Wine.com, the top online retailer of wine in the United States, this week released its annual list of best-sellers, and the Pacific Northwest placed eight within the year’s top 100.
The group includes three wines produced by Ste. Michelle Wine Estates and two King Estate — the region’s two largest companies — as well as smaller Pinot Noir producers from Oregon in Chehalem Wines and Domaine Serene.
“This IS a new world and web marketing of wine is the new paradigm,” Harry Peterson-Nedry, founding winemaker for Chehalem Wines in Newberg, told Great Northwest Wine via email.
King Estate leads the list at No. 26 with its 2011 Signature Collection Pinot Gris, Oregon, which sells on wine.com at $15.99.
The rest of the Pacific Northwest wines on the list include:
No. 27 — Chateau Ste. Michelle & Dr. Loosen Eroica 2011 Riesling, Columbia Valley, $22. It was highest-rated white wine in the top 30 based on the 93 points it received from Wine Spectator.
No. 43 — Domaine Serene 2008 Evenstad Reserve Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $66.99
No. 67 — A to Z 2011 Pinot Noir, Oregon, $18.99
No. 74 — Columbia Crest 2010 H3 Cabernet Sauvignon, Horse Heaven Hills, $14.99
No. 79 — Chehalem Wines 2010 Three Vineyard Pinot Noir, Willamette Valley, $29.99
No. 80 — King Estate 2011 Acrobat Pinot Noir, Oregon, still available at $14.99
No. 84 — Columbia Crest 2010 Two Vines Cabernet Sauvignon, Columbia Valley, $9
“Being on there proves we have a solid relationship with wine.com and that the internet sales platform does work,” Peterson-Nedry said.
It’s also a revenue stream that the wineries appear willing to continue. In many instances, Wine.com offers its customers the option of purchasing the next available vintage.
“We do have a longstanding relationship with wine.com, wineaccess, and now Amazon, so we’re convinced that selling wine over the web is a bona fide method that, if projections I’ve heard for general web vs. brick-and-mortar sales distribution are valid, will be dominant very soon for retail,” Peterson-Nedry said.
eVineyard.com group acquired Wine.com in 2001
Wine.com’s history dates to 1998 when the San Francisco-based retailer was founded by Michael Osborn as eVineyard.com. Three years later, Osborn and his group purchased Wine.com, and Stanford grad Rich Bergsund took over the role of CEO in 2006. The next year, wine.com began publishing its top 100 list, which is generated from sales during the first 11 months of each year.
Pricing is part of wine.com’s success. In some instances, the wines are sold several dollars below the winery’s listed retail price. For example, the 2011 Acrobat is sold $5 off the MSRP. However, in the case of the current vintage of the 3 Vineyard Pinot Noir — 2011 — wine.com offers it at $29.99. That’s a $1 more than Chehalem sells it on its own site.
“How much wine we sell has varied year-to-year, based on any programming by wine.com and based on price, although we encourage the retailer not to play with price much,” Peterson-Nedry said. “Of course, that is their prerogative.”
Many American consumers continue to rely on numerical ratings from large publications. Wine.com often publishes scores from Wine Spectator, Wine Advocate, Wine Enthusiast and Wine & Spirits with wines that it sells. Of the top 100 wines on the list, 81 received 90 or more points, which includes Ste. Michelle’s Eroica.
“It’s great to have Eroica make Wine.com’s Top 100 list because it’s based on customer preferences,” said Chateau Ste. Michelle head winemaker Bob Bertheau. “Ernst Loosen and I work hard on the vineyard selection and blending of this wine so it’s rewarding that consumers are seeking it out. That’s the whole idea, to make a high quality Riesling that people enjoy and change the way they think about Riesling.
“I am thinking this is like the ‘People’s Choice’ awards, and I love the fact that
Eroica is on stage accepting a statue!” Bertheau added.
Price drives traffic, too. Northwest wines often are seen as a value, and five of those regional wines within the best-selling list were sold below $20 per bottle.
Shoppers also seem more willing to embrace alternative closures as 30 of the top 100 wines used screwcaps — including 11 of the top 25 sellers. That’s a trend that Peterson-Nedry appreciates, considering that Chehalem has been on the forefront of that movement in the Pacific Northwest.
However, the continued success of wine.com and other online retailers has Peterson-Nedry concerned about a significant and important component of the wine industry as his winemaking daughter — Wynne — begins to lead Chehalem into the next generation.
“I can understand this move by the consuming population, but it does raise the question of how the service that retail shops or high-end markets provide their customers is going to be given online,” he said. “Education is critical to intelligent wine sales, and it does seem that good sites like wine.com are invested in giving information to potential buyers.”
As of Dec. 5, two of those best-selling Northwest wines still were available on Wine.com — the A to Z and the Acrobat.