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January 27, 2011

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It's no secret the Last Store on Main Street has been exploring ways to increase consumer demand for New York wines. We held five round tables with retailers and wineries all over New York State in 2010 specifically to explore that issue. I was proud to lead those discussions at all five roundtables. I put a lot of time and miles into the effort because I believe in New York wines. While the Council idea is largely the product of Carlo’s thoughts, I like to believe the roundtables helped his thinking. We had more than 100 wineries participate in those roundtables, which were open to all wineries regardless of their position on WIGS. So I believe a large portion of the industry has in fact engaged on this issue, and we should be working to support this idea. Frankly, if you support WIGS, there is no reason why you wouldn’t support this issue as well. More promotion means more sales of NY wines, regardless of where it’s sold. Its amazing that there are those who would look to bully Carlo because he worked with me and many others, retailers and wineries alike, to develop this idea. He should be applauded and, for once, we should all work together to help New York wines.

Evan, thanks for sharing.

As a retailer, any and all education is welcome. Every panel and meeting I have participated in, WE, talk about how education will drive the consumer to buy and continue to buy NY wines.

At one time California wine was just that, California wine...now thru education and specialized marketing consumers look at Napa, Sonoma, Stags Leap, etc as having their own identity. New York state would benefit from a similar campaign/EFFORT.

Not sure what Jim means by "reinventing the wheel", is he saying they have been educating the consumer? Perhaps someone can clarify the responsibility and accountability of his organization. Where does his budget go?

I look forward to what Morgan has to say and others.

Thank you for listening.

Personally as a retailer and advocate of NY wines- I think this is a great idea and hope to be involved.

Seems to me that an industry, any industry, unwilling to work together with or without government (consumer's) money is likely to stumble no matter how much money the government (consumer's money) throws at it.

Carlo's concerns are not one bit different from the concerns that I remember having in the 1980s when I got started.

Millions of dollars and two decades later I am forced to ask the NY wine industry what are you waiting for? Government money is not the solution--you are the solution, as soon as get yourself synchronized and motivated.

Thomas,

Well said.

Does it make sense to coordinate a marketing/branding message industry wide? think it does. How that gets funded is another issue and there are lots of options, including industry funding or dedicating a portion of the excise taxes we are already paying. Probably a lot of other options too.

Wow - I just read the atwater comment that Evan posted... I guess some people want to make every issue a WIGS or Non WIGS issue. read the documents. This has nothing to do with WIGS. If anything it makes WIGS easier to accomplish. The reason the "Wine Indstry Association" Lobbying group isn't doing this is because that group is a lobbying group and not a marketing group. (and lobbying around a divisive issue, to boot).

Read the proposal again and you will see this is not a proposal to for a group that "represents" wineries. It's a proposal to market wine. Are you against marketing wine?

WTF...

Ted, this is not a WIGS issue at all, I asked outright before I offered to help out. You can ask Scott Osborn about me, I told him if the Wine Industry Association took on other issues besides WIGS- I'd join with bells on. Lets work together and sell more Arrowhead, Fox Run, Atwater, Eagle Crest, Chateau Reneau, Merritt................-300wineries wines no matter what side of the WIGS fence they fall on!! Lets drop the negitivity, please- there is business to be done.

In these times of incredible hardship for our towns, counties, and state I find it unconscionable that a handful of wineries and The Last Store on Main Street are asking for taxpayer dollars to promote NY wines instead of making use of the already available channels.
The NY Wine and Grape Foundation has a venue for promoting New York Wines. They take input from the industry and turn those suggestions into a usable program which helps all the wineries in NY. The problem they have is the NY wineries who complain the most about no marketing efforts are the ones who refuse or don’t offer ideas to the foundation on promoting NY wines in NY. If the foundation doesn’t get input from the industry they can’t develop a program to help us. So instead of forming a new organization and dividing up precious marketing money why don’t you use your creative minds to come up with some specific programs the foundation can use!
Our wine regions already produce everything from overwhelmingly successful wines for the mass-market to world-class treasures. Yet liquor stores tell me they can’t sell NY wines. Well you can’t sell something if you don’t carry it in your store or recommend it to the customer. It is simple basic sales and I have proved that it works and is easy to implement. I worked for a number of years in NY liquor stores before I bought my winery. I actually convinced one store owner to let me handle the NY wines. That store in a few months went from selling a few bottles a month to become the largest seller of NY wines in the state and within a year it was 26% of their sales. What did I do to make that happen? I took the NY wines from the bottom shelf and the back of the store and gave them prominent position in the front of the store I created a fine NY Wine section and taught the staff to recommend NY wines. That is all that needs to happen. How many times do the wineries in NY have to get written up in the major wine publications? How many times do the wineries in NY have to win best winery or top 100 to get respect? As long as the Liquor stores give us lip service about carrying NY wines and don’t tell their staff to recommend NY wines then we will never increase our presence here in NY. We don’t need extra organizations formed to siphon of precious state money. We just need active support! With a few exceptions the Liquor Stores in NY as a whole have for the last 30 years refused to give our industry the recognition or support we deserve.

The Wine and Grape Foundation and wine trails currently do a terrific job promoting NY wines. We don't need another entity to do that especially if it's spending more general tax dollars. Remember, if wigs passed last year a portion of the new license fees would have been dedicated to the promotion of NY wines.

Even if all of the liquor stores in NY actively promoted NY wines there isn't enough shelf space in them to present even a minor portion of what NY wineries produce. We were involved in the wine industry when there were 4,500 stores through which only 19 NY wineries could sell their wines; now there are 300 NY wineries but only 2,700 stores and I hear less than 1,000 of them carry any NY wine. Do the shelf-space math.

When wine is available in food stores that alone will self-promote New York wines simply because they are more available to consumers - and it will generate revenue to NYS. And once new wine consumers buy wine in a food store many will move to buying wine in liquor stores so it's a win for all enterprising businesses.

Duncan,

Please don't get me wrong. While I believe that the wineries need to get their act together, I also agree with Scott and Carol concerning liquor stores and WIGs.

I find it interesting that LastStoreOnMainStreet and Carlo, too, are against WIGs, which is aimed at consumer access. Instead, they prefer using consumers' tax money to fund their promotion and sales efforts, especially since there already is a state-funded promotion arm that, like Scott says, needs an organized winery input.

The only word I can come up with for this proposal is "ludicrous."

All the tax-funded promotion money in the world won't get NY wineries to work together until NY wineries decide to work together--as one single wine industry and not a series of wine trails or regional superiority complexes.

It saddens me that this has turned into a "WIGS" discussion. That argument went on for 2 years and all the points have been made. Lets all get past that.
I don't see the downside for any NY winery if an initiative is made to promote and market ALL NY wines. Especially if it is not at the expense of existing promotions. Can someone articulate a downside to asking the State to make such an investment? One with such a high return?

Ed,

WIGs is not the issue; it's simply one of the symptoms from which the NY wine industry suffers--stores and wineries can't agree on how to increase consumer access.

As I posted, all the govt money in the world will not force the wine industry to work as a unit.

Aside from that issue, what is the upside for taxpayers after their tax dollars fund the promotional efforts of private businesses? If it's better access, that was covered in WIGS, without taxpayer dollars.

And what makes anyone think that another govt funded program will be better than the one that already exists? As Scott says, if there is a plan, why not bring it to the existing govt funded promotional organization instead of creating yet another one?

Do you have any idea how many organizations there are to promote NY wine in one form or another? Does anyone have any idea?

Thomas,
One of Scott's points was about educating current store owners of the profitability of supporting NY wines. I think that is a point all can agree upon. The upside for the taxpayers (should NY invest in the NY wine industry) are- taxable land, taxable jobs, a product to export to other states, to name a few. Will a new organisation whose sole purpose is to market and promote ALL NY wineries be a good supplement to the existing organisations? I think so but I don't know for certain as I cannot predict the future. I do know that more education, marketing and promotion of NY wines is needed.
To answer your last question I do not know if there is even one organisation that's sole purpose is to market and promote all NY wines.

Ed,

There is one organization that is supposed to promote--not market--ALL NY wines, and 300 wineries seem to have 300 separate ideas whether or not it is working.

There are a number of promotional organizations throughout the wine regions, and the reason for that is almost always because a faction here or a faction there wants it this way or that way (and also excludes other factions). As a result, each organization reinvents the wheel for each faction

The factions won't die if yet another govt agency is formed; then, someone will probably call for a third agency.

Not to belabor the point, but the wine industry needs first to get together, then to organize a promotion effort--and with its own money, so that everyone has skin in the game and taxpayers aren't asked to give corporate welfare.

Well Tomas, I think it is a good idea and if called upon to help promote NY wines, I'll step up to the plate. The industry has been very good to me and I appreciate people like Scott Osborn, Dick Reno, Mark Lancaster, and scores of other NY wine makers/winery owners (as well as Burt Notarius) that educated me and made it so I am able to make a living as the New York Wine Manager of a retail store.
I did attend the 'Round Table" discussions and agree with you that it is also a good idea "wine industry needs first to get together". Hope to see you soon.

Too bad that two threads were started on the same topic. Evan, if you are reading this, please consider merging them. Here is what I posted on the other thread:

Carlo,

It seems Winter is the time to immerse ourselves in creative thinking, as we idle, waiting for our workload to disabuse us as the weather warms up.

You will recall that about a year ago we had such a discussion on this blog. I followed it with contacting about 30 different wineries making the case for an industry wide effort not unlike what you are advocating. I then went to the Rochester conference to have a face to face conversation with many of our colleagues. There was in general polite interest but the net of it was that it did not seem to be a priority for most of our colleagues.

There are those who are happy to continue with the NYW&GF as it is. There are those who are happy with their wine trails and the programs they are implementing. There are those who are happy to do their own thing. And there is not yet the widespread need to make radical changes. We can argue back and forth but the reality is that our industry is not focused on such a transformation now.


I have advocated previously that the best that the NYW&GF can do for us with its limited budget is to provide education in marketing, so that a useful dialog can emerge as to the needs of our industry.


What are we to do? I agree with Peter Caroll that we should count on ourselves not on Government. Much of the reason for our lethargy is that most wineries have come into this business within the model that says that the NYW&GF will guide them. Since its funding has been erratic so has been its performance.
But the dependency has established itself.

In the meantime, it is best to continue our individual efforts and strengthen the breakthroughs that many of us are experiencing. This means we must continue to improve wine quality and continue to grow the footprint of our market penetration and our reputation. It is going to take a while before the rest begin to notice. In the absence of any strong leadership at the state level, we have to lead by our example. There may come a time when those marketing leaders may collaborate with each other and that may spark what is needed to get to a state wide effort.

For now we must be as successful as we can be, individually.

If there is energy to work with the state, it is best directed at simplifying the onerous and cumbersome compliance system that is an impediment to our growth.

From the perspective of those of us who spend a lot of time in wine markets such as NYC, and observe the promotional efforts of other wine regions, it would seem that New York State wine marketing efforts currently stand in comparative disadvantage. While our reach in the market is improving, we are still very limited in our exposure, and are presently only scratching the surface of what we can accomplish. With strategic positioning (especially given that many NY wineries are raising the quality of wine produced) , we could take advantage of our in-state location, ensuring profitability for the wineries, the state, and of course the tourist industry.

While New York Wine and Grape Foundation still needs to be overseeing the overall interest of growers and wine producers, it would behoove NY wine regions to have a more dynamic focused marketing “wing” which can take our individual efforts, amplify them, and reinforce the positive trajectory many wineries are now on. We need a focused marketing strategy in order to be competitive with other regions and countries. This need is independent of the outlet through which the wine is sold: Wine Stores/Restaurants/Grocery stores. There is so much positive spirit and enthusiasm for NY wine. New York State can further support this positive trend by complementing the current efforts of wineries in ensuring visibility of NY wines.

It seems to me that there are misunderstandings about this initiative. Every notable wine region has such a dedicated entity. This initiative should be discussed for its merits, quite independent of the political positions that people have. While every tax payer can have a view, it would seem to me that both the “Wine in Grocery Stores” and the “Last Store on Main Street” positions should take a step back and allow for a rational debate to take place about what the NY wine region needs in order to go to the next level.

Oskar Bynke- Marketing/Partner-Hermann J. Wiemer Vineyard

Oskar,

Some of us have been at this for quite some time: nearing 27 years on my side.

What does it say about an industry that the same complaints have been floating for 27 years? In fact, the NYWGF was formed in 1985 in response to the same complaints being expressed today having been expressed back then, and that was when a case could be made concerning a certain lack in both wine quality and business savvy.

Once more, I'll inform the ill-informed that the original mandate of the NYWFG was to fund the industry fully the first year and then to reduce state money each year by an established percentage, to be made up by the wine and grape industries until the NYWGF was out of business within a specified number of years (I forget how many), and all funding was to be handled by the industry.

Leaving aside the question why taxpayers should pay for people who get into a business without either adequate funding or adequate business plans, here we are, more than two decades later, and not only has the industry avoided taking responsibility for its promotion, but some want a second govt funding source to do what it claims the first did not do.

The industry did not hold up its side of the bargain, not the govt.

If I were in charge of the NYWGF, I would have demanded that a percentage of money raised by wineries (wine trail events, etc) to the extent that it was funded by NYWGF, be returned to NYWGF to set the stage for forming an industry-wide self-funding mechanism, almost like a marketing order (which remains a dirty word in the NY wine industry).

Based on the track record of both govt and the industry, I don't see a benefit in starting yet another govt organization.

I agree with Peter Carroll, we should not rely on the government. Much of the reason for our apathy is that most vineyards are coming into this profession in the model that says NYW & GF their guide. Since funding has been erratic performance was so.

A pdf of the New York State Wine Grape Task Force report is available here: http://www.agmkt.state.ny.us/AD/WinegrapeTaskForceReport.pdf

Ditto Peter Carroll!

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