Random Musings

Mailing List Fatigue

The insanity of Spring mailing list offers took on new proportions in 2016 when literally over a dozen wineries, from which I traditionally purchase, decided to release their wines on January 12 or January 19th. I don’t keep exact release date records, but seem to recall in years past, that the offers were spread out more evenly over both January and February. I do understand that many wineries I purchase from are family operations and it literally takes over a month to process, pack and ship orders. An early January release allows time to get the wines out before shipping conditions decline in April.

This year was just too much though. Too many wineries in too short a time frame. On top of that prices and allocations are as high as ever. Some hard decisions had to be made. Do I really need both No Girls and Horsepower? The answer is yes but I am good with just a 3 pack of each. In this case and more often than not I just purchased less from my favorite producers. Wide but not deep became the name of the game. In some cases though if prices went up too much or shipping costs seem out of whack, I just decided not to order. Schrader comes to mind.

The real winners in all this are the wineries that continue to offer exceptional wines at fair prices. It is a short list but wineries like Carlisle, Rivers Marie, Bedrock and Turley come to mind. Scarcity is still a factor in the high demand I see for wines from the likes of Saxum and Sine Qua Non. That being said, if you are new to the mailing list game, I think it is safe to say that you should have little to no problem getting an allocation from most wineries as many consumers, myself included, are suffering from mailing list fatigue.

I would appreciate hearing from those of you who have also made some hard decisions this year. Feel free to comment below.

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22 thoughts on “Mailing List Fatigue

  1. My rambling thoughts: Tough this year – the 19th will live in infamy. Some places that I order from in multiple releases got skipped if it wasn’t something I REALLY wanted, though I’ll grab the next release (RM Pinots for example – in just overloaded on Pinot right now). Some I may pass despite the “throw you off the list” threat, which seems very five years ago unless you’re SQN or something (e.g., I have about eight hours to decide on Horsepower). Generally the wineries I ordered from were those that: 1) were good values; 2) were local so I can visit, do pickups and meet the folks, which I enjoy (WA wines being an exception to this rule, though I may make Betz this year); and 3) didn’t lock me in to large and expensive multiple-bottle purchases. (Exception: Schrader, but I just made list, had waited for years, and really wanted that one.) It is MUCH easier to make lists now, though, I definitely agree.

  2. Echoing what you mention Tom and Matt, it seems that getting on most lists is a little easier. I too enjoy being on lists where I know I can visit or meet the folks involved and I’m also looking for value. So Carlisle, Bedrock and Turley are my go to wines. I am not a huge cab drinker so I have stayed out of the Napa craziness and just enjoy various wines at the weekly wine tastings at my local wine shop.

    I too have avoided any purchases where there is a requirement to purchase multiple bottles. And if some list decides that they need to remove me from the list, I’m fine with that as well. There is always more good wine to find elsewhere. I drink wine for my own pleasure not to impress others :)

  3. We are shrinking our buys from mailing lists albeit probably not as aggressively as we should. Turley, Sojourn and Vincent Arroyo made the cut. Realm has amazing wines albeit high …but I expect that for a Beckstoffer heritage. Many of the others will be smaller or none whatsoever including a number of the CA Pinot producers who have become pricy.

  4. I’m glad you touched on this Tom. Like many, I realized this year that I signed up on too many lists… I think it was a failed attempt at getting a crack at the next big “thing,” but realized a while ago it was an expensive, silly and unfocused approach. I will always have a special place for Cayuse (the first cult wine to win me over), but the Horsepower and No Girls offerings had me scrambling to divy things up among my wine drinking buddies. In the process we realized how easy it is to have a lot of the same types of wine. Not saying that’s bad (clearly a first-world problem), but it’s not leaving much in our limited budgets for “other” enlightening wines.

    Echoing what the others have touched on, I have focused more of my attention on wines that I not only like, but are produced by people who appreciate my business, are accessible and don’t over extend themselves by offering 10-15 wines on a mailer. The minimums do bother me a bit, but if I know someone is focusing all their energy and passion into one (or a few) bottlings and it’s delicious to boot, I will give them a pass.

  5. I’m relatively new to the mailing list process and I’ve experienced the barrage of recent mailers from Turley, Carlisle, etc. It seems like yesterday that I unpacked deliveries from fall mailers.

    My question is that the autumn mailers have a wider selection of wines. Is there a pattern for the type of wines which will appear on the spring or fall mailer? For example, pinots on spring mailer because they are bottled before other wines. Just wondering how I should order not knowing what’s coming in the fall.

    Thanks, Bob

    1. Bob, I think it is different for every winery. For instance, Kosta Browne does Appelation Pinots in the Spring and Single Vineyard Pinots in the Fall. Rivers Marie does Pinots in the Spring and Cabernets in the Fall. With Turley and Carlisle specifically both yearly mailers are packed with great Zins. Plan accordingly.

  6. I too made big cuts this year Tom. I added Kosta Browne, but didn’t order Force Majure, Benovia, or Quivet. Big allocation of Williams-Selyem but 1/3 offered & taken by friends. As you wrote; Too much offered all within too short of a time.

  7. I started noticing the creep into and earlier in January once I participated in Wine Berserkers anniversary #berserkerday which is always on January 27, the anniversary of the site. There are lots of deals from amazing producers, and I’ve seem most, if not all of my mailing list wineries send out their offers earlier and earlier in January to get in ahead of that spending frenzy. I’m always looking to broaden my wine experiences, and have cut back or out of all but a few mailing lists. For me the thrill of discovering someone new and wonderful is more important than being on the “coveted” lists. When being on all the lists became a problem, not a joy, I knew it was time to change my buying strategy.

  8. Great post, Tom! One of your best ever. Interesting and insightful comments by everyone. Poor timing by several wineries in sending out mailing list allocations is certainly going to hurt business. Can that lost business be made up by selling passed-up allocations to new mailing list members? In my view, it depends on price. How many people are willing to pay $200 and over for Napa Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet blends? These “cult wines” are quite good, I’m sure. But are they worth that dollar figure given there are so many outstanding Napa wines available which are priced reasonably? You and your readers have mentioned the names of just a small number of wineries whose wines are priced fairly, so no need for me to add to the list. Like everyone, I’m looking for well-made, high quality wines. But I buy wine to drink, not as an investment. Moreover, I’m not interested in impressing others by bringing an expensive wine to a dinner or an event. I can enjoy the wine just as much if I take the label off and no one knows what I’m drinking or what they’re drinking. It’s what is in the bottle, not what is on the bottle, that matters. And, it bears repeating that price reasonableness is key.

    1. I’m glad Peter touched on price reasonableness which has me a bit fearful too. I know Tom touched on this in an earlier post (regarding Schrader), which was a good read. With many wineries increasing their prices each year like clockwork, it’s clear this factor (and it’s a big one) will play a large role in helping me make mailing list/allocation decisions in the future. I suppose there will always be someone on a wait list waiting to pick up foregone allocations, but I think potentially pricing out long-time, loyal customers is rather fascinating.

  9. Thanks so much, Tom! Best post indeed, enlightening and useful. Definitely have received more offers this year. As a relatively new mailing list game player, I have been taking a more cautious approach to quench the fever. Ordered 1 bottle each Quilceda Creek and Realm (2013 To Kalon Cab), a couple from Rhys, Dehlinger, and Kosta Browne, and more from Rivers-Marie and Turley. Skipped Schrader altogether due to its aggressiveness!

  10. This was a great post. I thought I was alone and just being cheap. Far to many mailers come in close proximity. I decided to go wide and not deep as well.

    But as many said earlier I’m looking for some new smaller vineyards that’s priced reasonably. Seems like those odds are becoming less and less.

    Cheers wine doc !

  11. This year was the breaking point for me. I am really cutting back, and sharing orders of more expensive wineries. I used to be fearful of being dropped from a list, but I still get the offerings. There are even a few that are having three offerings a year. The whole bombardment has me actually just dropping some lists all together. I guess I feel like I can always find one bottle of certain wines when I want. Plus, I am really try to drink more champagne.

  12. This post and comments are right in line with my approach. I’ve been trying to buy less from single wineries to leave more room for variety. Exceptions are the great QPR wineries like you have mentioned – Bedrock, Turley, and Carlisle at the very top for me. Also Ravenswood is now overlooked by many but delivers killer wine at a killer price. In a somewhat higher bracket, I’m still a sucker for Williams Selyem, which I think is still good QPR because of the outstanding quality and mailing list prices are much better than I ever see at retail. If I splurge and go deeper it is often there. Pinot, Chardonnay, and Zin are all still top drawer for me and when you consider they can be had for the price of a rather pedestrian Napa Cap, I think they are worth it.

    1. Totally agree on Ravenswood as it pertains to price and quality. Hard to include in the mailing list conversation because it is easy to find at retail and even on the winery website (that is good though). Also agree on Williams Selyem although I’ve become more selective on the SVD wines.

  13. Bedrock, Carlisle, Myriad, Rivers-Marie and Monte Bello futures and that’s all any more…. I probably have enough wine for 7-10 years so I could buy even less without suffering.

  14. Tom

    My sentiment exactly. I too have found myself passing up allocations that I’m the past I would have jumped all over. I’m no longer searching for the next big thing (except for MacDonald) and getting more comfortable with the realization that there is never a can’t miss opportunity when it come to wine. I am fearful that my cellar is becoming too domestic Pinot heavy and fearful where my palate may lie in 3-5yrs. There a still a handful of producers that provide high quality at reasonable prices that are well worth it to me. Even with these producers I find myself being more selective by purchasing less.

    Personally, though I am totally happy with much of the wine I have acquired, I think my mailing list predominant purchasing over the past few years has had a detrimental effect on my overall wine experience by limiting the variety of wines I purchase or consume.


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