I was thrilled to be asked to serve on the media committee for this year's International Pinot Noir Celebration. This is such a beautifully run event and it attracts top producers from around the world to McMinnville, Oregon for a weekend of incredible wine, food, hospitality and friendship. It was my first time attending the full weekend and I vowed never to miss it again!
This year's annual Oregon Wine Symposium was held in late February in Portland and saw record attendance. The event always provides a good chance to learn, connect with colleagues and network; and I was delighted to find that the outlook and energy level have improved dramatically since I first attended in 2009. I left also with four key takeaways, which I detail below.
I was happy to return as a judge for the Oregon State Fair's wine competition. As usual, Elaine Lisle and Desa Swaim did an incredible job with the volunteers, organization and excellent treatment of their judges. The pre-judging dinner at Bentley's in Salem is always a treat because it features gold medal winners from the prior year. Sommelier Brian Kemmerle, a fellow judge, and chef Derek Ridgway do an excellent job pairing wine with the cuisine.
Some highlights included tasting the Italian varieties from Cana's Feast by winemaker, Patrick Taylor. And of course Stoller Vineyards' 2006 SV Estate Pinot Noir being awarded "Best Red of Show". (No, I had no idea which of the many Pinot Noirs was my client's because this was a blind tasting :)
It's always interesting to compare your judging notes with the overall medal list. As I wrote after the WA wine competition, there isn't a lot of time to savor these wines, so my notes are my 30 second to one minute impressions. Here I present my personal "Golds":
Phelps Creek 2009 Gewurtztraminer
Mineral, fresh rain, oregano and white peach aromas. Pretty tangerine and lime notes in mouth. Delicious with great acid!
Phelps Creek 2008 Chardonnay
Deep golden delicious and red apple. Nice oak integration with spice and good length. Best white of show/Best wine of show.
Shadow Mountain Vineyards 2009 Pinot Gris
Very inviting notes with pretty lemon-lime and fresh rain aromas. Bright acidity with a crisp mouthfeel with a touch of almond on the finish. More of a Grigio style -- fun and sexy.
Firesteed 2008 Rose of Pinot Noir
Ripe strawberry, sour cherry, floral and herbal aromas. Strawberry really comes through in mouth with nice acid structure -- refreshing.
August Cellars 2006 Pinot Noir
Deep, inviting red cherry, raspberry and baking spices -- multiple layers. Some good stewed fruit notes with a touch of fresh tomato, cherry and a nice minty/herbal character. Long finish.
Stoller Vineyards 2006 SV Pinot Noir
Very inviting, sweet black cherry jam, tea leaves, curing tobacco, earth with a hint of dusty character. Ripe, rich and round with a long finish.
Stoller Vineyards 2007 JV Pinot Noir
Deep, beautiful ripe, brambly raspberry, cherry and espresso aromas. Espresso turns to toffee and mocha in mouth which has rich feel. Love this nose! Nice balance and smooth finish.
Evergreen Vineyards 2008 Pinot Noir
Brambly with raspberry, cherry and fresh leather aromas. Deeper black cherry with earthy/forest floor and baking spice in mouth. NICE.
Cana's Feast 2007 Sangiovese
Deep red berry, leather, sweet curing tobacco with white pepper. Nice, dusty mouthfeel with raspberry and great acid. A terrific food wine with a long finish. What more could you want in a domestic Sangiovese?!! Best one I've ever tried.
Cana's Feast 2007 Nebbiolo
Blueberry, cherry, raspberry jam; smoke and moss. Good acid/tannin balance. Nice present finish -- still juicy so more time left to age in bottle.
Ribera Vineyards 2007 Merlot
Very concentrated aromas of stewed plum, fresh leather, clay. Delicious soft and round mouth with big fruit flavors retaining complexity of nose. Silky, velvety and round.
Cana's Feast 2007 Counoise
Peppery fabulousness. Red cherry, blackberry. Ripe with good acid.
Devitt Winery 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Plum, bark, blackberry, clove, olive, mint and a little je ne saisstank. What a nose! Ripe fruit with good balance. Love the mouthfeel. What a delicious glass of wine!
Stone Wolfe Vineyards 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon
Blackberry, black cherry, fresh leather, tobacco, eucalyptus. Very focused, fine ripe sweet fruit with peppery note and silky mouthfeel. Good tannic structure and balance. Long finish.
This morning I spoke to a crowd of about 40 participants at a wine marketing workshop hosted by Oregon Wine Board. The focus was on outlining the key elements of a business plan, drilling into the specifics of the marketing plan, and discussing best practices for getting started, implementation and creating a culture that seeks continuous improvement. I was impressed by the good comments from the crowd and thoughtful questions. If you would like a copy of the presentation, please email me.
Katherine Cole, wine writer for the Portland Oregonian, also posted a piece on marketing wine to women which quoted me. When asked about my thoughts on the subject, my mind immediately went back to a period in my marketing life where I was put in the unenviable position of promoting low-carb wine. (Not a good feeling considering that I knew it would be ridiculed by the press -- the worst is that one of these articles lives on to this day.) While this wasn't specifically aimed at only women, it is yet another example of trying to take advantage of a fad versus truly creating something meaningful for one's target audience.
It's important to keep in mind that my comments were directed toward the Oregon wine industry specifically. I do not have sales data on Bitch wines, so there is a possibility that the brand may be going gangbusters in its selected target market. In the end we're all in business so if Bitch is a creation women are buying and loving, more power to them. For Oregon, however, where the costs tend to be higher and the output lower, I do not see this as an effective way to reach women.
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!
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.
On Monday, February 22 I gave a presentation on developing a strategic marketing plan. My co-panelists were Mark Freund of Silicon Valley Bank and Scott Lawrence of Michael Skurnik Wines. Stephany Boettner, Marketing & Communications Director for Oregon Wine Board, moderated.
With a winemaking culture dating back to pre-Roman civilizations, Italy is one of the oldest wine producing regions in the world. The country’s huge variety of grape varieties (there are over 800 documented), delicious cuisine, and vibrant culture influenced a number of American wine industry pioneers like Mondavi, the Gallos and Oregon’s own Ponzi family. Today, more and more Willamette Valley wineries are producing Italian-style wines which salute the old world and offer distinct newer tastes in the heart of Pinot Noir country... Read full article
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