Russ Winton: How to become a wine angel

05/27/2014 11:43 AM

05/27/2014 11:45 AM

The wine question most asked: “How can you make a small fortune in the wine industry?”

The answer: “You start with a large fortune.”

Starting a winery is complicated and expensive. You must learn how to make wine or hire a winemaker, own vineyards or buy grapes, have a facility and equipment to make the wine and, finally, hope people like your wine and buy it.

We’re talking big bucks and huge risks. If you ask any owner/winemaker which step is the most difficult, the answer is usually selling and marketing the product.

How does a startup winery compete in a market where the three biggest wineries make more than 50 percent of the wines? It isn’t easy.

I apologize if I ruined your dream of owning a winery, but here’s one solution: Become a Wine Angel. Wine Angels invest $40 a month in NakedWines.com. This is put into your account to spend on wine.

It’s kind of like a savings account.

NakedWines.com recruits talented winemakers (currently 30 in California) and pays them to make whatever wines they want. As an angel investor, you’re able to purchase these wines at wholesale prices.

Marketing and middleman costs can often triple the price of a wine, and since 100 percent of these crowd-funded wines are sold directly to Angels, those costs vanish.

There are more than 200,000 Wine Angels globally, raising $8 million a month to invest directly into independent winemakers. NakedWines.com estimates that Angels funded 10 million bottles of the 2013 vintage.

I know! Angels can get thirsty.

I got my “wings” a few months ago. I thought I should take a test flight before writing this column. Here are the positives of becoming a Naked Wine Angel:

• You can quit anytime (money in your account will be refunded – the dropout rate is only 2 percent).
• Case orders have free shipping. Other orders have a flat $9.95 rate.
• Winemakers of note include Daryl Groom, Jim Olsen, Stephen Millier, Randall Grahm and Jeff Stai. Need I say more?
• Angels have the opportunity to critique the wines and receive direct feedback from the winemakers.

Here are the negatives: the three- to four-day wait for your wine to arrive and … and that’s it.

Go to www.nakedwines.com for more information. Cheers!

What’s on our table

The 2012 Caricature Lodi Old Vine Zinfandel, estate-grown by the Lange Twins Family, is the perfect summer barbecue wine. Flavors of blackberry, cherry and spices pair well with grilled burgers, ribs or spicy sausages.

The suggested retail price is $16.99, but it is sale-priced a few dollars less.

Enjoy!

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