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Newsletter August 2013

Differentiating your brand: It's harder than you think!


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  August 1, 2013
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WISE Bites   Tasting Rooms in the Flesh

Differentiating your brand
It’s harder than you think!

  Raising expectations by lowering the bar
Defining your brand and making sure the messaging is consistent means being clear about what is most important to your brand.

  Heitz Wine Cellars is an iconic winery best known for its Martha’s Vineyard and Bella Oak Cabernets. It also is one of the few Napa Valley wineries that does not charge for tasting.
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"WISE Bites" continued   "Tasting Rooms in the Flesh" continued

Three key brand points

The first step is to decide on three (and only three) key points. Make sure they are authentic, positive and compelling. Once you are clear, focus your team—including everyone working in your tasting room or representing your brand on the phone—on these three points. Clarity here will really make their jobs easier. Then help them bring these key brand points come to life by telling relevant, juicy, memorable stories.

Start with why

A great example of how to clarify your brand messaging comes from Simon Sinek’s Ted Talk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action.” To help find your brand’s uniqueness, start with why.

Borrowing from Sinek: Employees at every company know what they do. Some know how they do it. Very few people know why they do what they do. Making a profit does not count, that’s a result. The why is the purpose. It is values-based. The right people—both employees and customers—will identify it.

If Apple was like any other company, here is how they would market to consumers: “We are Apple. We make great computers, beautifully designed. This one is white and costs $1,000. Want to buy one?” They would have started with what (computers, white, $1,000) and added a little bit of how (beautifully designed).

However, that is not how they do it. Instead they start with why: “We are Apple. We are rebels with a cause. Our sole purpose is to think differently. To change the status quo. To change your relationship with technology. We specialize in break-through, beautiful, user-friendly design. We happen to sell computers. Want to buy one?”

See how different this approach is?

What sets you apart

Our mystery-shopping research shows that most frontline staff members working in tasting rooms are stuck in the what:

• We make 5,000 cases
• We have three wines for sale, including some award-winning Cabernet Sauvignon
• Then for each wine…aroma, color, body, taste, stats.

If your tasting room has a lot of SKUs, this can turn into a huge laundry list of whats that staff members have to memorize.

Most are so exhausted after sharing all these incredibly important whats that they may never even get to the hows, such as:

• Specifics about how your vineyard designate wines differ
• How specific clones or soil types vary
• How the third generation of the family is actively working in the business
• Organic or Biodynamic grapegrowing practices.

There are two great ways to really differentiate your brand when it comes to the tasting room experience:

1. Share your why through memorable storytelling, and if possible support this essence throughout the guest experience.

2. The second way—but only if you have it—is to flaunt an extreme how:

• If you are a cult producer I know, focused only on the best so you sort berry by berry—literally berry by berry—that’s an extreme how.
• If you are a high-end Cabernet producer I know, focused on zero defects so you sniff every single cork—literally sniff every single cork—before you bottle, that’s an extreme how.
• If you are a high-end Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producer I know, focused on sharing the importance of fruit intensity from your hillside vineyards so you put every single visitor into the four-wheel-drive vehicle and show them steep hillside vineyards first hand—in a memorable, slightly scary way—that’s an extreme how.

Everyone has a compelling why. Some have an extreme how. It is our job to help our team members tell these tales.

Source: WISE Academy,


To make the tasting room more visitor friendly and less bar-like, the serving counter is very low, and you cannot lean against it. This makes the room look bigger and encourages visitors to take their wine, move freely around the room and visit the beautiful gardens outside.


Heitz Wine Cellars' low tasting room bar serves as an invitation to taste and walk around.

Wines & Vines unveils June Metrics

Click here to view our latest updates about direct-to-consumer sales, flash deals and the hiring index.

App assists wine shoppers

Harris Teeter is working with Hello Vino to develop a mobile app that assists wine shoppers by making recommendations and offering education in the wine aisle. Click here for more information.

JC Cellars will have a special wine
made the ancient Greek way

Jeff Cohn, owner of JC Cellars, used to be the winemaker at Rosenblum Cellars in Alameda, Calif., where he crafted dozens of Zinfandels and other wine varieties, always trying new ways to create the best wines. His newest experiment is to use a large (500 liters) clay amphora, an ancient tool used by Greek and Roman winemakers during the fifth and sixth centuries BC.

Cohn tells us, “We will be unpackaging it in about a week. The fermentation lock is about a foot tall and made of glass. The goal is to ferment and age in the Amphora. I feel a Zinfandel will be a perfect match—gut feeling! Time will tell. If you do not experiment, you never achieve greatness. That is why I keep experimenting. Greatness is just always a little out of reach, but we keep trying.”


JC Cellars purchased the 500-liter clay amphora from Italy to make a special U.S. wine.

Private-label olive oil—follow up

As we mentioned in the July 1 issue of Wines & Vines’ Tasting Room Focus eNewsletter, wine aficionados are also food oriented, and private-label olive oil can be a great addition to a winery’s products. Left Coast Oils was mentioned as a premier supplier of these services. Out of the many responses to this information, one struck me as a great endorsement of the positive spirit in America. “50 Sips Wine” is the brain child of Nicole Grenon, who spent almost 20 years in the Air Force, and decided to open a new business in the Detroit area. Read more about this uplifting story here.

Coravin introduces wine access system

When our staff received an invitation from Aimee Grove, vice president of the PR firm Allison + Partners about demonstrating the new Coravin 1000 System, it was met with skepticism. Even so, I jumped on the opportunity and scheduled an in-house demonstration. Sales consultant Peter Johnson came to my home office and shared a Vineyard 29 2010 CRU bottle “opened” in April 2013. You could not tell from the outside, but the bottle was half empty (or was it half full?). The cork and the foil were still in place. Johnson placed the Coravin on top of the bottle, spring loaded flaps embracing the neck, pushed a small handle that drove a needle into the foil and the cork, squeezed a small trigger that inserted inert gas into the container and poured the wine into my glass. Even at 8 a.m. the Cabernet tasted great. There was no sign of aging three months after the first pour. The product was launched July 30. Learn more about it here.


Peter Johnson demonstrates the ability to pour wine without removing the capsule or cork using the Coravin 1000 System.

Combining social media and commerce

Two of the wine industry’s leading innovators, Vin65 (a subsidiary of WineDirect) and VinTank, have formed an exclusive partnership that connects wine industry social media data directly to customer e-commerce records. The product of two companies’ partnership is a bi-directional integration that merges social interactions (or social customers) with the records of commerce customers. Learn more here


North American wine icon Mike Grgich has lunch July 2 at the Goose & Gander in St. Helena, Calif. Grgich’s unique and motivating story is well documented, and movies have been made about his work for the American and Croatian wine industries.


Please send suggestions to

Jacques Brix is vice president and director of sales, West Coast, for Wines & Vines. This column is based on his personal experiences at winery tasting rooms and events.


Newsletter Archive    
July 2013 June 2013   May 2013 April 2013
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