Forty Years Of Fine Wine Marketing

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40 Years Of Fine Wine Marketing
40 Years Of Fine Wine Marketing

I’m happy to announce that I’m starting a new chapter in my career in wine by launching Fine Wine Marketing, a copywriting consultancy for the wine business. It seems appropriate that my first post here should be a look back at where I’ve been, and a glimpse at where I may be going. I hope you enjoy this little peek through the looking glass.

In the summer of 1980 my wife Sue Ann gave me the amazing news that we were going to have our first child. I was studying at Sonoma State, and working part time. Knowing it was time to get serious about being an adult, I applied for a job working in the tasting room at Sonoma Vineyards. I knew a little about wine; my parents enjoyed wine and would often let me join in the grown up fun at dinner parties with a glass of wine and water. We spent summers in Europe, then lived in the Netherlands for seven years, exposing me to a culture that saw wine more as a food than as an alcoholic beverage. At Sonoma Vineyards I learned the ins and outs of vineyards and winemaking, and discovered I had a knack for talking about wine in a sort of non-threatening way that didn’t intimidate people new to the subject.

From then on my life, professional but also in many ways personal, has been defined by the wine business. After my tasting room stint I went on to various marketing positions at the winery, eventually becoming manager of the three tasting rooms the winery operated in Healdsburg, Tiburon and San Francisco. From there I moved on to sales and marketing positions throughout Sonoma and Napa. I’ve worked for, and been mentored by, some of the true legends of the industry: Rodney Strong, Pete Friedman, Terrance Clancy, Warren Winiarski. 

Looking back now, it’s obvious that the wine business has changed dramatically. Forty years ago, Grey Riesling was a buzz-worthy wine. If supermarkets sold wine at all, it was in jugs. Gallo Hearty Burgundy was the country’s number one selling wine, in volume and dollars. The U.S. wine market was just a blip on the global wine business radar.

But with all the changes in the industry, the consolidation, globalization, shifting consumer tastes and demographic shifts, the growing and making of wine has changed very little. That’s one reason why wine is so alluring, and charming. It’s a comfort to know that, in a world that seems to be remaking itself before our eyes, there are some constants out there, and wine is one of them.

There’s a lot of talk these days about how wine is in trouble. It’s not as relevant to younger consumers; its star has faded in the glow of beer, spirits and cannabis. I think there’s truth to that, But I also think it’s a trend that can be reversed by how we talk and write about wine. And, I think that’s one of the reasons I’m still doing what I do. Let’s go for another forty, what do you say?

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