What price would you pay to save your reputation? That sounds like a moral question that would make you ponder your integrity & values; however, I was honestly questioning it from purely a business perspective.
As a winemaker, one of the emptiest feelings is having to destroy a product when no error or fault was made. Sure, it's costly & hurts when you mess up or miscalculate a formula or equation; but, there's always growth & learning that comes when that happens. For instance, our first sweet wine was an Orange Muscat in 04, we stopped the fermentation at 3% residual sugar, but, failed to stabilize a bacteria, which caused a Secondary fermentation in the bottle. Great if your trying to make a sparkling wine, not so much, when you've bottled it with regular corks that start flying out! However, for the corks that held, it was a decent sparkling wine, yet, that was a no brainer to destroy what was left to save our reputation. I promise you our last four sweet wines, we took extra, extra measures to kill & filter all possible errors from the equation. In fact, our last one was a double medal winner! That's life: error, learn, & hopefully improve.
What I've been contemplating, is what's a reputation worth, monetarily? I was very sad today, when I decided that two barrels of my 07, Napa Cab just didn't meet our excellent standard of quality. No flaws or errors were made, just the fruit quality lacked the intensity that we had hoped for & expect out of Napa. When that happens, & it does more often than the industry would admit, there are several option: 1) Lower your price; but to me, that feels like a compromise of standards. 2) Push it on the bulk market; but, I don't want a reputation of poor quality. 3) Try to Dr it up by blending it; but that's just wasting great product to make a lot of good product. 4) Come to the conclusion, as we did, this just wasn't what we had hoped for; then dump it down the drain.
Before you can just flippantly agree, you must understand the cost & labor input to reach this decision. Quality Napa fruit cost on average six grand a ton, our French barrels are $1500 each, transportation, storage, & over two years of labor, testing & care went into the development of these wines I dumped.
Again, I ask, what price would you pay to save your reputation? For us, we strive for an unsurpassed quality of excellence, that for now is very painful; however, hopefully the long term gain gets recognized as we build that reputation of only the best!