Along the dusty, oil-soaked towns of northern Texas, most folks are on what they refer to as the “upstream” or “downstream” ends of the petroleum industry. Thousands are either wildcatting for oil, supplying the necessary drills, rigs, pipes or chemicals to make a go of it, providing food and shelter for residents and wanderers alike, or merely living high off the success of those who preceded them.
With more than 800 wineries in Sonoma and Napa County (and a few scattered in Marin as well), perhaps the same could be said of many folks around here. Thousands of farmers are growing grapes, sourcing tonnage, blending varietals, bottling the final product, marketing brands, distributing case loads and retailing through thousands of locations. Other folks churn away as property owners, contractors and designers of state-of-the-art facilities and gorgeous wineries. And of course, even more are employed within those buildings to operate and maintain them. Wine is big business in the North Bay, and our editor, Karen Hart, has coordinated with her editorial team to cover some of the latest trends in the industry, especially some new approaches to enhance the wine-tasting experience for visitors.
In our cover story, Jean Doppenberg explores how some select wineries such as Red Car Winery and Kunde Family Winery have turned the traditional, wine-tasting experience on its head. Today, the experience goes beyond merely saddling up to a wine bar. These two innovators are luring their customers with new tasting adventures. One offers a hike-and-taste adventure for dog lovers, which includes a virtual “yappy hour” for their four-legged companions. Another offers “forest bathing.” (Yes, you read that correctly!) Jean’s light-handed writing style will soon have you re-thinking the wine tasting experience whether you own a winery, or you’re just looking to explore new tasting adventures.
If you produce a product, then you know packaging is everything. My early career as a brand manager for Johnson & Johnson’s TYLENOL Company put me on the front line of innovative packaging. During the 1990s, those working in the pharmaceutical world discovered they could revitalize stagnant brands by innovating their packages, bottle counts, and particularly the pills themselves. Hard-to-swallow, chalky tablets were line-extended with capsules, caplets, gel caps, and even a curious combination of liquid and solid known (unsurprisingly) as a “liqui-cap.”
Judy Wilson reveals the new growth trend for premium wines isn’t all that dissimilar in “Beyond the Bottle.” Wineries are trying out various packaging styles to stimulate new volume. The higher-end wine segment is well beyond the controversy of using synthetic, rather than natural, cork. And now, premium wines are being packaged in cans, cartons and kegs to make their brands more accessible and convenient to share, transport and sip. Of course, their “active ingredient” remains the same—premium winegrapes—but now wine is packaged differently for consumers to enjoy in new ways. These are innovations that many experts were chuckling over just a few short years ago, but perhaps they are now here to stay.
Finally, I’d be remiss not to use this column to share how one Wine Guy, John Holdredge, has proven to be an invaluable part of the businesses I oversee. As an attorney, John provided the guidance I needed to purchase NorthBay biz magazine in late 2017. As usual, his legal work was immediately agreeable to both buyer and seller, and recognized as fair and equitable. He takes that balanced approach with (almost) every business issue we tackle. So it should come as no surprise that John takes a similar tactic to his winemaking practice at Holdredge Wines. If you haven’t tasted these wines, you’re missing out. He and his wife, Carri, focus exclusively on Pinot Noir and produce a selection of flavor profiles for this varietal—some are floral and savory, others more aromatic, still others offer more spice. But they’re all balanced, true to the character of each wine produced, and delicious. And while I’ve yet to see John pour any of their wines from a carton, soda can (or a pump-action water gun, for that matter), I couldn’t recommend them more highly.
Welcome to the March issue! Pour yourself a glass of your favorite vino, and raise your glass as we celebrate the business of wine in the North Bay. I hope you enjoy each page of this issue. Meanwhile, keep in touch at Lawrence@northbaybiz.com.
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