Liviri Vino & Eagle Rock Fulfillment
For the more than 1,600 registered wineries occupying prime soil in California’s Napa Valley, fall marks the start of the big show.
This annual kickoff, known in wine parlance as ‘the crush’, signifies when ripe grapes are pulled from statuesque rows of colorful vines and made into exquisite wines. With temperate weather across most of the U.S., autumn is also prime time for shipping the end product. Lots of it.
The $1.5 billion in wine shipped directly to consumers from Napa County wineries in 2019, according to SOVOS ShipCompliant and Wines Vines Analytics, represented almost half the total value of the nationwide direct to consumer (DtC) shipping channel. Unlike commonly shipped items, however, this flow is less steady than the numbers reveal.
Extreme temperatures are the culprit, making wine shipping holds commonplace. And a seasonal business model influenced by unpredictable weather has become a persistent headache for wineries and their distribution partners.
Giving a Year Go-Round a Go
In late summer and early fall 2019, Liviri traveled to Napa to test and implement its sustainable solution for year-round wine shipping. Liviri Vino is a reusable container designed for safely moving wine across hot and cold climates. Available in four- and six-bottle configurations, precision padding keeps bottles safe from breakage, while reusable coolant and aerospace-grade insulation create a thermally fine-tuned ecosystem inside the box.
Eagle Rock Fulfillment Inc., a personalized wine storage and wine shipping company located in the heart of Napa partnered in the trial, testing Liviri with high-end local wineries and their subscription-based customers spread across the US.
Eagle Rock’s stacked-to-the-ceiling 42,000 square-foot facility specializes in serving boutique wineries — vineyards that produce no more than 3,000 cases. Seasonal wine shipping holds at Eagle Rock and similar wine distribution businesses are the norm. For that reason, sales and warehouse staff play the ad-hoc role of amateur meteorologists, monitoring temperatures across the country and pinpointing opportunities to safely send bottles out the door.
“Any kind of entrepreneurial business is full of risks and hurdles. You have to be willing and able to deal with them, and to be agile. It’s a constant education,” said Bill Myers, owner and president at Eagle Rock. “With Liviri Vino we are drastically minimizing those holds, if not completely eliminating them. This allows us to maintain a consistent shipping volume year-round.”
View From the Warehouse
At Eagle Rock, summer is an historically sticky time for wine shipping. As Napa shifts into fall, however, cooler weather opens up key shipping opportunities. In come the trucks, out go the pallets.
“Everything we have on hold, we push it out the door — before the weather changes again and winter sets in,” Kerry Smith, Eagle Rock’s sales account manager, explained.
When fall shifts to winter, additional shipping bottlenecks ensue. States across the Northeast and those at altitude, in the Rockies for example, can see subzero temps for weeks on end. And when chilly weather meets traditional carboard and styrofoam wine packaging, the results can be detrimental for wine.
“In the winter, wine expands with the colder temps. When that happens we have wine corks pop and it’s wine everywhere,” said Eagle Rock warehouse manager, Eddie Villa. “There are a lot of wine connoisseurs who, even if their labels are a little stained, don’t want the product anymore. They’re that particular.”
Choosing the right packaging for improved thermal protection helps ease the concerns of wine lovers on the receiving end, Villa noted. Additionally, specific packaging types, from standard pulp and styrofoam options to reusable containers such as Liviri, play a significant role in ensuring Villa’s day-to-day operations run smoothly.
“I’m looking for convenience. With Liviri, I don’t need three different areas for all my packaging materials. The Liviri box is there and it’s ready to go,” Villa said. “I also like that the packaging is sturdy. Your wine won’t be damaged in transit.”
Empowering Premium Vineyards
The Vineyard House Winery opened its door in 2005. But its history in the Napa Valley is the stuff of legend. Owner Jeremy Nickel is the son of Far Niente Winery founder Gil Nickel, who passed away in 2003. The Vineyard House operation is now dedicated to Gil’s legacy — one deeply rooted in the production of premier cabernet sauvignons.
Craig Norris is director of sales and operations at the winery. Wine shipping holds are something the business regularly contends with for years, and Norris was excited to learn more about a reusable container that addressed his extreme weather concerns.
“When our fulfillment house, Eagle Rock, told us about the pilot opportunity to ship wine during the ridiculously hot summer months we jumped all over it — because it’s been a thorn in our side for as long as I can remember,” Norris said.
“When our customers order wine in areas that are too warm for shipments, Texas and Las Vegas, for instance, the wine can be put on hold for as long as six months,” he continued. “So, this was a great opportunity for us to take orders, to ship wine, and to have happy customers seven days later.”
Wine Lovers Want More
To better understand attitudes and perceptions regarding thermally protective wine packaging, Liviri deployed an online quantitative survey to gauge the satisfaction of consumers who purchased wine from Eagle Rock during the pilot study.
The majority (92 percent) of those surveyed said they’ve experienced shipment delays due to warm, wine-cooking temperatures.
These same digital wine buyers also identified Liviri Vino as a preferred option for eliminating seasonal roadblocks. With Liviri Vino as a shipping option, 88 percent of consumers said they were more comfortable ordering wine during summer months, while 76 percent said they were more likely to continue using a service such as Eagle Rock that offers the Liviri Vino shipper.
In summary, from pilot participant Craig, in Las Vegas:
“The wine arrived today, as scheduled and, against all odds: IT’S STILL COLD!!!! Holy cow. The new wine shipping system rocks like a big dog.”