At the beginning of May I made my annual trek across the Atlantic to our largest market, the United States. The first challenge was the flight; Jo’burg to Atlanta takes over 16 hours and is one of the 4th longest commercial flights in the world. Rainy weather met me at my first port of call (Orlando) which was to be a feature of my entire two week trip where I was joined by other winemakers and marketers form the Wineries in the Cape Classics portfolio.
I spent four days in the Orlando, Florida region, of which the majority was at Disney. No, Micky and Minnie do not drink Excelsior but Disney attracts over 14 million visitors annually (about 40 000 daily) many of whom drink wine. For those who have never been, it’s worth it if only to witness the scale and level of organisation. The 12 000 hectares park is immaculate, there are 4 golf courses which could host the PGA, support hotels, fantastic restaurants, and of course all the fun parks. What impressed me most was the four lane highways within the park, all owned by Disney. And I even got stuck in afternoon traffic!
I visited many accounts on the Disney property, but the highlight was a fantastic dinner at the Jiko restaurant at the Animal Kingdom lodge. The dinner was hosted by Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop), Gavin Slabbert (Raats Family Wines) and myself. Each the 5 courses of the African inspired meal was accompanied by one of our wines. The food and wine pairings were world class and innovative. Who would have thought that Excelsior Cabernet could be paired with a chilli molten chocolate cake?
After my time in Orlando I headed to New York. I find this city inspiring, crazy, smelly, and all round wonderful. It was a very busy few days travelling around New Jersey, Queens and Long Island as well as trade shows and in-store tastings. The highlights was the Cape Classics portfolio show, a great evening at Union Square Wines, and the last night at Kaia wine bar in the Upper East side.
Then it was onto one of my favourite cities in the US, Washington DC. After 4 days of the hustle of New York, it is amazing how quite and ordered DC is. And clean. Matt Leemhuis is the new Cape Classics regional sales manager in the DC area and it was fantastic to spend time in this market with him. He worked us hard, with all day tastings and late nights. The highlight was the trade show, which was well attended by both trade and distributer representatives.
After DC we went to Providence, Rhode Island. This is a smaller market for Cape Classics, where we are distributed by MS Walker. I have spent a bit of time there before, so I have met the majority of the sales managers. It was good catching up with them and seeing how the sales have progressed since my last visit.
My final stop was in Boston. We held our final trade show at Legal Seafoods in the harbour area. It is a cliché to say that “we saved the best for last”, but this was most definitely the case. The venue was great, food great, but most importantly, the show was extremely well attended by the MS Walker Sales representatives as well as the customers.
The whole trip was interesting as it was the first time that I could work with our new packaging in our biggest market. My feeling was that nine out of ten people absolutely loved the change. All the representatives who have worked with the new label in the market say that customers feel that the new look is sophisticated and elegant, but most importantly, it ‘pops’ on the shelf.
It was a whirlwind two weeks touring the East coast of America. My feet hurt from standing, I have put on a couple of kilos from the rich food and beer, but once again I feel positive about this market and that it will remain our biggest market for the foreseeable future.