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Cornerstone Cellars

Alex Crown
 
December 18, 2013 | Alex Crown

Planes, Trains and Automobiles… and Bikes, Buses and Ferries

Click, click, click, click, click, click. The sound of my cycling shoes rachetting is unmistakeable. Gearing up to sell wine for the day I have one thing on my mind. Will San Francisco’s notorious wind be a friend or foe? In my backpack are 5 sample bottles. A selection of Cornerstone, the Stepping Stone Artistry Series, and a bottle of Rocks! Leaving the tasting room at 10:00 am, the morning chill still has yet to be replaced by our unseasonable afternoon sunshine. I look forward to the rays warming my arms while in the frigid city. I’ve got a big day ahead of me. Ride down to Napa to catch the route 29 bus which will take me to the Bay Link ferry. From there I head to San Francisco to visit a selection of restaurants and wine stores. Perhaps a stop for a late lunch and then back to the Ferry Building by 5:00 or face missing the 6:15 connecting bus to downtown Napa. I will say, selling wine on a bicycle in San Francisco is considerably easier and siginificantly more enjoyable than driving. The city is only 47 square miles. Any point can be reached within 30 minutes and an incredible advantage is gained by not having to scour the streets for parking.

Traveling out of state has yet be difficiult.  I’m fortunate that all of my distributor partners have been extremely accommodating to my latest challenge. Getting to the Oakland Airport has been the largest test. Napa has a single airporter that leaves a few times a day and one needs to coordinate their flight so everything syncs. From the new airport to my hotel is not difficult at all. In larger cities, I’m looking at you Philly and New York, public transportation is easily navigated. When in doubt, cabs are easy to find. I’m also fortunate that our distributor’s sales reps have been great about driving to sales calls.

Is it possible to successfully conduct outside sales while not driving? Yes. Is it easy? Well I wouldn't say its convenient. That would be a stretch. It is fun though. Can one make new restaurant and retail placements relying only on their two legs and the use of various public transit systems? Absolutely. In the last three months I’ve made by the glass placements at the Ferry Plaza Wine Merchant, Larsen’s Steakhouse in Valencia, Redd here in Yountville, The Napa General Store, Vino Volo at the Oakland Airport, Fig & Thistle San Francisco, Eiko’s Restaurant in downtown Napa and Cole’s Chop House. What about other restaurants and their wine lists you might ask? Absolutely. Just a few of the places you can find our wines locally are Sens Restaurant in San Francisco and Ruth’s Chris Steak House. Redd Wood in Yountville has our 2010 Cornerstone Oregon Willamette Valley Pinot Noir. Just a mile up north, Mustard’s Grill is carrying our Cornerstone Sauvignon Blanc. On these "warm" winter days, if you’re looking for our award winning Corallina Rosé of Syrah, you need to travel no further than Brix.

The last three months conducting sales to the trade without personally driving a car has been interesting to say the least. My primary mode of transportation around the Napa Valley and the greater San Francisco Bay Area has been on my Cervélo. To go the distance, I’ve utilized BART, The VINE, and the Bay Link Ferry. Using a bicycle for transportation is nothing new; in fact, the German Laufmaschine built in the early 1800s was the first type of bicycle built.  Outside of San Francisco, tell people you're riding a bike for recreation or exercise and no one blinks an eye. Ride your bike for work and everyone loses their mind. The looks on my customer’s faces when I pull a half case of wine off of my back can be priceless. Riding my bike is relatively quick and easy. The floor of the Napa Valley is flat. Over the 30 miles you’ll ride along the Silverado Trail from Napa to Calistoga, you’ll climb 1000 feet in rolling hills. If you take highway 29, the slope is even more gradual. As a cyclist, one only needs to battle the headwind traveling north to south after 2:30 PM.

Relying on my bicycle and various forms of public transportation has certainly been an eye opening experience. I used to take driving for granted. Now I truly look it as a privilege. I look forward to this experiment being over in just about a month’s time. Until then, if you see a cyclist on the road, be kind and give them plenty of room. We hate getting buzzed, at least while riding.

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