Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Laughing Stock pegs wine offering to stock markets

David Enns with barrels of Portfolio 2007

In recessionary times, selling pricey Okanagan wines will challenge winery owners to create clever sales pitches.

David and Cynthia Enns, the brainy couple who operate Laughing Stock Vineyards, are first out of the gate with a creative incentive to launch this season’s Futures program for Portfolio, their flagship wine.

They will release their 2007 Portfolio this fall at $39 a bottle. However, a portion of that wine is available, beginning February 17, for $35 a bottle to customers prepared to pay for it now.

Laughing Stock has offered Futures on Portfolio since it began releasing the wine several years go.

There’s an added twist this year: if the Toronto Stock Exchange index keeps tanking, you might get the wine for as little as $28 a bottle. “We recognize that many of our wine clients are feeling the effects of the market downturn,” Cynthia says in her news release. “We wanted to let them know that we feel their pain.”

Here is how David and Cynthia are structuring this year’s offering:

* The offer, first of all, applies only to the buyers of the first 300 cases. There is, as Cynthia puts it in her news release, a “limit to every economic stimulus package.”

* The winery registers the TSX index on the day your order (and cheque) is received. Then for every 500 points that the index drops between then and the September 2009 release date, your purchase price drops by $1 a bottle. The maximum reduction is $7 a bottle; the wine would cost you only $28.

* If the market continues to slide between now and when the wine is released, David and Cynthia will send customers a so-called “economic stimulus cheque” to reflect the additional discount. (Or the money can be donated to a charity.)

“Bull or bear,” Cynthia writes, “you can’t lose.”

Over the past year, the TSX index has gone from a high of just over 15,000 to a low of about 7,600. Currently, it stands around 9,000. It would need to go back to a low of 5,500 (Heaven forbid!) for customers to get the full additional $7 a bottle discount.

In their prior careers, David and Cynthia ran a financial consulting company that advised companies involved with the stock market. When they opened their Naramata Bench winery in 2005, they called it Laughing Stock as a playful reference to how their financial peers would regard them if the winery failed. So far, the winery is thriving.

In addition to using market names for their wines (Portfolio, Blind Trust are examples), they have incorporated stock references on labels. The Portfolio label is a ticker tape wrapped around the bottle, with the symbols and prices of various shares on the day when the grapes were picked.

Portfolio is an award-winning blend that now incorporates all five of the Bordeaux red varieties. The quality justifies the price.


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