By Dawn Dolan
What’s been happening in the North Coast wine industry?
Specifically developed for wineries in Sonoma, Napa, Lake, and Mendocino Counties, the State of the North Coast Wine Industry conference session at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo (WIN Expo) will delve into topics for small, direct-to-consumer wineries as well as bigger players with national distribution.
Lead by Dr. Damien Wilson, Hamel Family Chair of Wine Business Education with SSU’s Wine Spectator-sponsored Wine Business Institute, the panel features data from North Coast wineries, and offers up expert local perspectives on what has gone on in the past twelve months, including information about how the fires affected the area, and what some wineries have done to combat the slow flow of traffic.
“We couldn’t have a better person to lead this conversation than Sonoma State University’s Damien Wilson,” says George Christie, founder and CEO of Wine Industry Network. “SSU is the leading institution as it pertains to the business of wine. We wanted to focus specifically on the state of the industry for the North Coast to ensure the attendees, especially winery owners and executives, are getting the most relevant information possible. These are very busy people, so the value of the information has to exceed the value of the time they spend at the conference.”
Featuring panelists from different realms in the industry, both large and small, well-known and just setting out, Wilson will be guiding the discussion into topics such as fire aftermath, successful strategies for gaining more traffic, and the appointment-only effect. Making up the panel for this session will be: Joel Miller, Founder and President at Customer Vineyard, Dale Stratton, VP of Marketing for Constellation; Stephanie Peachey, VP of DtC and Brand Strategy for Kosta Browne Winery, and George Hamel III, Managing Director of Hamel Family Wines.
The session will be utilizing data taken from a local customer base and coming up with benchmark metrics. Notes Wilson, “This is information from local producers. We are specifically looking at data from our region, and creating regional benchmarks.”
Perspectives will be offered on the state of nationally-marketed local brands, how to work your niche, DtC market, along with notes on managing the marketing for a high-profile, small production wine brand.
The panelists will share insights on what they see as actionable items for the upcoming year in the wine industry. One of the things that Wilson is keen on is keeping the industry from becoming too fragmented. “We need to get more holistic in our communications, and become more generic,” he says. “We all want to generate sales, make the best wine, and keep cash flowing as well.”
Wilson advocates keeping our wine-speak on a more basic level so as not to scare off newcomers wanting to learn. It may be key to keeping them coming back to our region by making our North Coast wineries a welcoming an environment as possible to attract new visitors.
“People need to go to a place where there is positive reinforcement. Don’t’ fragment the category. Get them interested. Learning to love wine is not an overnight occurrence,” Wilson notes, “It’s a process.”
Christie, who is also a partner in a small local wine brand notes, “There has been a lot of talk about tasting room traffic being down, but sales per person are up. Why is that? With the addition of new tasting rooms opening, does everyone just get a smaller piece of the same size pie or are there opportunities for everyone to experience growth?”
The panel will also offer their perspectives on these and other challenges facing the local wine industry as part of the Q & A section.
The State of the North Coast Wine Industry conference session is held at 1:30pm as part of the Wine Business Strategy & Leadership Conference track at the Wine Industry Expo on December 6th, 2018 at the Sonoma County Fairgrounds. Registration for this and other sessions can be found at http://wineindustryexpo.com/