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FGCU alumni association adds wine to its repertoire

Whether you prefer red or white, FGCU’s Alumni Association has you covered with its new wine collection.
The collection offers a custom red wine blend with four different components and a Chardonnay as the white.
Kimberly Wallace, the director of alumni relations, attended a conference last July where she met a representative from a company called Vinoshipper.
Vinoshipper has been in business since 2007. The company’s mission is to help wineries increase their direct sales and have the ability to offer customers a wide selection of wines.
One of the ways it achieves this mission is by managing affinity programs with universities. They help universities create and sell wine collections.
When Wallace learned about these programs, Vinoshipper had only been working with schools in California and Oregon.
“I thought, ‘Why couldn’t we do this at FGCU?’” Wallace said.
And, so, the relationship began, and in just four months, FGCU became the first university in Florida to enter into the wine business.
For Vinoshipper, the affinity program started when Stanford approached them in 2010 to run its affinity program.
Stanford started its wine collection 35 years ago. Since the inception of the program, it has sold over one million bottles. Typically, the collection offers five different varieties every year, and the wines come from more than one hundred wineries.
University alumni associations are now starting to get more involved in this space because it’s a way to fundraise. Twenty percent of every bottle sold goes to the FGCU Alumni Association.
Vinoshipper is currently working with schools in four states and has plans to expand to six or seven more states in 2016.
“Schools look at what Stanford has achieved and say, ‘Gosh, it’d be nice to do what Stanford does,’ but realize it’s not easy,” said Steven Harrison, the president of Vinoshipper. “We help to manage the program, so the alumni association can focus on marketing.”
FGCU may not offer five different wines per year, but the two it does offer have gotten a good response.
“We’ve had thirty orders so far, and there’s been a pretty even split between orders for the red and the white,” Wallace said.
The alumni association debuted the wines during alumni weekend. It offered a walking wine tour on campus that showcased the collection on Feb. 18.
Harrison said Vinoshipper puts the quality of the wine before everything else. The company only works with wineries that are considered upscale — “boutique” in the industry.
The wineries that create the schools’ wines are showcased clearly on the website and the wine label as well.
“It’s my business trick,” Harrison said, “that way, these wineries know they are being marketed to a wide audience and ensure the quality of their wine.”
FGCU’s red wine is made by Highway 12, a winery with founders who have been making wines for more than 20 years.
The Chardonnay is made by Stuhlmuller Vineyard, which was established more than 30 years ago.
The decision of which wineries to use comes from a sampling process. First, Vinoshipper has different wines tasted by experts in the industry to ensure a great product.
Then, based on what the schools are interested in offering in their collection, Vinoshipper comes up with options and the school samples each one. FGCU’s Board of Directors sampled and chose the wines that are currently being sold.
There are hopes to grow the program in the years to come based on how well it does.
To start, there are already plans for a 20th anniversary edition that would launch in August and be available throughout FGCU’s 20th anniversary celebration year, until August 2017.
The wines can be purchased as a two-pack: one red and one white, for $38; a three-pack of the white for $54; and a three-pack of the red for $60.
Shipping is available to most states.

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