The three tier system for alcohol sales in the US creates a middleman layer that could be argued to be superfluous. Cynics can and will say it's just to create another revenue stream for the government and creates an unnecessary layer of corporate bureaucratic excess. Indeed when one looks at the products that already have national recognition and demand, the large companies representing them seem to be opportunistically profiting off of the existing system without adding value. So why start a small two person wholesale business in Colorado? Where does an independent lover of handcrafted wines fit into this system? For us at S&M and other small companies like us it begins with a desire to be an advocate for wines that don't have a built in following already.
Take for example the wines of Vincent Fritzsche from the Willamette Valley in Oregon. Vincent is a one man company, making wines from some of the most amazing single vineyards in the Eola Hills. Vincent decided on a winemaking philosophy of working sustainably in the vineyard and naturally with minimal intervention in the cellar. The results speak for themselves in the glass but how to get the wines into the consumer's glass?
This S&M feels, and many other small independent wholesalers agree, is where we earn our spot in the ecosystem. It is up to us to find the wines like Vincent's, bring them to the state and introduce them to the retailers who will sell them. But our job does not end with us getting a buyer to taste the wine and agree to buy it from us. Our role also includes helping provide the tools to retailers to help create the demand for those wines.
In normal times we rely heavily on the fact that the success of our products helps many interested parties, making it a collaborative effort. A restaurant brings in a case of Vincent Pinot Blanc for a by-the-glass program for example, and this can drive a positive experience between a diner and the staff. When that diner wants to recreate those memories at home they look for the wine at their local bottle shop. Unfortunately we are not living in normal times and restaurants can't do as much work driving demand for independent products. But retailers and their staff seem to have stepped up to do more of the heavy lifting. Perhaps consumers are seeking out new small production wines in higher numbers. Whatever the reason there is a feeling that we've noticed out there right now of a shared struggle, that those of us that care about promoting small artisanal products are in this together; that if we want the small restaurants and small wineries and small wholesalers to make it through this moment that we have to speak up now, do the work of sharing our love of these products with others and support the people who share our passions.