Before We Can Taste Wines...We Gotta Find Them

We are gearing up for a trip to Italy with a goal of soon adding wines from Piedmont and Tuscany to the VDLT portfolio.  This will be a combination of deeper dives with estates we already know and hunting for new prospects.


In a recent Drink Distinct blog, "Our Standards Are Very High", I explained the criteria we consider when selecting wines for the VDLT Community.  But this is only half (or maybe less) of the story.  


Small, Distinct Winemakers Are Usually Off The Grid


Before we even have the chance to talk with a winemaker or taste the wines, there is an extensive process we must navigate.  Remember, we seek out small producers, whose wines are either not or just barely in the US.  We can't simply subscribe to the major wine review publications and contact the ones with the best scores.


Leveraging Our Extensive Wine Network


So, we have to be resourceful. This is where the image of wine hunting as glamorous quickly gets tarnished.  This is hard and time consuming work.


Our Producers


It starts with our VDLT winemakers.  They introduce us to others in their region (like Christine Dubreuil turning us on to Stéphanie Courtault-Michelet) but some of them also know colleagues in other regions or countries.  Alexis Pichon personally escorted us to meet Thibaut Girin. This is likely our most effective method but it doesn't help in a new country for us, like Italy.


Our Friends & Members


We travel alot and we visit many wine estates but our experiences pale in comparison to that of our friends and fellow VDLT'ers.  As I write this, members Jack and In-Young are touring Italy looking for recommendations and visiting vineyards.


Restaurant, Wine & Hospitality Professionals


Everywhere we go, here and abroad, when we meet people who impress us with their wine experience, we tell them about our quest and ask for suggestions.  We have visited some very interesting wineries as a result and one is currently under consideration, thanks to our friends at La Chiusa in Montefollonico.


Ask For The Unfamiliar Wines


Across Europe, when we eat at restaurants, we scan the wine lists and ask sommeliers for names we don't know.  One of the winemakers, we will visit in Montepulciano next month resulted from ordering their Rosso at a lunch spot in beautiful Pienza during a trip last year.  The next night we found their Vino Nobile Riserva with dinner.  We were impressed by both and have contacted the estate.


Read, Read & Read Some More


We scan and monitor books, websites, publications, etc., that offer perspectives on the European wine world.  One of our soon-to-be-introduced Burgundy discoveries resulted from a consensus opinion on a British on-line wine forum.


Engaging with Estates


With the research done and prospects identified, we must introduce ourselves, explain our model and request a visit.  Given time and language differences this can be challenging - not to mention that these are hardworking folks who spend most of their time in the vineyards and cellar not minding email and phones.


More to come about the process and please follow the rest of the lead-up and the actual trip on VDLT's Instagram, Facebook and Twitter feeds.