April 17 2010
In the name of research, I just read my first comic book since The Amazing Spider-Man vanquished Kraven the Hunter circa 1986.
In the process of buying Batgirl, issue 9, the first of a four-part series in a mini-story arc called, “The Flood,” I also visited my first comic book store. Complete with floor to ceiling shelving displaying current and vintage comic books, there were hundreds, maybe thousands of comic books, all representing different series, stories and characters – all complete with colorful covers and scant selling information to navigate me, and unfortunately there weren’t any ratings, either. This, of course, gave me a refreshed appreciation for the wine neophyte trying to pick out a wine at a wine shop.
The word “confusion” only begins to describe what an uneducated comic book purchasing experience is like, not dissimilar to the proverbial “wall of wine” that taunts many.
I went to buy Batgirl because I was tipped off to an interesting story angle on a winery. Like any intrepid writer these days, I saw a wall posting on Facebook.
Foppoli wines is a very small producer of white wines in the Russian River Valley. They produce just three wines (two Chardonnay’s and a Sauvignon Blanc) in breathtakingly scant quantities – around a 1000 total cases, depending on the vintage.
Foppoli also has a back story that transcends the wall of wine, an interesting aside that is at the heart of their success.
2006 was the first vintage for Foppoli, started by twentysomething Dominic Foppoli, the General Manager, and his father, Richard, the winemaker.
These days, it’s tough for any small winery to build a business let alone a micro producer of unoaked whites, but Dominic takes an approach that has roots in his family’s lengthy history in viticulture in both California and the old country. People who buy Foppoli wine aren’t customers, they’re “La Famiglia.” In fact, you might not even be able to buy wine until you’re deemed a part of the family.
According to Dominic, he has spent meaningful time with virtually every member of his allocated wine club before or as they were approved to become a part of the wine club, creating not a service-oriented parent-child relationship, but a sense that, “We’re in this together.”
I like this true north approach, similar to customers that support a local artist. The sensibility is, “We put our blood, sweat and tears into this wine, and we really appreciate you, appreciating the wine. We’ll treat you with respect and we expect the same in return.”
Because of this “Extreme approach to creating a personal connection with my wine, my consumers are much more connected to the wines and the experience of drinking them,” said Foppoli.
It’s a bright move and especially counterintuitive and savvy in the face of the luxury allocation model that became de rigueur over the last decade, a sort of twisted and grotesque status grab.
In fact, the Foppoli way of doing business creates a sense of inter-family pride to the extent that Foppoli is earning a rippling of word-of-mouth currency for which much larger wineries would write large checks.
Members of the club have helped facilitate Foppoli wines with placement in TV shows like Dexter and Eastwick and the coup de grace is wine club member Bryan Q. Miller (an up and coming writer for television and comic books) who writes the Batgirl series and placed a bottle of the 1470 Chardonnay into the current issue.
For Foppoli, the Batgirl placement is another benefit of the “La Famiglia,” but don’t expect to see a press release or anything promotionally untoward, instead they’ll keep it within the family, and keep building outwards, one additional relationship at a time.