Marketing and Economics


In the immortal words of Jim Morrison, This is the End (of the Glog).  It has been a fun, educational tool for me to communicate with growers and I hope that you found it useful.  This is the last entry, but it will remain up for reading — at least for awhile.  I will start a new blog sometime after I start at Mississippi State University and it will be on http://www.eviticulture.org.  Some other capstone items I wish to say:

1. Please continue to support OSU’s viticulture and enology efforts.  Just because I am leaving does not mean the program just goes away.  And if you would like to see my position refilled (that is not guaranteed!), I suggest developing a strategic plan to make this happen.  Contact the appropriate people (department heads, deans, provost, president, legislators, anyone with influence — and money), find a way to provide some funding to support research and extension efforts and do it on an annual basis, and come up with a plan of attack that may include having discussing with folks in the pecan industry.  It is unlikely that the position will be refilled solely as a grape position, but as a joint position with pecans is possible.  A plan of action may look like this: rally support for filling the position within the industry by drafting a position paper on why it needs to be filled as soon as possible, develop a plan for funding assistance to do the work you need done through research and extension, develop strong relationships with the OSU horticulture dept head and OSU division of agriculture dean.  If they don’t know you exist, then they won’t care.  How many times since 2005 (when I started) has anyone in the industry interacted with the dean?  I don’t know the answer to that, but if it is 0 or a very few times then that does not bode well.  A plan of action must include items like “why the position is important to the industry”, “what does the industry bring to the table in order for the university to invest in the position”, “how is the industry growing and what are future projections such that a continuing presence is needed?”.  Think about resources that might be available for an extension specialist to use (in-kind services, etc.).  In essence Why does the grape and wine industry of Oklahoma need this position to be filled and what is the Oklahoma grape and wine industry prepared to do about it?

2. Contribute your voice to an industry organization and keep abreast of what is happening in the industry now.

3. Don’t forget to read my last issue of Le Vigneron (to be published sometime early October).  It will include some photos of our vineyard, data and interpretation of the Perkins vineyard since 2002, and some other goodies.  At this point I don’t know if it will be the last one or not, but it will be a “blow-out” issue.  If you are not on the mailing list you can always find it online here (www.grapes.okstate.edu).

4. Growers and wineries need to stick together and display a unified front to legislators.  Find a way past the differences and work together.  To be honest, other states have really gotten their acts together and formed cohesive state organizations that get a lot done.  It might be a good idea to talk with leaders from other states that are on a similar scale to Oklahoma  (like Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, etc. to find out what they are doing that is successful).

5. Be leery, but not dismissive, of vinifera grapes.  Well, maybe dismissive in many parts of northern Oklahoma.  Vinifera grapes can grow in Oklahoma, but we are concerned not only with growth.  We are also concerned with productivity, survival, disease resistance, and fruit quality.  Through my six years here I have come to these conclusions: Vinifera grapes are high-risk and should not be a first choice north of I-40.  South of I-40 on excellent sites they can be considered but not all varieties work.  Always use a rootstock, preferably a low vigor rootstock like 101-14.  Economics must be a prominent thought in variety choice.  What price per ton can be obtained?  How much does it cost to maintain per acre per year?

6. Open your mind to hybrid grapes.  There are many good varieties out there.  The only way to learn about them is to taste the wine and view the vine growth.  There are opportunities to do this within Oklahoma as well as in surrounding states.

7. If you have not done so already, please complete this survey:

https://okstatecasnr.qualtrics.com/SE/?SID=SV_agjMhFmvr6f4TMo

8. Attend conferences such as ASEV, Unified Symposium, Midwest Grape and Wine Conference, etc.  The national perspective you get from these types of venues are invaluable.

9. Stay positive.  Oklahoma is a difficult place to grow grapes, but it can be done (with proper variety selection, site selection, management, and education).  Setbacks will happen, but Oklahoma has a terroir different from anywhere else, so it is exciting to be able to taste that through the grapes.  Taste Native Oklahoma is something to strive for.  Will it be possible to have an industry built entirely on Oklahoma grapes?  I don’t know, but at this point it is unlikely and impossible.  However, with a positive attitude anything is possible.

10. Not sure what else to say, but I wanted to have 10 items here.  So, as Bill S. Preston, Esq. once said, “Be excellent to each other.”

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The ICCVE will be hosting a workshop on ‘Vineyard and Winery Economics – From Vineyard to Customer’ with noted wine industry business advisor Mike Fisher. Mike is a CPA and holds degrees in accounting from the University of Missouri and enology from UC-Davis. He is also a founding partner of Global Wine Partners LLC. The workshop will be held at Les Bourgeois Winery’s Bistro Restaurant in Rocheport, MO on Tuesday, October 4th from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. Registration is $65 per person. You may register online at http://www.brownpapertickets.com/event/163782. The registration deadline is October 3rd.

If you are a Facebook fiend then you have the opportunity to see a new page — the eViticulture Facebook page.  This has just started so we are just getting it ramped up with photos and information.  Take a look here:

http://www.facebook.com/pages/eViticulture/269410903077071

Like us!

Keep tabs on us in the coming weeks for more information.  Also, don’t forget Twitter as well (http://twitter.com/#!/eViticulture) — we now have 124 followers and continue to grow everyday.

 

Yes, the end is coming soon for this blog.  When is the last day?  I’m not entirely sure, but probably somewhere around September 22.  The reason?  Well, for one thing I am leaving on the 23rd to give a talk at a conference in Hawaii.  Secondly, if you have not heard by now, I am leaving OSU on October 14.  I have been offered, and accepted, another position similar to this one at Mississippi State University.  I start there on November 1.  I will still be in the grape world — I will continue to be the Project Leader of eViticulture.org and I will start a new blog that can be read from that website.  It will no longer be Oklahoma specific, but I will touch on grape growing in the Deep South as well as other broader topics of interest.  There are many loose ends concerning how things will continue here at OSU, but meetings will be held to discuss those things and we hope to have a plan in place before my departure.  I have really enjoyed doing this blog and I hope you will continue to follow me when I move over to my new blog.

What is the value of a lost vine?  Many times this is not easy to determine.  UC-Davis has a site where you can download an Excel spreadsheet and play with some numbers.  Sure, the numbers in the given spreadsheet is going to be different from Oklahoma numbers, but it gives you a place to start.

http://coststudies.ucdavis.edu/tree_vine_loss/

 

Another blogger has posted a good little rant on why most winery websites aren’t worth the time to visit: (http://www.wawinereport.com/2011/07/why-most-winery-websites-stink.html).  Good stuff here, although mostly rehashed from other posts I have done.  This may be news to some of you but I visit your winery websites often, looking for updates on your products and any news you have to offer.  Some I visit probably have not been updated in years — and it shows.  Some have terrible photos too.  Many are poorly organized and give little valuable information (just as the blogger link above states).  If the goal is to drive customers to your winery then have a professional looking website.  If you don’t care then why have a website at all when a crummy Facebook page will do? (For the record, in my opinion, Facebook pages don’t even come close to looking professional.  I understand it as a way to interact with clientele and post photos, etc., but the interface is just….underwhelming).  At any rate, take a read from the link above.

I just returned from a trip to Colorado where I enjoyed 80 F (day) and 45 F (night) temperatures for a few days.  Most of the time we spent fishing and hiking (and driving).  I did purchase a bottle of Colorado wine, which I will review sometime in the coming days.  Of course if you have ever been to Colorado you know that microbreweries are a big deal there.  We visited three — Bier Werks in Woodland Park, Breckenridge Brewery in Breckenridge, and Trinity Brewery in Colorado Springs.  All were good, BB was the best (in my opinion).  The settings of the three were very different — BW was next to a busy road and it was noisy to sit on the patio (I didn’t go inside except to pay my bill as we had our dog with us).  BB was in the quaint, upscale town of Breckenridge.  The place was very busy, also near a road, but the noise was not distracting on the patio.  TB was in a strip mall, but far enough from the road that traffic noise was not a problem.  I thought they also did a good job of making the patio a pleasant place to sit.  The view wasn’t great but it was comfortable.  Now then, was does this have to do with marketing?  Well, hold on, I’m getting to it.

Beer is really a “commoners” drink.  It’s perceived as a “blue-collar” beverage, whereas wine is more “white-collar”.  At the breweries we saw kids all over the place, most had a non-alcoholic drink that they could have (i.e. a root beer).  This helps to make it more family-oriented.  Another thing that really struck me at all three breweries is that they marketed themselves very well.  I don’t mean billboards and TV adds, but rather in design.  If you don’t think design (a good looking logo or label) matters then you are not seeing the big picture.    For example, while at BB we tried three different beers, an Oatmeal Stout, an Agave Wheat, and a Vanilla Porter, all were very good, especially the Porter.  It was a nice day, we were able to sit on the patio with our dog, we had a nice salad to eat, and drank some excellent, Happy-hour priced beer.  It was one of those days that you’d like to remember (or in French “souvenir”).  That brings me to something I think microbreweries do a great job of in terms of marketing — creating an enticing logo(s) and selling swag with their logos.  Did I really need another T-shirt?  No, but I bought one anyway because it would remind me of that day.  And, as a by-product I become a walking billboard for BB.  Would I buy anything that had a crummy logo?  No.  Would I have bought anything if the experience was poor? No.  Would I have bought it if the experience was good, the logo was great, but the beer was mediocre?  Maybe.

In looking at the websites for Oklahoma wineries (and if you don’t have a professional looking website, that is only a detriment to your business) there are some great logos out there (Gander Way, StableRidge, and Native Spirits just to name a few).  There are also some that are, let’s say, not too good (I won’t name these).  When I go to the store and see a bottle of wine with a cheap label there is no way I am buying it unless it was recommended to me from someone whose palate I trusted.  If I see a bottle with a cool logo I might buy it just for the heck of it anyway, just to try it.  Shallow?  Yes, but in this land of consumerism, eye candy sells.  The only Oklahoma winery website that I could find that takes full advantage of the “swag” opportunity is Summerside Vineyards and Winery.

Would someone who visited your winery, had a great time, but cannot buy your wine online order a shirt or glass or other item with your great name and logo on it? I think so, at least I would.  But, the logo must be cool and the experience must be memorable.  Running a winery is a business and in business marketing yourself well is extremely important — maybe more important then making great wine.  A drinkable product + good experience + cool logo = sales.  All of this stemmed from my observations of the breweries in Colorado, but I truly believe there are strong opportunities for doing this in the wine industry in Oklahoma.

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