Taking direct consumer wine distribution to a new level

Following a similar model to Netflix, HBO and others in the film industry, Wine Access, is now partnering with established winemakers to produce their own exclusive wines.

Hidden Ridge Vineyard. (Courtesy photo)

Hidden Ridge Vineyard. (Courtesy photo)

As the largest wine consumers on the planet, the trend of direct to consumer distribution has exploded throughout California and other states, not only as a business platform for individual wineries, but through on-line sites such as wine.com, wineaccess.com klwines.com, winepress.com, among a few. One site, Wine Access has taken it to the next level by partnering with California vintners to create and distribute wines exclusively through new labels.

For more than two decades, Wine Access has developed a reputation as a source to discover premium wines at reasonable prices from global regions like Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Napa Valley. For example, the site recently offered a highly rated Super Tuscan release, the 2017 Le Volte Toscana Rosso, from the famed Ornellaia estate for under $20 and, for more discerning palates and pocketbooks, listed the Chateau Pontet-Canet 2010 Grand Cru Classe, Pauillac ($280).

Following a similar model to Netflix, HBO and others in the film industry, Wine Access, is now partnering with established winemakers to produce their own exclusive wines. I like the concept because it incentivizes the producer to avoid anything that resembles routine or normal. In this case, “Good is the enemy of great” and awareness of high consumer exceptions pushes those involved to create something notable.

Each collaboration is a win-win venture that provides opportunities for each that would not be available otherwise. These projects are only focused on small production and exclusivity intended to provide innovative releases at reasonable value to customers. Those who find visual appeal in wine bottles will be pleased to hear the Gauge Branding, home to an impressive resume of artistic labels, is another collaborator on the projects.

The first offering is a collaboration between Julien Fayard, an experienced winemaker in Bordeaux and the Napa Valley, to create the fruit-forward Idiosyncrasy 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon ($43-48), sourced from vineyards throughout the valley.

A French native, Fayard began his career in Bordeaux, working for such esteemed estates as Chateau Lafite Rothschild. Re- locating to the Napa Valley in 2006, he worked as an assistant to winemaker Philippe Melka and soon was embarking on his own projects, including Purlieu and Le Pich wines and refining a self-described “meticulous and low intervention” style.

Beginning with expressive fruit on the nose, I found Fayard’s description of the vintage 2016 of “ripe and seductive” to be accurate. It’s rich mouthfeel, soft tannins and complex flavors make it an exceptional value.

Winemaker Tim Milos. (Courtesy photo)

Winemaker Tim Milos. (Courtesy photo)

Tim Milos is a consulting winemaker who has worked with numerous California wineries including Opus One and Hidden Ridge Vineyard in the Spring Mountain District where he literally changed the landscape. His cabernet sauvignon releases from the estate were so highly rated (some 100-pt) and profitable that a corporate decision was made to focus exclusively on one grape to the demise of the existing chardonnay vines.

Milos partnered with Wine Access to create Appliqué 2016 Sonoma County Chardonnay, the swan song of the varietal from the hilltop vineyards that had previously provided the terroir for it to thrive. Like its namesake, this dry release features complex, layered flavors that would appeal to a broad range of palates, especially those who appreciate good Sonoma County chardonnay.

Winemaker Britt Nichols is no stranger to Wine Access. The wines from her Nichols and more recent Kinfolk brands were created exclusively for and distributed through the site. Now, she and Ry Richards are collaborating together and with Wine Access for the Napa Valley Kinfolk 2018 Sauvignon Blanc ($15-25), sourced from multiple vineyards, half from what was described as “one of the most famous and awarded vineyards in the entire state”.

Defined as an “everyday” wine with vibrant aromas, layer flavors, minerality and available at a reasonable price, this wine is intriguing and I look forward to the research required to develop my own opinion.

Winemaker Julien Fayard. (Courtesy photo)

Winemaker Julien Fayard. (Courtesy photo)

As with many of the collaborators, Maayan Koschitzky is a well- known consulting winemaker mostly for high-end, small production cult-style wineries. Currently serving as Director of

Winemaking at Atelier Melka, he has worked with the prestigious Screaming Eagle as well as pursuing his own brands. Wine Access has announced that their next venture is to oversee and document the production of another exclusive wine , a 2019 cabernet sauvignon project with Koschitzky.

For both serious wine drinkers and those looking to develop their palates, the new Wine Access partnerships offers occasion to explore the artistic side of winemaking.

Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at sfewine@gmail.com. He is a guest columnist.

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