Monday, March 18, 2013

Oregon Wine: Hitch Your Wagon To A Star

Oregon's largest annual industry gathering, the Oregon Wine Industry Symposium, wrapped up at the end of February after two days of enology, business and viticulture sessions. Guest speakers contributed from a wide range of backgrounds - CEO to scientist, vineyard owner to olfactory educator. They shared their expertise and how it applied to growing the industry's success in marketing, research and winemaking.

Oregon Wine Board (OWB) staff members summarized the positive changes and growth that occurred in 2012. Oregon wine sales increased nationally by 6.4%, exceeding the overall US wine growth of 4.7%. The Board pinpointed more about the type of consumer buying these wines by gathering some revealing information through out of state consumer surveys. Oregon wine rated highly for quality and taste, with people often willing to pay more for these wines than their typical wine purchase. Those surveyed made virtually no association with Oregon wine being mass produced. Feedback indicated that an excellent reputation is solidly established.

People are seeking out Oregon wines. Great opportunity exists in strategic distribution, and making these wines available to these seeking markets. Winery branding and marketing was a major focus during the business sessions. Wineries were strongly encouraged to develop their own websites. The OWB's Executive Director, Tom Danowski made a bold, direct statement to wineries saying " have to do it. You are not even in the game if you do not have a website that tells the world who you are." The OWB has completely revamped its own website. It offers an area for wineries to input their unique profile information into a searchable Oregon wine database, with the ability to link back to their own individual websites.

Another aspect of tremendous marketing potential was brought to light by Lesley Berglund, Chairwoman of WISE Academy. She focused on a three part concept:  what, how and why.
  • What - case numbers, flavors and aromas in the wine, award winning Pinot Noir
  • How - family run, clone and soil type, biodynamic
  • Why - the personal aspect, the emotional story, purpose
With more than 21 years of industry experience, Lesley is well acquainted with many of the unique, inspirational stories of Oregon Wine's heritage. She recently spent time enjoying Oregon wine country and made some observations. She noticed tasting room staff well versed in the facts, able to explain the "what" and "how" with statistics and facts, but lacked the ability to effectively share the "why". Hearing a winery's unique story, why it is special, how the dream became a reality, is key to making a personal connection with the customer. Part of WISE Academy's focus is educating and training tasting room staff to effectively share that story with those who walk through a winery's door. There is potential for great benefit by ensuring the story is communicated effectively.

Throughout the symposium, several references were made regarding the recent abundance of positive press for Oregon wine. Robert Parker stated, "Oregon is finally fulfilling its vast potential...Oregon has come of age, something that is also reflected in the numerous articles about this idyllic region." Matt Kramer referred to those in the Willamette Valley as being in a Golden Age "creating the finest wines they've yet offered."

The words of Ralph Waldo Emerson unintentionally, yet accurately paint a picture and tell the story of Oregon wine today.
"Whatever course you decide upon, there is always someone to tell you that you are wrong. There are always difficulties arising which tempt you to believe that your critics are right. To map out a course of action and follow it to an end requires courage."
"None of us will ever accomplish anything excellent or commanding except when he listens to this whisper which is heard by him alone."
"Hitch your wagon to a star."


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