Scott Peterson: Independent Winemaker in a Digitally Data Driven World
Growing up in Williamsburg, Virginia, Scott Peterson watched history unfold in front of his very eyes as right out the front door was beautiful colonial architecture and a Rockwellian downtown comprising his youth. He was a drummer in the Colonial Williamsburg Fifes & Drums. They would dress up in period attire and play military music from the 1770’s. As a teenager, he initially wanted to be a forester, but at the age of 19, he got the itch to head out to the West Coast. On a lark, he purchased a truck, got a dog and headed to Northern California.
While working as a cook, he went wine tasting up in the Sierra Foothills and saw all these cool, long-haired guys hanging out, listening to music, working a harvest, with their kids running around– an interesting casual and creative dichotomy of people and agriculture. An epiphany came over Scott, “You can make a living doing this?” He quit his job and entered the University of California, Davis completing a degree in Fermentation Science.
Landing in Sonoma County, he spent a few years at Kendall Jackson and Chateau Ste. Michelle before venturing off on his own to be a winemaking consultant. He had the opportunity to go work in Argentina. Scott was hired by Nicolas Cantena Zapata to help him design wines that could be brought into the U.S. market. While in Argentina, Scott got a great education in high altitude vineyards and what it takes to find the best areas to make great bold and voluminous red wines. Consulting winemaking offered him a level of freedom– he was not pinned down by one company or one style of wines. Scott got to help people create wines of distinction.
Scott started his own brand in the late 1990’s, S.P. Drummer. The name pays homage to his days growing up in Virginia. The early 2000’s were an interesting time as small producers were all the rage. Consumers were chasing the newest and best of small independent winemakers while concurrently internet commerce was starting to take hold–smaller case volumes were moving off the shelf in greater numbers. Business was going good and Scott started his second brand, Rumpus Cellars. He wanted to create low priced eclectic wines like Albarino and Vermentino.
Unfortunately in 2008, the Great Recession hit. Scott went from selling in nine markets down to a fraction of that– orders were 20% of what they used to be. It was a very challenging time not just for Scott, but the wine industry at large. It was time to take a different approach to making wine. In 2013, a colleague and good friend, Matt Parish approached him about participating in a new project with Nakedwines.com. Scott was commissioned to make a Sonoma brand– he called it ROX, an acronym for “Retro Obsessive Extraction”.
Partnering with Nakedwines.com, Scott got project funding as well as support from a marketing, packaging and administrative functional perspective. This freed him up to focus on what he really wanted to do, which was to make wine. The Nakedwines.com business model is unique in that it raises capital from subscribers who are referred to as “Angels”, which is used to fund new and interesting wines. The Angels then get to purchase these wines directly via the internet at discounted rates.
Nakedwines.com also takes a data first approach giving Scott a virtual feedback loop on what consumers are thinking about his wines. Both via a rating system and subscriber comments as well as feedback, Nakedwines.com can understand from a data-driven analytics perspective how his wines are being received and where there might be opportunities down the road based on that treasure trove of real time data. It also gives Scott an opportunity to respond to the consumers whether the feedback is glowing or critical. He gets a qualitative readout of what his consumers think of his wines. For many small producers, they do not have the technology framework in place to gauge the marketplace at a higher level and try to anticipate their consumers’ wine habits and needs. Nakedwines.com analysts provide that extra layer of support to understanding the marketing data behind the wine sales.
Unfortunately with the fires in Sonoma in 2020, Scott lost 50% of the ROX Sonoma County fruit. Hardships can sometimes result in opportunities. In this case, Scott has brought it back full circle as he has embarked on creating ROX of the ANDES ARGENTINA, a lineup of Argentina wines that he has put together via a collaboration of old friends. The concept ultimately is to bring big and powerful wines to the Angels at quality price points.
Currently, Scott is also on the hunt to make some wines from Washington state. With Chateau Ste. Michelle, the state’s largest producer, divesting assets there is a real opportunity to source some high end fruit. He is really interested in Syrah and Merlot, looking for high tones and soft tannins. Similar to Argentina, it is an opportunity to work with old colleagues and friends.
Scott would definitely encourage small producers to look at participating in the Nakedwines.com model. A winemaker can put together a proposal of what kind of wine they would like to make and the company will analyze it and see if it is a good fit. When asked what advice Scott would give to small producers he said, “Be tenacious, be cautious, have a solid business model. Get help, talk to your compadres–learn from others and don’t try to do it all.”
Disclosure: The wines featured in the Wine Recommendations section were provided by the winery for the purpose of review. The selection and tasting of these wines were independently conducted. No compensation or incentives was provided from wineries or importers for inclusion in the story. As always, the top priority is to provide readers with informative and unbiased reporting.
ROX 2019 “All Blacks” Red Wine- robust and powerful Syrah-based blend with dark, ripe and concentrated flavors of blackberry, cranberry and black pepper followed up by a long finish. Drink now or hold back for several years.
ROX of the Andes 2020 Malbec- deep dark red with luscious fruit flavors of blackberry, cassis and plum. Silky tannins with a nice smooth finish.
ROX of the Andes 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon- dark cherry, raspberry and plum flavors with a touch of pepper complimented by soft tannins and a long finish.
Rumpus Cellars 2020 Tempranillo, California- big and bold with dark cherry flavors and a touch of spice.
Rumpus Cellars 2020 Sauvignon Blanc, California- flavors of melon, peach and a touch of lemon. Crisp and refreshing with nicely balanced acidity.