Forward-thinking has served Francis Ford Coppola in his pursuits in film, wine, hospitality and now cannabis.
At the helm of much of this business is Corey Beck. Early last year, he was promoted to CEO of The Family Coppola, which runs Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, Virginia Dare Winery (formerly, Geyser Peak), Domaine de Broglie vineyard and tasting room in Oregon, Great Women Spirits, film production company American Zoetrope, art and literature magazine Zoetrope, Mammarella Foods pastas and sauces, and Cafe Zoetrope in San Francisco.
Coppola himself leads luxury Napa Valley winery Inglenook. Late last year, he started a personal venture, The Grower's Series, a cannabis-focused brand produced with North Coast partners.
Beck came to Francis Ford Coppola Winery in 1998 as assistant winemaker, then rose to winemaker, general manager and finally president and director of winemaking. He's also a partner in Safe Harbor Wine Storage, a Napa company that offers 3.5 million gallons of bulk storage for area vintners.
Wine production is estimated to be 1.8 million cases annually, according to Wine Business Monthly.
Ahead of his panel discussion at the Business Journal's Wine Industry Conference on Thursday, we talked with Beck about the company's long-running venture into the some of the hottest trends in premium wine (rose, sparkling wine and cans), the velocity of demand for upscale wine, the rise of Gen X and millennials, and winery destination marketing.
What are hot trends in the premium wine business these days?
As the economy goes, sometimes, so does people’s choice in terms of wine, in terms of moving up the ladder. So we’ve seen this growth within price points. The price point right now that seems to be doing well is $15 retail — doing extremely well.
Part of that is growth we’ve seen on the on-premise side and with some of the (wine brand) purchases, wanting to get into that segment. Some of the wineries that maybe haven’t played in that segment before. It takes a few large wineries and all of a sudden, they can push into the retail world and make it a little more accessible for our customers.
Over the course of the last 10 years, and maybe a little bit longer in California, technology (has increased) in the vineyards and wineries. The wines we’re making now as an industry are incredible, from the low end to the mid tier to the high end. We’re continuing to evolve and make our products, plus our packaging, more unique and different. All of those things add up, and they can warrant higher pricing.
So “premiumization” is hardly yesterday’s news?
It’s been a journey. These things don’t just happen overnight. Think about Sonoma County and the pledge that (Sonoma County) Winegrowers made to make all 60,000 acres (of grapes) grown here 100% sustainable. We’re 97% there now; in 2020 we’ll be 100% sustainable, the first (American Viticultural Area) in the United States to do that.
All of those little things that we’re doing are working. We’re continuing to tell a story. We’re continuing to add value to our customers, and that will help warrant a higher price.
You mentioned technology that’s come along with different types of packaging. You have been out on the forefront with wine in cans, starting with Sofia. How challenging was it to get that started and moved along?
We launched our Sofia in minis in 2003. We were the only one the time. And so we were for the longest time trying to get people to get into the market, so it would help not just with our sets but also being able to have a category. And now — be careful what you wish for — everybody’s coming out with a can.
Wine business insights
Wine business insights
These key players on the California North and Central coast and in Oregon talk about what’s coming for the industry and layout of the marketplace now.
David Duncan, proprietor, chairman and CEO, Silver Oaks Cellars
Corey Beck, CEO and winemaking chief, Francis Ford Coppola Winery
Bob Torkelson, president and CEO, Trinchero Family Estates
Alex Ryan, president and CEO, Duckhorn Wine Company
Dan Baker, executive vice president, Korbel
Michelle Benvenuto, executive director, Winegrowers of Napa County
Ron Denner, Denner Vineyards
Cam Baker, proprietor, Larkmead Vineyards
Tom Bonomi, president and CEO, Price Family Vineyards & Winery
Steven W. Spadarotto, Far Niente Wine Estates
Sarah House, director and senior economist, Wells Fargo
They are set to speak at North Bay Business Journal’s Wine Industry Conference in Santa Rosa on April 18.