Lyle Fass, one of our contributors at Organic Wine Journal, is starting up Fass Selections, where he will be selling fine wines online through special email offers. We asked Lyle to tell us about his new venture:
What made you decide to open Fass Selections?
I’m 38 years and it was time I did my one “great thing.” I was tired of working for other people and not being able to fully express myself. Combine that with my experiences traveling in Europe and always getting asked by growers how they can sell more wine to America; the pieces were in place. The one thing that was not in place was money. Opening a wine store is expensive due to the numerous regulations, but that changed when California started issuing new licenses that enabled me to import/distribute and e-tail (sell wine on the internet) without a physical space.
I jumped at this opportunity as I could open my own business and help the countless growers who want more wine sold in America. Their wines will be cheaper to the consumer as I cut out 2 of the traditional distribution tiers, have almost no overhead and can be in total control. There are so many great wines in Germany that do not get exported to the US. I want to change that and I will.
How does the site work?
Come to the website, sign up for the email list and boom, you are all set. Emails will start off twice a week but may ramp up as time goes on. Each one will feature no more than 2-3 wines. We may also offer multiple formats, such as mags and 1/2 bottles, but we want to concentrate on a few quality selections each time.
How are you picking the wines?
The short answer is hard work. I travel to Europe frequently and meet winemakers and taste their wines.
The longer answer is that I have a terrific network of friends in the winemaking community. I have introduced many of them to the New York market and they are willing to return the favor by introducing me to up and coming winemakers in their regions. Some of these winemakers may have productions that are too small for traditional importers. I have three winemakers who have full time day jobs and make wine as a passion. I have another who works for another winemaker during the day and tends his vines at night. They are all making incredible wines but no importer has picked them up.
Will I completely ignore wines that are sold through the traditional 3-tier distribution system? Of course not. Some of them are purchased by the importers at prices that make them appealing, even with the three tier markup. I will also buy some older wines from collectors’ cellars if I think that they represent good value. I am a rebel but not a complete ideologue. My job is to sell great wines at fair prices and I will do that in any way that makes sense
Will there be organic/biodynamic/natural selections?
Yes, but I am not tied down to any ideology. Of course, I would love all my winemakers to make wine in the cleanest way possible with minimal intervention, organic viticulture/biodynamic if they choose to and natural if they can. At the end of the day, though, each of these growers is a small business unto themselves and they have to make decisions based on their own situations and not what I demand or expect.
If you’re interested in being on Lyle’s email list you can sign up at Fass Selections.