April 2012

Going Coastal

By: David Gadd

No one who has ever walked an ocean shore is immune to the allure of those translucent pebbles known as sea glass—jewel-colored bits of broken bottles, worn smooth by the waves and polished by the sand. Their soft colors reflect the deep secret of the sea and their inner glow hints of treasure soon to be revealed.

Trinchero Family Estates (TFE) sought to capture the magic of these haunting stones in a wine brand. SeaGlass is designed to appeal to the beachcomber in everyone. The line debuted in 2008 with a varietal Sauvignon Blanc that has become a runaway success. A Riesling was added in 2010; Chardonnay and Pinot Noir followed in 2011. A Pinot Gris will be released in May of this year, adding yet another wildly popular varietal to the portfolio, which is line-priced at a very summery $9.99.

The SeaGlass Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc catch some waves.
“Stylistically, everything comes from the coast—from Santa Barbara to Monterey,” explains Jason Hart, National Accounts Marketing Manager for brand owner Trinchero Family Estates. In keeping with the coastal theme, the sleek, clean SeaGlass packaging has a rustic beachside vibe that practically demands an Adirondack chair and sunblock. But surprisingly, the California-based brand has established a beachhead in markets on the other coast.

“Traditional wine-volume states—California, Florida, Illinois—are not where this brand has the most traction,” Hart notes. Currently, Massachusetts is the largest market, with 17 percent of the business, and the Northeast region accounts for a whopping 39 percent of all SeaGlass sales.

Wine retailers—especially those within a beach ball’s toss of the Atlantic—are dazzled by SeaGlass, as are their customers. “I knew as soon as I saw it that SeaGlass was a wine for us,” says Andrea Pendergast, owner/manager of the Cape Cod Package Store in Centerville, MA (see sidebar). Her fine wine and liquor store was one of the first to stock the brand, beginning with the debut of the SeaGlass Sauvignon Blanc in 2008. She notes that sales doubled between the brand’s introduction and the following year, and that sales have remained strong long well after the launch—“something you can’t say about many brands.”

At Curtis Liquors locations in coastal Weymouth and Cohasset, south of Boston (see sidebar), owner Rick Curtis notes that his customers gravitate toward SeaGlass because of the beach-inspired concept. “But some ‘concept’ wines have come and then gone,” Curtis notes, “because the wine in the bottle didn’t back it up. The thing that keeps customers coming back is what’s in the bottle—and SeaGlass has that.”

On-premise accounts, too, have found a secure place for SeaGlass on their lists—especially when paired with the day’s catch. Important nationwide chain The Oceanaire Seafood Room, for example, offers its customers a near-irresistible deal: a dozen fresh-shucked oysters with a chilled bottle of crisp Seaglass Sauvignon Blanc for a fixed price. At Burtons Grill, an upscale American grill with seven locations on the Eastern seaboard (and three more on the way), the SeaGlass Sauvignon Blanc is a by-the-glass staple. “SeaGlass started as a summer special and went over well, so we added it permanently,” says co-founder and COO Kevin Rowell, who notes the brand’s value aspect. “Our customers are looking on the affordable side of the list these days.”

With a brand that delivers on both the visual and value fronts, TFE has a clear winner in SeaGlass.

She Sells SeaGlass by the Seashore: Cape Cod Package Store

Owner/manager Andrea Pendergast at the Cape Code Package Store, where SeaGlass is a huge seller.

Unlike the “summer people” who flock to Cape Cod, Andrea Pendergast grew up there. Her grandfather founded the Cape Cod Package Store in 1939, and her father, John, took over the business in the 1950s. Although her dad “never really retired,” Andrea now runs the operation, which, in celebration of its 70th anniversary, underwent a major renovation two years ago. “We’re not your everyday packy!” she says with considerable pride (and bit of New England jargon).

SeaGlass was a no-brainer for this busy wine and liquor emporium, which was one of the first accounts to carry the brand when it launched in 2008. “Around here, the beach becomes part of your make-up,” Andrea says. “That name—SeaGlass—was key for us in making the decision to carry the brand,” says Andrea, who has collected sea glass since she was a child. “The label is beautiful, and they do a great marketing job.”

With more and more year-round residents on the Cape, Andrea’s customer base has expanded considerably. But whether they’re Cape Cod dwellers or seasonal visitors, “the ocean has a tendency to attract people,” and SeaGlass has become a staple for shoppers headed for beachside get-togethers. SeaGlass varietals can also be found in Andrea’s in-store Enomatic, for try-before-you-buy tastings.

Which SeaGlass varietal do Cape customers like best? “The Sauvignon Blanc is hands-down the best seller,” says Andrea, who was convinced SeaGlass would be a huge hit on her shelves the minute she saw it. “Now it has a life of its own.”

Coastal Enthusiasm: Curtis Liquors

Rick Curtis, owner of Curtis Liquors, with his SeaGlass display.

Rick Curtis didn’t waste any time finding his life’s calling: He started his own liquor store his first summer out of college, in 1976. Now, 36 years later, Curtis Liquors has two 15,000- and 20,000-square-foot coastal Massachusetts locations, in Weymouth and Cohasset. Wine has soared from 18 percent of Rick’s sales in his first year to more than 50 percent today—a statistic that he attributes largely to the famous 1991 “French paradox” segment on 60 Minutes: “It catapulted our industry.”
Rick decides on all new products for the stores and bought SeaGlass “the minute it came out.” When considering new brands, the savvy retailer has what he calls a litmus test: “When my distributor comes to me not just with a good product, but with a national program of advertising and creative POS materials, it’s hard for me to say no.”

With the TFE team doing their work, Rick also kicks in enthusiastically with his own marketing efforts. “When I bring a product in and it shows that it has legs, I start to advertise—local full-page ads, the marquee on the store. You have to continue that work of marketing that the supplier has already started. And you’ve got to have tastings!” Rick can taste a thousand potential customers on the brand within three hours. “That’s how you build a brand.”

His efforts pay off. Rick moved 500 cases of SeaGlass last year, 80 percent of it the Sauvignon Blanc, so it’s easy to see why the savvy retailer is keen on this brand, as are his customers—and, as he says, “There’s no question about it: they are customers.”

And when the SeaGlass Pinot Gris launches in May? “I’ll have my arms wide open!” 


Beachy-Keen Pinots

A Santa Barbara Pinot Noir is the sole red in the SeaGlass portfolio. “Crisp, clean and charming with tangy red cherry and lively acidity—an amazing value!” says THE TASTING PANEL’s Editor-in-Chief Anthony Dias Blue.

Popular varietal Pinot Gris will be the next member of the SeaGlass lineup, launching next month. Retailers can expect brisk sales on beach-going days.

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