Coming attractions for local wineries

I have started getting press releases about upcoming local
winery events. January is the time many wineries take a look at the
year ahead and start to plan events for their wine club members and
also as a marketing tool to get people to visit their local winery
more often.
I have started getting press releases about upcoming local winery events. January is the time many wineries take a look at the year ahead and start to plan events for their wine club members and also as a marketing tool to get people to visit their local winery more often.

I believe there is a misconception about wineries not needing to compete as heavily as, say, Hot Pockets at the grocery store. The bucolic country settings and the Napa Winery Chateaus seems to have shone a different light on winemakers as the nouveau country gentleman activity of the 21st century. In fact, wine is difficult to market and many of the small to mid-sized wineries don’t have much, if any, presence in the local grocery store. So these wineries depend on you visiting their tasting rooms. It is there that you can get a feel for the wines, the winemakers and the friendliness of like-minded consumers.

I tour wineries on a regular basis for work, but also for pleasure. And I know that wine in California is as much a tourism industry as it is a product line. What wineries are selling in their bottles of wine is much more than the wine itself. They are selling a lifestyle and a social interaction that is hard to get from other products. So it is a natural step for the wineries to introduce events, wedding facilities and dinners with the winemakers because they do see you, the consumer, as part of their extended family.

This week I had the chance to speak to Al DeRose of DeRose Vineyards and Sue Marsh of Leal Vineyards. Both wineries are busy putting events in place for 2004.

I asked Marsh what made events an important part of Leal’s marketing strategy.

“We do events for consumers and this is great. When we are the venue for a wedding, we have a captive audience. If we have a group of 200 and 10 percent of the population are wine drinkers, we have an opportunity to make 20 new Leal ‘ambassadors’ as I like to call them. People like to drink wine from a place they have been to, a place where they have met the people behind the bottle so to speak. They also like to spread the news with their family and friends (thus the ambassador) and this is good for us. Our goal with these types of events is to break even, eventually. We want people to come to Leal and live by our motto, ‘Fine wines and good times.'”

“The other important events that we do are for our Club Leal members, again, consumers,” she said. “We feel an obligation to live up to our promise of making these devotees glad that they are members. We want them to know that we are appreciative of their support and we must continue to show that with great events.”

Events come in all sizes and themes from 1,000 different wineries pouring at an event to a cellar tour for 10 at the winery. Wineries have to be prepared to do everything in between!

“A tasting like ZAP at Fort Mason where there are 1,000 different wineries under one roof,” Marsh explained. “Maybe 5,000 different wines to taste. It is overwhelming to people for the first time. These events are great fun. It is an opportunity to meet wine enthusiasts and have them taste your wine. After all, the more palettes you ‘visit’ with your wines the more wine you will sell. Many times these events are mixed with trade, media and consumers. Often each guest wears a color coded name tag indicating what group they are with. I think that this is funny. Shouldn’t you treat everyone the same, after all? Ultimately they – we – are all consumers no matter what we do by day.”

There is no business like the wine business. You have to love what you do and it is difficult not to in this business, to make a difference and make each ‘event’ count.”

I would say events vary greatly from a couple visiting the winery to the ZAP tasting in Ft. Mason. Ultimately they are all the same because they each present an opportunity to tell your story and get one more devoted wine drinker.”

Al DeRose said he believes events are becoming more and more important to the wine industry. “It’s a chance for us to showcase our product line. For me, we are a small winery; events give us the opportunity to show the consumer who we are and how we do things. Often, people find one wine they like and they stick with it. The events give them a chance to taste many wines and hopefully they will find a few new favorite wines. Of course, we like to have a good time, too!”

De Rose is hosting a Valentine’s event called DeRoses are Red on Valentine’s Day, Saturday, Feb. 14, from noon to 4 p.m. It will be a chance to taste their Library Wines and an opportunity to purchase a gift pack of three verticals of DeRose Negrette for your sweetie. Visit www.derosewine.com.

The following is a list of upcoming events for Leal: www.lealvineyards.com

Feb. 24 – Fat Tuesday-Carnaval, Don Ciccio’s, San Juan Bautista

Feb. 29 – Leap Day Barrel Tasting, Leal Vineyards, Hollister

March 19 – Rhone Ranger Winemaker Dinner, First Crush Wine Bar & Restaurant, San Francisco

March 20 – Rhone Rangers Tasting, Ft. Mason, San Francisco

March 27 – Spring Wine Dinner, Leal Vineyards, Hollister

April 18 – Club Leal Appreciation Day, Leal Vineyards, Hollister

May 23 – Fine Wines and Good Times – an Art & Wine Festival Leal Estate Vineyards Style, Leal Vineyards, Hollister

June 26/27 – Passport Weekend, participating wineries, San Benito County

Most wineries and wine regions have events all year long, so check their Web sites regularly. Find a new favorite, meet the local winemakers and have fun!

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