THE REORDER 03/15/19

My Classic F%*+ ups in the Sales Game

Listing my classic my classic F%*+ ups in the sales game and how to avoid them could be a book.

Here are a few of my greatest hit screw-ups and some insight into how to not repeat my mistakes.

I hope this helps.

My Sales F%*+ ups – the Greatest Hits

Describing Producers

Wines can be anchored by the reference point of an appellation.
Do not sell your wine through the lenses of another wine unless the differences are vivid and elevate your wine, or you are also selling the other wine. You have to have contrast in some fashion or you are just anchoring the reference point wine/producer in the buyers mind. And, most of the time the reference point doesn’t need your help.

Connection Problems

So what if they don’t respond to emails?
Don’t get desperate and barrage them. Learn patience.

Missed orders

Don’t mirror the despair of the customer in trouble. Also, don’t be tone-deaf. Be the honest and reliable one. Even if you lose because of it.

Big Problems and Honesty

If there’s a problem you have with the account, you most likely need to say something.
But HOW you say it is everything.
The facts don’t matter as much as you think – you are working with emotions in an abundant market. I have royally screwed this up by bringing issue up in front of other people. Do not do that unless you are willing to walk away for a long time (sometimes you have to…).

Over Sampling

You can sample too much. Sometimes people just want to buy from you. Let them.

Checking Orders

Have a personal system that re-confims order items and quantities or you will be lost. Having this system won’t be perfect, but you can minimize errors. Distribution involves many links in the chain with a human hand involved. Be prepared to check and adjust on the fly.

Large Deals

I made one of the largest deals of my career and it was a fiasco for multiple reasons, but I didn’t communicate well. If you hope that they will do the right thing and don’t communicate expectations it is on you (the salesperson).  If you are at the figurative table, you have to put it out there.

Dialogue with the person and not the program because a list only gives hints, a person gives answers.


Make it clear that someone else posted a customer COD when you bring it up. It is shocking how many buyers know nothing about the mechanics of COD.

The Buyer – not the list

Lists and selections are often personal. Looking at a list online doesn’t show you history, etc.
You can go online all day and find holes, but the buyer is the contact. Offer to the person. Dialogue with the person and not the program because a list only gives hints, a person gives answers.


The Future of the “Work With”

What is the future of the Work With?*

A lot of national salespeople will really, really not like this – and for that, I am sorry. But, what worked no longer works, and with what is long long gone.

Today, the Work With is the injured old General leaning against the tree saying goodbye as he takes his last few breaths. Thank you for your wine service.

Where is this old concept of selling come from, where is it now, and what replaces it in the NYC beverage market?

The Old Skool

Not so long ago, it was a rarer thing to meet a producer and connect with them personally. The winemaker or owner coming to a restaurant/retail store to introduce themselves and taste with the team felt super good for all parties involved – Work Withs were viewed as a “special treat.”

It was also a key support point in agreements between importer/distributor and producers/suppliers. Coming into town to help and invest in the market by showing wines was a key part of the wine game; an important tool for connection and sales.

Not anymore. The explosion of availability got in the way.


Today, many importer/distributors are using the same encyclopedia sales theory, but the landscape has shape-shifted. Big problem: nearly everything that worked consistently on the street in sales years ago doesn’t function as it did before.

The paradigm has shifted in the city and the Work With is generally viewed as a necessary evil – a burden (with notable exceptions, see below). Rolling around the city and showing your wine wares with a supplier is normally referred to as “part of the job.”

So, what changed?

More events, more tastings, more companies, more good wine, more options – essentially more everything is available daily in NYC. Because of this, the “specialness” of the Work With has nearly vanished. Buyers are less likely to see producers, and at the same time, the number of producers visiting the city every week has grown exponentially.

The classic work-around for this problem has been the event move: Lunch, office tasting, or an educational seminar. But soon these are going to feel stale and contrived because every distributor will have mimicked each other to such a degree, the event will be the goal. Events will be vanilla custard normal.

Here is what I know: invent a new type of connective work and replace the Work With, and you will win.

The Future

As a producer, unless you have something to say besides “may I have an appointment to show wine?” you should stay at home and save the airfare. And, if you don’t trust your distribution to do the job—well, that is a whole different story for another day.

Here is what is trending today: The takeover. Just look at the insta, and you will see. The next iteration will go towards the virtual. Stay tuned on that. Coming to an inbox near you.

...the Work With as we know it is dying in NYC. It is the injured old general leaning against the tree and saying goodbye as he takes his last few breaths.

The Exceptions Today

As always, there are some exceptions to the Work With death, and those are (in no particular order):

The prominent, most lauded producer of an Appellation.

The new producer with monster buzz that makes special wine. GREAT WINE. (pretty rare..)

The producer that has deep personal ties with the market and could roll in anytime, anywhere and be comfortable. (this is the gold, rare)

The producer that knows this market and is into quality of relationship over quantity.

The Importer/Distributor that picks and chooses producer visits like an expert curator. (EX: Rosenthal)

*The Work With is when a wine producer(owner/winemaker) or representative hired by a wine producer joins a salesperson for a group of appointments to show their wines.


Five Questions with Percy Rodríguez, Bev. Director |Laurent Tourondel Hospitality

Percy Rodríguez (@percyjrodriguez) is the Beverage Director for Chef Laurent Tourondel‘s restaurants (L’Amico, The Vine) within the Hotel Eventi in NYC, (part of the Kimpton Hotels and Restaurant Group), along with Sag Pizza in Sag Harbor.

Percy is one of the most professional and likable Beverage Directors I have ever worked with. He also never seems to be in a rush, which is incredible considering what he is running in the day-to-day.

There are only a handful of Beverage Directors in NYC overseeing multiple concepts like Percy – check out the Bonus question on Spirits buying.

Five Questions

Which producer or area do you believe in that most people in the industry disagree with you on?

Domestic wines that aren’t from either coast. Y’all, Missouri makes PET-NATS NOW!! Y’ALL.

You run the beverage program for multiple concepts within a Hotel – What are the challenges, and what have you found that works to get past those challenges?

My biggest challenges are time and quality staff. I never have enough of either, and as far as I can tell, that is industry standard. We are busy enough at this property that there is never a moment where there isn’t something to do. And when I delegate to my leaders, I need to trust that their work will meet my standards, as I don’t have the time to double check everyone’s work (whether it be syrup production, staff education, stocking, cleaning schedules, etc). I’m now in my fourth year here, and, not to take away from the staff I’ve had work for me up until now, but I am only now getting to a place where I am happy with almost all facets of my team. It’s simply that difficult to find hard-working, dedicated staff. AND THEN, when you have them, you have to retain them. I believe a connection to staff, however small, is imperative to minimizing turnover. I always engage my beverage staff (polishers, barbacks, receivers, bartenders, etc) in small talk, their last shifts, any issues I can help with. It keeps everyone loose and they know I have their back. With my core team, I’m more invested. You have to push their education, you have to push and nurture their drive, you have to ride the waves of personal lives and relationships because at the end of the day, it all affects the bottom line (you can’t have a depressed sommelier on the floor).

With regards to time, it really is a lesson in discipline. Of COURSE, I’d love to go to all of the tastings and lunches and dinners and trips and taste all the wine and spirits and beers that are being hawked. But I also have invoices to allocate, inventory, BEO meetings, PNL meetings, hiring and training, and and AND. If you want any type of longevity in this game, you need to pace yourself and focus on the immediate tasks at hand. When things are consistently good at work, then you can go have an occasional, semi-indulgent lunch with a winemaker. You do it too much though, and people start to ask where you are.

If you could ask one question of another wine director, what would it be?

What are you doing to drive sales while increasing the visibility of your program(s)?

Which trend or trends do you wish would go away?

As a buyer: Rosé season. I like Rosé. I drink Rosé. I hate that every February I have to f**king decide what I’m going to pour in four months.
As a creative: wack garnishes in cocktails. I get that everything has to stand out from a social media perspective and I GET that people order with their eyes as the rum punch with pink sparklers and dehydrated micro production black mission figs gets run through the dining room or bar, but please stop. Please.

What do you want people to know about your program?

I want people to know that we will make time for them. What do I mean? I had this post-middle-aged couple come in the other day. L’Amico was packed and already on a wait at 6pm (any time Billy Joel plays MSG, this is the case). The woman mentioned they were going to the concert and were looking for a quick bite and a drink, nothing fancy, and didn’t look overly hopeful that we would be able to accommodate them. We didn’t have anything in L’Amico but I mentioned I had a few open tables in our other restaurant The Vine, which is through the hotel lobby. I walked them over, made small talk with them, introduced them to the host and got them settled, letting them know they were in good hands. An hour later, I felt a tap on my shoulder, and this couple was incredibly gracious, said they looked forward to coming back, and couldn’t have been happier. Had I just told them how to get to the other resto I doubt their experience would have changed much, but seeing someone take the extra 30 seconds to make their experience personal has a tremendous amount of weight with customers.

I like Rosé. I drink Rosé. I hate that every February I have to f**king decide what I’m going to pour in four months.


What advice do you have for to a wine director stepping into buying spirits, as well?

Always ask if there’s a bigger drop, deeper deal. Ask to be connected directly to the brand’s ambassador/mgr for activations, events, happy hours, etc. Don’t say yes to everything a liquor distributor tries to sell you on. And every now and then, when salespeople reach out for a favor (to hit a sales goal or get a trip, whatever it is), help them out if you’re able. Get that weird bottle of rum they need to move to get a bonus or something. You never know when you’ll be in the shits and you need cases of something ASAP. Playing the game a little bit once in a while goes a long way.

Are there any regions or wineries in Italy that are underrated? Which are overrated?

Amarone is overrated, and Fiano from Campania is underrated, by a freaking mile. I don’t care if it’s from Avellino or Paestum or Cilento or Irpinia or where ever: it’s almost always good if not great, ranging from clean and simple to nuanced and strikingly delicious.

Note*: All answers are edited for spelling and posted without cuts.

THE REORDER 02/22/19

The Closeout Recipe

Want the perfect Closeout recipe so you can avoid the pitfalls?

I can smell the closeout dish from a mile away. Putting a producer in the position to succeed in this crazy market takes thoughtful work, and it is obvious when that doesn’t happen.

Most of the time it has little to do with the actual producer or wine in question…

A Closeout Recipe

The pricing is wack compared to the other prices in the market. (i.e. pricing formulas, not sales formulas)

The wine is launched with a tech sheet and a taste.

The producer has a dusty and shriveled story that is yawn-inducing or as memorable as a bland morning cereal.

The reference point for the appellation is a vivid one and the producer you represent has no relation or anything that differentiates it from the reference point.

It fills a “category.”

The wine is launched with overtly flowery prose.

There is zero plan to market the wine if the first wave doesn’t work.

The wine is “all the rage in Paris.”

When this becomes the answer to everything: Put this in your bag.

Nowadays, I can spot a future closeout from a mile away, and most of the time it has little to do with the actual wine.

[insert Hot shit importer here] USED TO represent them.

The internal attitude of the importer/distributor is you HAVE to sell this to have that.

The wine is hidden in plain sight within the inventory.

The wine is “allocated” out before anyone knows the value of the producer or has tasted a drop.

The internal attitude of the importer is “this will never work.” (often manifested in inventory quantities).

THE REORDER 02/15/19

Building the New Wine Director – Looking Ahead

The New Wine Director will be built. It is possible.

If I could build a terminator Wine Director, the Wine Director of the future – the below is where I would start.

The Real Knowledge

I am sorry to say, but wine knowledge today means much less than it once did. I know, I know, knowledge is power, but let me explain…

Pretty much everyone I work with (sell to) is more knowledgeable about wine than their colleagues were last year. There are multiple reasons for this, but primarily: information is immediately available to anyone who is interested. Anything can be found and recited back in less than a minute on google.

Here is the real wine knowledge: knowing the market.  Knowing what is available and how it stacks up. This is where it is at, and in the more than eleven years I have been doing this, the best of the best have this type of knowledge in common. They know what is out there, and by extension, they choose their partners wisely.

The New Wine Director will be market fluent.


This one I am particularly sensitive about. Decant this, siphon that, pour that person first.  Who isn’t all in on these skills? You have to be able to handle wine.  But, become great at talking to people? Be a great tableside conversationalist with wine and other stuff, too? This seems to be on the downturn.

The new Wine Director will be a GREAT listener and salesperson. A tableside service assassin who can teach others to do the same.


There are some that do this well and it is notable. But let me ask this: who is taking the time to create GREAT wine directors today. Who makes those around them advance forward towards their ultimate goals. I know this exists in rare occurrences, but not to the level we need it to in the top market in the world. If we are building the next generation, we need leaders that can motivate selflessly.

The New Wine Director will be an expert leader.

The new Wine Director will be a GREAT listener and salesperson. A tableside assassin.

Business Time

The New Wine Director will have to be business fluent. The level of businessperson that can hold the attention of a restaurateur or an investor and convince them of a new direction that can be validated by the day-to-day. A Futurist. A collaborator. An Excel Spreadsheet Master.

The New Wine Director is a strong Businessperson.


Travel is currently handed out like free pamphlets on the street because every wine area and consortium is actively trying to build fans, but most have little idea which direction will bring the most lasting effect. Every appellation wants to have a Chianti Classico camp with a superstar sommelier ambassador, but it just ain’t going to happen. Want to go to Georgia, even though you would never buy Georgian wine, or even make a dent as an ambassador? Here is a ticket. Have fun. How many followers do you have again? The best Wine Directors I know travel with ideas for their future list, not to see sights.

The New Wine Director will travel with a purpose.


The best Wine Directors have an area or charity they want to get behind. They will have a mission that informs their overall direction that isn’t just business building, but community building.

The New Wine Director will be a community builder.

THE REORDER 02/07/19

To Begin Again

There will come a time where you will have to begin again. To forget what you thought you knew about wine and sales and the market.

The Traps

It is likely that many of the below have come up for you:

Those wines don’t sell.

They would never like that.

He/She is not a good Wine Buyer.

I have nothing they want.

I am going to ignore that producer in my portfolio because the wines aren’t up to “my standard.”

They don’t know what they are doing.

Everything is out of stock.

They will never email me back.

Why don’t buyers taste anymore?


To get out of your own way it is vital to begin again. You must change your perspective.

I know this change isn’t easy, but I am certain it is vital.

I am getting clarity daily by asking two simple questions: What is this for? Am I just doing the same thing again because it is obvious?

Anselme Selosse leveled up when he asked himself why he was doing what he was doing. You can, too.

Begin again.


Five Questions with Andrew Newlin, GM and Wine Director at Raoul’s

Five Questions with Andy Newlin, one of the most hilarious and intelligent wine buyers in the city. And if you haven’t been to Raoul’s, what’s wrong with you?


Andrew Newlin grew up in Delaware the fourth of five boys, got a BFA in dramatic arts, and then moved to NYC in 2000.  After an internship at Food and Wine Magazine, he worked at Balthazar, going in on days off to hang out with Wine Director Chris Goodhart and do odd jobs. Andrew then spent 10 years at Per Se, working for 6 years on the Sommelier team under Michel Couvreux. Andrew is now the GM and Wine Director of Raoul’s and lives on the UWS with his wife and two children.


Which wine (or wines) do you believe in that your colleagues in the industry disagree with you on?

I would say that there are those in the industry who for whatever reason look down a delicious and classic California Chardonnay. I love that big and ripe, tropical flavor. I do think that it must be balanced out. But I hate it when you get a California wine that feels like they are fighting nature and picking too early to make it into something it is not.

What is the difference between a Wine Director and a Sommelier?

A Sommelier is someone who works the floor and should be great at listing and selling. They may or may not have hand in ordering the wines and some of the beverages. They are usually in the tip pool and have a lot of guest contact. It is rare that a Sommelier will have a team working for him or her. If so, she would be the Head Sommelier.

I think a Beverage Director is a bit more of an administrative position with a closer relationship to the owner or the GM. They have a firmer grasp on the numbers of the business and should be skilled at delegating. A great beverage director knows how to make a wine list that is interesting, compelling and can be navigated by the guests without the need of too much help from the staff. There shouldn’t be pit falls and everything should taste good.

If you could ask one question of other Wine Directors in the city, what would it be?

I am always curious how people set their mark-ups. I think it can tell you a lot about the business. How did they get to this number? And what does it say about the management of the business? A low cost of goods is great, but I don’t love ripping people off. It is a balance.

...I hate it when you get a California wine that feels like they are fighting nature and picking too early to make it into something it is not.

Which trend or trends do you wish would go away?

A natural wine is not good just because it is natural. I like wines that are clean and pure with a sense of place. When all you taste is the style, it could be anything.

What do you want people to know about your beverage program at Raoul’s?

We try to be dynamic. You can get very involved wine experience; we have some very cool things here, or you can just have a casual glass. What is most important to us is that you have a good time. That being said, you should try the DRC. It’s delicious.

Bonus: What is the most underrated wine or area, and what is the most overrated?

Overrated: Clos Rougeard and Dagueneau are two that come to mind. They can be great, but I have a hard time with all of the hype. I also don’t get the love for Chateau Musar.

Underrated: Bandol Reds!

*Note: All answers are spell-checked and posted without cuts.