Five questions with Neil Aldoroty of 55 Degrees

by TrevR on April 4, 2008

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There are a wide variety of businesses in the Napa Valley, many of which relate to the wine industry, just like you’d expect. We’ve interviewed winemakers, sommeliers, chefs, people running custom crush facilities and more. Today, we’re bringing you an interview with Neil Aldoroty, proprietor of 55 Degrees.

Click to enlarge: front view of 55 Degrees in St. Helena55 Degrees is a wine storage and concierges service located at 1210 Church Street in St. Helena. The company caters to all levels of collectors, investors, enthusiasts, wineries, shops and restaurateurs around the world. Essentially, 55 Degrees provides its customers with the ability to purchase any/all types and volumes of wine with the assurance that it will be properly stored and cared for until they are able to make other arrangements for it. It’s an interesting business, and one we were tipped off to by one of you, our loyal readers.

Read on to learn a bit more about the company, how a Supreme Court ruling on the direct shipping law impacted it and what the slowing economy might mean for the overall business.

CB: First off, tell us about 55 degrees. What is it? Who is the target customer?

Aldoroty: Our customers live all over the world and store their wines with us until they can make other arrangements. We offer different levels of membership depending on what our customers want us to do for them since every wine collector is different. Our membership levels also depend on what our customers affliction for wine collecting is in the first place. We didn’t want to exclude any one who is just starting out collecting wines or an oenophile that has been collecting for years.

CB: How did you decide to start the business and when did you open the St. Helena location?

Aldoroty: We first started looking for our ideal space in Napa Valley back in 1998. We contemplated several locations but thought it best to be centrally located in the heart of the Napa Valley. That way our customers and the wineries/winemakers that we do business with could come by and drop off or pick up their wines without going a great distance or fighting the summer traffic up and down the Valley. We opened our doors in 1999.

CB: What’s been the single biggest surprise you’ve encountered since starting 55 degrees?

Aldoroty: Our biggest surprise has been the appreciation that we receive from our customers, the Napa Valley Vintners, all of the wineries, the winemakers and our community for what we do. Another example was when the US Supreme Court changed the ruling on the direct shipping law. I can’t tell you the overwhelming number of phone calls and emails we received asking us how we felt this decision would effect us or if this would put us out of business. Ironically, that decision has had just the opposite effect on us.

CB: There’s been a lot of talk amongst wine bloggers about the slowing economy and what impact that may have on the wine industry. How’s business? Have you noticed things slowing down at all?

Aldoroty: We’ve all heard about the US economy and how it’s effected all aspects of American life including us wine lovers/drinkers. I’m certain that the majority of us wine collectors have purchased less, but we’re still purchasing wines at a variety of different price points. But as far as 55 Degrees’ experience goes, we have not slowed down one bit. In fact it’s amazing to all of us just how busy we’ve been over the last 14 months.

I feel that as long as we continue to strive for excellent service not only to our customers but the entire wine business in California and beyond, and our community that regardless of where our economy goes we at 55 Degrees will continue to expand and exceed all of our expectations.

CB: What does the future hold for 55 degrees? What is your outlook for the remainder of 2008?

Aldoroty: As we expand we are finding that we need to hire additional qualified individuals who have the same ideology about customer service, community involvement as we do. Karen and I are extremely grateful to our staff who have helped us achieve all of our success and are honored to have become so accepted into the wine community.

CB: Thanks Neil, best of luck!

[techtags: Napa, Napa Valley, wine, winery, wine storage, 55 Degrees, Neil Aldoroty, St. Helena]

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has written 726 posts on The Cork Board. He was born and aged in the Napa Valley and has a passion for wine, writing and social media, which led him to co-found this blog in early 2007. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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