April 2021 May I Quote You?

A Conversation with Todd Nelson

During lockdown, a marketing guy discovers launching a line of direct-to-consumer wines while awaiting the arrival of a new baby in "Kind of Wild."

Todd Nelson is vice president of marketing and public relations for the Illinois-based importer and marketer, Winesellers, Ltd. The two of us have interacted on a business basis online for the past few years.  He sends me press releases and notes from time to time while pitching story ideas for his company’s wine clients. And as a freelancer for several publications, I contact him from time to time when I need input from his segment of the wine trade.

In mid-February, I received an email from Nelson about a new line of wines he was launching called “Kind of Wild” that he was kind of excited about. In fact, jumping up and down excited. “Kind of Wild is a new DTC brand and subscription wine club with a custom e-commerce retail platform,” he wrote, using part of his consumer pitch. “It’s a globally sourced collection of unique, certified organic wines, delivered directly to your doorstep, that is produced from growers and winemakers working in harmony with nature rather than against it.”

We agreed that we would have to get on the phone to discuss this, but we had to work around one other thing.  Nelson is a fairly young guy and explained that his wife had just given birth to their second child. For the last two months, he said, things had been kind of busy around his home office where, like business people everywhere, he has spent most of his time for the past year. When we finally get on the phone, is that a small voice I hear in the background yelling to be served another round?

“How did this all get started?” I ask Nelson, talking about the wine, of course.  “At Winesellers, we had been thinking about how to move forward to establish a direct relationship with consumers,” he says, “and when we entered the lockdown last February and March, and no one was traveling, it allowed us to move forward. We thought there was an opportunity with organic wines because so far, the selection on the market is limited.” Did the fact that people were ordering wine online like crazy during the lockdown add to the direct-to-consumer equation? “Yes, we wanted a wine that we could ship to the consumer’s doorstep.”

The Kind of Wild line at launch consists of six wines, all line priced at $22/bottle, each vintage-dated for 2020 and all directly sourced from one specific appellation within their country of origin – a Syrah-Grenache rosé from France, a Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, an Austrian Grüner Veltliner, a Montepulciano d’Abruzzo from Italy, a Tempranillo-Garnacha blend from Spain and an Argentine combo of Malbec-Cabernet Sauvignon.

“One thing I don’t understand,” I say, “is that you told me earlier that you were doing a crowdfunding deal for Kind of Wild.  You guys are a big business. Did you really need the extra money?” Nelson laughs. “We wanted to get that affirmation from our customers,” he says, plus it was calculated that the crowdfunding initiative would raise online interest in Kind of Wild while creating a buzz on social media. We asked for $20,000 and raised that in 12 days.” Originally, there was no plan for a wine club – just DTC online – but in the end, Kind of Wild did establish a Club Wild for reduced prices and shipping rates, although anyone can buy at the regular price and pay for shipping.

“We are starting out slowly,” Nelson says of the launch, “with a few hundred cases each of the wines. They are all bottled in the U.S., and all come from growers that we know.” Will there be line extensions with other blends or varietals? “Not anytime soon. We started everything from scratch, and our website – http://www.kindofwildwines.com – is just getting launched.” While anything can change in the wine business, presently, Kind of Wild wines are available only through that one site and not in stores or other online platforms. “What about your target customer?” I ask. “Basically, it’s people from 21 through 35,” he replies. 

So how was it doing his regular job and launching Kind of Wild while he and his wife were preparing for a new addition to the Nelson household? “Even though I was already working at home with my family here, I decided to take the week off when the baby arrived,” he says bravely.

Roger Morris writes about wine, food and travel for The World of Fine Wine, Drinks Business, Meininger's Wine Business International, Wine Enthusiast and other publications in the U.S. and Europe.

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