Chrishon Lampley is a négociant and owner of Love Cork Screw and Lampley Reserve Wines. Firstly, what is a négociant? A négociant is a French word for a wine merchant or wholesaler. More specifically one who buys grapes, grape juice or partially fermented or finished wine from others and sells the wine produced under their name/label. Thus Chrishon does not own a winery or vineyards and yet has sold over one million bottles of her wine!
Now about the “road less traveled and that has made all the difference” as Robert Frost stated in his poem. Her less traveled road contains the following elements: target marketing, keen understanding of developing wine consumers, family/friends and a modicum of light heartedness.
Many “sophisticated wineries” are all chasing the $78.3 billion USA market with many high end offering. Chrishon has targeted both the grocery store consumer and the developing “alphabet consumers” (Gen X, Gen Y, Gen Z). In a lengthy conversation, her insight to the grocery consumer is based on the following priorities: Label, Price and Quality. She has an answer for each. The label I will discuss later, but the price issue, is something she attacked head on. She wants the consumer in her words “to pull a $20 bill out of their pocket and buy her wine”. To this end, her Love Cork Screw Wine portfolio comprises eight varietal wines with over half under twenty dollars. Her labels are light hearted, not to intimidate the grocery store shopper. The names of the wines for example are “Head Over Heels” (Riesling), “We’re Moving On Up” (Cabernet Sauvignon), “Be The Light” (Sauvignon Blanc), “Good Times Good Friends” (Pinot Grigio), etc. They are eye catching phrases and friendly/light hearted when going down the grocery isle. They also serve as gifts for a promotion, moving to a new home, a party and other events. Her wines can be found at Target Stores, Walmart, Total Wines and many other locations. One of her creative marketing tactics is putting the nutritional and serving information on the back of the wine bottle. This is highly regarded by the “alphabet consumers” wanting to know this type of information.
As a négociant she can pick and choose the wine varietals to suit her market. One of the key markets is the mid-west. Her assessment of this market is for a “sweeter palate”. She has wines from Fenn Valley in northern Michigan peninsula (Concord, Riesling, Pinot Grigio), Summerland Wine Brands in Buellton, California (Cabernet Sauvignon) and Healdsburg, California (Sparkling). She is currently working with a winery in Chile on a Sauvignon Blanc.
I was sent a bottle in advance of our conversation. My “left brain” was in a bit of shock that someone was producing a Demi-Sec sweet sparkling wine. A quick recap of Champagne/Sparkling residual sugar levels. First Brut Champagne is 0-12 grams/per liter sugar level and Demi-Sec is 32-50 grams/per liter. The market in the USA is definitely a Brut or drier level as evidenced by 97% of all Champagne imported is Brut from France. Prosecco follows a similar guideline. Again this is where Chrishon follows the road less traveled and is targeting the “alphabet generations” and grocery store novices. However as stated earlier, she is keen on family and friends. Adorning the label of her second and higher end wine label Lampley Reserve is a picture of her mother when she was twenty. Chrishon’s mother likes a sweet sparkling wine, so this first varietal in the series is to honor her mid-eighties mother! It is comprised of 53% Chardonnay, 45% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Meunier grapes with a light alcohol level of 12.17%. Only 432 cases were produced. While not a big fan of demi-sec sparkling or Champagne, it was difficult to assess the quality, but I am not part of Chrishon targeted market.
However, her success cannot be denied as she has sold over 1,000,000 bottles of wine since starting in 2013. Her target marketing (demographics, geography, price point, label design) and much more has put Chrishon on the map and makes her a force to be taken seriously. Her Lampley Reserve line of wines is just launching and she is doing a refresh on her Love Cork Screw labels in Q3 2022. She is not finished by any means and discussed briefly a plan to import wines from South Africa. She described her wines as being in a mood and one of her tag lines sums up appropriately “enjoy it, drink it, don’t think it”. Her road less traveled is wide open with her focus, creativity, attitude and bringing new wine lovers into the fold.
For more on Chrishon Lampley visit her TEDx talk at https://lovecorkscrew.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/How-Success-Screwed-Me-Chrishon-Lampley-TEDxGrandBoulevard.mp4?_=1