This DTC Wine Brand Thinks Inside The Box

Really Good Boxed Wine  is a new direct-to-consumer wine brand that aims to change the stereotypes associated with boxed wine.

The company was founded by Jake Whitman, a former consumer products brand manager with Procter & Gamble, and is endorsed by Master Sommelier Andy Myers, whose resume includes stints at a three-Michelin Star restaurant and a decade as the beverage director for Chef José Andrés’ ThinkFoodGroup.

Formed with the intention of attracting discerning wine consumers willing to pay slightly more for a bottle of wine, the company’s model looks to cut costs on packaging and transfer those savings to the consumer while preserving the quality of the wine. A 3L box of wine goes for $65, or $16.25 per bottle, and the company claims the caliber of wine inside typically retails for $30-40 a bottle.

After two limited releases of a 2020 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir that the company said sold out in days, the brand is promoting its first broadly available release — a 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon. 

Vintner Magazine reached out to Whitman, who shared details about how Really Good Boxed Wine works.

VINTNER: Where do the wines come from and how are they selected for packaging? It looks like the packaging/labeling focuses on the AVA and the varietal, but not necessarily the winemaker.

WHITMAN: Our wines come from a variety of sources. Some of our wines come directly from winemakers and producers through purchase agreements. For any wines we’re sourcing, we build relationships directly with the winemakers and producers rather than go through a bulk wine broker or other path.

For our other wines, we purchased grapes and fermented ourselves, as Really Good Boxed Wine is a licensed wine producer in California (CA 02 license). We have a winemaker on retainer, Tami Collins, who both makes wines from the grapes we purchase and works with any wine we’re sourcing from other producers. All wines are either made or finished at Healdsburg Custom Crush. 

We have a tasting team that consists of Collins, Amy Troutmiller (Sommelier and owner of Common Fuel Consulting), newly added Andy Myers (Master Sommelier), and myself. Collectively, we are constantly sampling wines, as well as working directly with our partner winemakers and producers to finish the wines we’re sourcing.

Here’s the breakdown of the wines we have released or announced so far:

  • 2020 Pinot Noir came from Ketcham Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, made by winemaker Tami Collins. — limited release was August 2021 and November 2021
  • 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon is sourced from a producer who has asked to remain anonymous, but the grapes were grown in the Truesdale Vineyard in Paso Robles. — national release in February 2022
  • 2021 Pinot Noir Rosé comes from grapes purchased during the 2021 harvest from Ketcham Vineyard in the Russian River Valley, made by Collins under the Really Good Boxed Wine brand — releasing March 2022
  • 2021 Sauvignon Blanc comes from grapes purchased during the 2021 harvest from two vineyards in the Dry Creek Valley and Alexander Valley (Sonoma designated), made by winemaker Tami Collins under the Really Good Boxed Wine brand — releasing March/April 2022

In the future, we would love to partner directly with other winemakers who are open to collaborating and putting their name on the label and being part of the release. All wines will be sold under the Really Good Boxed Wine brand and label.

VINTNER: If they’re being produced in partnership with other vineyards/wineries, does your company credit that company with making the wine? What does the agreement between Really Good Box Wines and a winery with which it partners looks like?

WHITMAN: It varies. We would prefer to credit that producer or winemaker with making the wine if they are interested in putting their name on the label. The 2020 Pinot Noir is a perfect example of that; all of our communication talked about the Ketcham Vineyard, and their vineyard name was stated on the back of that box.  

For other producers, though they love the idea, they would prefer their brand remain anonymous. The desire for anonymity is primarily driven by our price point in correlation to what they sell the same wine for in bottle, which is usually 30-60% higher by volume. In that scenario, the contract specifies what information we can release publicly, and we use the information we are allowed to share to educate our consumers about the wine, how it’s made, and where it comes from. 

We are in active discussions with a couple of winemakers who are interested in putting their name or winery on the label as a collaboration. We hope more are open to that as we continue to challenge the perception of quality in boxed wine.

VINTNER: The product has been tested by Sommeliers and industry experts, but how has it fared in blind taste tests with the public? Would you mind explaining a bit more about the QA/QC process?

WHITMAN: We have done some qualitative research on the 2019 Cabernet Sauvignon with general consumers through a focus group type setting, but we have not done a true blind taste test with the public yet. Now that the boxes are produced, we’re planning on conducting some of these types of tests so we can learn for future releases.

When we find an opportunity to source a great new wine, we request samples to be sent to me, Amy Troutmiller, and Tami Collins, and moving forward, Andy Myers. We each try it separately, and if we like it, we discuss whether or not it meets our quality requirements, and any minor winemaking work that may need to be done to finish it. If we decide to move forward, we’ll reach back out to the winemaker and let them know we’d like to move forward and draft a contract. We always request a confirmation sample be sent just before we finalize shipment of the wine to Healdsburg Custom Crush. Prior to production, each wine goes through two sets of analytical testing. 

VINTNER: If a winery/vineyard wanted to be affiliated with your brand and packaged with your label, what would the process look like?

WHITMAN: Any wineries/vineyards interested in being affiliated with Really Good Boxed Wine should reach out to me directly at jake@reallygoodboxedwine.com. Because Really Good Boxed Wine is the wine producer, the wine would be packaged and sold under the Really Good Boxed Wine brand, but we are very interested in opportunities to put the winemaker’s name or winery brand on the label as a collaboration and on the website/marketing materials.

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