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Jenise

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A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Jenise » Thu Jan 03, 2013 9:12 pm

With friends in L.A. a few weeks ago, in which we raided their cellar of every 2005 California pinot noir we could dig out, a corked Clos Pepe was disappointing. I encouraged my friends, who had never done so before, to contact the winery about getting a replacement.

They called the other night to tell me what happened. They called, and Wes Hagen, proprietor/winemaker, answered the phone. Wes was super friendly and agreeable, "of course, of course", and when John offered to mail the corked bottle (and his original receipt!), something about the raucous way Wes said "hell no, we don't want that shit up here!" made John decide it would be more fun to visit the winery in person the following weekend rather than having Wes just mail a bottle. They live in Ventura county and were going to be in the area anyway. An appointment was made. As John told me this, I immediately pictured him teetering out of the winery carrying multiple cases, like Thomas Haden Church the non-wine-drinker in Sideways after he met Sandra Oh in the tasting room.

And that turned out to be fairly close to the truth. Wes was a total mensch, turning them loose in his library to select any wine they wanted to replace the corker, and "comped" a number of other bottles. Plus, of course, John found a lot of great wine he couldn't live without and repaid the hospitality with a major purchase. So where they incidentally owned some of Wes' wine before, they'll now be customers for life.

Excellent!
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by James Dietz » Fri Jan 04, 2013 4:23 am

Wes is a trip, no doubt.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Tom Troiano » Fri Jan 04, 2013 8:29 am

He's a smart business person.

Same thing happens at the retail level. I buy way more wine from retailers who have allowed me to return corked bottles.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Jenise » Fri Jan 04, 2013 5:20 pm

Tom Troiano wrote:He's a smart business person.

Same thing happens at the retail level. I buy way more wine from retailers who have allowed me to return corked bottles.


Wes is great, I've met him, but you don't have to be a genius to figure out that being fair and honorable about your product pays off.

I was a club member and annual case buyer of St. Innocent for ten years--until I found that the owner/winemaker had replaced a corked bottle of David Bueker's after turning me down a few months before when I made my first such request. Maybe because I'm a woman? Haven't bought a bottle since.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by ChaimShraga » Fri Jan 04, 2013 6:45 pm

Jenise wrote:Maybe because I'm a woman?


NOW you tell me!

A couple of months ago, I opened a corked bottle and emailed the importer, who said that since I'd bought it just a few months ago, of course it'd be replaced, but:

1. Asked for the corked bottle. I know it's standard industry practice, but for god's sake, I was probably their first customer ever and write more about their wines on my blog than local professional writers.

2. Took the time to quote some silly statistic about 70% of corked wine having gotten infected in the purchaser's cellar. That's rude and irrelevant and besides, downright stupid! How come something like that possibly be researched?

Mind-boggling.

And rude.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Brian Gilp » Sat Jan 05, 2013 10:24 am

Wes is part of the movie From Ground to Glass http://www.fromgroundtoglass.com/indextoo.html. Funny part in there about him passing out from the fumes doing punch downs at Babcock and almost falling into the tank. Wes asks Brian if he would still sell the wine if he died in the tank at which Wes says Brian states "Hell yeah, I would even put your name on the label".
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Jon Peterson » Sat Jan 05, 2013 11:37 am

Brian Gilp wrote:Wes is part of the movie From Ground to Glass http://www.fromgroundtoglass.com/indextoo.html. Funny part in there about him passing out from the fumes doing punch downs at Babcock and almost falling into the tank. Wes asks Brian if he would still sell the wine if he died in the tank at which Wes says Brian states "Hell yeah, I would even put your name on the label".

:lol: :lol: :lol: Talk about a proprietary wine!
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Joy Lindholm » Sat Jan 05, 2013 1:44 pm

Jenise wrote:
Tom Troiano wrote:He's a smart business person.

Same thing happens at the retail level. I buy way more wine from retailers who have allowed me to return corked bottles.


Wes is great, I've met him, but you don't have to be a genius to figure out that being fair and honorable about your product pays off.

I was a club member and annual case buyer of St. Innocent for ten years--until I found that the owner/winemaker had replaced a corked bottle of David Bueker's after turning me down a few months before when I made my first such request. Maybe because I'm a woman? Haven't bought a bottle since.


There is absolutely no excuse for a retailer/distributor/importer/winery to not replace or offer a comparable exchange (if the same isn't available) for a corked/flawed bottle. This is standard industry practice, and really there is nothing lost for the retailer when a flawed bottle is returned, as they will receive a credit or replacement from the distributor, who then should be receiving a credit from the winery/importer. For a winery to not stand behind their product and offer an exchange is simply bad business. Corked/flawed bottles should be so few and far between that the loss of revenue from replacing a bad bottle doesn't come close to comparing to the loss of business from disgruntled customers who aren't offered replacements.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Jenise » Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:49 pm

Joy Lindholm wrote:This is standard industry practice, and really there is nothing lost for the retailer when a flawed bottle is returned, as they will receive a credit or replacement from the distributor, who then should be receiving a credit from the winery/importer. For a winery to not stand behind their product and offer an exchange is simply bad business. Corked/flawed bottles should be so few and far between that the loss of revenue from replacing a bad bottle doesn't come close to comparing to the loss of business from disgruntled customers who aren't offered replacements.



Agreed completely. I've only had one retailer ever balk at replacing / refunding a bottle, even though I returned the full bottle ($50 retail) to them and they could confirm for themselves its condition. (Guy acted like nobody had ever returned a corked bottle before, claimed someone else would have to approve it, and if I left the bottle they would discuss it and if I called back in a few days they'd let me know what verdict they'd reached! Ludicrous!) And this was a very high-end geeky wine-only retailer too. Happened while I was staying with the same friends mentioned in my original post--they never purchased from that guy again.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Redwinger » Sat Jan 05, 2013 4:36 pm

Back when I was doing retail, if the customer claimed a bottle was corked/flawed, then it was. No bull$hitting around. The only questions asked were, how we could make it right...replace the bottle? Refund? Store credit? I cannot recall a single customer taking unfair advantage of this no questions asked policy.

Once a new employee wanted to taste the wine (after the customer left) until I reminded him of some of the nasty stuff that could have happened to the contents after it originally left the store.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Sam Platt » Sun Jan 06, 2013 12:26 pm

I have never had a problem returning a corked bottle to a retailer. I would never try to return anything from the close out bin as that is "buyer beware" territory in my opinion. If I take a flier on heavily discounted leaky Spatlese that turns out to be oxidized it's my bad.

I did get into an argument with a local Italian restaurant over a clearly flawed Valpolicella on one occasion. He took the bad wine as a personal insult and tried to convince me that that wet cardboard was a characteristic of the vintage! After a great deal of haggling he ended up giving us credit toward some cocktails but he would not replace the wine. I was at a bit of a handicap by our non-geek dining companions who were sitting there drinking the wine as I pled my case.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Jon Peterson » Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:23 pm

Small dinner party last night. Opened a Barolo last night, a 2007 Mauro Veglio. The nose was just slightly off; maybe oxidized as opposed to corked. I decanted and let it sit as I opened a second bottle and a third. The second and third were so much better that it confirmed the fault of the first. Tuesday I take an empty bottle back to the wine shop for a replacement. I expect no problem since I've bought so much wine there and this is the first one with any type of fault at all.
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Re: A returning-corked bottle story with a happy ending

by Joy Lindholm » Sun Jan 06, 2013 2:32 pm

Jon Peterson wrote:Small dinner party last night. Opened a Barolo last night, a 2007 Mauro Veglio. The nose was just slightly off; maybe oxidized as opposed to corked. I decanted and let it sit as I opened a second bottle and a third. The second and third were so much better that it confirmed the fault of the first. Tuesday I take an empty bottle back to the wine shop for a replacement. I expect no problem since I've bought so much wine there and this is the first one with any type of fault at all.


Hopefully you won't have any trouble since you are a good customer and the shop keepers know you, but generally it is good form to return a flawed bottle with at least some of the wine left in the bottle (preferably more than half). I can see where a retailer would be hesitant to replace flawed bottles if they had a string of customers bring back bottles saying "it was bad but I drank it anyway". At least with some wine left, they are able to confirm it is flawed so they know people aren't abusing a good will gesture.

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