Chris Indelicato: President and CEO – DFV WINES

Chris Delicato - DFV Wines

in the Mix had the opportunity to spend some time and have a casual interview with Chris Indelicato. We talked about the past and future, the on premise channel, national accounts and more.

Chris Indelicato - DFV WinesITM: After graduating from USC, was it your plan to join the family business?

CI: I always knew that someday I’d return to the winery. I thoroughly enjoyed my time living in southern California and the experiences gained while working for other firms, but most importantly, it’s where I met my lovely wife.

ITM: Why did you return to the family business?

CI: I started working at the winery when I was eleven years old, which provided many opportunities to watch my dad and uncles run the winery and manage the vineyards. My family and many DFV Wines employees taught me the value of hard work and getting along with people. After being away from the winery for about ten years, I really missed the wine business and realized that the opportunity of a lifetime awaited me back home.

ITM: Upon returning to the winery, what was your first job?

CI: I actually worked in sales, specifically National Accounts On Premise. What an eye-opener! In this role, I learned that patience, timing, wine quality, and precise execution were all critical. The Indelicato family has always fostered long-standing relationships with vineyard owners and winemakers throughout the industry, so extending this to our sales relations with national accounts and retail chains, and our expanding wholesaler relationships, was a natural step.

ITM: What did you learn about the channel and how has it impacted your decision-making as DFV Wines has grown?

CI: DFV Wines began to aggressively expand our national brand business in 2002. Gnarly Head was introduced shortly thereafter and was a runaway success. On the tail of Gnarly Head’s strong market performance, we introduced 337, Irony, Loredona, Brazin, and Fog Head, and haven’t stopped since.

Back in 2002, we started to move away from brokers to manage our wholesaler relationships and hired a team of A+ sales managers to grow our business. By 2008 we could see that DFV Wines was well positioned to leverage our national sales force, as our brands were proving themselves in the market and our marketing team was ready to grow. The next phase was logical: to build our National Accounts On Premise team. I have always known that National Accounts On Premise would be a key element to our long-term success and the last couple years have proved just that.

ITM: How would you describe your commitment to National Accounts?

CI: Patience and relationships are key once you have established quality brands comprised of popular varietals and price points that have strong national distribution. You also need to bring something unique to your partner relationships and the creation of our Channel Distribution and Exposure Index is an example of that commitment.

ITM: What is the Channel Distribution and Exposure Index?

CI: Our National Account On Premise team has created a simple and objective way to evaluate any winery or label to identify market penetration and consumer recognition. This allows a wine list to be developed according to three metrics: Highly Recognized, Emerging, or Discovery wines. It is something everyone already does, but DFV Wines has developed a basic tool to assist restaurateurs with organizing their wine lists. Communication is critical, both to internal and external customers. Effective, objective, and accurate communication is the key to success.

We have used this objective approach to help our customers select wines that meet specific account criteria. For instance, if the account is looking for highly-recognized brands, then we focus on Gnarly Head or 337; if they want an emerging brand, we look to Loredona, Brazin, Fog Head, or Irony. If discovery brands with limited retail exposure are desired, we suggest Massimo or Black Stallion.

DFV Wines’ National Account On Premise sales team members, Rob Bickford and Susan Winchester, are masters of this tool and have used it to solidify long-standing relationships with key national accounts throughout the U.S.

ITM: Are all your wines from California?

CI: My family has been deeply ingrained in the California wine industry for nearly a century; however, we’ve always enjoyed wine from other parts of the world so we’re really excited about our new brand, Massimo. With Massimo, we had the opportunity to collaborate internationally, working with local wineries and vineyards in Spain and Argentina at each stage of the process. Massimo has been a fascinating segue into some of the world’s most exciting wine regions and we’re looking forward to adding additional varietals to the Massimo lineup.

ITM: Tell us about the third generation—your generation—within DFV and what are the family’s goals for the future?

CI: My grandfather planted our first vineyards in the 1920s and we began to make wine in the ‘30s. My father and uncles continued to lead the company forward by purchasing vineyards in Lodi and Monterey. The third generation has had an eye on the Napa Valley for some time and my brother Jay and I, along with cousins Cheryl, Mike, Frank Jr., and Marie, are proud to honor the family’s legacy of producing wines from California’s most prestigious growing regions through the acquisition of Black Stallion Winery. Black Stallion Estate Winery on Silverado Trail in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley is a place where we will be able to develop wines of exceptional quality. We look forward to offering our customers estate-bottled Napa Valley wines with the quality that Delicato Family Vineyards is known for.

ITM: Are there other projects in the hopper?

CI: We have a few things in play right now…that’s all I can say at this point.