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One for All

Author: Stephen Ferry
October, 2014 Issue

When wineries band together to promote their shared region, everybody wins.

Right now, no fewer than four new (or recently resurrected) winery alliance groups are working to promote awareness of their unique wines in Napa and Sonoma counties. They offer public outreach, wine and food events, and a variety of activities and services to generate interest in the wineries within their borders.

Carneros Wine Alliance

“The Carneros Wine Alliance [CWA] is a grower and winery organization. It was founded in 1985 but has recently been rejuvenated,” says Anne Moller-Racke, vice chair of CWA and president of Donum Estate.
“We’re a like-minded group of quality producers that live and work in Carneros and want to share our passion for this area and its wines,” says TJ Evans, CWA board president and Pinot Noir winemaker at Domaine Carneros. “Carneros has a tremendous agricultural heritage. It sits right on the San Pablo Bay, is close to so many metro areas, but still has the wild and unspoiled feeling of open spaces. Being a part of Sonoma County and a part Napa County makes us both but neither, and we feel like we need to maintain our own voice.”
Evans goes on to describe the events CWA stages. “We do the Annual Barrel Tasting for CWA members, trade and media in March at ZD Wines. We also do hospitality/tasting room networking nights for the benefit of our members, and we have a Carneros Chardonnay Roundtable trade/media discussion of Carneros Chardonnay styles planned for later this fall.”
Heidi Soldinger, marketing director at Saintsbury, adds, “Right now, the Carneros Wine Alliance is focused on education and supporting our Carneros community. Carneros is a spread-out region defined by climate characteristics rather than political boundaries and has Highway 121 as its main artery. Our Chardonnay barrel tasting was a wonderful opportunity for us to share and connect. At the tasting, our Carneros American Viticultural Area (AVA) founders were chatting and tasting with the newbies—our future is looking bright!”
“In August, we hosted a hospitality social at Bouchaine, where we provided education about the Carneros AVA to tasting room personnel, as well as the opportunity to connect with neighboring wineries,” continues Soldinger. “As you can see, CWA is committed to cultivating the Carneros community and inviting everyone to experience it. Next year, CWA is celebrating 30 years, so we have more consumer-based initiatives for 2015.”
“Carneros is important to many Sonoma and Napa wineries,” says David Graves, co-owner of Saintsbury and past CWA president. “There are stand-alone wineries in the AVA; but also, wineries outside the AVA that rely on the high-quality fruit from Carneros, too, particularly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. To experience Carneros, I’d encourage visitors to call ahead and book a tasting experience at a Carneros winery. On the way to the winery appointment, enjoy the scenery—rolling hills, the vista to the San Pablo Bay, the cool breeze on a hot day, grazing horses and cows, fruit stands and diners and the vineyards. Therein lies our story.”

The South Napa Wine Experience

“Vic Bourassa was the driving force behing creation of the South Napa Wine Experience [SNWE],” says AnnaBelle Walter, director of marketing at Jamieson Ranch Vineyards and a subcommittee member of SNWE. “It was formed to promote this gateway region of Napa Valley and the range of experiences one can find here, from expansive vineyard properties like Jamieson Ranch to a historic Victorian tasting room at Rocca Family Winery, cozy barrel room at Bourassa, a hip tasting room at Holman Cellars, caves at Trinitas and more. One can enjoy all this, as well as exceptional wines, all within a few-mile radius. It’s the perfect day trip from the Bay Area or stop en route to or departing from Napa Valley.”
Bourassa adds, “Much like the Rutherford Dust Society, Stags Leap District Winegrowers Association and Carneros Wine Alliance, the goal is to educate people about what makes this region and the wineries found within it so special. There are no officers in SNWE, only leaders, a subcommittee of myself, AnnaBelle Walter from Jamieson Ranch Vineyards, John Taylor from Rocca Family Vineyards and Jason Holman of Holman Cellars.”
“Our SNWE debut event took place June 21 at Jamieson Ranch, “ says Bill Legion, president of Jamieson Ranch Vineyards. “We had a barbecue and tasting of wines from all eight SNWE wineries, with a portion of ticket sales and the proceeds of an instant cellar (consisting of two cases of member wines) benefiting Legal Aid of Napa Valley.”
“The goal of the group is to create strong awareness of the wineries in South Napa and the variety of our offerings,” continues Bourassa. “Our member wineries have their own winemaking styles and signature experiences. In addition to food and wine events, Jamieson Ranch has a culinary program and miniature horses onsite, Bourassa Vineyards offers barrel education and wine blending, Trinitas has library wines and caves, and Etude has its own Pinot Noir specialist. There are mega award-winning wines at Rocca Family Vineyards, and Holman Cellars is a family-owned micro-winery with mountainside fruit from the Coombsville AVA. Humanitas donates money from the wines it sells to charity, and Mi Sueño Winery is a business established by a humble dishwasher of long ago who’s become a world-class winemaker today. That’s a total of eight winery members at this time.”
Bourassa adds, “Members of our group pay no dues, and any winery in our geographical region can join with us. We're planning our second event this year in November. We’ll welcome the public for a day of food and exceptional wine at these unique member properties.”

Crusher Wine District

Betsy Busch handles outreach for the newly formed Crusher Wine District. “We’re located in the ‘industrial’ area of south Napa,” says Busch. “Our area is bordered on the south by Highway 29, on the west by the Napa River, on the east by Soscol Ave./Hwy 221 and on the north by Basalt Road.” The group’s name refers to the area’s iconic statue.
“We don’t necessarily own beautiful mansions and acres of historic estates, but all our members are passionate about making great wine, honest hospitality and having fun. Our board of directors consists of founding member and board chairman Garrett Busch (Trinitas Cellars), with board members Janet Moss (J Moss Wines) and Kristen Spelletich (Spelletich Family Wine Company).”
“The Crusher Wine District member wineries are represented by named representatives of those wineries. Each winery that meets the criteria outlined in our bylaws can join after approval by the board and payment of annual member dues. Members meet monthly to collaborate on marketing and promotion of our wineries as well as to plan events for the Crusher Wine District.”
“Current membership is seven wineries,” continues Busch. “In addition to those I've already mentioned, we have Y Rosseau, Humanitas and our newest members, Avinodos and The Wine Foundry. The Meritage Resort and Spa also supports our group’s mission and is an associate member.
“The Crusher Wine District was formed with the goal of promoting awareness and advancing the interests of wineries in the designated district area. We hope that by working together and promoting Napa Valley wineries as a group, we can attract more visitors to this area and provide better experiences for our guests by bringing the full Napa experience to them. Our focus is on honest, fun hospitality, and we look to show people a different Napa experience that’s genuine and unique.
“We provide a network of wineries within walking distance for guests to come explore and avoid the hassle and danger of drinking and driving. Visit any of our seven member wineries and then maybe head over to the Meritage for dinner or some bowling at Crush lounge. We also look to host various events in the district that bring the member wineries together and attract people to the south end of Napa.
“We’ve already scheduled a number of fun and informative events to promote our area,” continues Busch. “The Crusher Games took place on August 2, 2014 and will return again June 20, 2015. Also, a Speakeasy Event is planned for December 6 this year. And we also stage local ‘industry nights’ every month or so t host our neighbors and colleagues in the hospitality industry and get to know them better.”
Busch notes, “The Crusher Wine District welcomes the membership of any other businesses in the same geographic area that may also benefit from the marketing and promotion of this region. These businesses may be featured as associate members listed on our marketing materials and website and may also customize their participation in our various events and industry nights. We’re happy to work with anyone to customize events or make it worth their while.”

The Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance

The Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance (SVVGA) is a nonprofit trade organization serving more than 500 members who share a mission to promote awareness of Sonoma Valley’s grapes, wine and history as the birthplace of the California wine industry. They represent more than 100 Sonoma Valley wineries and 140 winegrowers. The organization has raised more than $8 million for local Sonoma charities.
The SVVGA launched a new, multifaceted marketing program in 2013 called the “Roots Run Deep” campaign to get the story out about Sonoma Valley. In developing this effort, it engaged the services of a strategically focused marketing team of grape, wine and tourism industry leaders that included BHC Consulting, Swig Studio and The Idea Cooperative. The new logo or “brand mark” for the campaign features the language: “Sonoma Valley Wine—Est. 1857” as well as iconic Sonoma Valley symbols: a bear and a crescent moon. Rabobank is a key sponsor.
“When we developed the Roots Run Deep campaign, certain themes continually emerged about Sonoma Valley: history, family, authenticity, community and the friendly approachability of the people,” says Maureen Cottingham, SVVGA executive director.
“Some of the best ambassadors we have for Sonoma Valley wine are members of our local community,” says SVVGA marketing director, Scott Black. 

New Winery Groups

Carneros Wine Alliance
Area: Southern Napa and Sonoma counties
Contacts: Heidi Soldinger, marketing director, Saintsbury
(707) 252-0592
TJ Evans, president of the alliance board
(707) 266-5111
South Napa Wine Experience
Area: Gateway region of the south end of Napa Valley
Contacts: Vic Bourassa
(707) 254-4922
John Taylor at Rocca Family (707) 257-8467
AnnaBelle Walter (707) 254-8673
Crusher Wine District
Area: The “industrial” area of south Napa, named for the famed statue there
Contact: Betsy Busch
(925) 984-4568
Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers
Area: Sonoma Valley
Contact: Scott Black, marketing director
(707) 935-0803


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