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New Leader for Monterey Vintners

Kim Stemler wants to sell more wine for California Central Coast group

by Jane Firstenfeld
kim stelmer
Kim Stelmer will begin work as the new executive director of the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association starting Aug. 14.
Monterey, Calif.—“Simply stated, the job of the MCVGA is to help members sell more Monterey County wines—and grapes—and to support members in operating more effectively,” said Kim Stemler, new executive director of the Monterey County Vintners & Growers Association.

Announced today, Stemler’s appointment to MCVGA, which serves some 85 wineries and grapegrowers, follows the departure of long-time director Rhonda Motil earlier this year. (Motil is now senior marketing director at San Jose’s 1.4 million-case J. Lohr Vineyards & Wine.) Central Coast marketing pro Stacie Jacob served as a consultant during the transition and search. Stemler will be onboard full time starting Aug. 14, but already she is getting to know the association’s membership and needs.

Although she claims her favorite wines are from Monterey County, Stemler told Wines & Vines, “I don’t have a lot of wine knowledge.” She is, however, amply equipped with local knowledge and connections. After decades of management consulting and long-standing membership in the local Rotary Club, the Commission on the Status of Women named her an Outstanding Woman of Monterey County in 2011.

MCVGA chairman Paul Johnson, owner of Johnson Vineyard Co., stated: “The board of directors set the organization’s strategic direction to focus locally and build upon strategic alliances that will help sell more Monterey County Wines.”

Jacob elaborated on the interviewing process. “We had received well over 100 resumes for the position, probably spoke with 25. The board interviewed people from the East Coast and locally. A unique skill set’s required. The board took its time deciding who will help us carry this forward. They struggled in a good way. There were great sales people, great marketing people.

“In the end, it came down to who will build the strategic process. Who will build the bridges? Kim is a very engaging person. She can quickly assess a room of people and their needs.

Making the most of connections
Collaboration with membership is key, Stemler said. First and foremost, she stressed, she will listen to the members and execute their vision of success. “Before I settle on my vision, my plan is to talk to all the vintners and growers to make sure we plan that vision together.”

For Stemler’s part, co-branding and building relationships with the county’s attractions and accommodations is going to be vital, and the hiring committee felt her local background has prepared her to move forward with this.

“Today’s marketing environment lends itself to creative strategies for educating and building brand relationships with the growing international consumer base. We will focus our efforts on cultivating mutually beneficial partnerships that strategically leverage our marketing ability on local, national and international levels. This includes forging stronger alliances with local hospitality partners to help them become front-line brand messengers,” Stemler said.

She believes today’s consumers desire a more genuine interaction and relationship with wine. “We want consumers to feel connected to the local industry,” she said. “We want them to know the stories of the growers working with the land, to know about the generations of families in the business.

Stemler pointed to strategic use of social and mobile media as a vehicle to develop consumer connection. “The more we can develop this genuine brand intimacy, the more we can drive the purchasing of and loyalty to the Monterey County wine brand.

“In developing more of a customer relationship management system, maximizing the use of existing consumer data base and expanding the current data base, we can offer members not only increased access to consumers—but also additional market intelligence, bringing increased value to membership,” Stemler said.

The road ahead may be arduous, but the end goal is pretty simple. “I’d like to see every tourist go home with at least a bottle of Monterey County wine,” Stemler said.

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