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Are virtual winery experiences here to stay?

Sam Filler
Executive Director, N.Y. Wine & Grape Foundation

Sam FillerBack in late March and early April, each day felt like a lifetime as we worked our way through the new reality of living in a pandemic. Here we are, already in August, with veraison getting underway across the state and harvest around the corner in September. I am encouraged by reports of an expected quality harvest and tasting rooms finding success in adapting to new ways of serving guests. I applaud our industry for its perseverance and optimism as we adjust to challenging new realities.

Oz Clarke tastes a Brotherhood Merlot at the UK Urban Carpark Tasting. The N.Y. Wine & GrapeFoundation is also experimenting with its own marketing.

The pandemic has offered many an opportunity to experiment with new business practices and new ways to market products. Many N.Y. wineries have quickly adapted by offering virtual tastings, vineyard tours, and cellar tours. Now, even with tasting rooms reopened, virtual tastings continue to be a useful marketing practice. I have participated in several virtual tastings and wine education events offered by N.Y. wineries, N.Y. retailers, and even some from Napa Valley Vintners and California wineries. These virtual winery offerings have helped to humanize our industry by connecting consumers more directly to our stories.

Given the scale of the California wine industry, I mistakenly assume that they always have everything dialed-in with their marketing. But their industry members also faced challenges adapting and retooling their marketing. I highly recommend watching a recent webinar hosted by the Wine Industry Network and Sandra Hess, titled, “Virtual Winery Offerings – Case Study Discussions.” The webinar is only an hour long and it features a panel of a small, a medium and a large winery. There are excellent lessons learned that can apply to any winery in N.Y. State. For N.Y. wineries that have depended on in-person events as a revenue stream, I recommend listening to what Wente Vineyards did to readjust their events as a virtual offering.

Our new marketing partners in the UK, R&R Teamwork, launched a new “socially distanced” appropriate outdoor wine tasting called an “Urban Carpark” tasting. Yesterday, they featured a lineup of New York Wines for UK trade and media. They partnered with Oz Clarke to record his pithy commentary on some of the wines. Oz is quite a character, he will put a smile on your face, and I recommend first watching his video where he explains why dark shirts and red wine pair well together; and the dangers of consuming capers too soon before a tasting. He recorded eight videos on New York Wines and they are available here.

We, at the Foundation, intend on appropriating some of these ideas from California and Europe to augment our domestic marketing services that will be launching this Fall. Pay attention to the Press Deck as we push the “Boldly, NY” ethos forward.

Stay tuned.