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Interview, Part One: Vintage Point Eyes Million-Case Milestone

December 4, 2014

Established in 2006 by former Beringer Blass executives David Biggar and Tom Peterson, Sonoma-based wine company Vintage Point has found success with its Layer Cake brand, an internationally-sourced range retailing for $15 a 750-ml. Known for its core South Australian Shiraz, Layer Cake has grown to include a California Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir; Italian Primitivo; Argentine Malbec and red blend; and Spanish Garnacha. In addition, Vintage Point markets the Hundred Acre, Educated Guess, Cherry Pie, Gary Farrell, Moone-Tsai and Goose Ridge brands, among others.

In 2012, the company significantly expanded its repertoire, adding Lo Nuevo (Spain), Makara (New Zealand), If You See Kay (Italy), Mountain Door (Argentina) and Hypothesis (California) and bringing its portfolio to a total of 17 brands. Those additions have helped Vintage Point continue its double-digit growth trajectory, with the company projecting sales of more than 700,000 cases for 2014. Shanken News Daily associate editor Christina Jelski recently spoke with Biggar to discuss the company’s latest initiatives and its outlook for the coming year.

SND: What’s the update on Layer Cake? Which varietals in particular are helping to fuel the brand’s growth?

Biggar: Layer Cake remains our best selling brand. And while Shiraz is still very strong, Malbec just surpassed Shiraz as its number-one selling varietal. (According to) Nielsen, Layer Cake Shiraz has been hovering around flat to within a percent plus or minus. But the Shiraz category, last time I looked, was down 18% in the U.S., and has experienced mid-teen and double-digit declines for some years. We’ve been going against that, and feel we’ll keep it at that level. But Malbec has now become number-one, and it probably took until this August or September for that to happen. This fall, we’ve also launched our first blend called Sea Stones, from our Sea of Stones vineyard in Mendoza. It’s a Malbec-based blend, with Cabernet, Syrah and Petit Verdot. For most people, blends are sort of “kitchen-sink,” but this is actually a blend from a single vineyard. Sea Stones hit the market in August, priced in line with other Layer Cake reds.

SND: Beyond Layer Cake, what are some of the other top performing brands within the Vintage Point portfolio?

Biggar: Educated Guess is our second-largest brand, a Napa Valley Cabernet retailing below $20, which is doing well and is recognized as one of the top-value Cabs at that price point. After Educated Guess is Cherry Pie, which has been a very strong brand for us at $60 retail and has two offshoots—a Cherry Tart Pinot Noir and a Cherry Tart Chardonnay, both at $20. We launched the Pinot Noir early this year and it sold out, so we’re now on our second vintage of that. The Chardonnay just came out this summer, and both look to be very strong.

SND: Why is the $12-$20 range the sweet spot for your company?

Biggar: It’s difficult to compete with large-volume producers below $10—we just can’t beat their costs. When you’re at $15-$20, however, there’s enough margin for the retailer, distributor, the winery and the growers. We’ve found it to be the point at which we can make really good wines that taste like they should be $25-$30, yet retail for half the price. It’s been a very effective strategy for us.

Watch for Part Two of our interview with David Biggar in an upcoming SND.



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