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Interview, Part One: DFV President and CEO Chris Indelicato

October 8, 2014

While California’s Delicato Family Vineyards has been operating as a family-owned company since its founding 90 years ago, it’s gone through a transformation over the past decade that’s been as dramatic as that of any wine marketer in the U.S. As recently as 2005, DFV’s branded wine business sold roughly 1.5 million cases annually (not including private label). By 2013, Manteca, California-based DFV had become one of the U.S. wine market’s biggest players, with branded sales approaching 5 million cases on the strength of double-digit yearly growth. SND managing editor Peter Zwiebach recently spoke with DFV president and CEO Chris Indelicato about the company’s remarkable journey and what lies ahead.

SND: Most of your top-selling brands, including Bota Box, Gnarly Head and Twisted, among others, have had solid growth over the past few years. What are the key factors behind this success?

Indelicato: Bota Box, Gnarly Head and Twisted are all important cornerstones of our business, and it’s important that we stay on the pulse of our consumers’ needs. Our ability to stay nimble and relevant within a competitive environment is key to maintaining growth trajectories for all our brands, and our established brands in particular. A great example is the launch of Bota Box Pinot Noir this summer. Consumers wanted a Pinot Noir, and that aligned with trends in the marketplace. It launched to an overwhelmingly positive reception, generating the biggest first month ever for a new Bota Box item.

SND: Have any brands been especially disappointing, or performed below expectations? If so, how are you reacting to this situation?

Indelicato: Not every brand can be a home run. For DFV, it’s all about acknowledging areas for improvement and adjusting quickly and efficiently. For instance, with Sequin (a line of low-alcohol sparkling wines), we knew there was opportunity in a new category, but we were probably just a little ahead of the trend. We evaluated pricing and packaging, and implemented some changes for shelf placement that are now driving positive trends. But we were fully prepared to admit defeat if the changes didn’t impact business positively.

SND: New products are obviously a key part of the business, and DFV has been very active on this front. How are your newest products faring?

Indelicato: The wine consumer is constantly evolving and we’re keen to keep up with their expectations, both with existing brands and new products. One of our latest new products, Belle Ambiance, which launched in January, is not only the largest brand launch in DFV history—selling 160,000 cases in its first nine months on the market—but also has just earned an accolade as the number-one new brand launch of 2014, according to Nielsen. We’re never idle when it comes to new product ideation and development. In August we launched a new brand, Juxtapoz, a luxury-priced red blend from the North Coast with a heavy on-premise focus.

SND: How is your on-premise business doing, in comparison to your off-premise business?

Indelicato: Off-premise is certainly where a large majority of our business thrives, but our on-premise business is not to be sold short. Brands like Domino have demonstrated exceptional results in this space. The on-premise comprises 52% of Domino’s channel mix in both the 750-ml. and 1.5-liter sizes, while Black Stallion Estate Winery, Irony and La Merika hold strong with approximately a 30/70 on- and off-premise mix.



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