A Rise in Self-Distribution?

So a trend I've been noticing here in Seattle is a rather rapid rise in the number of Washington (and even Oregon) wineries that are choosing to self-distribute their wines in Seattle. I know that for many of you this isn't a thing you'd see, but for those of you in markets with a local wine industry, are you also noticing any changes in how wineries are distributing their wares?

  • When I was in Santa Cruz, CA, years ago (like the 90s), there were a number of local producers who did this. Eventually, most ended up going with brokers (who claimed to somehow be different than distributors even though, they basically did everything distributors did including show me the wines, bring me the wines, and take my money).

    Here in NC, there's not much of a local wine scene, but I'm finding more and more local breweries who are self distributing and/or signing up with distributors who rep them statewide but not in the local market. We do have one winery about 45 minutes away who does sell to us directly.
  • Most Texas wineries are actually all with the same distributor and have been for years, except a few of the somewhat newer guys deciding to only sell direct to consumer through their wine club.
  • In reply to Charlie Deal:

    To caveat Charlie, we're also bound to buy solely from distributors. No auctions, direct or cellar consignment for us :-(
  • I know of a few wineries that do this in Seattle, mostly smaller production folks. Depending on the portfolio of the specific distributor they would otherwise be working with, it wouldn't surprise me if a lot of small wineries don't see the expected returns from a distributor who operates with a large portfolio. If you can hire one person to work a single, local market, and make a better margin off of the wine you're selling at the same time, the math starts to work out pretty quickly if that person and the winemaker build decent relationships with the buyers at restaurants and wine shops.
  • Self-distribution is definitely a thing for local breweries, wineries, and distilleries in Pennsylvania. Outside of anything made in the state, our system is state run and all purchases go through a state store at the state's markup, typically retail, even for restaurant purchasing. PA distilleries/wineries are able to sell in bulk to the state, but also sell direct to consumer (or restaurant), including shipping direct or direct delivery (something else we aren't able to do yet within the existing state run stores). Delivering direct lets the winery or distillery make a little more money per bottle (they're mandated to sell to consumer at the same price the product is for sale in the store, but without having to sell to a middle-man at a lower price.)

    For breweries, a lot of these are self-distributed since they don't make enough product to go with a bigger distributor and be able to keep the product in stock with them. We are a state with an ever-growing population of tiny breweries.