Today, we’re introducing what we hope to be a somewhat regular feature here on The Cork Board: “Five questions with…” We’ll be working hard to to convince local winemakers, restauranteurs, hoteliers and more to indulge us by answering a few of our questions, which we’ll then post in Q&A form on the blog. Let us know who you’d like to hear from!
We’ve written before about The Three Thieves and its unique approach to winemaking and marketing. Having lived in the Napa Valley for nearly 30 years, we’ve certainly been interested in learning more about Three Thieves’ fresh approach.
We were lucky enough to track-down Charles Bieler (Three Thieves’ ‘Urban Cowboy’) earlier this week to fire off a few questions. Read-on to learn more about Bieler’s approach to business, marketing (including web 2.0 technologies such as MySpace), winemaking and more.
CB: The Three Thieves brand seems to be all about taking a bit of a contrarian stance on wine making and marketing, particularly when compared to the traditional Napa Valley winery. Talk to us a bit about the overarching strategy and thinking there.
Bieler: Yeah, that’s perceptive. I’m a total contrarian by nature. If everyone is going one way, I need to go the other. I feel that the wine business often takes itself far too seriously, and there’s too much elitism associated. THREE THIEVES was founded on challenging all that and bringing good value in different formats (jugs, boxes, off beat labels, and niche categories).
CB: With so many external factors coming into play throughout the winemaking process, how does Three Thieves maintain quality while differentiating itself from the competition?
Bieler: On the winemaking side, we started by chasing down buying opportunities and bottling small unique lots. Every lot was a little different than another. We weren’t so focused on always having the same varietal or the wine tasting exactly the same each time as long as it represented good value and exceeded expectations. Today, with bigger volumes and more buying power we are able to lock into bigger lots, so we have more consistency and availability.
CB: It’s no secret that wine buyers have traditionally skewed to the older demographic, but things are certainly changing. In fact, data released last week by the Wine Market Council showed younger buyers’ willingness to buy wine from anywhere in the world using the Internet. Does Three Thieves look to bridge the gap between the older, more traditional wine buyer and those in the younger demographic? If so, how?
Bieler: Ultimately we make wines and create brands that amuse and appeal to us more than chasing a particular customer. There’s no real grand plan, we just go, and see where it takes us. It’s great that younger consumers are getting more excited about wine. Probably the majority of our customers are on the younger side, though I think more than anything, the common link between our customers is more about being open minded and adventurous, over being of a certain age or sex.
CB: Your latest release, The Show, incorporates the style, packaging and marketing we’ve come to expect from Three Thieves. In fact, you guys even setup a MySpace page as part of the release. How did that idea come about and what’s been the general reception so far?
Bieler: Cool, glad you like THE SHOW. It was a great honor to work with the legendary poster shop, HATCH SHOW PRINT. We’d done some posters with them and I’d always dreamed of using their art to create a label. Eventually I was able to convince them. The response has been VERY strong.
Why MySpace? I draw my promoting inspiration more from the music world, than the wine world, and MySpace is standard for music promo. It’s a natural.
CB: Outside of your own wines of course, what’s in your personal wine collection?
Bieler: I cut my teeth in this biz through my families former winery in Provence, France (Chateau Routas) so my palate is more tuned into the great value wines of Southern France. There are all sorts of new small wineries throughout the south making really exciting and more value oriented wines. I’m also a huge dry rose fan, and even make one myself, BIELER Pere et Fils (Provence).
CB: Thanks Charles!