Archive for the Category ◊ Wine business ◊

09 Sep 2012 Angel’s Blush 2012 Kickstarter Project has launched!

We have launched the Angel’s Blush 2012 Kickstarter Project to raise funds to produce another vintage of Angel’s Blush ™ in a new custom crush facility. We are raising money for stainless steel tanks and barrels for the Rose production.

The last vintage sold out in 2 weeks! It was very, very good…especially on a spring day. The 2012 vintage will be ready by the start of next spring for your enjoyment.

There are many rewards available depending on your level of support! You will only be charged if the target goal of $7,500 is met. When we get close to $7,500, I will be announcing a new stretch goal to help Lionheart Wines expand!

Please help Lionheart Wines grow! We will most definitely take care of our supporters. If you have any questions, please contact Leon at or 650.576.1367. Harvest has started so we need make this happen very soon to get the best fruit.

21 May 2010 Label redesign

The label redesign process has finally gotten started!  Based on the feedback from the MBA marketing group, the lion image we have been using is not resonating with prospective purchasers.  The lion images that did resonate had a more artistic / artisan feel to them — watercolor of a ramprt lion.  The image is more of an impressionistic view of lion than the more realistic of the current version.   Do you agree that the more artisan lion would look better, be more engaging and attention getting than our current lion?

We are going to be using a different paper and move away from the foil stamping.  The approach here is more of the ‘Less is more’ theory.  The paper will be high quality ragged white paper. 

I would like the overall effect to be a classic label with a modern flare to it.  The label should make you think of a premium, artisan wine.  What qualities in a wine label make you think of quality, artisan/small lot, and premium product?  If you have any thoughts on this, please email me at  (Note: I have had to turn off comments on posts due to excessive spam postings from IP:,  I am getting at least 20 spam posts a day now!)

As we get drafts/samples for the new label format worked out, I will post them to get peoples comments on them.  Your help will be most appreciated!

06 May 2010 Results from Executive MBA Marketing group study…
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I was lucky enough to get an executive MBA marketing group to study Lionheart Wines.  The goal of the project was to see how the Lionheart Wine brand was received and how to make Lionheart more competitive.  The group spent quite a bit time and research to come up with their findings.  It was very helpful to see how Lionheart Wines was perceived vs. what message I have been trying to get across to the wine market. 

The main highlights was that report were:
1) Labels needs a bit of adjusting.  The artisan, small-lot nature of the wine was not coming through effectively enough.  I got some excellent suggestions on how to improve the label. The front label of the varietal wines (non-blends) were received better than the labels on the blends( Angel’s Fare and Roaring Red).   The back label — the one with the descriptions and food pairing recommendations — was received very well which made me happy.  I am in the process of working on getting some new artwork for the front label.  It make take a bit but the new release could use the time in shiners. :)

2) Pricing needs to be adjusted to reflect the new reality of the wine market.  I was not terribly surprised by this; I agree that it needs to be adjusted.  So, the new price list will be announced in the week or so via email, Facebook and twitter.  I hope the prices and quality of the wine will generate some interest as I need to get ready for the upcoming harvest.

3) Lionheart supports various charities.  There was suggestion to focus on a food-oriented charity given the food-friendly nature of the Lionheart portfolio.  It makes a lot of sense.  What charities would you recommend that I take a look at to support?  Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

4) The demographic that resonates with Lionheart Wines is: 30+ years old, well travelled, college educated and “foodies”.   So, it seems that the wine make to go with food does have a following out there!  I am going to be following up a suggestion from the MBA project team to try to collaborate with some of the underground dining / traveling chefs that have a bit of a following in the San Francisco area.  If you know of any restaurants, caters or underground dining operations that I should contact, please let me know!  Your suggestions would be very helpful.

There are going to be changes made in the operations of Lionheart Wines to serve you better.  It may take a bit to get them implemented but I am moving forward on it.  I will be posting information as items get implemented.

17 Mar 2010 What to do for the upcoming harvest?

2010 is going to be watershed year for many reasons. 

Jen and I are moving to Southern California (Pasadena / Altadena area).  Jen got a great job with American Realty Advisors.  Given the economy, we would be crazy not to jump on the job offer.  So, I am getting the house ready for sale or as Jen aptly named it “blandizing” the house.  We love bright and bold colors in the house.  Our realtor said the house is beautiful (should be in Architectural Digest or Sunset Magazine) but will not appeal to the widest possible market of home buyers.  I understand the realtor’s point but it is a bit frustrating. 

Winemaking has very similar parallel — do you produce high-end, small lot wines for an intensionally small segment of the wine buying public or do you produce cost-effective reasonable quality wine that we appeal to the masses?  This is a question that I have been thinking about quite a bit.  Our move is forcing me to re-evaluate where we produce wine and what type of product do we produce.  The economic downturn has been very hard on us — we are in the worst hit price segment.  The practical side of me says that we should be looking for the lowest possible production costs that result in an nice and easy quaffing wine at a price point of around $15/bottle retail; I have seen that you can sell wine like that to restaurants for the “By the Glass” program easily yet a wine that is $20/bottle can effectively only be sold for the wine list or to a retailer.  Yet, if I am going through all the hard work, I want to produce the best possible wine that I can.  You can say that by producing the lower end wine that I would be selling out artistically and economically.   I would still be in business while a large number of small-lot, high-end wine producers are going out of business.  Any thoughts from you on the subject?

I also am researching new custom crush facilities down in the Southern California (LA, Santa Barbara, Santa Ynez, Santa Maria).  If anyone has any suggestions for custom crush facilities, please let me know.  As part of the custom crush research, I am debating on what varietals to produce.  I am leaning toward Pinot Noir, Sangiovese and maybe a rose of Syrah / Sangiovese.  Cabernet Sauvignon could be possible if the price point would be below $20/bottle.  I do love Syrah but selling it is quite difficult given the cost of good quality grapes.

Oh well, the facts will drive the decision.  If you have any input on any of these topics, please add a comment or drop me an email at

03 Dec 2009 Preparing for the holiday season…
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This is one of my favorite times of the year — Christmas and New Years.  My wife and I are preparing for our annual charity Christmas dinner.  We are planning menus, decorating the house, putting up lights and planning the annual holiday Lionheart Wines promotion.  This year has been a very difficult year for many people.  The Lionheart staff are very aware of recent trials in the past and the upcoming trials in the new year.  We would like to help make this holiday season a bit brighter for all the fans of Lionheart Wines.   I will be sending out an email shortly with the details of the promotion.

We donate 5% of purchases to certain charities that we support:  The Lionheart School in Georgia which teaches children with varying levels of autism, Rebuilding Together San Francisco and San Francisco SPCA.  When you make a purchase, please use the following coupon code to let me know who you would like to give the 5% to: The Lionheart School (“LionheartSchool“), Rebuilding Together -SF (“RTSF“) or San Francisco SPCA (“SPCA_SF“).  The coupon code work with other coupon codes as well.

Other news:
The 2008 Sonoma Coast, Pinot Noir, has been bottled!  The wine is tasting very good now but will need 6 months in the bottle before showing what it truly has going for it.  Your patience will be well rewarded!

We will be releasing the 2008 Angel’s Fare (Marsanne/Roussanne/Viognier), 2007 Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2007 Roaring Red, Proprietary blend in time for Christmas.  We are waiting on the labels to be come back from the printer before the wines will be available for sale.  Those wines have already had many months of bottle aging so they should all be out of bottle shock and ready for you to give a try.

25 Dec 2008 Researching South American wine first hand

I will not be updating my blog for the next several weeks as I will be in South America touring several wine region.  I will try to post interim updates when possible but online access will be random.  When I get back, I will post detailed information about the wines and wineries discovered / visited.

I will be visiting the Equador (Galapagos Islands), Peru, Chile and Argentina.  It will be a great trip with many opportunities to enjoy the local wine and spirit pairings.   I will make an effort to record local prices vs. prices of the wines in the US (assuming the wine is available in the US) to see what the typical importer mark up is.

Have a Wonderful New Year!  I hope you enjoy some lovely sparkling wines on New Year’s Eve to ring in 2009.  I will be ringing in 2009 and celebrating my fabulous wifes 40th birthday from the equator.

18 Nov 2008 Economy downturn slowing wine industry juggernaut…sort of

There is an interesting article in the November 17th, 2008 (Vol. 18, No. 39) of the Wine Business Insider — “Winery Direct Sales Shipments Down But Order Sizes Up”.   The article discusses research done by Stonebridge Research and New Vine Logistics and data from the Annual U.S. Wine Market report from Impact Databank.  Here is a summary of the information:

Topic 2006 to 2007 2007 to 2008
Bottles shipped change 13.8% 2.4%
Delta in order volume 13% -3.3%

The volume of wine being shipped is still increasing despite a lower number of orders.  So, fewer orders but larger wine volumes per order.  

Topic 2005 to 2006 2006 to 2007 2007 to 2008
Industry Growth Rate 6.9% 4% 1.5%

General Industry:
Last year’s overall increases in wine sales again were driven by table wine, which now accounts for 91.4 percent of the total U.S. wine market. Led by premium varietals, table wine grew 4.3 percent to reach 258 million 9-liter cases in 2007, this on the heels of a 3.7 percent increase in 2006. Much like it did in 2006, imported wines showed a larger percentage gain, at 7.6 percent, than the 3.1 percent gain registered by domestically produced table wine. Still, domestic table wine accounts for roughly two-thirds of the entire U.S. wine market.

Champagne and sparkling wine continued to bubble up last year, gaining 3.6 percent to end the year with more than 13.8 million cases, while the vermouth category and dessert and fortified wine sales volumes both declined slightly.

Wine Clubs:
Wine club shipments are up slightly for the same 3 quarter period this year vs. 2007.  Non-club shipments are down 11%.  The data indicates that wine club members are supporting their favorite wineries.   The people that do travel to a winery are more serious purchasers than in the past.  The cost of fuel is helping to seperate dedicated customers from moderately interested customers.

As Marcia Mogelonsky, senior analyst at Chicago-based Mintel, pointed out,  “Chocolate, cigarettes and alcohol again seem relatively recession-proof…People might be cutting back or switching to store brands, but they definitely aren’t giving up their small daily indulgences.”  The economic slowdown has been drastic yet the wine industry shows that people are still will to spend money on some non-staples. 

Alcohol is being consumed less at on-premise locations according to the Nielsen Company — see chart of alcohol purchases in bars and restaurants:

Alcohol purchases in Bars and Restaurants as of May 2008

Alcohol purchases in Bars and Restaurants as of May 2008


Operators also report the following minor price-related changes in consumer behavior:

  • 14% report that customers are ordering more well or house drinks.
  • 13% report greater sales of beer on draft rather than in bottles.
  • 9% say wine drinkers are increasingly opting for house varieties.

People are cutting back on costs — less dining out and less drinking in bars/clubs.  Yet, the amount of wine being sold directly is still increasing.  So, people must be enjoying more of their favorite wine at home which is a good overall trend for America — a small silver lining in the near perfect financial storm we are all trying to ride out.