May 2014 Issue of Wines & Vines

Starbucks to Offer Wine at More Locations

by Paul Franson

SEATTLE, WASH.—In an effort to build its evening business, coffee giant Starbucks is expanding wine and beer sales after 4 p.m. in selected stores. Though it’s starting slowly and the program affects only some of the chain’s locations, members of the wine industry are excited about the sales potential in the company’s 12,000 shops. Starbucks has hinted “several thousand” cafés may eventually serve wine.

After initial tests in October 2010 at a Seattle store, Starbucks expanded the trial to about 25 locations in Chicago, Atlanta and southern California in January 2012.

Starbucks Wine List

More recently, the company rolled out its Starbucks Evenings service in the Seattle and Portland, Ore., areas as well as Washington, D.C.

Expansion to other regions will progress gradually in the next few years. “We’re very picky about locations,” said Clarice Turner, senior vice president and general manager, U.S. licensed business. “We want to choose the right locations with the right atmosphere, lighting and music. Not all stores will be suitable.”

Turner noted that she expects the new offerings will extend Starbucks’ welcoming ambience into the evening hours. “Many neighborhoods in America, particularly in the suburbs, don’t have restaurants and clubs with this atmosphere,” she emphasized.

Starbucks did some early tests with wines from its Seattle area neighbor, Ste. Michelle Wine Estates, and features a number of the company’s wines at locations in the Northwest. Other wines that Starbucks will sell are from other large companies like E. & J. Gallo Winery (the very popular Apothic red blend and Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon), while others come from smaller wineries. Terlato Wine Group represents at least two wineries: Markham Vineyards in Napa Valley and Sanford Winery & Vineyards in Santa Barbara County. Perhaps the smallest winery represented is 8,600-case Amavi Cellars of Walla Walla, Wash., which has a Syrah on the Starbucks Evenings wine list in Seattle and Portland.

Bryan Del Bondio, the president of Markham, says that the program is so new that he can’t report much in the way of results. However, he admitted, “It’s really cool to have your brand featured in Starbucks. We’re very happy for the exposure and sales.”

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