I spent this past weekend in Walla Walla at the wine blogger's conference. My reasons for attending were two-fold, to present Stoller's 2007 JV Pinot Noir during a live tweet red tasting and to network and learn. Happy to report that the wine showed very well -- our main goal was building awareness. The follow up is measuring an increase in that awareness and translation to sales -- hardly a mathematical equation, but an important step for analyzing return on marketing investment nonetheless.
As far as learning how to improve my blog, the conference was less useful since I write primarily about business matters and to a very (intentionally) limited audience. The vast majority of attendees were non-industry and focused on learning about wine and educating/reviewing. However; when viewed from a macro level in terms of increasing overall consumer awareness of and appreciation for wine, the conference and social media in general are a great movement for the industry.
It was very well organized and the Saturday field trips were a highlight. Our group visited Forgotten Hills vineyard which supplies Waters, made a pit stop at Cailloux vineyard owned by Cristophe Baron of Cayuse (my personal favorite 5 minutes!) and Walla Walla Vintners where we walked to Leonetti's Mill Creek Upland vineyard. We then lunched at Cougar Crest.
Spending some one-on-one time with traditional media proved to be an unexpected benefit. Unfortunately, I missed Steve Heimhoff's Friday introduction given a delay in leaving, but I did enjoy Lettie Teague's keynote on Saturday evening. She was genuine, positive, funny and quite refreshing. I've loved reading her column in Food and Wine over the years and will be following her at Wall Street Journal. Paul Gregutt generously invited me to a tasting of older Washington reds which demonstrated the aging potential of these wines. My two favorites were a 1994 Chateau Ste. Michelle Merlot and 1998 Wineglass Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon.
Below are Cayuse's Cailloux and Leonetti's Mill Creek Upland Vineyards
Grapevine recently published my article, The True Meaning and Value of Marketing, in its May-June issue. I examine the differences between sales and marketing, demonstrating how the former is what moves the boxes and the latter what creates demand for them. Then I go on to examine the components of a marketing-driven sales strategy.
Also, check out my latest bi-monthly newsletter where I discuss what your label should and shouldn't do for your wine brand, some website tips and a new section, industry spotlight, featuring some of my favorite graphic designers.
Medford's ABC affiliate, KDTV channel 12 featured SOWine on its website with an article and video
What a fantastic conference put on by marketing guru, Marilyn Hawkins of Hawkins & Company PR of Ashland, Oregon. Marilyn and her right-hand woman, Vicki Griesinger, were organized, enthusiastic and kept the schedule running on time -- not an easy feat when you have over 100 people in attendance.
SoWine was created to focus on sales and marketing for the fast-growing regions in Southern Oregon such as the Rogue and Umpqua Valleys. My talk, Developing a Solid Marketing Plan for Wine and Wine Grapes, highlighted the essential components of such a plan, how to compose one and tips for continuous improvement.
Below I list the best tips presented by each of the other featured speakers:
Eugenia Keegan of Keegan Consulting on Sales & Distribution in a Tough Economy
* do not underestimate the pricing effect of the true laid-in cost which is FOB plus transport and taxes
*make sure that the wholesale markets you choose are places you're comfortable visiting twice per year -- if you're not working the market, your competitors are
Don Morgan of GMA Research Corporation on DIY Research Tools
* one of the best ways to improve your marketing efforts is to think like a research scientist -- ask questions and use the answers to your benefit
* if you're only going to ask your customers one question, it should be "Would you recommend us?"
Rachell Coe of 4theGrapes on Making Your Website Work Much Harder
* make sure it is very clear how to sign up for your newsletter andbuy your wine on a homepage that downloads in less than 10 seconds
* use free measurement and management tools like Google Analyticsto monitor traffic and conversion, browser shots to see how your site looks on various platforms, and a link checker to make sure nothing is broken
Chris Oggenfuss of Oggenfuss Wine Marketing on the Value of Social Media and Customer Contact Innovations
* Facebook is the third largest "country" in the world -- if you only embrace one form of social media this should be it
* Snooth has a wine trade platform where wineries can and should manage their profiles as its the largest online wine database
* call your customers to thank them and sell more wine -- this is a vastly under-utilized form of communication in the industry
Porscha Schiller of South Stage Cellars on Special Event Planning
* begin with a goal in mind and be sure to check with the community and neighbors to find out if there is a competing event that will diminish your return
* 15 to 20 minutes before the event begins, "arrive" as if you were a guest to tackle last minute issues
It's always a pleasure speak at industry events and even better when I return to the office with a few pages of marketing notes for my clients and my company. A special thank you to Laura and Kurt Lotspeich of Trium who hosted the speaker's dinner the evening prior on their beautiful deck. Check out the winery and their Viognier next time you're in the area -- it's delicious!
I had the pleasure of judging Washington's Sunshine wine competition on June 12. My panel, headed up by AndyPerdue of Wine Press Northwest, saw Viognier, white blends,Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Bordeaux blends, dessert whites and fruit wines. As usual, Washington Cabernet Sauvignon shined.
Below is a list of my favorite wines with tasting notes and two medal notations -- the one I personally awarded and the wine's ultimate award given by the panel.
In wine competitions, everything is done "blind", so we only know what variety and perhaps vintage we're tasting. First, individual judges taste and note their scores (you'll see my notes below are not full reviews because we only have 30 seconds to a minute to evaluate each wine). After each flight, the panel discusses the individual wines and must come to agreement on a final medal.
2006 Le Chateau Bordeaux Blend - aromas of blueberry, graphite, cedar and cassis; smooth, pretty and integrated on the palate with a soft finish (Gold from me and overall)
2007 Foxy Roxy Vixen Bordeaux Blend - earth, moss, and blackberry aromas with a similar palate offering dusty tannins; nice finish (Gold from me; Silver overall)
2007 William Church Sur La Mer Bordeaux Blend - pencil shavings, deep blackberry fruit with a little rhubarb burst; palate has herbal, coffee and raspberry notes; nice lingering finish (Gold from me; Silver overall)
2006 Robert Karl Cellars Cabernet Sauvignon - sweet black cherry, cigar box and herbal aromas -- great blend; good depth and finish (Silver+ from me; Gold overall)
2006 Portteus "Old Vine" Cabernet Sauvignon - graphite and sweet curing tobacco aromas (reminds me of home in NC); awesome black fruit, minty, herbal and graphite flavors; good tannic structure and complexity (Gold from me*; Silver overall)
* We had so many Cabernets and Bordeaux blends that we actually judged two rounds of each. The first was a "retain/eliminate" round where we decide collectively whether or not to send the wine to the medal round. This makes it interesting because I have two sets of notes on every wine. Since I remember liking this one so much, I went back to my "retain/eliminate" notes to see if I was consistent. Indeed I had given it a "retain ++" and noted its "herbal, older world style with mint and leather and nice graphite". It retails for $38.
2007 William Church Cabernet Sauvignon - apparently I like this producer's style -- stewed black fruits, cedar, tobacco; silky and slightly spicy palate with nice mouthfeel (Silver+ from me; Gold overall)
2007 Rio Vista Cabernet Sauvignon - graphite, dusty black fruit and cedar aromas; very nice integrated fruit on palate with good tannin level; doesn't have a super long finish but I like it (Gold from be; Bronze overall)
2008 Kiona Chenin Blanc Ice Wine - very deep gold color with nose of golden delicious apple, pear flambée, and a hint of very ripecantaloupe; honeyed on the mouth with a little fresh spritz (Gold from me and overall)
2007 Northwest Totem Cellars Viognier Ice Wine - tangerine, white peach, lavender with a hint of fresh cut grass; nicemouthfeel with hint of acidity (Gold from me and overall)
2008 Kestrel Semillon Ice Wine - nose of rose petal, tangerine,and a little fresh hay -- very pretty (Silver+ from me; Bronze overall)
For a complete listing of winners, visit the Sunshine & Wine competition website.
On June 14, I will be speaking at SoWINE, the Southern Oregon Wine Marketing Conference being held at OSU extension in Central Point (Medford area). The purpose of the event is to enable small wineries to address current challenges and better plan for the future of their businesses. My talk, Developing a marketing plan for wine and winegrapes, will be a more in depth presentation than the one I presented at the Oregon Wine Symposium this past February.
The event has a wait list but I am happy to send my follow up materials to anyone who is interested afterwards.
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