What Makes a Private-Label Wine? | Wine Enthusiast Podcast
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What Makes a Private-Label Wine?

There’s been a recent increase in private-label wines across stores in the United States—although the average drinker may not recognize them as such. 

What is a private label, exactly? Think Costco’s Kirkland; Trader Joe’s Charles Shaw, or Two-Buck Chuck; or Target’s California Roots. Sometimes these private labels are easy to pick out, while other times they hide in plain sight. And while many are surrounded by a “bulk wine” stigma—a.k.a the prioritization of quantity over quality—some top wineries produce fine-wine expressions vintage to vintage. These bottlings are exclusive to the retailer, often produced with their specific consumers in mind.  

“This was not how I imagined being a winemaker,” says Alison Crowe, vice president of winemaking for Plata Wine Partners, a leading private-label producer in the heart of California. After 15 years in the industry, however, Crowe has become a pro in this seemingly “alt” category of wine production. In this episode, she gives us the inside scoop on everything from grape sourcing to wine production, marketing, branding and the pros and cons of the category. 

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Episode Transcript

Transcripts are generated using a combination of speech recognition software and human transcribers, and may contain errors. Please check the corresponding audio before quoting.

Speakers: Alison Crowe, Stacy Briscoe, Samantha Sette

Samantha Sette  00:00

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Stacy Briscoe  00:48

Hello and welcome to the Wine Enthusiast podcast. You’re serving drinks, culture and the people who drive it. I’m Stacy Briscoe, managing editor of Wine Enthusiast, and today we’re diving into what makes a private label brand. I’m here with Alison Crowe, Vice President winemaking of Plata Wine Partners and an expert on all things private label. We’re going to discuss what even is a private label? How do companies like Plata create those wines? And what about private label branding is appealing to winemakers retailers? That of course us the consumer Hello, I am here with Alison Crowe, Vice President winemaking of Plata Wine Partners. Alison, thank you for joining me this morning today.

Alison Crowe  01:38

Yeah, thanks for inviting me on the show. It’s so good to see and hear you.

Stacy Briscoe  01:44

So um, just for our viewers who don’t know who you are and what you do, perhaps in 30 seconds or less, you can tell us a little bit about yourself what you do and why you are qualified to talk about what it is we are going to talk about today.

Alison Crowe  01:58

Okay yeah, so my name is Alison Crowe and like I said, I’m Vice President of winemaking at a company that probably a lot of your listeners haven’t heard about. It’s called Plata Wine Partners. That’s P as in Paul, L A ta which by the way, is Spanish for silver, and we’re based in Napa, but we own our own vineyards all over coastal California. So basically we make a lot of wine from our own grapes for labels that we own. And then a lot of stuff which you might call you know private label, control, label those kinds of things. We’re basically I like to see us as a supplier of grapes in liquid form, to our own brands to store brands and also sometimes to other wineries as well. So I am a UC Davis winemaking graduate. I was born and raised in the Santa Barbara area, down in coastal California, not a bad place to be and living in Napa is also great. I got my degree in fermentation science from UC Davis. And I also have a degree in Spanish from Davis. And then after I’d been out of the business making wine and doing things I worked for Bonnie doon vineyard in Santa Cruz for many years love Randall and his creativity, worked for some coastal vineyards took a stint down in Argentina. And then in 2005, I helped found plots of wine partners. And basically it was the opportunity to come in start up an entrepreneurial wine company with a new business model alongside one of California’s leading coastal vineyard and grape owners, which is Silverado wine growers is the name that some folks might know. And we have over 20,000 acres of coastal wine grapes. So that’s Napa County, Sonoma County, the central coast so that would be you know, Santa Barbara County, Monterey and Paso Robles areas. And every year, my team and I, we take about, oh, 10 to 15% of the company’s overall grapes, and we turn them into wine. And then that wine will go sometimes sold as bulk to other wineries that your, your listeners and readers may be very familiar with. And then sometimes they will hit the bottle for various national retailers where our wines will be on on the shelves in their stores nationwide. So yeah, we’ve been doing that for it’ll be 20 years July of 2025, which is hard to imagine. But yeah, it’s really it’s exciting. It’s just it’s kind of a it’s a new creative, different way to be a winemaker. You know, if you had asked me when I was a UC Davis student, if this was how I would imagine, quote unquote, being a winemaker, I was said no way. You know, normally, I think certainly young, young, naive winemaking students and perhaps some of the general public they they envision if you’re a winemaker, you you operate out of One very cute Instagrammable winery perhaps in, you know, Napa Valley on highway 29, or down in Paso Robles, on the west side of highway 46. And all of your vineyards are there, you make the wine there, you bottle the wine there. And then it goes to sell through your tasting room to a restaurant. And maybe it’s just some retail stores. But there are lots of different ways that wine gets to the marketplace. So I think that’s what we’re going to talk about today.

Stacy Briscoe  05:27

Yeah, absolutely. Um, so thank you for all of that. And I guess I guess what I want to start with is in terms of those private label brands, those ones that you are creating for the retailers, can you just give us a definition of what it means to be a private label wine, how that differs from an own label, a third party label and all the different types of labels that are out there, I’m sure. Like you said, there are definitely brands that we’ve seen out there. And maybe we haven’t even recognized that they’re their private labels like I can think of a few under under Plata, that you recently acquired that I didn’t even realize were private labels. Before I read that press release, so yeah, if you could just kind of steer us in that right direction.

Alison Crowe  06:16

Yeah, and also just to kind of, to let your your your audience know, because this, this is my segue that so I every year, I teach a class at UC Davis continuing education, sometimes they call it UC Davis Extension, has a wine marketing program. And this year, it’s happening starting on July 22. And it’s a, you can take it online, you can take it hybrid online in person. And every year I teach a segment on private label brands, that’s what we’re talking about, as well as custom crush. So like I start every class is with definition. So we’re in the right place. A private label is usually defined as I would say, a brand that that’s wholly owned, developed and marketed by one retailer. And it’s produced by a winery that quote unquote, one that opportunity or that privilege. So a great example is the Kirkland Signature brand. With Costco. Right. I think that’s one of the most well known private label national brands and not just for wine. If someone’s a Costco shopper, they’re going to know that there are Kirkland Signature, paper towels, there are Kirkland Signature, there’s Kirkland Signature vodka. And so what what Costco does is they go out, and they find suppliers who meet their exacting standards for excellence, they essentially have a competition to see who can supply the highest quality at a great value to them. And that’s how you get in with Costco as a supplier in a nutshell. So lots of other retailers in this world do that to a you know, to a varying degree, everybody’s got their kind of different way they do it. But that’s essentially a private label when it’s very much controlled, like the, what the label looks like what the brand looks like, it’s very controlled by the retailer, and the supplier or the winery or the vineyard, or someone like myself, like pada, we’re supplying what’s in the bottle, whereas Costco is responsible for what does the package dress look like? But another word definition is you people may have heard is control brand, or exclusive brand, which is a wine brand, which is owned, developed and produced by a supplier. And it’s offered to retailers stores like Kirkland or Trader Joe’s for exclusive sales nationally. So that would that would look like something where the IP, the package dress that’s all owned by the winery. And then it’s offered to retailers just for something that they may have in their store.

Stacy Briscoe  08:55

So something like that wouldn’t just go to a Costco, it could go to a Costco, but also different places, or would that type of wine go? Specifically just to one retail? Okay so with the private label, really, it’s the retailer kind of driving the Hey, this is the style I want. And then they’re also providing the package. So the actual label that we see that says Kirkland Signature or whatever else they’re they’re kind of designing and driving those creatives, I guess

Alison Crowe  09:08

Usually, it would go specifically just to one retailer. That’s correct. Or or a Hotel and Restaurant Group, for example. Okay, good one. Yep. Exactly. And, and there can be there can be different nuances. I think this is why this is such a squishy side of the wine business to talk about is because one can create contracts and make them in so many different flavors to use a term at Plata. I can own the brand IP and the website and all this stuff and then And, you know, have it have it go exclusively somewhere else, or I can have a brand and an IP. And I’ve got, let’s say I’ve got an, a retail chain that only operates on the West Coast. And what that allows me to do is to sell that product where I own the IP and the website, and of course, the juice in the bottle. And then I can then take that and market that to a smaller regional chain on the east coast where those two suppliers don’t cross. You know, and so those kinds of things are possible, too. So it’s all his it’s all negotiable, right? I mean, that’s the term and business as long as one is complying with all the federal and state regulations, you know, and then and then there has to be certain sensitivity, it’s like if they’re, if you’ve got a retailer that you’re working with, and they are very much just wanting that product to be only in their stores, then maybe that’s the agreement that you make with them.

Stacy Briscoe  10:52

So in terms of producing these wines, maybe let’s start from the beginning the vineyard source. So I know you mentioned that your company specifically actually does own your own vineyards that you’re, you know, pulling the grapes from to then produce these wines for the various retailers. And I’m just kind of curious, you know, in terms of viticulture, and the grape growing, does this vary either in volume or farming methods then would be from, you know, your like, you mentioned stereotypical winery down the street walking paths that I would visit on a Tuesday or a Saturday, right?

Alison Crowe  11:33

Yeah, well, we are, let me just put it this way that I’m sourcing my grapes for private label wines, literally within the same vineyard and sometimes within the same block as grapes that are, you know, that that our sister company Silverado that that they then sell to very well known wineries that appear and advertise in the pages of your magazine, et cetera, et cetera, that consumers are very familiar with. So we are a little bit unique. I don’t know of any other private label company with our you know, with our depth and breadth on the bench of what kind of grapes that we could bring to market. You know, we’re talking everything from Central Coast Cabernet, out of Paso and Monterey up to very specific sub HBAs. Like an oak, I can offer Oakville Cabernet, to folks in the private retail in the private label space. So you might imagine that that allows us the flexibility to produce private label wines at various price tiers. So there’s nothing different that is done but a culturally or farming wise for plot of wine partners, wines, visa vie, you know, somebody else’s Oakville, Cabernet or somebody else’s house, we’re always Cabernet or Santa Barbara Chardonnay that we’re selling on the general market to what most folks would think of as like a quote unquote, traditional winery. So there’s really there’s no way to tell and actually, that’s kind of one of the fun things is that most most vineyard owners once you get to have a variety of great buyers, you know, wineries, winemakers, it’s really cute during harvest, you probably have seen this, where you’re walking someone’s vineyard. And you’ll see I call them place cards. Oh, yes, you’ll see the little placecards on the row ends in the vineyard that says I’m just gonna throw names out here. And it’s just neither here nor there. But like, here’s Coppola’s, you know, acres, and here’s winery, you know, ABCs blocks, and here’s winery XYZ blocks, and, you know, and so it’s really fun. So I’m in there. So plot of wine partners, a lot of if there are any winemakers who buy grapes from us listening to this, I know that they have seen Plata, my place cards are placed cards out there, in and amongst the vineyard mix. So again, you know, there’s nothing different that’s going on in the farming and I should take the chance to mention, just a little plug for for for Silverado is that our wines are vegan, the wines are certified, sustainable, all of our facilities are certified sustainable. And the wines are non GMO and gluten free as well.

Stacy Briscoe  14:06

So that’s really interesting to me from a production standpoint. And maybe just to kind of set the standard here. What is maybe just kind of average your case production annually. Oh, sure.

Alison Crowe  14:21

Yeah. So like I had mentioned in the beginning, we’ve been we’ve been going since 2005. And we are up to about half a million cases shipped.

Stacy Briscoe  14:30

Okay. And you don’t use any kind of animal products, animal fat.

Alison Crowe  14:37

All of our all of our wines that are vegan friendly, yeah, okay.

Stacy Briscoe  14:40

Okay, great. All right. So we talked about our grapes sourcing, and if you’re producing half a million, about half a million is your case production. What can you Is there a way to just kind of gently walk us through the winemaking process for that kind of volume of production and I mean, I guess maybe we should also let people know how maybe how many different brands you’re then producing or how many different things even.

Alison Crowe  15:09

Yeah absolutely. So the half a million cases, they don’t just flow through one winery. Here’s another thing is that so I’ll go a little back in the Wayback Machine. And I’ll give I’ll give another shout out to Randall Graham of Bonnie doon. So I was working for him and Bonnie doon when they went through a really rapid volume expansion. And the it was before it was right before they sold or Bonnie doon sold, like the big house red big house, white Cardinals in those kids from the 90s will will remember those days. And one of my one of my kind of core areas of responsibility was managing that growth over multiple wineries, because we had grown out of the little home winery on the west side by the beach in Santa Cruz. And so what we had to do to expand production quality conscious way was to create deep close partnerships with existing wineries for their for for production. So we had to expand into the world of what’s called Custom crush where Bonnie doon owned, we had our little home winery there where we bottled everything where a lot of the smaller scale things like cigar foam on the old telegram were produced. But then we had to go forge relationships with with other existing wineries that were larger that could handle the capacity that we were looking for. And that’s where I kind of cut my teeth on the benefits of being a customer crush winemaker, you are basically what that means is you’re bringing your grapes to some a winery facility that somebody else owns. And as long as they’ve got the right equipment that you want, you know, if they’re if their presses are what you were looking for, if they’ve got the right tank capacity, you know, their barrel handling and seller teams are, you know, top notch folks, and that’s what you’re looking for. And if you can create a good relationship with them, that wineries team and their winemakers, you can produce wines just as good if not better than, quote unquote, your own home seller. That may seem weird. But here’s the deal, I always believe that I can afford to travel because the grapes should not have to travel. And basically a grape is a very perishable thing. And the moment that you pick a grape, the quality starts to deteriorate. So one of the Plata mantras, and I think it’s a key part of our quality is that we minimize the shipping distance between the vineyard and where it gets crushed. So currently Plata, we operate out of a network of an it depends on you know, what we’re crushing and the different programs were doing. But anywhere from between like nine to a dozen different wineries around the state. Oh, wow. Okay, currently, at this moment, you know, after almost 20 years, plot a plot of Disney, we don’t own our own winery, we don’t have a tasting room. And from a business model point of view, I like to keep it that way. One thing I didn’t mention is I also I went back to UC Davis in 2010, and I got my MBA, I thought it would be good to go and get a better handle on, you know, business things in general. So if you can keep your overhead low, you can offer your products at a more competitive price, a distinct advantage and so that that helps fuel the pricing that we can offer in the private label world. But it really it really allows me to specialize. So custom crush can be a wonderful tool for anybody. And in fact, I think people might be surprised to learn how many what I’ll call traditional wine brands operate out of multiple facilities, and actually our customer crush customers themselves. We all run into each other all are the same places. But it’s not a bad thing. And it’s not it doesn’t mean a lack of control. If you’ve got the people there if you’re on top of it, it can make for better winemaking because here’s a little California practical tip and I’ll try to I’ll try to illustrate this for folks who don’t live here. But I think most people know where San Francisco is Bay Area Silicon Valley. You know that that is just a tangled web of freeways and traffic right? So you can imagine if I’m picking my pastor always Cabernet or my Santa Barbara Pinot Noir having helped me you know a good six hours south of Napa and if my winery is a Napa and I’m I’m like forcing all of my grapes to come to me and be processed in Napa where I live because selfishly I don’t want to travel that is really inviting your grapes to be stuck on a truck in the middle of rush hour traffic somewhere. Yeah. And that’s not a happy place for grapes to be

Stacy Briscoe  19:44

That’s not a happy place for me to be I don’t think the grapes would be very happy either. I’ve done that commute.

Alison Crowe  19:51

Yeah, we all have right and so we we take that out of the quality equation by having a huge A wonderful core of our business of our crushing and storing and blending, being based where the grapes grow, we make the wines where the grapes grow. That’s really the bottom line. So I work with wineries here on the north coast and Napa and Sonoma counties. We’re partnering with wineries down in Monterey County, in Paso Robles area. And that just I mean, not only does it reduce the carbon footprint of our products, the quality super high. So custom crushing can be a wonderful, wonderful tool. And again, not just for folks who are doing going to go see on private label things like this. It’s really, like I said, you’d be surprised how many, you know, it’s just kind of a great way to solve a lot of problems. I guess I could say.

Stacy Briscoe  20:44

No that’s, I mean, that’s really good to know, especially, you know, for I think folks that go to a lot of, you know, conventional grocery stores and maybe see, you know, oh, you know, this is clearly a high volume production to know that just because it’s a high volume production, doesn’t necessarily mean that, you know, high quantity doesn’t have to mean low quality, if the producer is creating it conscientiously. And you have to think that if they are creating that many skews, and that many bottlings that they’re employing at least some, if not all of what you just talked about in terms of where they’re making their wines and how they’re, they’re sourcing their grapes and producing the wines.

Alison Crowe  21:28

Yeah, exactly. I mean, we do have to be cognizant of, you know, not always a bit of vilifying size, like you say, you know, and just because you’re large, so yes, my winemaking might might have million cases, it’s it’s developed and spread out over, sometimes up to a dozen different wineries around the state. It’s a lot to juggle for my team, but we are we’re producing over about 130 different labels for a wide range of customers. So all that wine half a million cases sounds huge, but it’s not like it’s just two skews. So, you know, I’ve got a lot of little little small baby projects, and, you know, everything from like, roughly 1000 cases of really high quality stuff, skull mountain, Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc to you know, some really small Oakville Cabernet skews. And then yes, certainly, one of our one of our largest programs is a Chardonnay called buttercream Chardonnay, and it’s in total wine and more. And I just learned that that’s like their stores. biggest selling Chardonnay SKU. Wow. So it’s like, wow, that’s a big deal.

Stacy Briscoe  22:33

Yeah that is a big deal.

Alison Crowe  22:35

Because one of our little baby wines has grown up.

Stacy Briscoe  22:41

Total Wine recognition. Awesome.

Alison Crowe  22:43

Yeah, you know, so and it’s been, and that’s when you have a SKU like that taking off in a store. It’s really organic pull through growth, because buttercream, for example, started out as a very small SKU that that we made in partnership with total and we’re like, oh, yeah, let’s just, you know, give us a Chardonnay. And if you’ve tasted, it’s not necessarily, you know, super buttery, oaky, in fact, I made it to be very balanced. It’s a Chardonnay that that I had that I love to drink. And it’s just proved immensely popular with people,

Stacy Briscoe  23:16

You know, kind of going back to that producer retailer relationship, there is kind of room for growth, I guess that’s how I was gonna say it. Like, yes, the SKU does, well, they can invest more. I mean, assuming you, you know, have the greatest supplier to produce the wine. So it just, you can, you can take the relationship, I guess, to the next level in terms of…

Alison Crowe  23:41

I look at it this way, look at it as an opportunity to try try new flavors, try launching new new items, make it make a new blend, if it proves popular, you’ve learned something not only have you got something that’s selling well with with a single retailer, that might offer you and your team some clues as to things that you might might be nice and might launch nationwide. So look at it as a little bit of an r&d opportunity as well.

Stacy Briscoe  24:06

That’s something I never thought about that because I was going to ask about, you know, what would be the benefit of of a winery entering this kind of relationship? But yeah, I’ll use it as a test a test space.

Alison Crowe  24:18

Absolutely and that’s one of the things that I really have fun with working and being a winemaker in this way is that, you know, I get to kind of just like, we get to play, we get to say, Okay, well, let’s try 500 cases of this over here and see how it does. And yeah, it can, it can be a way to kind of experiment. Now. It’s interesting. I think that that’s, we should bring in some stats about overall private label market in the US. It’s difficult to get a handle on what percentage of the wine the US wine market is private label. I am confident that was over 10% But I think it’s probably just probably between 10 and 15%. That would mean that you know k and n Everyone should also remember that some retailers do very little private label. Some do a lot. Like Costco, Kirkland Signature, everybody knows that they do a lot. This and a lot of this stuff doesn’t hit the Nielsen. So this is why it’s really difficult for us to wrap our arms around it. It’s, you know, everyone’s quite quite certain that, you know, and also, just because I think there’s been a longer legacy and history of this in the in the UK in Europe, has a much higher percentage than the US of private label saturation. So yes, there is there is still quite a bit of upside in this space, you know, private private label private label beverage, I think in all, if you look at all beverage category, not just why not just alcohol, but like all beverages, water, juice, et cetera, in the US market, I just read a stat that 11% of the unit volume was private label in 2023. I also read interestingly, that it seems like, you know, like younger consumers, Gen Z’s are kind of like a lot more a lot more open to private labels, it seems I also do, I do have to say, I think, you know, since I have been doing this for almost 20 years, that I believe that retailers and suppliers have gotten a lot more sophisticated at doing the private label offering. I mean, 50 years ago, a private label would literally probably have been like a white background with a black lettering that said beer. And now I think that was where the private label were, I really believe the private label, you know, opportunities for retailers is that they know their customers best they know where the whitespace is in their shelf sets. They know they know what their region and their consumer likes to buy. So then if they’ve got the talent on their buying team, they can go out and find that product that’s going to fill that whitespace. And then and bring it to market in a compelling, attractive and delicious way. I mean, there’s no, there’s no reason why a private label, or a control brand and exclusive can’t can’t live, breathe and operate. With just like any other brand. It’s a wine.

Stacy Briscoe  27:06

That’s really interesting, because I know, like, I just I never thought about, you know, the retailer’s involvement in that way. But and that’s a great point, again, just thinking about grocery shopping, I guess, you know, just being aware that private labels actually might be more to my liking, or, you know, to someone’s liking, because they have that insight into, you know, demographics and what’s selling well. So that’s not to mention the added, like, you talked about cost efficiency in terms of the production being passed on to the customer. You know, since we talked about all the positives, I’m wondering, you know, would there be about to get a little kind of business minded here, but would there be any drawbacks for a winery to enter into this kind of relationship with a retailer like me, maybe things to think about before? doing that?

Alison Crowe  28:06

Yeah so I would say one of the most important, most most most important things to think about before considering supplying a private label buyer, like a retailer or Restaurant Group, who is on the hook for the inventory? Do will they give you a purchase order? Will they give you a PO or a contract? Sometimes they won’t, sometimes you do have to take a risk with that seller, so, so make sure you’ve got to if you’re going to be a supplier to private label buyers, that your buyers, that your customers really, really well, because the worst thing is to get stuck with, you know, 20,000 cases of something that someone told you they were going to buy, and then they turn around and don’t buy it. So that would be that’s really, that’s one of the reasons not to do it. Or if you can’t get a favorable terms of a contract then, but I wouldn’t do it. Another is who’s responsible for for the marketing, usually what the retailer’s, you know, they’ve got enough incentive to make sure that these products are flowing through their channels. So very often they will they will do all of that. But are they going to ask you as a supplier? Do you have to create a website and branding for this brand? detail to ask about? And then also something that is that is kind of interesting, think about how will and this is probably pretty, pretty rare, but it could happen. I could see it that if you produce something that is for this channel, will it cannibalize your other sales and other channels? And what are the what are the you know, potential risks there like if you create something that runs away and is super successful here and then you’ve got to grow it and all of a sudden you’re pulling away you’ve got to pull away vineyard supply from something that’s maybe in your DTC channel that is also really profitable. So it’s, it’s nuanced, right? You’ve got to kind of think about it. Sure, from all these from all these angles?

Stacy Briscoe  30:02

Yeah, no, that’s I mean, and that’s good to know. Because, you know, I was just thinking, you know, we’re talking about all the positives. So then you can see people thinking like, Well, why doesn’t every winery do this? So, I mean, that’s those are all really good reasons why they why they maybe can’t

Alison Crowe  30:16

Absolutely and also, also, I will tell you this, that it takes a lot of work to win this this business, you have to have a winemaking team that’s got the time to take away from your core brands to work on these projects. And not, not a lot of companies have that. And so, you know, that’s why, you know, plot is very different. And that this is all that we do, right?

Stacy Briscoe  30:41

Because it sounds like, you know, if you were just for lack of a better word, like a traditional winery, you’d have to really think about it as a second business, even if it’s running out of your own facility, even if you’re using your own grapes and your own wine in your own staff. It’s something else separate. So you almost have to think of it as as a separate business, not to mention that you are also accountable to somebody outside of your business, which probably throws in you know, the relationship component to it as well.

Alison Crowe  31:13

Yeah, yeah, absolutely. So so so the private label world is not for everybody, you know, nor should it be that and there are there are some companies out there that that you know, a lot of you know, the the negotiations of the world, they’ll go Bible Klein, and then try to win this kind of business and stuff like that. And so that’s negocio answer a bit more. i That’s a very European term, I know. But that kind of business model is a bit more suited to kind of doing this and but, you know, we’re, it’s funny, we’re, we’re folks that own vineyards, you know, like PATA we can, we can work on winning the business, but we’re also working on our, you know, we have the ability to repeat and grow the business. Whereas if you’re just buying bulk wine that happens to be there randomly available. One year, you don’t know if you’re gonna be able to get that wine again. You know, and so that’s another thing is that typically, when retailers, they want to build business with the stuff, that they’re going to be hesitant to work with somebody or more hesitant to work for somebody who, who can’t repeat the same wine year over year.

Stacy Briscoe  32:17

Sure, if you’re just buying on the spot market, extra juice or Yeah, things like that. Yeah. Yeah, exactly. So just kind of closing the loop in terms of production of your private labels. So you know, we talked about the custom crush as the facility for creating the actual wines, would you also bottle and store them there? Or is that a separate kind of thing? Like how, I guess, how do we get the wine into the vessel, and then to the store where I can purchase it and drink it and be happy?

Alison Crowe  32:49

Yeah it’s literally no different than, than any other winery that, you know, yes, we have, we have us, you know, anybody who’s who’s producing, you know, high quality wine, and, frankly, who isn’t these days, you know, that’s the overall quality of wine in the US in the last 30 years has increased dramatically, just in you know, sanitation and shelf stability and, and all that kind of stuff. So yeah, private label, labeling and bottling, it’s it’s no different, you know, all the all the same quality industry standard stuff applies, and fewer and fewer wineries have their own on site bottling lines, because they are extremely, extremely expensive to put in be extremely time consuming and difficult to run and maintain. Specialized crew equipment techniques, capabilities to make a bottling line run are very different than what it takes to blend wine for flavor and quality than to manage a barrel program than to run your your customer Krush equipment. So I would say starting in probably about the early 1990s. So many wineries started going with you probably have seen these mobile bottling lines, where you can have your little winery up on Atlas peak. And because you don’t want to put in a bottling line to bottle your 10,000 cases every year, you get in Ryan McGee or top it off, or one of these super high quality mobile bottling outfits. They come and they back their little truck up at your cellar door and they’ll bottle your wine for you and then boom, Bob’s your uncle and you’ve got your product. And so, so many of us are doing that now and it’s just really just become a standard way of doing business. And so it’s even funny for me to tell that story because it’s been so standard for so many decades at this point. There’s that and then also so so mobile bottling and then also standalone. wineries that specialize in bottling are aware myself and not only know not only private label operators, but but large to medium to even small wineries. They’ll put up their bottle of finished wine in their own home cellar and then ship it out to a winery that specializes in bottling, and then it goes into box. And then if there is a warehouse next to the bottling winery, then it’s can stay there. But more often than not, it will get moved from the bottling winery to your your warehouse, your temperature controlled warehouse where the product will live until it gets called for at the distributor, and then the retail level.

Stacy Briscoe  35:28

Okay, and all of that motion. So going from the bottling plant, or going from your winery to the bottling plant and then to the storage facility or back to your own facility. That’s all kind of a safe travel for the wine. Absolutely. Yeah, we always hear about wine traveling and like, oh, you know, temperature control, you know, all these things that play a part in the in the final, you know, quality and stability.

Alison Crowe  35:53

Absolutely. Right. So you have to make sure every step of the way is temperature controlled your warehouses, the bottling winery itself, the wine transport. Absolutely. And that’s the same for whether you’re doing a private label or whether you’re doing just traditional traditional winemaking.

Stacy Briscoe  36:07

Okay, cool. I’m like, almost running out of questions. So now I think I want to I want to open it up to you. Is there anything maybe I forgot to ask or that you think is important for folks to know about private label either anything in the production process I forgot to ask or, you know, when they go to the market and see these things on the on the shelves, things to think about?

Alison Crowe  36:31

Yeah, I mean, I just think like I was saying, I said earlier that I think that the the the sophistication, the partnership between the retailers and the producers and retailers in the wineries has just, you know, gone through the roof in a positive way in the last 15 years, I think with private label and that it can it can be just a wonderful way for high quality grapes and wine if you’re you know, if they’re working with the right sourcing, to get into the hands of consumers at a at a reasonable price. And I think that’s part of the reason why, you know, I’m still here at Plata, after almost 20 years because I so I came from, you know, Santa Barbara County, my family’s in agriculture. And, you know, my fantasy was never to be you know, making $300. Napa Valley Cabernet is I, I get such a kick when I know that my Carneros Pinot Noir is in Costco and I can share that little bit of California sunshine with a lot of folks, because we’re producing 35,000 cases of that wine every year. It’s just such a fun way to share that wine with folks with a lot of people at a really reasonable price. So, you know, I would invite consumers to not be afraid of private label look at it as it’s a great opportunity to to try a lot of different things. And also, I would say that if you find something that you love, tell the retailer tell that like, this is awesome. I totally love it. And that’s, that’s a great, that’s great feedback for the retailer who will hopefully then give that feedback to the winery in the winemaking team like like mine where we can go Yeah, then great. We’ll make more of that. And and if you’ve got the the vineyard resources like PATA does, then you can say great, well, then we’ll we’ll we’ll increase you next year, we’ll harvest more, more tons and we can grow this brand. So yeah, it’s a little bit of a different way to be a winemaker and to share wine with the customers. But you know, at the end of the day, that’s that’s what we’re, that’s what we’re doing. And it’s yeah, I hope that this conversation is helpful to people as they look at this space and can just learn a little bit more about Yeah, there are lots of different ways to, to buy to buy wine, and it may not come from quote unquote, you know, what you may see as a completely vertically integrated, integrated traditional winery with a tasting room and, and all that stuff. But you know that the the care and feeding is still there, and you can still get incredible, incredible value and quality. So it’s never been a better time to be to be a wine consumer than than right now.

Stacy Briscoe  39:03

Oh, 100% 100%. And I appreciate you sharing your passion for what you do. I think that’s one of the things that does get lost in private label is that there’s this kind of game of telephone where you don’t have that direct. Do you know, as a consumer, you don’t have that direct connection to the Oh, the winemakers story or the brand story. So I appreciate you kind of bringing it up that side of the industry that story to our consumers to say hey, you know, maybe you can’t see us but we are here and we care just as much as the next person that’s producing a quality wine.


Yeah, absolutely. There’s, there’s there’s a lot of love and what we do, yeah,

Stacy Briscoe  39:45

is there and you don’t have to pick one of your favorite children if you don’t want to. But is there a wine that you’re very excited about at the moment? Maybe a new one or something you’ve been working on for a very long time?

Alison Crowe  39:56

Oh, gosh. I’d say talk to me. Talk to me six months from now. I can tell you about one but um, one one I can’t mention it specifically because it hasn’t been released yet. But I have one that my husband Chris Purdy was able to do a collaboration with us on developing the label. Okay, he is a photographer, and his website is pretty pictures.com is P word u y, of course. And he he went out this harvest, he went out to our vineyards and spent a couple of days just taking photos and getting the right photo for the customer. And it’s going to be launching nationally and a very prominent retailer. We’re bottling it in July. So I’m particularly excited about that one because he was able to collaborate with with us on that. But yeah, I mean, I guess just really overall I’m just so proud of you know, the high quality farming and winemaking that we’re doing. I’m so proud of my team. Our winemaker Stacy Vogel, and we’ve got most well, all everyone on my direct winemaking team are women. It’s not by design. It just happened that way. And I’m just really proud of them. And the wider network of relationships that we have with our with our winery partners around the state. It is just such a privilege to work with them and you know, to do to do what we do to bring the California sunshine in the bottle to folks every day.

Stacy Briscoe  41:24

Awesome. Well, thank you, Alison, for joining us. And again, this is Alison Crowe from Plata wine partners. You can look on their website and it has all of their food. They’re not shy, you can look up all the private labels that they do.

Alison Crowe  41:40


Stacy Briscoe  41:45

There you go. All right, well, thank you so much.

Alison Crowe  41:48

All right. Stacey was so great, so great to talk to you.

Stacy Briscoe  41:56 I’d like to thank our guest Allison Crowe vice president winemaking of Plata wine partners. I think after that conversation, we’ve all learned a lot more about what goes into those private label brands we see on the shelves. Maybe this will influence your next purchase. What are your thoughts on private label wines? Are there any outstanding questions you’d like to have answered? Join the conversation. You can email us at podcast at wine enthusiast.net. Did you enjoy today’s podcast? Show us some love? Subscribe to the Wine Enthusiast podcast on Apple, Google Spotify, or anywhere you listen to your favorite casts. And don’t forget to visit wine enthusiast.com backslash podcast for more episodes and transcripts. I’ve been Stacy Briscoe, managing editor of Wi