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miercuri, aprilie 26

A new wine model

Mark Tarlov wants you to know exactly how much it cost to make his new Willamette Valley Pinot Noir and why it's priced at $27.45 and not north of $60. A founder of Evening Land Vineyards, and now the proprietor of Chapter 24 Wines and Maison l'Envoyé, Tarlov's newest project is called Alit. "We're shining a light on places the wine industry doesn't usually talk about," Tarlov told Wine Spectator.
"I want to show our clients how expensive it is to produce wine made without compromise," he added. "But by eliminating the distortion field around sharing the wine, selling direct to consumer only, we can still deliver singular value and enrich our customers."
Alit's team made 3,000 cases from its first vintage, 2015, using grapes from seven vineyards in northern Willamette Valley. Tarlov chose a different winemaker and enology consultant for the project to distinguish the style from Chapter 24's, which are made by partner and consultant Louis-Michel Liger-Belair of Burgundy.
The big difference is the use of whole-cluster fermentations—the grapes are not destemmed, which creates more of a tannic backbone and changes the dynamics of fermentation. Liger-Belair uses no stems, so Tarlov turned to winemaker Alban Debeaulieu, recently of White Rose Estate in Dundee Hills, and enologist Pierre Millemann, who has consulted with Burgundy domaines that employ whole-cluster fermentations.
Tarlov's interest in whole-cluster goes back to his days as president of Evening Land and a special bottling called Red Queen. "[Alit and Chapter 24 vineyard manager] Ryan Hannaford and I looked at the vineyards last July and decided that 2015 would be a good year to try another whole-cluster wine," said Tarlov.
The idea of selling only direct and the notion of transparent pricing came last spring, triggered by Chapter 24's work with a team from MIT identifying vineyard microflora that influence fermentations. The scientists told the winemakers they had to "align" the wines with the natural world to "avoid distortion of the end product," said Tarlov.
"It was a very short leap for us to conclude that if vine-growing and winemaking was going to be all about 'alignment' we should also 'align' when it came to selling and talking about the wine," said Tarlov. "Convey our message with no middlemen and charge the end customer the ex-cellar price for the wine."
Alit's team figured out the cost of making the wine (see graphic below) by dividing the amount actually spent (a number checked in an audit) by 360,000, the number of bottles produced. They arrived at a cost per bottle of $15. Grapes, for example, account for $5.66 per bottle, barrels (one-third new) $1.11. Labels, corks and capsules total $1.66 per bottle, custom packaging and shipping boxes add $1.22 and the winemaking team's salary totals $2.14 per bottle.
Courtesy Alit
Alit's team shows how they calculated their wine's price and how much consumers might save in markup.
As an example of how tricky all this can be to figure, Tarlov detailed how the grape cost was figured. Half the grapes came from vineyards farmed by Chapter 24, including Black Walnut in Dundee Hills, Stardance in the Coast Range west of Yamhill and Dubay in Eola-Amity Hills. Tarlov depreciated the cost per acre over 25 years, making the land cost $1.44 per bottle. Labor, management and equipment costs added $4.46, for an average of $5.90 per bottle.
The other half of the grapes, from growers that also sell to Chapter 24, included fruit from well-regarded vineyards La Colina in Dundee Hills, Momtazi and Hyland in McMinnville, and Muska and Eola Springs in Eola-Amity Hills. At an average of $3,450 per ton, that came to $5.42 per bottle. The average cost of all the fruit was $5.66.
Alit marks up each bottle by $12.35—45 percent of the final bottle price, which covers utilities, insurance, legal, compliance and marketing costs. "With some luck [that] leaves us a bit left over as profit—25 percent, fingers crossed, for me and my partners," said Tarlov.
Part of Tarlov's sales pitch is pointing out how much his customers may be saving by buying direct. The final retail price of most wines made by small to medium-size wineries and distributed through normal channels would include wholesale, distribution and retail markups that add up to at least half the retail price.
Most wineries that sell some wines direct and some through wholesalers charge the same price at the winery that you'll see on store shelves. They don't want to undercut their partners by selling the wine more cheaply. By selling all of Alit direct, Tarlov can dodge this.
Whether others will adopt his model is anyone's guess. “Costs continue to rise for large and small wineries,” said Rollin Soles, the longtime general manager of Argyle who now runs his own family winery, Roco. That, he added, is the allure of direct-to-consumer sales. Roco sells its wines at around $60 a bottle. That's the same price range as the core bottlings—Fire + Flood—of Tarlov's other winery, Chapter 24. Soles wonders if these wines might suffer in comparison to Alit. “He could be shooting himself in the foot."
For many wine consumers, wine prices are a mystery, and they assume winemakers simply charge what the market will bear. Tarlov's goal with all of this is to show that premium wine from a specific terroir costs money to make. He's hoping customers will reward his candor. "By highlighting the cost of each step of the process," Tarlov said, "we can have a meaningful conversation about what we do and why it costs what it does."



Winery Opts for Price Transparency

© Alit Wines | Foggy, dramatic and biodynamic? That'll be Oregon...
An Oregon winery is taking traceability to a new level, by explaining its costs to the consumer.
By Claire Adamson | Posted Friday, 03-Mar-2017
No concept in the American dining room has quite hit so hard in the last decade or so as farm-to-table.
Restaurants have fallen over themselves to build relationships with local farmers, so they can let diners know the exact latitude and longitude where their chicken was raised, and that no middlemen got rich off of the transaction.
This concept of farm-to-table is slowly infiltrating the wine world, with smaller producers reaching cult-like status and natural wines becoming a fixture on wine lists. However, for Oregon winemaker Mark Tarlov, this conversion isn't happening nearly quickly enough.
"Wine is never talked about in this farm-to-table conversation." Tarlov says. His newest venture, Alit, seeks to change that, and is offering wines directly to customers over the internet, with the production cost of each bottle spelled out in full.
Alit was founded in 2015, when Tarlov became interested in how this farm-to-table movement could translate to distribution. "I thought: 'Let's find a way to align all aspects of what we do, and if we're going to farm organically and biodynamically, then we need to find an organic sales channel for the wine.'"
That organic sales channel was the internet. Tarlov says: "The internet makes many things possible but the greatest one is to exchange information directly between the producer and the consumer."
Alit's pricing is completely transparent, showing the costs involved in making a bottle of wine – the fruit, the staff, the oak, and the profit. Alit has calculated that with the added costs of national- and state-level distribution, and the retail store's profit margin, the wine, a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir, should cost around $65. Instead, Alit is offering packs of three for $100, making the cost per bottle just $27.45, plus shipping.
Tarlov is also looking outside the US for wine, and has begun working with a young couple in France, Richard and Veronique Petit, to offer a grower Champagne to his customers. "To be able to offer grand cru Champagne at $27.45 a bottle is pretty amazing. And we can do it because we're employing the same direct-to-consumer technique that we do with the Pinot."
The eventual aim is to offer a different wine each quarter to go alongside the Oregon Pinot Noir. So far, Alit has producers lined up from New Zealand, Australia and the Loire Valley. The quantities Alit are buying aren't large, but Tarlov sees it as an opportunity for these small producers to find a new market for their wines, and become a part of something bigger.
Mark Tarlov has costed out everything from oak aging to local taxes, so his customers know what they are paying for.
© Alit Wines | Mark Tarlov has costed out everything from oak aging to local taxes, so his customers know what they are paying for.
"Eventually [the wine will] be part of a portfolio of producers, and we could at some point have a tasting with a Champagne person and a New Zealand person and a Rhône Valley person and an Oregonian and talk about how we grow wine, how we make wine, and how we share wine."
Alit is currently only working with producers that farm their grapes organically, and many are biodynamic as well. For Tarlov, this is less about being "politically correct" and more about the resultant wines. "The convenient truth is that wines made through the natural and dynamic process that nature gives us, both in terms of the grapes and the microbial population in organically farmed soils, just tastes better."
The Oregon Pinot Noir is also made from biodynamically farmed grapes; Tarlov is a believer in the much bandied-about idea of non-intervention in the vineyard. "One of the scientists once said: 'Nature is much more interested in deliciousness than you are, because their survival depends on it.' For you, it's just a matter of money. But if these plants can't produce grapes that are really attractive to birds, they're out of business."
The Alit website launched in December 2016 and, all in all, Tarlov is happy with the way the market has responded. "The last month or so, just before the holidays, we sold a lot of wine. It's been extremely gratifying, especially because we've only done it with journalism – we haven't done any advertising. We don't have the normal third party word of mouth." 
Alit's customer base is much younger than for traditional wines, says Tarlov, fitting in with the current vogue for conscious consumerism. Comparisons have been made with Everlane, a popular online fashion retailer that sells clothing made from high-quality materials like cashmere and silk at lower prices, with the costs of production spelled out.
Tarlov has been making wine in Oregon for around a decade, but was making films before he began making wine. In 1993, while filming a movie, he attended a wine tasting at noted San Francisco restaurant Rubicon with sommelier Larry Stone.
"Basically it was a tutorial where I tasted things that were not just Napa Cab. I was exposed to the wines of Burgundy, Loire, Rhône, Australia, and said oh! It's kind of cool what's going on here."
The two kept in touch and, 10 years later, Tarlov asked Stone where to buy a vineyard as a retirement project. Stone suggested Oregon and, in 2006, founded Evening Land Vineyards in the Willamette Valley. In 2012, he began Chapter 24 Vineyards, also based in the Willamette Valley.
With Alit, though, Tarlov has broadened his experience of the wine industry even further, by getting wine from the vineyard onto the table with very little in between. "You sacrifice some things, like being in high-profile restaurants. But you also touch many more people by having a primary conversation with them, as well as being able to offer them the sort of insight into why wine costs why it costs."

Wine that asks “why?” – Mark Tarlov – Medium

Mark Tarlov

Today, I’d like you to meet alit: a new kind of wine brand that is stripping away all of the extra layers between the winemaker (me) and the wine drinker (you). Our goal is to bring you closer to the story of our wine, the people who make it and the place that it comes from.
What does that mean?
We call it wine with integrity: the idea that great wine should be made naturally and without compromise, with no synthetic ingredients or chemicals. It should be shared with everyone, not just the critics, at a totally transparent price that won’t “break the bank.” That same wine should also deliver pleasure to its drinkers, enhancing the atmosphere, conversation and experience.
Like Aristotle, I am a firm believer in the rule of three, so I want to share with you the three principles that make alit truly unique: how we grow, farm and ferment our grapes; how we determine the price of the wine; and how we share it with you.


We make our pinot noir in the Willamette Valley in Oregon, about an hour south of Portland. Our grapes are planted in the volcanic soil native to the Valley. We farm biodynamically and organically, which means the only ingredient in our wine is grapes — no additives and no chemicals.
We ferment the whole cluster (grapes and stems) in three-ton stainless steel tanks. The stems add a nice, harvest flavor — with autumnal scents like cinnamon and nutmeg. (The grapes are picked in the fall, after all.) Once the fermentation process is complete, the wine rests in barrels for one year. Our barrels are 33 percent new French Oak.
For us, the fermentation process (how grapes become wine) has become a fascination … an obsession, really. To paraphrase Da Vinci, “nature begins with a cause and creates an experience. Humans begin with an experience and discover the cause.” With alit, we want to uncover the cause that makes the experience so delicious.
To do that, we have partnered with MIT to study the microbiomes that live in our vineyards. We only use wild yeast for fermentation, and research tells us that 40 percent of the flavor and aroma in our wines comes from the metabolic action of the yeast eating the sugar in our fruit. In other words, the rambunctious micro-flora in our vineyards naturally produce wines of complexity, elegance and harmony. As you can imagine, the particular nature and activities of different yeast strains is something we — and the scientists — are eager to understand.
The more we learn through this MIT research, the better equipped we are to farm more strategically. We are learning to do “less” so that nature can do more.
Grapes will grow almost anywhere, but the “where” will substantially change the taste. We now know that the “where” is not solely an issue for the plant. The better positioned you are with regard to all the various aspects of the “where,” the better the fruit. We believe that the wild yeast produce the music of wine, so having the right “where” will support a full orchestra of micro-flora producing a wine where tone and texture become a multi-layered, acoustic harmony rather than a simple tune. Oregon’s Willamette Valley is our “where.”


It is my belief that the best bottle of wine in the world should cost $28. This assumes that by “the best” you mean a bottle of wine that delivers a great deal of pleasure, while speaking clearly and with integrity about the place (the vineyard) and people (the team) who create the wine. Another set of three — pleasure, place and people.
Before alit, I ran two vineyards: Evening Land and Chapter 24. During those years, I sold wines in the range of $60 — $100 per bottle. As the winemaker, I took home around $28 for each bottle sold. Do you know where the rest of that money goes? To the middlemen: the national distributors, the state distributors and the retail stores. That leaves wine drinkers like you paying as much as 3X the price of what a bottle costs to make.
When I started alit, I was determined to sell it direct-to-consumer with no middlemen. For that reason, alit wine is available for purchase only on and you will pay exactly what it costs us to make the wine, plus a small cut for me and my team: $15.10 per bottle + 45% gross profit = $27.45 per bottle.
How did we arrive at $27.45? Here’s the breakdown.
All-Natural Farming & Fruit—$ 5.66
Alit Team of Five—$ 2.14
Winery & Equipment — $ 3.31
French Oak Barrels—$ 1.11
Custom Packaging—$ 2.88
Total Cost—$ 15.10
Gross Profit Margin (45%)—$ 12.35
You Pay: $27.45
To provide the most value to you, the drinker, we’re selling our wines in three-pack options for $100 each ($27.45 per bottle with 3-day air shipping included.) I believe that by sharing the cost of each step of the process, we can have a meaningful conversation about what we do and why it costs what it does.
My goal is to offer you, the wine drinker, the opportunity to have the winemaking process illuminated as much as possible. I want to be fully transparent about how much it actually costs to produce wine made without compromise.


Now that you know how we make the wine and what it costs, let’s talk about where you can get it.
By selling the wine online-only and not through distributors or retail stores, we can deliver extraordinary value on the price—but even more exciting to us is that we can share the alit experience with you firsthand. Our story isn’t getting lost, like a game of telephone, as the wine moves from the vineyard to the distributor to the store.
You can learn about our team, our vineyards, how we make the wine and more on our website. When you decide to purchase, the wine will go straight from the Willamette Valley, right to your door.
Are you ready to get alit?
— Mark

A Film Producer Takes on Wine

Tasting Evening Land with Mark Tarlov

Posted: Jun 2, 2010 12:01pm ET

Mark Tarlov developed an interest in wine as an avid drinker and collector. But instead of building a fancy winery in Napa Valley, he took a different route. Coming to the wine business from the film world, where connections and star power are the currency for success, he applied those same elements to the wine world.
As a film producer, Tarlov worked with such directors as John Carpenter, Sidney Lumet and John Waters. His films include Christine, Carpenter’s early film about an evil car, Copycat starring Sigourney Weaver, and The Man Who Knew Too Little with Bill Murray.
His wine company, Evening Land, makes Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from Oregon, California and Burgundy. Dominique Lafon, one of the true stars of Burgundy, is the consulting winemaker for the Oregon side of the project, and the most visible face for it. Tarlov also got some of America’s leading sommeliers involved early on, including Rajat Parr of Michael Mina and RN74, Daniel Johnnes of Restaurant Daniel and Bernie Sun of Jean-Georges.
More connections: Tarlov began his wine business by offering custom bottlings, made from purchased grapes in California, for restaurateurs he already knew as a customer, including Thomas Keller, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Daniel Boulud and Alain Ducasse. Those wines were only intended for wine-by-the-glass programs, but he saw other possibilities. “It was a Trojan horse,” he said. "I was the Spartan in the tail ready to pounce."
That’s how Tarlov got the sommeliers involved, a brilliant tack that created an immediate market for the wines he really wanted to make: Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays in Oregon, California and Burgundy.
To get there, he used more connections. He got Lafon interested in Oregon through Véronique Drouhin-Boss, who makes wine for her family’s firm, Domaine Drouhin, and for Domaine Drouhin Oregon. Lafon came on board for Oregon, and he started making wines in Burgundy separately from his Comte Lafon wines, for Evening Land and for his own label.
Then there is the art of the deal, a staple of the movie biz. Tarlov assembled one of the more audacious deals in Oregon wine, reuniting the two halves of Seven Springs Vineyard in the Eola-Amity Hills AVA. It had been split by a family dispute, but Tarlov managed to secure leases with options to buy on both parts, and now has the vineyard exclusively.
Of course, none of that would matter if the wines did not live up to the billing. So far, the Oregon wines are the stars. The first vintage, 2007, produced a stunning pair of Chardonnays, which I rated 94 and 93 points. Their balance, power and distinct minerality mark them as turning points for Oregon, great wines and influential over other producers of Chardonnay. Because the 2007 vintage was more of a challenge for Pinot Noir, these Chardonnays quickly overshadowed Evening Land’s first-release Pinots.
In a way, it’s not surprising that Chardonnay did so well. Lafon is famous for his white Burgundies, and his touch is palpable in the Oregon wines. In particular, I was taken with how transparently they expressed the stony terroir.
Last week Tarlov and I sat down at RN74 to taste through the Evening Land 2008s. Hands down, the stars were the Oregon wines. If anything the Chardonnays are a step up from 2007, which seemed to expand on the previous vintage with more depth and, at the same, more transparency.
I will taste the wines officially for publication as they are released, but as a preview, this is the vintage that should establish Evening Land's Pinot Noirs, with their pure fruit character, elegance and refinement, mingling with minerality on the long finishes. “You singlehandedly made us into a Chardonnay house,” Tarlov joked, referencing my high scores for the 2007s. “Now when we go around to show the wines, people say, ‘Oh you make Pinot Noir, too?’”
The California wines in the tasting are due for release later this year under the same oval Evening Land label. The only visible difference will be the appellation. For the California wines, I liked the peach puree character in a 2008 Chardonnay sourced from Sanford & Benedict Vineyard, but I found the entry-level 2008 Pinot Noir a bit rough in texture, tart and chewy. It’s not nearly as welcoming as the comparable bottling from Oregon, which was supple and offered earthy plum and cherry flavors. Both sell for $25.
Starting with the 2010 vintage, the Evening Land label will include eight Pinot Noirs from California, four from Oregon, and a series of village and premier cru-level bottlings from Burgundy. Prices start at $25 for the basic level and go up to $150. They’re worth seeking out.

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