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June 25, 2008

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$200,000 is nice, and it's sure better than nothing, but it's not THAT much when it comes to marketing and advertising a WHOLE region's wines. I wonder if it will be spent wisely and what spending it wisely would entail...

Actually, I have some larger concerns...mind if I start a public policy debate?

While one can make a reasonable argument that government is in an ideal position to protect agriculture interests from the speculative real estate markets that can forever destroy open space and by doing so ruin something of a greater value, can one make a similiar argument that government has any legitimate concerns in a private luxury commodities market? A vineyard should have a chance to get off the ground, but is it "owed" success in any given market simply because it exists?

I am also frustrated with the inability of NY wines, both Long Island and the Finger Lakes, to break into the NYC market, but I am also aware that marketing blockades are a challenge on every level that must be overcome through time, fortune, ingenuity, and, above all, a great product. Truth be told, there are more NY wines on wine lists now than 10 years ago. Advocates aren't happy with the pace of the progress, but there has been progress nonetheless.

I want NY wines to succeed, but I want the best wines to succeed based on a competitive marketplace that does not reward mediocrity. In both major regions there are wineries and wines that can compete at an international level and they will keep doing better and better. How does government charity fit into that picture?

$200,000 may pay for a few adds or billboards or even a small event or what have you, and then a curious consumer is still likely to pick a NY wine off a shelf randomly, resulting in the Russian roulette selection game of a bottle or two of quality surrounded by crap.

The only effective marketing is the constant production of quality wines that will be passed on by word of mouth from consumer to consumer. Shops and restaurants will begin to stock specific wines that they know will sell and meet with approval, allowing for a greater chance of consumer satisfaction.

It's not an easy or painless process. Why whould we fool ourselves into thinking that the State of New York has responsibility or bearing on such a market beyond general promotion? Is this the best way to spend our tax dollars when the state debt from last year has to be brought under control?

Lenn,

Thanks to Google I was alerted to your article.
The following points are useful to make:

1 On the prospects for LI wines in NYC
They are good as has been shown by those of us who have pursued this market, and as you point out.
Quality sells and NYC appreciates our wines for what they are. As a group LI wineries are on the wine lists of almost all the top 50 Zagat NYC restaurants. Sevgeral of those pour our wines by the glass.

Not all wineries are selling in NYC. It takes sophisticated marketing and sales talents to succeed in what is perhaps the top wine market in the world. Not every winery can afford such an expense. Perhaps some of us are totally focused on production hoping the world will beat a path to our door if we craft a high quality product. The reality is that if you have a good product you only meet the prerequisite to now play the game. Selling in NYC is a big game.

2 On the wisdom of spending such a sum
Nan Patience sums it up well and I quote "$200,000 is nice, and it's sure better than nothing, but it's not THAT much when it comes to marketing and advertising a WHOLE region's wines."

Now should the governement be supporting such an industry in this way? There are arguments on both sides, but here are the important considerations in my mind:
- If an industry succeeds, because of government support or otherwise, that generates more profits, therefore more taxes and more jobs. Furthermore if it is a local industry it is that much more attractive to the government as more local issues can be addressed as well, such as land preservation in agriculture, etc..
- NYC being the marketplace that it is, has attracted the most aggressive marketing campaigns supported by various governments to promote their wines. If you have not yet been invited perhaps one day your blog will earn you an invitation from the wines of Italy, Spain, Chile or Germany or even Michigan or Ohio. What some of them spend in one night at their signature events is several times what this grant is. When you start looking at what other governments spend to wine and dine and travel sommeliers and winebuyers, $200k does not even begin to define how dark are the odds for NY wines, be they from LI, the FL or anywhere else. So while we are very grateful for Senator LaValle for his breakthrough, to be effective this program has to continue and increase in size, if only to level the playing field. And by the way for those who keep track of numbers, $200k is a small fraction of what taxes are paid by this industry to NYS.

3 How well will our industry use it?
This is an open question. There was a time in the 90s when we did very well as a group working collaboratively and creating a positive buzz, in spite (or is it because )of the large egoes we are known to possess. There is today a new generation taking over and they are more agile and more focused on the task. There are individuals who are able to craft plans to spend the money very effectively. Our challenge is to embrace them and empower them to do so. We did it in the past. It is my hope that we can do it in the future.

After this rather long commentary on your article, let me just say that the marketing and selling of LI wines in NYC is alive and well and growing. The grant will augment it and hopefully make it possible for more players.

Wow, I don't know what to make of this. I mean, how hard is it for a NY winery to sell wine in NYC? It can't be that hard.

Now, what about Miami, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas, etc.? Finding NY State wines outside NY or the Northeast is quite hard. Perhaps the money should be spent in that direction, eh?

Re Jason's comment, those are interesting points.

As far as quality being the main criteria of success, I think there are a lot of consumers who wouldn't know a decent wine if they choked on it, and a lot of those are the day trippers out to our wine country. Some of the wines and wineries cater to the tastes of this agritourism group, don't they?

Long Island wine quality, as measured by tasting success and awards, can be right up there. The challenge for wineries with finer wines is to break away from the crowd of lower quality wines and reach the more discerning wine drinkers. Personally, I think an online ad campaign on wine blogs like Lenn's is the way to go!

I rarely see New York wines available by the glass in restaurants here in NYC, and most stores either have 0 wines from the state, or if they do they are relegated to some out of the way corner.

There are a few stores that have modest, but accessible New York wine collections, but the distributors and stores have to support the movement. Its hard to wisely spend $200k to educate consumers, but if the consumers have limited avenues to buy the wines then its not going to get that far.

I think the online campaign and what Lenn is doing should be highly supported, but whoever, above, talked about getting existing club members to help is correct as well. Unless its word of mouth, 200k doesnt buy you too much these days sadly.

Jack, I think you make a brilliant point. There are lots of large, metropolitan markets out there that are in need of wine choices and are not near any large wine regions. Why wouldn't a NY wine be appealing to a fine diner in Dallas, or St. Louis, or wherever? If New York City folks want to drink only California and France, there are lots of other places to sell NY wine!

FYI, Senator LaValle's press conference has been re-scheduled for Monday, June 30 at 11 AM at Paumanok.

I would like to contribute to this discussion with a few observations that reflect a Finger Lakes viewpoint. In relative terms, we have quite a few wineries (about 102) that produce small volumes of wine (most are well below 10,000 cases annually). To use our best-known wine, Riesling as an example, the Finger Lakes as a whole only produces 100,000 cases (or thereabouts). That is about one sixth of one brand produced by Chateau Ste. Michelle. We are also independent minded folks used to working within the context of a wine trail and selling something like 60% to 100% of our wine to visitors. One can easily appreciate that in our circumstances, as we go forward to present our wines - as a region - in major markets such as New York, Washington, Boston etc. the only possibility of gaining recognition is by offering both high quality and competitive price. That being said, the greater part of our challenge lies in consistently being able to manage the logistics involved in working a sophisticated market, and in funding and developing the programs that are successful in enticing the players (store managers, sommeliers, writers) to at least taste our wines.

To echo a comment from Charles, we are gaining ground and in New York it is particularly true only because of combination of quality and competitive price. As winegrowers (farmers), we are learning how to cooperate, articulate and communicate our regional values and bring visibility to the Finger Lakes. Most of our producers need to maintain capital and operations investments in our business. The sort of seed money that the aforementioned $200,000 represents to a regional effort is small in comparison to European wine marketing efforts in the US, but crucial to helping us to get off the ground. As a point of information, most of the funding programs (generally administered by the New York Wine & Grape Foundation) that New York wine regions and trails can access are dependent upon our ability to raise matching dollars from industry participants.

Bob Madill
Finger Lakes Wine Alliance.

Jason
Not to call for any rain on your parade, but every state in the Union now has a "wine industry". Obviously the style of the wines made varies widely, but everyone everywhere has made huge strides in the quality of their product. Why should someone from Texas or Missouri buy a NY wine, when they can buy something from their own state? I hate to admit it, but my favorite cheap non-Champagne sparkler is from New Mexico!

Jason
Not to call for any rain on your parade, but every state in the Union now has a "wine industry". Obviously the style of the wines made varies widely, but everyone everywhere has made huge strides in the quality of their product. Why should someone from Texas or Missouri buy a NY wine, when they can buy something from their own state? I hate to admit it, but my favorite cheap non-Champagne sparkler is from New Mexico!

Every state has a wine "industry" as you stated, and there are some great pockets of high quality wine coming out of a select few, but for the most part NY is leaps and bounds ahead of the curve in this respect. NY might not be California, but its volume rivals that of Washington and Oregon and the overall quality and selection is certainly noteworthy.

I'm sure one can really hunt and find a good bottle or two of Texas wine (perhaps) but it's not going to keep suffice in terms of metropolitan consumption in Texas. NY wines have a role to play in a lot of these states, especially when you compound that demand nationally.

What it really takes to penetrate a market is a good salesman. And a good salesman, the real kind, the kind that it doesn't matter what he's selling, the kind that prides himself on being a closer, would cost a winery close to that $200,000 per year, what with salary, gas, travel and accommodations.
Getting wine in restaurants and wineshops and then having it recommended takes a)good wine, but also b) a relationship.
The model for this on Long Island is John Morales at Lieb. If you start to look closely, that wine is everywhere. In restaurant chains and in shops that usually are uninterested in wine from outside their focus let alone from Long Island.
His predecessor was Bruce Schneider of Schneider Vineyards. I went to a wine tasting in New York and one of the guys from Lioco, a former sommelier at Spago, said, "Oh you're from Long Island? Schneider has really good wines."
The other benefit for Lieb and Schneider is that they have unique products. Bruce was the first to focus on cab franc, and Lieb has the pinot blanc (or whatever it is).
Find a closer, pay him well and your wine will move.

Sounds right to me, Cellarette.

Also 200,000 is the kind of number that makes it sound like it's already earmarked for just that, and with the way poly-ticks works, it's probably already got somebody's name all over it.

Cellarette (above) offers a clear-eyed, down-to-earth analysis that forms Part B of the solution of Long Island's cracking the New York City market.

Part A is, simply, high quality.

You can trust that there's truth in Frank Sinatra's lyric about
New York City: "If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere."
Truth, yes, but there is no guarantee, as numberless minor-
league baseball players who returned to the minors can attest.

The growing evidence in Manhattan restaurants is that consistently superior East End wines will make it onto wine lists, though not yet at the rate that the industry would prefer.

In the city's Darwinian market, pricing is a bugaboo. At bottom, Island wines suffer from a perception, accurate or not, that by and large they are overpriced. This ghost resembles the ghost that the Finger Lakes had to shake with the onset of the vinifera revolution in 1976 --- that the region made only sweet labrusca wines. That ghost vanished long ago.

Those of us who are not privy to the books, needs and plans of Long Island's privately held wineries and vineyards cannot accurately judge pricing policies. But as spenders we can make private judgments about values and prices in retail stores and restaurants.

If Bob Madill (above) of the first-rate Sheldrake Point, on Lake Cayuga, and Dick Reno of the outstanding Chateau LaFayette Reneau, on Seneca, and I sat down for a fish dinner in Manhattan, the odds are we'd try a Long Island riesling, whatever the price. But if three unadventurous visitors from, say, Georgia, sat down and noticed that German and Austrian rieslings cost less than, say, Paumanok's, guess what they'd order?

The bedrock bottom line will always be quality, quality, quality, quality, year in and year out. Quality. Nothing else.

The local industry is merely 35 years old. By 40, and 45, the issue of status in the New York market may well have diminished.



My second job was working for David Ogilvy at Ogilvy and Mather Advertising. I help David put together his slide presentation, "How to Create Good Advertising" (I was the one who put the slides in the projector for him). I did pick up a few things on the way though.

Like in politics, sometimes being a little negative/positive works. Forget about Texas and all those other places... keep it GREEN, keep working on NY

Here's an idea... not a finished idea, just a start and a headline:

WHAT YOU LIQUOR STORE AND WINE MAGAZINES WON'T TELL YOU!

NEW YORK WINES ARE WORLD CLASS

YOUR WINE MAGAZINE AND LIQUOR STORE DON'T GET PAID TO SELL NEW YORK WINES (LONG ISLAND WINES)SO THEY DON'T BOTHER TELLING YOU ABOUT THEM...

AND THEY'RE NOT REALLY INTERESTED IN KEEPING IT 'GREEN' (maybe you don't want to use green when talking about wine)

The national wine magazines are being supported by a world wide wine industry which has plenty of buck to toss at these magazines... the liquor store is also dependent on stocking these advertised and promoted wines... SORRY NY WINES

How many times have you heard Mario Batali (who is cooking in the US) say, 'The people of a particular region in Italy always drink what is produced locally' (There aren't too many Sicilians is Sicily drinking Barolo.) Then Mario will haul out some obscure Italian wine to accompany his NY created dish. Not too consistent and not too green Mario!

Save some energy, while drinking some of the best wines in the world... DRINK NY (OR FOR ME, DRINK LONG ISLAND)

Why not go after all those local 'green' people and push LI wines to them directly over the Internet... maybe see if you might do a coop ad with UPS... all thoughts in one direction... YOU TELL ME... I'M JUST A CUSTOMER...maybe not your typical one for sure.

PS

I went into Zachy's yesterday and checked out the limited NY selection on his shelves. There was also a small tasting of Australian and a New Zealand wines going on. Higher priced than the LI wines I'm drinking, not as goo, and must have used a lot of energy getting to NY... I bought a New Zealand chardonnay took it home and drank it... not nearly as good and half the price of the LI chardonnay I'm drinking.

Also support wine bloggers like Len... not tied to any of the wine establishment....

Maybe get a spokesman, a foodie, someone like David Rosengarten, someone who gets the idea... I think it sells

Do a big Hamptons greenie wine thing.. get some celebs... do it up big... plenty of people over there that will push a green event. Stop making any excuses... the wine is good.

The prior article was posted by Val.. Not Howard Goldberg... how did that happen??? Len?

As most of the readers of this site know, there are world class wines being produced in NY. Unfortunately, this is a little known fact. Being a resident of the fine burg of NYC I am frequently surprised at how frequently people are surprised that we make wines of the caliber we do. We have a serious PR problem. We also have a serious PR opportunity if we take advantage of it. The $200K is a start but it will get drowned out in the noise of other big wine growing regions larger ad budgets. The opportunity is partly the carbon footprint question of shipping wine bottles from Europe, California, Australia, and etc., as compared to shipping from Peconic Bay or Lake Seneca. Vintners should be launching a concerted and coordinated effort if they want to be taken seriously while this window of opportunity is open. To this effort to succeed, there has to be a change of attitude from seeing the primary sales channel as being their tasting room to, which will keep the region small and relatively unknown, to seeing the opportunity of selling to NYC which will provide the recognition and market share the region deserves. The state and city have to do more of their part of this effort as well, $200K is not even a drop in the bucket. What are Washington or Oregon doing compared to New York State? The wines are comparable, but both have a greater recognition here in NYC. How about Australia, their population is only a few million more than New York? They spend a lot of money marketing their wine industry and it is paying off in jobs, tax revenue, accumulation wealth, and contributes to their general economic vibrancy.

I think the reason why LI wines have not penetrated the retail marketplace anywhere is that they are overall...overpriced for what they offer. The market is speaking is anyone listening?

I'm heading out to the North Fork for the holiday and I'd welcome your suggestions for Merlot and Merlot-based wines in the $20+ range you feel compete well..I used to think the Cab Franc was the one...Schnider Vineyards had some great Cab Francs when they first came out and even their Potato Barn blend was a steal at $11...now it's a Merlot blend for $18...and not as good

Stop by Raphael Peter and try some of our Merlots - I think you might change your tune...

Peter - I’ll concur with Rich, Raphael make some very nice wines, worth the visit to their establishment. Also, one of my favorite North Fork Merlots is Jamesport Estate Bottled Merlot 2003, classic LI beauty. Macari is also worth a trip, epically for the Macari Vineyards Merlot Unfiltered Reserve 2004. May be a little outside of the range of what you wanted to spend but have a taste anyway. The winery makes many other fun wines. Enjoy your trip and happy 4th.

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