Wine Passport Programs That Work in MN, KY and Ontario
Minnesota: The Minnesota Grape Growers Association (MGGA) launched the Passport to Minnesota Wines program during July. According to Missy Machkhashvili of the MGGA, 179 passports were sold during the first week of the promotion.
Minnesota passports are $25 each and do not expire. The offer includes ten free tastings at any of the 30 participating wineries. Almost three-quarters of the state’s 41 wineries are participating in passport program.
The MGGA has allocated the proceeds from the passport program to a larger billboard campaign to advertise Minnesota wines, Machkhashvili said.
The passports allow for one wine-tasting per customer per winery. Passports don’t expire, but the sponsors intend to issue new ones each year. A few wineries may have other restrictions.
For more information see: Passport to Minnesota Wines
Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario: This is the second year of the Winemakers’ Selections Tasting Pass according to Patty Aubry of Coyote’s Run Estate Winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake Ontario. The $27 Tasting Pass entitles the purchaser to 27 two ounce tastings, which is more than two bottles of wine.
All 27 wineries in the Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake Wine Trail participate in program. Since pass holders receive one tasting at each winery, the program encourages customers to visit every winery in the region, Aubrey said.
“Consumers don’t come to just one winery, they come to visit groups of wineries,” she said. “These promotions give them a reason to visit the wine trail and also makes the winery selection process easier.”
The Wineries of Niagara on the Lake run two large promotions each year in addition to the Selections Tasting Pass. The May Wine and Herb Festival and the Taste of the Season event during November both sell between 2,000 and 2,500 tickets, Aubrey said.
Despite their success, these two main events run only during weekends for one month. According to Aubrey, area wineries wanted a promotion that lasted all year. Aubrey said the tasting pass program has proven to increase business in the slower winter months.
Proceeds from the tasting pass go to the Niagara-on-the-Lake Winery Association and some of the money is used to subsidize the cost of the tasting events.
For more information see: Wineries of Niagara-on-the-Lake
Kentucky: The Kentucky Wine Trail Passport Program started in 2011 with eight wineries and has now grown to 22 participating wineries according to Eddie O’Daniel of the Kentucky Wineries Association.
Unlike the Minnesota and Ontario passports, the Kentucky Passport is free. According to O’Daniel, who is also the founder and owner of Springhill Vineyards in Bloomfield, after customers visit eight wineries, they receive a premium like a tee shirt or tote bag. Following their eight winery visit, passport program participants can also enter a raffle for a free night at Springhill Winery and Plantation B&B or other area B&B’s.
“The Passport Program is a lot of fun,” O’Daniel said. “We get groups that go from winery to winery with a designated driver and they have themselves a real outing in the beautiful Kentucky countryside.”