The idea of flying 10 of your customers to the US to help them choose wines you want to sell is just the kind of innovative idea to be expected from Rowan Gormley at Naked Wines. When you are in the middle of setting up a US operation and one in Australia at the same time, it's certainly one to keep your staff busy.
Napa however may seem an odd place to send this group as its associated with expensive wines often made in small quantities which could be seen as being at odds with Naked's business model. However Rowan is in the process of turning the usual 3 tier business model in the US of grower, distributor and retailer in its head. As a result the selling price of the selected price of the wines is amazingly low and will make a lot of people in the UK sit up and take notice.
All the winemakers we met were enthusiastic and experienced. They loved the idea of being funded up front to go and find some grapes and make good wine without worrying about bottling, distribution and sales. It gives them the opportunity to do what they do best - make wine. With Naked renting their own winery also this will help drive down costs.
Some of the names of those producing wines for Naked will also turn heads for those in the know in the wine world such as Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon who came and presented two wines to us.
Although the name of Christina Pallmann may not mean much in the UK this is some who has worked with Michel Rolland and Merry Edwards who is considered the "queen of Pinot" in California. Ken Deis has many many years of experience in making wine in the region so is no lightweight.
We were given the opportunity to taste over 60 wines from 8 winemakers and then asked to select our top 6 to put into a launch case. There was a fair degree of agreement amongst us but Naked reassured us that many of those that didn't make the top 6 will also be shipped over.
The first wines have now arrived and here's to the whole idea being the enormous success it deserves to be.