From vineyard to shelf: In Nevada, the consolidation of distributors may lead to more wine choices for consumers 

Most of us don’t think about how the wines we buy in a retail store get there … but why can you find some wines in seemingly every store, while others are nearly impossible to find?  

According to BoldData, an international data company located in the Netherlands, there are more than 273,000 wine companies in the world. That means there must be more than 1 million different wines you could buy, if you had access to them. So, why don’t we? This is a byproduct of the wineries’ ability to get their wines placed in retail stores—and here in the United States, it’s the product of a three-tier distribution system. 

This system was introduced in 1933, after the repeal of Prohibition, as a method of checks and balances to ensure safe alcohol sales—and effective tax-revenue collection by each state. This also allowed the states a great degree of control over alcohol sales; they could now create their own laws regulating the days and times when alcohol could be purchased, and whether to allow direct-to-consumer alcohol sales. The “tiers” are the three industries involved in getting alcohol to consumers—manufacturers, wholesalers (also known as distributors) and retailers. 

Distributors are licensed to operate across a state. However, due to warehousing and delivery requirements and limitations, they tend to be more regional. Reno has a local distributor called Encore Beverage, founded in 2007 by Mark and Deb Baldwin. The Baldwins, who resided in Truckee for more than 35 years, ran Encore as a local, family-owned business. In December 2023, Richard Cox purchased it. 

Cox has had a long career as a certified public account and business consultant, including at one point being the vice president of finance for our Stanley Cup-winning Vegas Golden Knights. Cox founded Cork Distributors in 2014 in Las Vegas and over the past few years has continued to expand his footprint in the wine- and spirits-distribution market. 

“I already owned a distributor in Las Vegas, and I had done a couple of acquisitions that added additional boutique wines and premium spirits to our portfolio,” Cox said. “When I learned that Encore Beverage was for sale, I decided to see if I could work a deal. … The idea was to get synergies through the scale of warehousing (of both businesses), as well as the synergies of our existing supplies that we would have in both north and south Nevada, combining them to better support all of our customer base.” 

As I mentioned before, wineries need to use distributors to get their products placed in retail stores, so a distributor with a larger footprint and more suppliers with better products will help get the wine brands we love on the shelves.  

“We probably have the best Italian wine portfolio in Nevada, if not the West Coast, as well as an amazing French portfolio,” Cox said. “In terms of cool wines from California, we’re stacked as well, with Anthem, Alpha Omega and Carte Blanche, among others.”  

I am now super-excited to discover all of the Italian wines Encore/Cork distributes. As regular readers know, I love Italian wines. 

Cox advised me that sometime in the future, Encore beverage will be renamed Cork Distributors to reinforce the larger statewide brand. “We work with our suppliers and the customers to ensure that we’re doing the best that we can and that we have the best products possible to get to the consumer,” he said. 

Cork Distributors also donates to community organizations such as the Folded Flag Foundation, which supports the families of fallen U.S. military and government personnel. 

I asked Cox how much time he was spending in Reno now that he has purchased Encore. “My wife and I are fully ingrained Reno residents. We bought a house in 2020, so I actually bought it before I had contemplated buying Encore. So it was all kind of serendipitous,” he said.