Petite Sirah, virtually obscure in 2002, when I began – with 62 growers and producers COMBINED – to have become 1071 growers and producers COMBINED:

  • 164 growers
  • 907 producers

Why you may not know about this amount?

  • Most wine companies only produce 300 or less cases a year.
  • It’s not sent out for critical acclaim… Too few cases are made, it’s all sold at the winery, and no score is needed.
  • Because it doesn’t leave the winery, you’re not going to see it on shelves or restaurant lists.
  • It’s a winemaker’s wine… It is they that have the passion, because it’s easy to grow but challenging to make into wine.

It’s the above companies that have this passion for Petite, and it’s also their Pet Project… and my favorite large companies. And, by the way… When Kent Rosenblum sold his company to Diageo, he started Rock Wall and is still a huge supporter of PS I Love You, hosting our annual picnic for the volunteers for Dark & Delicious, a wine and nibbles event.