By Barbara Barrielle
Eric Guerra is a man who understands that luxury brands must be marketed as such and has built his career in the wine industry by being one of the best at doing just that. When done right, the brand value becomes a constant, a given. There is little discussion of price; the wine is simply worth price you pay to buy it.
Having spent his career managing luxury wine brands like Russian River Pinot Noir icon Gary Farrell, ultra-luxury Champagne brands like Perrier-Jouët and Champagne Mumm, and the casual elegance of the Napa icon Mumm Napa sparkling wine house, Guerra understands luxury wine consumers and what they expect from the brands they support. His job has been to capture those savvy wine drinkers, educate them, and keep them progressing to wines of greater quality and price.
In his latest role as Chief Sales and Marketing Officer at the venerable Vineyard 29, Guerra is working on taking this already reputable winery with three prestige estates to the next level. Guerra calls Vineyard 29, “the best Napa wine I have ever tasted.”
Originally planted with Cabernet Sauvignon from the adjoining Grace Family rootstock in 1989, Chuck and Anne McMinn purchased the V29 Estate in 2000 and then quickly acquired the historic Aida Vineyard as a perfect complement for expansion of the winery’s portfolio.
They then added a new, state-of-the-art winemaking facility, and the unquestionable skill of renowned winemaking consultant Philippe Melka, and with a winemaking team now lead by Keith Emerson, all the pieces were in place for Chuck and Anne to take Vineyard 29 to a new and exciting level of winemaking.
“With the price of premium Napa Cab continuing to rise along with the levels of quality, the challenges are getting an already confirmed brand to the next level in the midst of a significant amount of competition at the luxury end of the market. At Vineyard 29 we are focused on upping the entire luxury experience for everyone who enters our bright steel gates,” says Guerra.
For $145, visitors get to take in the views of the St. Helena Valley floor, then move into the private cave library while tasting small-lot estate Cabernets that sells for $265 a bottle and $175 Sauvignon Blancs that sells out every year. At that price, it has to be a luxury experience.
“Our clients find us. We don’t market tastings per se; visitors simply are referred or hear about Vineyard 29 from others that have had the experience, and the wine speaks for itself” explains Guerra. “I believe it’s very much like a flower opening. You come through the estate gates, then up the drive not sure what to expect. Then you see this amazing winery from the bottom of the hill which starts to get you excited. An estate Sauvignon Blanc awaits you with the view on the estates terrace private deck. Next, you move through the winery to the caves, and off in the distance you see a red Chihuly glass vase sitting in the center, setting a fantastic foreground to the private library tasting room behind it. Finally, in a quiet round table in the library, there are our amazing estate wines paired with foods from some of Napa’s finest chefs. For the customer, it all unfolds like a flower, all the colors and personality come out as it opens. In the end people extol it as one of the best experiences in the valley, which is not easy to do nowadays.
“What I love and respect about the Vineyard 29 target consumer is that they have a high wine IQ. Also, they have a luxury lifestyle, along with being very accomplished professionals like doctors, lawyers, and executives and are not shy about spending money on quality, as long as the wine and experience deliver on the promise of excellence, which I believe we do at the highest level.”
Guerra shares from his experience and perspective in the “Achieving Excellence in the Luxury Wine Market” session at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo in Santa Rosa December 6, 2018. For more information on individual sessions and speakers or to register for the WIN Expo trade show and conference visit wineindustryexpo.com/conference.