B2B: Winery or Theme Park?

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3 Responses

  1. This question of “what are we going to do to attract customers” is a problem in all wine regions, and the solution depends on the business plan and the pocketbook of the individual winery.

    Our winery is in a relatively remote part of Virginia. There are the beginnings of a wine trail, but they are scattered about the region and calling it a trail is a bit of a stretch. In order to attract business, some have weekly or twice weekly “events” on a Friday or Saturday evening, effectively turning their tasting room into a bar to entertain the locals who sit there until closing time swilling sangria. Others have their own festivals throughout the year, or at least once a year.

    The wine festival is an out of control beast here; every town thinks having one is a good idea as a fund raiser, and many of the same wineries participate year in, year out, serving not very good wine which, sadly, tarnishes the reputation of the industry as a whole because if this is a consumer’s first exposure to Virginia wine, it can be a big turn-off. And I speak from experience — after attending a Virginia wine festival some years ago (before getting into the business), there was so much undrinkable plonk served I wouldn’t try a another Virginia wine for years.

    Then we have the wineries that are more fronts for a wedding business. We know of one that was purpose-built to be a wedding/entertainment facility; where the wine is secondary and is made for them using a custom crush.

    Having to pay the bills I do appreciate the siren’s call of easy money, but we are trying to build a sustainable business based the sale of quality wine, so we grow cautiously, avoid debt, and try to be realistic about the business.

    We look to other regions for inspiration. Napa is an obvious one, where weddings are prohibited at wineries (for example) and certain activities are curtailed in the name of preserving and promoting the brand. I wish the Virginia industry would take a similar stand, but the economic reality of making the industry sustainable takes precedence. In some counties the local supervisors try to rein in some of these activities via zoning regulations, and a few have ended up in court — these are just reminders that we need to be good neighbors, too.

    A new region, I suppose, benefits from the diversity offered by all of these activities and attractions. Sure the marketplace might be big enough to allow all of them (for now), but in the end if the wine isn’t good, the wineries will close because they can’t sell it. I totally agree that the tourist experience needs to relate to winemaking. I suggest that combination of food and wine, because great restaurants in wine regions will attract a different kind of clientele and create a synergy that will make both businesses sustainable.

  2. Brian Yost says:

    I agree that this does seem like a slippery slope. The goal should be to pull in potential wine drinkers and educate them on the wine. If it’s possible to successfully transition paranormal tourists to the tasting room and interest them in the wine, then that’s a win. If that is not happening, then there’s a bigger problem and the relevance of the venue as a winery will diminish.

  3. BRIDES OR BOTTLES. Could not agree more. Many wineries have turned themselves into Wedding and Entertainment Centers. Just go to their web pages and you’ll see pictures of brides, not wine. Compounding the problem, several Entertainment Centers have opened up and decided to stick the name WINERY on the door to cash in on the trend.

    The only hope for a real wine maker is to make better wine. The alternative is to give in and become a wedding planner. Does any real wine maker want to do that??