It might be that you left corporate America to do something more meaningful. You got the wine bug while traveling in Europe and had to make wine yourself. Or your family farmed wheat and you heard about grapevines and the rest, as they say, is history.
Whatever it was, it got you making wine. And wine visitors are fascinated with our personal stories of dreams, perseverance and triumph. These are the stories that you won’t find on the goliath wine brand producers’ websites, even when their labels artfully suggest otherwise.
You tell your story on the back label of your wines and on your website. You train your staff to relate it to each and every visitor who comes to the tasting room.
But how can you be sure that your distinct story is reaching those wine visitors who haven’t yet experienced your wine brand?
In a crowded marketplace, having others tell your story for you is a sure way to drive visitor traffic to the tasting room. As owners of a small wine country inn, we send wine visitors out to wineries everyday. And we are always asked, “where should I go?” So we tell your stories, those that we have heard from you, and maybe some that you don’t know we share.
We talk about the winery whose owner spent 20 years as an editor for CNN, until he got the wine bug and just had to make wine. His winery is named for his journey. “And you have to try his Cab Franc Rose’.”''
Guess what? They go and hear the story for themselves and end up buying the Rose'!
Do you know this Washington winery with tasting rooms in both Walla Walla & Woodinville? Put your guess in the comments and I'll tell you if you are right.
Finally, we enjoy telling the story of multiple generations, who have been homesteading in our valley for more than a century. Their tale includes mule teams, football MVPs and vaudeville performers. One of their estate wines has made Wine Spectator’s “Top 100 wines” three times since 2003.
These are the stories we tell. And we know they are powerful as our guests come back and recant the stories. In the retelling, they help us build on your legend.
But here’s the rub. If we can’t convey your story with passion and have one outstanding wine to recommend (that’s all we need), we can’t create the energy and excitement that will propel them to your door.
And it is not just innkeepers who need these small bursts of distinctness, but every hotel/motel front desk, restaurant servers and bartenders and especially, other wineries. It is anyone who is talking to your potential visitor and is in a position to influence the decision to visit your winery.
It is also what drives your social media efforts (Facebook, Twitter etc) as well as it should be woven into every piece of marketing you do. Probably not the divorce story, but the others are great examples of what your brand needs to convey in its elevator speech.
Now back to our examples. If you have spent any time in Walla Walla, then you will recognize the CNN editor story as Trust Cellars. It is a story that everyone can identify with, leaving the corporate career and starting out anew and bringing a supportive family (one hopes) along with your vision.
Steve Brooks, winemaker and owner of Trust Cellars, plays up various concepts of trust with his labels and on his website, including this witty label for his popular Cabernet Franc Rose.
The second fascinating story is that of Otis Kenyon Winery. They uncovered an intriguing family connection to the Walla Walla Valley in the form of a missing relative and a story of crime and remorse that visitors find unforgettable.
Lastly, Spring Valley Vineyard has been farmed by generations of the Corkum/Derby family for more than 100 years. Their vineyard sits atop a swell of the rolling Palouse and is surrounded by golden wheat fields as far as the eye can register. The family history is celebrated on their labels, an intensive timeline on their website and in their tasting room. Visitors come away with an incredible regard for their story, made especially poignant when you meet current family members pouring their wine for you.
These are just a few examples of the great stories that abound in our valley and throughout the state. I
believe that each winery has a distinct and potentially powerful message to convey that will set your brand apart from the others. So what’s your story and more importantly, who is telling it for you?