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Wine Institute Launches Messaging Campaign

October 2006
by Tina Caputo
More than 150 trade and media members attended a California Wine Month kick-off tasting hosted by Wine Institute (WI) on Aug. 23, featuring wineries from 16 California wine regions. Held at the Hotel Vitale in San Francisco, the tasting was a departure from WI's traditional activities, which focus on political lobbying for the California wine industry. Though the trade group regularly hosts promotional wine tasting events overseas, it does not typically do so in the United States.

According to WI communications director Nancy Light, September's California Wine Month program was designed to better position California in consumers' minds and to help the organization's members compete with international wines. "We were seeing a big import push," Light told Wines & Vines, "and we realized there were some things that we could do to provide our members with information and tools without going into a big generic advertising campaign."

After forming a market development committee and conducting a survey of 2,000 consumers, WI determined that California's image needed to be more clearly defined in the eyes of consumers.

"The survey results led to a couple of different recommendations," Light said. "One was to provide an umbrella campaign that would give support to the regional efforts and tie in more with California tourism. The second was to develop some messaging, which came down to: the state itself and its beauty, its personalities, the culture and cuisine, and our sustainability message. This is really all about launching a messaging campaign."

If the California Wine Month program proves to be successful, WI is open to hosting similar promotional events in the future, Light said. "We're just kind of putting our toe in the water, so we'll have to see how it goes. I think there's an interest in this, and if there are wineries and regions that want to support this kind of thing, it helps us to really leverage our members' investments more if we're helping them promote their appellations and their regions as well."

Partner- and winery-sponsored California Wine Month events were held in wine regions throughout the state, and many retailers and restaurateurs spotlighted California wines with promotions, wine flights and seasonal menus. A calendar of events was posted on the website, californiawinemonth.com. Events were also highlighted in a special supplement, the "Harvest Season Guide to California Wine Country," published in the Aug. 23 issue of the San Francisco Chronicle. The supplement was paid for by WI members.

California Wine Month partners include Safeway, which ran promotions in 22 U.S. states, Cost Plus World Market, Beverages & More!, P.F. Chang's China Bistro, Morton's Steakhouse, the Tavistock Restaurant Group and Joie de Vivre Hotels.
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