Although Washington State’s wine industry is well positioned in the current ‘value-driven’ wine market, a wine consultant from Napa, California, offers some suggestions to help build demand for Washington wines.
Barbara Insel, president of Stonebridge Research Group, spent a few days visiting vineyards and wineries from Washington’s Walla Walla Valley to Red Mountain to Prosser while she was in the state to address juice and wine grape producers during the Washington State Grape Society’s annual meeting in November.
In sharing her impressions with the audience, she noted that Washington has a reputation of having undervalued wine, a key factor in the wine market this year. “You have a strong offering of quality varietals, and you have an entrepreneurial, creative wine community.”
On the down side, Washington wines are still largely unknown outside of the state, the industry’s message needs clarification, and there’s a distance issue, she said.
“But, you have a great story to tell,” Insel said, adding that video and radio spots are good ways to share industry information. “Wine is all about telling a story, and you have all that—family farms, location, soils, etc.”
It’s also about having your own style, she noted.
“You can’t be everything to everybody. Nobody does everything well. You have to be known for something—that’s why people will go to a winery. You just can’t make 15 different wines well. You just can’t.”
She commended the Washington Wine Commission for its work in bringing in culinary and wine media gatekeepers to tour Washington vineyards and taste Washington wine as well as sponsoring wine events (Taste Washington) that bring Washington winemakers to targeted markets in other states, such as Florida.
Food, travel, and lifestyle editors of newspapers and magazines should be the target for public relations, she said. “Don’t worry about trade media like the Wine Spectator. Only three percent of the population reads such magazines anyway.”
Target your markets carefully, she suggests, avoiding crowded ones like New York. “There are plenty of other regional wine markets out there.”
Insel encourages wine producers to cultivate their customers and convert them to be “brand ambassadors.”
“Get out there and tell your story,” she urged. “You have a great story about people and about a place. That’s where you start.”