Holidays important to wineries

Winery owners and beer distributors agree it’s the most wonderful time of the year.

According to the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board 2012-13 Retail Year in Review, the highest percentage of sales at Fine Wine and Good Spirits Stores was in December at 12.62 percent followed by November at 9.31 percent.

“Like most retailers, the holiday season is incredibly important to us from a financial standpoint,” said Stacy Kriedeman, PLCB spokeswoman.

“We rang up about almost $447 million dollars, or about 22 percent of our annual sales, in the months of November and December last year. We expect that number to be even larger this year,” she said.

The holiday season is a busy time for area wineries.

“We do about one-third of our annual business from October through December. December is definitely the busiest month. We do about 20 percent of our annual business in December,” said Ken Starr, owner of Starr Hill Winery, Curwensville.

Oak Spring Winery, which recently opened another retail store in Pittsburgh, does 20 to 25 percent of its annual sales in December, said general manager Scott Schraff.

“We try not to rely on Christmas, but it is very important to us,” Schraff said.

November and December make up about 30 percent of sales for the entire year, said Mike Williams, co-owner of the Winery at Wilcox.

“November and December are very important, but not as important as 10 or 15 years ago. Our business has changed. We deal with a large percentage of wholesale accounts rather than retail accounts,” Williams said. “We sell wine to 70 different wineries in and out of the state. They take our wine and put different labels on it. If people are short, we sell wine to them. We have a good reputation for making quality wine.”

The industry average is to do half of your annual sales in the last quarter, said Tod Manspeaker, co-owner of Briar Valley Winery, Bedford.

“Thanksgiving and Christmas are pretty important. We are probably not that high, but we will probably do better than we did last year,” Manspeaker said.

November is the busiest time of the year at Mount Nittany Winery, State College.

“November and December make up about 15 to 20 percent of our annual sales. We do a case sale in November. We get people cranked up for the holidays in November,” said manager Jinx Proch. “We also see a jump in wine accessories that begins in November and goes into December.”

Area wineries offer specials for the holidays.

“Year in and out, we do a holiday wine with specially themed bottles. This year, it is called Through the Looking Glass. It is a Riesling blend,” Williams said. “It is like a momento wine; they are limited edition bottles that are imported from Europe.”

“For Thanksgiving, we feature Gewurztraminer and Lemberger. They are genuine viniferas that pair really well with turkey. For Christmas, we sell a lot of Riesling, merlot and cabernet franc,” Manspeaker said.

Oak Spring Winery specializes in gift baskets.

“We have 26 different wines and more than a dozen different baskets. We can custom-make holiday baskets for people. Gift baskets are very popular,” Schraff said.

The holiday season is a busy time for beer distributors, as well.

“Like other retailers, Christmas is the biggest holiday of the year for us. We probably do about 20 percent of our annual business in December,” said Tim Galbraith, owner of Blair County Beverage, Hollidaysburg.

“Christmas is probably our second biggest holiday. Christmas and New Year’s week is second biggest next to the Fourth of July. Sixty percent of our business is done between May 1 and Labor Day, and about 20 percent is between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Business has been slow because of the economy, but we are hoping for a strong November and December,” said Jake Dennis, co-owner of City Beverage of Altoona.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.