We use a points system to figure out who gets offered what wines and how much. The allocation size is based on the wine we have available and the number of points a person has on our mailing list.
You get points by buying wine. One point for every dollar spent. We also have given points for people who have set up or hosted dinners for us while we travel. If you buy our wine from a restaurant or retailer and fax me a copy of the receipt, I’ll give points for that as well.
At each release I sit down and divide up the number of bottles that we will offer based on the points pool. Right now we have a few people over 3000 points and one over 4000 points. There are about 70 people with more than 1000 points. The higher the points, the higher the allocation you get.
We have also started a futures program for our most loyal customers. That gives them the chance to buy our hardest to get wines before they are released and secure an allocation in advance. The first futures offer went out to our top 48 customers or about 10% of our list. 30 of those people bought futures and they will qualify for the next futures offer in the summer. The remaining 18 spots on the futures list will go to the next 18 highest point totals on our list. That way new people have a chance to enter the program. Right now we are planning on keeping it at 48 people total.
If this all seems a little complicated, it is, but it also seems to be working and getting wine out to the people who want it. The first real tough time I think we will have is with our Spring Release. After we offered our 2007 Pinot Noir on futures, we have fewer than 90 bottles left. That means that it will take more than 1000 points to get an allocation. It doesn’t get much better in the near term future either. We’ll only have about 60 cases of the 2008 Pinot Noir, and we should have about the same amounts in 2009 and 2010.
As I said on the Wine Spectator forum, if you sign up now, and buy every bottle we offer you, you still might not earn a Pinot Noir allocation for some years. I wish we had more wine, but we are so picky about the grapes we’ll use I’m afraid it will stay this way for some time.
A lot of people have started to share allocations and divide them up. I actually support that idea. I think it’s fair to everyone and gives people lower on the list the chance to try a bottle or two of wine. If you let me know who is buying what, I even assign out points to each individual. I hope that all not to confusing, and I’m glad that people like our wine so much.