Archive for the ‘Finger Lakes Wine’ Category

Report: American Association of Wine Economists-“Modeling Perceptions Of Locally Produced Wine Among Restauranteurs In New York City”

Manhattan's BAR VELOCE uploaded from BAR VELOCE's flickr stream

Manhattan's BAR VELOCE uploaded from BAR VELOCE's flickr stream

I was just alerted to this paper by Twitter friend Tish of WineForAll.com. The abstract summary of the paper written by Trent Preszler and Todd M. Schmit for American Association of Wine Economists reads,

“Poor perceived product quality, an inadequate sales force, and intense competition from wines produced elsewhere are common reasons cited for why New York wines have not achieved broad acceptance in the New York City (NYC) market. NYC restaurant owners, sommeliers, and chefs were surveyed regarding their perceptions and purchasing decisions of wines grown and bottled in New York State. Factor analysis was applied to examine the structure of interrelationships among key indicators of product perception, and an ordinal logistic regression model was used to identify the characteristics of restaurants that show a strong propensity to adopt local wines. The results indicate that a NYC restaurant’s type of cuisine does not affect its propensity to adopt local wine, nor does a restaurant’s desire to offer a large, geographically diverse wine list. The perceived collective reputation for a wine region’s excellence in one particular grape varietal was found to be the most significant factor in the probability of adoption of local wines in NYC. An important implication of these results is that being local is not enough, and New York winery stakeholders could establish a more prominent presence in NYC by emphasizing their collective reputation for particular grape varietals.”

Here are some key takeaways:

  • Wines produced in New York (NY) have traditionally been shut out of the upscale New York City (NYC) market. Nearly 75 percent of gross revenue at small independent NY wineries is earned directly from consumers in the winery tasting room
  • Market impediments for premium NY wines could be underscored by the long-standing association of NY with high-volume jug wines made using native and French-hybrid grapes.
  • Price is another factor, with lingering doubts by consumers that local wines can justify the same prices as imports.
  • Sommeliers experience wine differently, using intrinsic cues such as flavor, aroma, and color to guide buying decisions, and are driven by different economic motivations.
  • The most important factor influencing wine purchase decisions from this sample of upscale NYC restaurants was the wine’s “Quality for Price Point.”
  • Factors of relatively less importance included “Personal Relationships” that related to personal relationships with wholesalers/distributors or the winery/winemaker , as well as wholesaler/distributor wine recommendations.
  • The absence of strong NY wine sales in NYC is not necessarily due to a predominantly negative image of the product quality, nor to high prices. Instead, low sales in NYC can likely be attributed to the lack of any specific image at all. The regional brand identity of NY wine is not strongly defined because it is not explicitly communicated, and therefore is not universally understood by those who set trends in the culinary industry. A coalescence of marketing goals and principles among NY winery stakeholders could make a difference in this regard.

But wait, with all of the acclaim that Finger Lakes wine, especially Riesling, has garnered this past year, will we see an increase in the adoption of local wines in New York City in the coming years?   A strong, focused effort to communicate a world-class wine message is being made by Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association and the Finger Lakes Wine Alliance. (Disclosure:  both are clients of Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing)  Although I have mentioned the locavore trend as one that may help to gain a foothold in the trendy, upscale NYC market, this paper states that “it is simply not enough to base a marketing platform on being local unless it is accompanied by strong associations with excellence and focused production priorities.”

Communicating with sommeliers requires a separate, focused strategy.  This article in Sommelier Journal was a nice one to begin educating them about the region.  Perhaps some follow up with NYC sommeliers is in order, and may be on the agenda already.

It seems clear that the wheels are in motion with communication strategies being executed to elevate the image of the Finger Lakes wine industry and Finger Lakes Wine Country.  As my friend, Michael Wangbickler at Cave Man Wines Blog recently stated while we were speaking about communications strategies, “It’s a marathon, not a sprint.”

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Is There a Great Divide Among Wine Producers in the Finger Lakes?

As I’ve come to understand more about the present state of the Finger Lakes wine industry, a few key topics seem to bubble up to the top consistently. One that I find to be important is the question of whether or not there is a divide or segmentation of the wine producers here based on the types of grapes being planted and produced by each winery.

The Finger Lakes wine industry has a history steeped in plantings of native varieties such as Concord and Catawba and some of its best-selling wines still reflect a significant demand for these wine varietals as well as for hybrids. It seems that there is a bit of a divide amongst those producers who are catering to this sweet wine-drinking consumer, in some ways the lifeblood of the region, and those who are throwing themselves into producing vinifera varietals such as Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Cabernet Franc in a dry style that are attractive to a more sophisticated palate, for those wine geeks and foodies among us.

And I’ve seen wine lists at wineries that incorporate both sweet, native varietals and vinifera. Where is the future of the Finger Lakes in regards to native vs. vinifera? Do you feel a divide amongst producers with one side all for producing the sweeter style wines vs. those who are much more interested in perfecting their vinifera offerings? Will vinifera varietals continue to put the Finger Lakes “on the map” as a serious world-class wine producing region, overshadowing the image that clings to the region because of its history of producing sweet wines? I wonder if there should be a separation in marketing efforts for the two segments. Are the sweet wine-only producers dragging the vinifera producers down in terms of the perception of Finger Lakes Wine Country? Or is there some way to use the diversity of wine offerings available in the Finger Lakes to our advantage and tout the region as one that offers both ends of the spectrum, appealing to many types of wine palate?

Morgen McLaughlin, President of Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association, offered these observations on the topic, “I think the reason that many wineries still produce sweet wines is because they sell better in tasting rooms. The drier, vinifera wines do well with journalists, restaurants, retailers, and with certain consumers. The wineries in the Finger Lakes rely heavily on tasting room sales (over 80% of sales for many wineries) and at the end of the day the wineries need to stay in business. Even those producers who focus on dry-style vinifera wines have at least one “cash cow” wine. Maybe not always a native or hybrid blend, but something with residual sugar. Most people talk dry but drink sweet. Why do you think Kendall Jackson has sold so much Chardonnay. They added some residual sugar and saw their sales skyrocket.”

(Full disclosure: I work with Morgen and Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association on projects on a regular basis)

Bringing the Wines of New York to the Wine Bloggers Conference

032When Lenn Thompson, Publisher and Editor of LENNDEVOURS blog, and I decided to attend the Wine Bloggers Conference in Sonoma last month, the wheels in Lenn’s head started turning, looking for an opportunity to get our beloved NY wines in front of a group of wine bloggers from around the country and beyond sometime during our gathering. He asked me to help him to gather a selection of wines from the Finger Lakes AVA and have them shipped out to our wine blogger friend, Russ Beebe of winehiker witiculture, the official blog for californiawinehikes.com who took great care of them for us. The tasting was structured as a casual, and self-guided overview of NY wines with Lenn opening the bottles and placing them on the countertops of the kitchen area at the center of the gathering of around 40 bloggers who were invited. As Lenn outlined in his post about reactions to the New York wines, it was the end of a long day with many wines already poured during the day’s earlier events, so this casual setting was well-received. For reactions to specific wines, please see Lenn’s post and watch for updates on Open Wine Consortium.

034Thank you to all of the wineries who submitted their wines for the tasting. A recommended next step would be to follow up with some of the bloggers in attendance with additional wine submissions for their review (for those who accept submissions), from the comfort of their homes, now that they have had an overview of NY wines.  Feel free to contact me directly if you’re interested in discussing this strategy.

Dr. Konstantin Frank was one of the winery sponsors of the Wine Bloggers Conference and a review of the submitted 2006 Rkatsiteli is posted on my new friend, (and fearless WBC chauffeur) Remy Charest’s blog The Wine Case.

Cheers! From Melissa’a Desk

Week of 10/27/08:

  • First I must apologize for missing a couple of weeks of my Cheers! updates. As a new solopreneur, (solo entrepreneur) I’m still navigating just how to keep my passion for making Melissa Dobson PR & Marketing a successful and resourceful business in line with my personal time with my husband and the rest of my family and friends. One of the reasons I created a home-based business is because I found that what makes Rich and I happy is to have me attend to appointments, errands and packing lunch for him and cooking dinner most nights along with creating a viable business promoting an industry that I truly love. Anyway, I’m still learning how to manage it all. And I have you to thank for keeping me busy with new challenges and projects. I feel very lucky for being embraced by my local wine community here in the Finger Lakes as well as by my group of wine-loving, wine-blogging friends throughout the country. Thank you!
  • Big, big news with Wine Specatator’s James Molesworth choosing to head our way to Finger Lakes Wine Country for his Fall trip instead of his usual choice to visit the Rhone. He includes his impressions on his WS blog. Some of the key takeaways from the two posts I’ve read to date include:
    • There is “a new breed of winery in the region-small, quality-oriented and committed to vinifera grapes.”
    • Ravines Wine Cellars, Fox Run Vineyards, Anthony Road Wine Company, Shaw Vineyard and Standing Stone Vineyards all impressed for their own reasons as outlined in the posts.
    • There is “a growing trend of attention to detail in the region-detail in the vineyards.”

    These are exciting times for the Finger Lakes wine region. On that note, Dr. Konstantin Frank’s Vinifera Wine Cellars has been named the greatest wine producer in the Atlantic Northeast region for the fifth year in a row. Five of the ten producers listed are from New York State.

These are just a few of the exciting recent developments in the Finger Lakes. I have a feeling that I’ll be kept very busy keeping up with news to come…

Cheers until next week,

Melissa

Interview Series: Finger Lakes Visionaries #3-Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars

I was recently honored with an invitation to the celebration of the release of Dr. Frank’s N90 Riesling Clone and had an opportunity to meet and share lunch with Frederick Frank, President of Dr. Konstantin Frank Vinifera Wine Cellars. I found him to be gracious, down-to-earth and passionate about the future of the Finger Lakes wine industry.

Frederick, Willy and Dr. Konstantin Frank

Frederick, Willy and Dr. Konstantin Frank

Melissa Dobson: Tell me about how you selected the Finger Lakes region to pursue your passion for wine.

Frederick Frank: I spent many summers while in school working with my grandfather, Dr. Konstantin Frank. I enjoyed learning from him and realized at an early age that I wanted to continue the family winery. My father, Willy, took over the winery in 1984 from his father Konstantin who started the winery in 1962. Willy encouraged me to get a good education and experience before joining the winery full time. I received my B.S. from Cornell University School of Agriculture. After graduation I went to work for Banfi Vintners as a sales manager in New England. In 1982 I left Banfi to attend the Geisenheim School of Viticulture and Enology in Germany. I was then rehired by Banfi Vintners to be their Managing Director for Banfi Vineyards in Old Brookville, New York. In 1993 my father was hospitalized and asked me to return to Dr. Frank’s Winery as President. I have enjoyed working at Dr. Frank’s Winery and look forward to passing the reigns on to my son, Kyle, after he has completed his education and gained experience.

MD: If you could deliver a “State of the Finger Lakes Wine Region” speech today, which main points would you include?

FF: I have seen the Finger Lakes Wine Region experience many changes in the last 45 years.When my grandfather started the family winery in 1962 as an all Vinifera Winery he was laughed at and ridiculed by many industry and academic leaders. He was called ,”the crazy old doctor on the hill”. Today many of those industry leading wineries are no longer in business because they failed to adapt to changing consumer tastes demanding higher quality wines made from the Vinifera grapes. Recently the New York Wine & Grape Foundation hired the market research firm, Wine Opinions, to do a study on brand awareness among the 240 wineries in New York. The winery with the highest brand recognition among New York wineries was Dr. Konstantin Frank which was picked by 17% of the respondents. The winery that came in second had a 5% recognition rating. We have worked hard through three generations to increase the brand awareness of our winery and the Finger Lakes region. We have improved quality and increased production at the same time we have expanded distribution of our wines to over 30 states and several foreign countries.I believe the Finger Lakes Wine Region is becoming known as the best cool climate region in America. This gives us an advantage in producing wines from the Northern European grape varieties. Our cool climate then becomes an asset and allows us to compete among the best wines in America.

MD: Are you satisfied with the visibility and progress of the region? If yes, please explain why. If not, what are the strategies that you favor to raise awareness?

FF: We need to continue to work to improve the visibility and progress of the Finger Lakes region. This starts with wine quality and ends with wine marketing. Awareness for the Finger Lakes region will be improved by working together with all the wineries and attractions to promote the region.

MD: What are your greatest challenges in promoting your wine, both to consumers and to the trade?

FF: We need to continue to gain more recognition for our wines and the Finger Lakes region. We are a small region that has to gain more credibility by producing world class cool climate wines.

MD: What hopes and dreams do you have for the future of the Finger Lakes Wine Region?

FF: I believe the Finger Lakes Wine Region will continue to grow and gain more credibility as America’s best cool climate region. I am excited to see more of my fellow Finger Lakes vintners following Dr. Frank’s lead and planting Vinifera grapes. I want to thank you for your fine coverage of the Finger Lakes Wine Region.

Thank YOU, Frederick.

WANTED: Your Finger Lakes Wine Country Harvest Photos

One of my latest projects is to compile a 2008 Harvest Report of Finger Lakes wineries to include photos and quotes and/or harvest observations. This project was developed by Morgen McLaughlin and the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association. The Finger Lakes Wine Country office will distribute the report to their media contact list in an effort to tell our harvest story for this year. I’m also creating slideshows to be uploaded to online photo sharing sites such as Flickr and the photo section of the Open Wine Consortium.

So please send me your Harvest photos and observations by end of day 10/31/08 if you would like to be included in the report and media outreach efforts. You can send to me at melissa (dot) dobson (at) avantguild.com.  If you’re interested in having me come out to shoot photos and make observations in person, let me know.  I have several wineries signed on for an in-person visit, but I’ll get to you if possible.

Come on Finger Lakes wineries, let’s show ’em how beautiful and bountiful Harvest time is here in Finger Lakes Wine Country!

Cheers! From Melissa’s Desk

The Vista from Atwater Estate Vineyards

The Vista from Atwater Estate Vineyards

For Week of 10/6/08:

  • This week, freelance writer Patricia Savoie featured The Finger Lakes in a seven-page spread in Sommelier Journal. The publication has carved out a niche as “the only magazine specifically targeting restaurant wine professionals. Wine retailers, importers and distributors, winemakers, and serious wine consumers will all be strong secondary markets. In fact, anyone who is serious about wine will be interested in this magazine.” There is also a forum post about the article beginning a discussion debating whether or not one of the reasons that the Finger Lakes wine industry has not been able to break out into the mainstream is due to lack of production. Thus far, only Bob Madill of Sheldrake Point Vineyard and Finger Lakes Wine Alliance has responded with his views. If you have a moment, and would like to provide your insight into the wine industry in the Finger Lakes, go to the forum and set up a profile so that your views can be heard. These types of forums are valuable, free educational and marketing vehicles that can create two-way conversations and drive further understanding and awareness to the region as well as to you and your winery as a source of information and quality wine.  And it shows that you’re plugged in and interested in supporting the efforts of your fellow winery owners.
  • Looking for further insight into how social media can help you?  See a recent post by Judd Wallenbrock, Owner & Founder, Humanitas Winery; President/GM, Michel-Schlumberger Wine Estate, and check out the comments section to decide for yourself.  Judd explores how blogs and other social media platforms allow for the return of two-way conversation in the wine world.
  • The Wine Bloggers Conference is just over a week away with over 150 wine bloggers from across the U. S. expected to attend and participate.  Lenn Thompson at LENNDEVOURS blog was the driving force behind creating an opportunity for an informal tasting of New York wines during the conference.  See Lenn’s post and thoughts on the upcoming conference here.  Lenn and I are both planning on representing and educating attendees about the wines of New York within casual conversations as well as during the tastings.  Many of the attendees originally connected via a social network called Open Wine Consortium.   I highly recommend visiting the site, poking through the content, forums, groups and members and setting up a profile for yourself.  This site attracts the thought leaders in the industry, those who are pushing the envelope and embracing new technologies because of the power these strategies have for wineries and wine businesses.  If you haven’t participated in social networks much, I recommend setting up a profile, filling it out completely including links to your website and a clear description of who you are and what your business is.  Then you may want to “lurk” for a bit, or just look around at the conversations taking place, utilize the search function and look for content relevant to your wine business, AVA or related subjects and once you feel comfortable, start by joining into a discussion and posting your views.  Avoid pitching yourself/your business or using marketing speak in your posts as these types of posts will be seen as self-promoting and will turn off members.  The purpose is to collaborate, educate and add to the conversation rather than push your wares.  There is a strong sense of community among members of OWC which is now being taken offline and to the Wine Bloggers Conference.

Cheers to you until next week and thank you to all of my wine friends who have been extremely supportive and helpful in introducing me to their wine friends…it is very much appreciated!

Melissa