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With A Burgeoning East Coast Presence, Wilson Daniels Spreads Its Wings

January 16, 2018

After opening its New York and New Jersey wholesale operation two years ago, California-based fine wine player Wilson Daniels has continued to raise its profile as a bicoastal force. Last year, Wilson Daniels Wholesale had revenues of about $26 million, up from $20 million in 2016, and company president Rocco Lombardo recently told SND that sales could climb by as much as 50% this year due to a number of new brand additions, including a recently announced partnership with classified Bordeaux specialist Joanne U.S. Meanwhile, the Wilson Daniels import division has been expanding its offering of prestige brands from the world’s best-known fine wine regions.

Wilson Daniels is a subsidiary of Young’s Holdings, Inc., owned by the Underwood family. Young’s Holdings’ subsidiaries include Wilson Daniels and Wilson Daniels Wholesale, as well as Young’s Market Co., a major distributor in 10 western states; Infinium Spirits, a spirits marketing company; and other businesses.

On the import side, Wilson Daniels represents a relatively small roster of high-profile brands. “We’re fully focused on fine wines,” Lombardo says. “Our average wholesale price is roughly $24 a bottle. You’re looking at an average retail price of $37.” The company’s flagships include two of the most acclaimed Burgundy domaines in the world, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Domaine Leflaive. Beginning last October, Wilson Daniels also started importing renowned Tuscan producer Biondi-Santi. Other recent additions include Arista from the Russian River Valley, Champagne Gosset, Château Gassier from Provence, Arnaldo Caprai from Umbria, Bisol Prosecco, Olivier Bernstein in Burgundy and others. “Our portfolio recruitment will continue to happen in a methodical way,” Lombardo explains. “We’re focused on continuing to strengthen our French, Italian and domestic portfolios nationally.”

Wilson Daniels also has a few luxury spirits, separate from Young’s Infinium division. “There was a lot of discussion about looking at joint distribution, but given our model, it does not fit,” Lombardo explains. In fact, spirits will play an even smaller role in the Wilson Daniels portfolio in the future. “I see a lot of opportunity in the craft spirits business, but we have to know what our core competency is,” he says. “There’s a flood of activity in that area. We want to stay fully focused on selling fine and luxury wines. We’re going to be deemphasizing the spirits side of our business. What we’ve done instead is emphasize further specialization in the wine business, hiring people who are fully focused on our Italian portfolio, our French portfolio and our domestic portfolio.”

The Wilson Daniels wholesale division plans to refine its approach in targeting top-tier accounts. “We fill approximately 60% of our volume in the on-premise and 40% in the off-premise,” Lombardo says. “If you take a look at New York and New Jersey, we’re calling on 1,500 of the top accounts in both states, and that’s our focus. We’ll continue to be the very best we can be, and then who knows what the future holds with regard to further expansion of our fine wine wholesale business.” He adds that the direction undertaken two years ago has worked. “The company is positioned for a very successful next three to five years,” Lombardo says. “Being a bicoastal player with direct distribution on both coasts puts us in a very strong competitive position for the future.” Market Watch has a full profile of Wilson Daniels on its website.

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