CREATING A LUXURY BRAND
. . . creating luxurious wines . . . shared with those who recognize value . . .
Creating ValueThere's an old saying, "wine is made in the vineyard" and that's where we started!
Wines from a single grape variety will show different flavor characteristics when the grapes are grown in different vineyard locations. The qualities of different vineyard areas, referred to as terroir, can be examined by multiple criteria, including,
- Climate – weather patterns, sun aspect, water supply, etc.
- Geographical - the physical features of the area
- Geological – the physical structure and substance of the vineyard
- Soil Chemistry - the nutrient composition of the soil
- Microbiome - the biological quality of the soil
- Physiology – the biological strength of the vines
After acquiring our first vineyard site we began working with the soil chemistry, digging 10,000 holes in the vineyards to evaluate soil nutrient composition; comparing that composition against the soils of Bordeaux vineyards that produced exceptional wines for centuries.
We also engaged in soil microbiome studies using artificial intelligence and data science to provide a functional interpretation of soil microbiome.
Using this data we were able to develop a more holistic microbiome approach combined with our soil amendment and enrichment methodology.
Applied as part of a certified sustainable farming program we achieved natural maintenance of soil health, enhanced crop productivity and increased varietal flavor profiles without the need for chemical fertilizers.
We were then able to create a ranking of vineyard locations, essentially a ranking of the “terroir” of select vineyards in Napa and Sonoma Counties.
Consistency ValueRanking wine is considered important for the consumer because it indicates whether a wine of a particular year is good or not. Magazines and web sites rank wines typically using Robert Parker's one-hundred point scale (which illogically starts at 51).
Of course it becomes confusing for the consumer when every wine on the planet appears to have been ranked between 85 and 95, indicating that wine reviewers believe there is only a 10% difference between mediocre wine and great wine; obviously embodying the failings of a numerical scale to judge a wine by collapsing a multi-dimensional entity down to one dimension.
However, we are less enamored with blind tasting than the ecosystem, so we have scientifically chosen our specific vineyard varietal and terroir then applied the discipline required to produce quality fruit, resulting in achieving a very good wine consistently year after year.
Even if in one year a vintage is affected by some external condition like fire or frost, the diversity of plantings and varietals across a series of vineyards throughout several counties stills allows us to produce consistently good wines.
We acquire vineyards either by purchasing the property or leasing the vineyard and creating a set of farming protocols focused on each individual vineyard.
After agreeing to terms with the landowners to lease small, perfectly situated vineyards in Napa, Sonoma and Lake Counties, our Williamson team takes over management of the vineyard practices to grow low-yield, high-quality premium grapes producing a set of wines called “Icons” that are only available to club members.
Occasionally, in a year of optimal vintage when all the growing factors have aligned, we also make series of “Reserve" and "Library” wines.
Reserve wines are made in small quantities carefully crafted with very similar blends to the historically significant Bordeaux Premier Cru Chateaux wines. These wines are identified by their (reversed) white label instead of the traditional Williamson black label.
Library wines are made in very small quantities from those barrels containing the finest examples of the wines. Considered “best-of-the-best” these extraordinary wines are made exclusively to Bill's taste to reflect the best his vineyard management, winemaking and blending efforts can produce.
Bill believes creating an exceptional range of luxury Bordeaux style wines from California's richer, riper fruit instead of simply creating yet another “Napa Cab” is a worthy challenge and explains his thinking behind it:
- “I understand why Napa and Sonoma winemaking has often been separated.
Napa, with its rich soils and higher temperatures produces powerful, long lasting Cabernet Sauvignon that fetch significantly higher prices and become the privilege of a happy few.
To me, Napa is California’s Left Bank"
“Sonoma has an extreme diversity of terroir influenced by its close proximity to the Pacific Coast.
Much of the soil is sand over clay and gravel in a series of smaller valleys featuring cool nights and temperate days.
Sonoma farming families produce wonderful Merlot, Cabernet Franc and cooler climate Cabernet Sauvignon.
To me, Sonoma is California’s Right Bank”
What about the loss of the attractive "Napa" appellation on your wine label when you blend across these areas?
American wine is sold through a three-tier distribution system. Generally the consumer rarely has more than minimal insight about the winery, the winemaker or the vineyards. Often, choosing a wine is based on a cliché, like, “if it’s a Cab it should have Napa on the label.”
In California, for instance, a vintage-dated Sonoma County wine can include up to 25 percent of other varieties. In addition, up to 15 percent of the wine could come from other appellations and 5 percent from a vintage other than the one on the label. Naturally Bill has a comment about this practice:
- “I am an Australian winemaker with vineyards in Napa and Sonoma, both among the most prestigious, high-quality wine producing appellations in the world.
- Land here is expensive, as are the costs of growing grapes and making wine here.
I do it because of the unique quality and beauty of the wines we can produce here.
I make wines as single-vineyard, single-varietal wines expressing the terroir of their appellation. I make and bottle all five of the Bordeaux Nobel reds as standalone wines and they proudly carry their Napa or Sonoma appellation heritage.
I also appreciate the best qualities of each appellation and blend those standalone wines to produce wines of tradition and elegance.
My blended wines are not distributed to restaurants and stores so I have little concern for appellation or varietal on the label. My customers are not choosing my wine by its label in some supermarket, they actually taste and appreciate the flavor and consistency year over year to determine their own favorites and have them delivered as a regular wine club allocation."
Williamson wines are only available to an elite group of customers via their wine club. Their customer network ranges from individuals and families to professionals and business leaders.
Wine club members remain members of Williamson for years, as Bill says,
- “Our club members are genuine wine lovers, having tasted our wines they decided to join us and have a small allocation of our wines delivered on a regular basis.
- Some are happy to receive their regular wine shipment, perhaps modifying it over time to match their personal taste. We offer a selection of over forty wines each year and have created pairings for virtually every food preference.
- Many members like getting together, which is something we’ve supported for decades now, enjoying parties, trips and dinners together.
- It’s a fun circle and many have become friends as a result of their membership.”
We also offer unique club membership for wine lovers engaged in socially conscious service professions with fixed income levels like first responder fire, police and EMT workers, teachers, nurses and active serving military personnel.
Selling the wines only by allocation to club members was the original Williamson concept and over twenty years the club has grown, as Bill indicates,
- “Our membership growth is organic and people stick to it because they like the wine, the food pairings and the sense of community developed by attending events with fellow members who have similar tastes and who, over time, have become friends.
- We may have thousands of members but our team still caters to every member as an individual with respect and friendship.”
Seven months of the year the Williamson team provide multiple parties while twice each year they host food and wine adventure trips with destinations that have included Australia, Greece, Italy, France, Spain, England and Monaco.
Epicurean dinners, an intimate gathering of ten to twelve club members over six courses with wines to match, are held on the first Friday every month at the Home Ranch and individual dinners are available to members on application.
Each year the beginning of harvest is celebrated with a spit-roasted pork feast while the end of harvest is celebrated with a lobster feast. Both events are held with club members in the estate vineyards.
The Williamson Epicurean Kitchen, staffed by an expert creative culinary team, develops recipes to pair with the wines and provides daily exhibitions of food and wine pairings.
New recipes are developed for each wine in every allocation shipment with more than five hundred easy-to-make recipes already published, many supported by videos available on the Williamson Wines YouTube channel.
Bill also works with highly regarded winemakers in Australia and France, under his umbrella of “Sister Wineries” to produce limited releases of premium wines via an auxiliary “Cellar Club” providing one bottle from “Bill’s Cellar” each shipment. either a sister winery or one of Bill's Reserve wines. This club is available only to existing wine club members.
Optional Auxiliary clubs include the Cheese Club which provides different cheese selections paired with the wines of each allocation.
The Spice Club provides a sampling of all-natural spices paired with recipes and wines.
A range of all-natural gourmet foods such as jams, mustards and salts are also available to enhance food flavors when paired with Williamson wines.
These auxiliary club products enable members to experience greater enjoyment from their food and wine choices in their own home every day.
Wine Value, usually reflected in its Price, is a combination of Demand + Cost + Quality + Availability. Williamson truly measures up as great value.
At the end of the day is it a science project, a winery, a culinary adventure, a travel club or a tight-knit group of food and wine lovers who like to party together?
It's actually all of these things and more! A real luxury brand delivering true value to a limited group of fortunate people.