Wearing your wine: logo attire can sell – includes related articles

Anne Louise Bannon

It’s s the ultimate no-brainer: The primary job of a tasting room is to sell wine. But you can still sell your wine without necessarily selling any bottles.

“The thing to remember is that your tasting room is not just a profit center,” said Craig Root, a consultant who specializes in tasting room management.

Yes, your tasting room should turn a nice, tidy profit.

“But you’re also doing marketing and public relations and that’s where the logo stuff comes in,” Root said.

Merchandise with your logo on it not only boosts your bottom line, it helps keep your name fresh with customers.

“We sell memories,” said Denise Whitaker, tasting room manager for Jepson Winery in Ukiah, Calif.

“It’s just getting our name out there when people are wearing it,” said Jennifer Espinoza, the assistant to Pacific Echo’s operations manager Bob Nye. She helps Nye with the buying for the Mendocino County winery’s tasting room.

But whether you stock a complete line of logo wear or just one style of hat is going to depend on a wide variety of factors, not least of which is your own personal interest.

For example, Porter Creek Vineyards, a tiny winery in Healdsburg, does not sell anything in its tasting room but wine. Owner George Davis just does not want to sell T-shirts or anything else, according to Tony Gatchalian, who works in the tasting room at the small operation.

“He’s uninterested,” Gatchalian said. He also pointed out that Porter Creek’s small size–they produce only 3,000 cases a year–may also have something to do with the lack of interest. “We’re just a tiny, tiny converted garage.”

Space Is A Factor

The amount of space you have is another consideration. The tasting room at Napa’s Niebaum-Coppola features a huge gift store with a full array of all kinds of gifts, including desk accessories. It also covers two huge rooms and caters not only to tourists and wine fans, but to the fans of owner and film director Francis Ford Coppola as well.

“It’s a space issue more than anything,” said Tom Prosapio, retail manager for Field Stone Winery in Healdsburg. His tasting room does not have the room for extensive displays. “We do private label foods and hats, but that’s about all.”

While Root emphasizes that there are no hard and fast rules regarding any kind of merchandising, he suggests devoting somewhere around 10% to 15% of your tasting room space to non-wine items. More, if your non-wine sales are really cooking.

“The problem is trying to make this one size fits all,” he said.

Every winery is different, and what makes sense for one winery may not make sense for another. For instance, wineries face different legal issues. In fact, some counties don’t allow tasting rooms to sell anything but wine. And traffic varies from place to place.

Opinions also vary as to how much non-wine merchandise should carry a logo. Whitaker said that all but five of the 20 items her small tasting room carries have a Jepson logo on it.

“If they don’t buy a bottle, they’re buying something with a Jepson label,” she said. And for her, it’s a good way to maximize her tasting room’s small space.

On the other hand, Jeri Wilson, operations manager of the historic Buena Vista Carneros winery in Sonoma, said that approximately 10% of her non-wine merchandise carries a logo.

“It’s a small number because I’m not convinced that everybody wants to take everything out of here with our name on it,” she said.

Some wineries attract more casual tourists than others. Sue Murphey, buyer for the two Brutocao Winery tasting rooms, said that she stocks different items in each tasting room simply because they each attract a different clientele.

“The stuff in Philo is a little more higher end,” Murphey said. “We see a lot of couples heading out to the Mendocino coast. In Hopland, we have more of a tourist crowd, so we sell a lot more T-shirts and accessories.

Children’s Area

The Hopland store also has a special area for children, with a play table, children’s clothes and (teddy) bears with little logo T-shirts.

“We can’t keep them in,” Murphey said about the bears.

Wilson said that what she decides to put a logo on has a lot to do with tourist traffic.

“If it’s something that I think that people would be tempted to take away with them as a souvenir, then I would logo it,” she said. Logo coasters are doing fairly well for her.

“I’m a big believer in talking to the audience to find out what they want,” Root said.

Granted, your customers will tell you their preferences by what they do or do not buy, but it is easier on your net profit when you know before you buy jackets that your customers prefer sweatshirts.

Among the samples we looked at, food items seem particularly popular–oils, salad dressings, mustards, pasta sauces. Whitaker said that Jepson’s chocolate raspberry champagne fudge is her biggest seller. Murphey noted that Brutocao will soon be offering shortbread.

“It will be interesting to see how well they sell,” she said.

Root said that food items do have staying power.

“These things don’t get used up overnight,” he said.

He recommends approaching several food vendors and finding something you like that goes with your wines.

“Don’t do tastings that are incompatible with your wines,” Root said.

As you discover where your customers’ tastes are, you can slowly move into items that have your own label on them. You do want to stay on top of the market because tastes and the economy change. Root added that for the past four years he has executed a tasting room survey, and although he missed this year, he said he senses that the tightening economy has people pulling back on their spending.

“Tasting rooms have been hit,” he said. “I don’t sense that the bodies are off, but they’re not springing for the $100 jacket.”

Although he has no numbers for this year to back his claims, he does spend significant time in tasting rooms, and he emphasized the fact that not everyone is going to have the same experience.

Pacific Echo’s Espinoza said that her room has not seen any serious drop in traffic and is looking to get in some high-end merchandise.

“We do want to get some fleece vests with our logo on them,” she said. “Just because they’re so popular right now. We haven’t been changing anything. We haven’t been going to any lower-priced merchandise.

Murphey said that predicting apparel sales can be difficult.

“We sort of surges where all of a sudden we’ll sell all of the nautical jackets,” she said. The jackets are an item that can often stay in stock for a while.

Whitaker expects to add some new logo clothes.

“We like those denim shirts,” she said, noting that the winery had made some for employees. “Everybody just loves them and asks for them.”

And while research does help, so does experience.

When asked how she decides what to logo and what to stock, Wilson said, “I guess gut feeling. After a while that seems to be the best.”

Considering what your tasting room is stocking besides your wine is worth the while. After all, those glasses, corkscrews, T-shirts, drip catchers, polo shirts, visors and other items can sell bottles long after your customer has gone home.

(Anne Louise Bannon covers all aspects of the wine industry from California.

Young To Purchase Finger Lakes Acreage The Robert Young Family of Sonoma County is purchasing over 100 ocres of land on the west side of Seneca Loke in New York’s Finger Lokes wine region.

Anthony Rood Wine Compony, a producer of premium Finger Lakes wines owned by John ond Ann Martini, will manage the acreage. The likely grape varieties include Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Pinot gris and other grapes suited to the region.

“We are excited about this investment and eager to taste the wines that will result from it in four or five years, Robert Young said. “For many years, I have been impressed with the quality of many Finger Lakes wines, especially those from Anthony Road, so we look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship.”

Young is a legend of the California grope industry. His 350-acre vineyard in Alexander Valley consistently produces grapes of such excellent quality that it was among the first to warrant vineyard designations on wine labels. Young has served as the chairman of the California Association of Winegrape Growers, the Winegrowers of California and has been active, in many organizations. Last year he received the Integrity Award of the Lodi-Woodbridge Winegrape Cammission. In the past few years, Young and his children established the Robert Young Estate Winery in Sonoma.

L.A. County Fair Releases Wine Competition Results

The 2001 L.A. County Fair announced results for its Wines of the Americas competition.

A panel of 68 judges from around the world selected the winners from a total of 2,861 entries from 521 wineries, making this the largest wine competition of any county fair in the country.

The Lifetime Achievement Award was presented to Northern California winery Joseph Phelps Vineyards. Best Wine of the Competition went to Beaulieu Vineyard, Meritage, Tapestry Reserve, Napa Valley, 1997, which also won the Best Red Wine. Best White Wine was awarded to Calona Vineyard, Pinot gris, VQA Okanagan Valley, 1999. Best Dessert was awarded to Quady Winery, Muscat, Black/Red, Elysium, California, 1999. Best Vermouth, Fruit and Flavored wines also went to Quady Winery, Vermouth, Sweet, Red, VYA Sweet.

COPYRIGHT 2001 Hiaring Company

COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group

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