Monday, April 12, 2010

San Francisco Vintner's Market 2010

I attended the first ever San Francisco Vintner's Market this past Saturday. This was different from other industry tastings in that it was set up in a conventional hall at Fort Mason. 100+ vintners from all over California set up a table for tasting. In addition, there were many local food vendors offering cheese, cupcakes and chocolate..oh my! What was different about this tasting was the opportunity to purchase wine on premise. In past tastings such as Pinot Days, ZAP etc., the idea was to just get the word out about your brand, drive up mailing lists and network. This time tickets to the event cost $30 (I won a free ticket!!) much cheaper than the other events allowing tasters to purchase the wines they liked on the spot. The wineries came prepared with extra wine to sell. I saw lots of people walking out with cases of wine. I wonder how much was sold over all. Purchases have been prevented onsite before due technology. Credit cards need to be able to communicate to satellite and banks and with over 100 wineries using them, it is a large undertaking. Customers paying cash, however, saw price breaks.

Overall, I had a great time at the event! I was really impressed with the line up of wineries. I've been working in the industry for a few years and was surprised by the amount of wineries I wasn't familiar with. It was a great opportunity for these wineries to gain more exposure, but for me, it was like finding a treasure chest! My favorite winery was Ziata. Named after her mom, proprietor Karen Cakebread makes only Sauvgnion Blanc and Pinot Noir from the Carneros region in Napa Valley. The wines were amazing! Well balanced full of fruit, structure and earthiness. If you get a chance to purchase these wines, do so! I hope to see more industry and public tastings set up similar to the Vintner's Market in the future.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Time to Change the Business Model

I recently came across a quote which not only represents a basic marketing principle but a quote which can be applied to the wine industry: “Selling to people who actually want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don't.”- Seth Godin.

From my experience in the fine wine industry I can not express how important this quote is, especially during this challenging economic time. Consumers are having more and more difficulty justifying a purchase of a $35 (or more) bottle of wine. I have extensive tasting room experience and have seen again and again how companies become so number focused. I agree that the bottom line drives a lot of action or in-action in some cases. But what essentially sells wine is a story. Unless the company and the people working for that company can truly identify with the story and message, I have a hard time believing some brands will succeed. More importantly, during this economic time, I think it is important to drop prices and make wine more accessible to the masses. I believe you can do this without losing brand loyalty. More young people are drinking wine and making it apart of their every day lives but spending $25 plus, does not make sense. I, like many wineries, would like to see wine become main stream in American culture. However, the tactics which wineries are currently taking may not be the answer. Resorting to gorilla marketing is not the answer. I think, during this economic time, wineries and merchants, should take this opportunity to re-direct the industry for the positive. For example, become a customer's "comfort wine." Just like mac and cheese is a comfort food, where are the wines to accompany?

Personally, I'm just sick of older generations writing off my generation in traditional wine industry snobbery. I believe the more you are willing to change and accommodate in addition to being creative and authentic is the key to success. Its time to see more authenticity and have less noses' in the air. It is one thing to have a passion for wine but where are all the smart business people driving the wine industry?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Wine Quote

"Alcohol may be man’s worst enemy, but the Bible says love your enemy."
-Frank Sinatra