The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance is a non-profit trade association whose membership includes wineries, vineyards and businesses from the Paso Robles American Viticultural Area (AVA). The Alliance is responsible for marketing and promoting its membership as well as positioning the region to be a leader among the global wine community. Christopher Taranto, Communications Director, and Kaley Honzel, Membership Manager, explain how the marketing cooperative helps members achieve success.
Why should a winery join the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance?
Most winery owners believe they’ll be successful if people like them, like their label and their wine. They feel they can just open their doors and the wine will sell itself. However, what they quickly find out is that something is missing and that’s a well-developed marketing plan. And an integral part of that marketing plan is joining our Alliance of winery, vineyard and business owners.
The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance provides its membership with access to a variety of marketing tools that, when applied together, successfully promote individual wineries along with our entire winemaking and grape growing region.
What types of marketing tools does the Alliance offer its members?
Website: First and foremost would be our extensive website, pasowine.com, which attracts approximately 26,000 unique visitors and 40,000 visitors total each month. The site provides information relevant to our membership and to the public including:
Profile Pages: Each participating winery and vineyard receives their own listing and landing pages on the Paso Robles Wine County Alliance website. The pages consist of:
- A Profile page that includes tasting room hours, website, address, email, tasting fee, history and wines produced.
- An Accolades page that lists awards won by the winery.
- A Press Release page that highlights the latest news.
- A Winery Events page that lists upcoming promotions and activities.
Trip Planner: This popular tool is an itinerary building app for those planning a visit to our area. It provides users with an interactive map to plot and plan their wine tasting tours along with a complete list of accommodations and restaurants.
Varietal of the Month: Features a unique varietal through videos, grower blogs, winemaker interviews and local recipes.
Event Weekends and Festivals: The Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance organizes and promotes the following event weekends:
- Zinfandel weekend in March
- Wine Festival weekend in May
- Harvest Wine weekend in October
Our efforts in marketing these events centers around bringing people to the area. We print an activity guide for each weekend featuring individual winery activities that may include barbecues, bands and special offers. Wineries participate as part of their membership; there are no additional costs involved.
The site also provides information on upcoming festivals sponsored by participating wineries and local businesses and organizations.
Tour brochure: This key guide provides an easy-to-reference map of participating wineries. It’s very popular among our members who rely on it to guide visitors to their tasting rooms. It shows visitors an overall view of our local wineries, allowing them to map out a day of wine tasting. This printed brochure is also available for download from our website.
Membership provides the opportunity to participate in the tour brochure, but there are additional costs in being listed.
How does the Alliance promote the region and encourage tourism?
Our PR effort is huge. We employ direct-to-consumer, trade, and media targeted advertising across a variety of platforms including:
Online: With the assistance of our media buying agencies, we’re able to geo-target audiences who have searched for wine and wine-related activities and place ads on the websites they enjoy visiting. This strategy provides a more focused advertising impact on those we most want to reach.
Trade and Media: Participating in trade and media relations is exceptionally important. We encourage our members to take advantage of the communications we send out regarding opportunities to show off their brand. For example, we may arrange for site visits, wine tastings by critics or a buyer’s retreat for wholesalers who sell to retailers. We also coordinate trade visits from the Wine Institute who brings groups from all over the world interested in our wines and region.
So when we bring media and trade relations to town it’s critical that members get involved. This is their time to shine and be recognized; otherwise they’re not going to get in front of those who have influence in the industry.
Some wineries and members in general can see the effect that by joining the Alliance they’re a part of that rising tide that floats all boats. And we think that’s great, but there’s also an investment that comes with it and if you’re investing in the Alliance you should be utilizing it to the best of your abilities.
How else does the Alliance assist its membership and promote the region?
Research: Our Government Affairs Coordinator, Patricia Wilmore, serves as the eyes and ears for the local (county-wide) wine industry. She keeps an eye on all government actions and issues that may impact the industry, as a whole, and makes sure we have a seat at the table.
For example, there are a number of local water issues that exist. So lately her role has had a lot to do with watching what conservation groups are up to and how government listens to them. But she is not in any way an advocate. Instead, she turns the information around and makes it understandable to our members. Then our members are able to rally, go to the table and be the voice for the industry.
Education: We offer a monthly luncheon for our winery members that features a coordinated topic pertaining mostly to tasting room managers. We also hold quarterly educational seminars that are broader topics to bring in the winery owners.
Scholarship Program: We hold fundraisers throughout the year, starting with a silent, live auction at the Wine Festival in May. A portion of the proceeds go to three, $1,500 scholarships that we offer to graduating North County seniors for either a two or four-year California college.
Community Grant Program: As we raise funds, we give them back. The Alliance supports and gifts funds to North County charities that have programs focused on community service, health and education including:
- La Clinica de Tolosa: Children’s dental clinic serving low-income families
- Satellite library in Northern Paso Robles that serves the Hispanic community
- Food Bank
- Homeless Shelters
Originally, our gifting program began as a way to give back to the farm worker community but what we found is that there’s a lot of need in our area, in general. So while it still has its way of giving back to that community, we’ve been able to expand it as well.
What advice would you give a new winery owner?
It’s important to understand that the Paso Robles Wine Alliance is not here to teach you how to be a winery; we’re here to help you market your winery for success by guiding you along the way where we can.
We think it’s important that a new winery owner come here with the thought of camaraderie, not competition. We preach that there’s something to be said for being a good neighbor. If a customer visits the winery next door the hope is that they’ll refer people to come to you next. There’s a lot of success in that model. Friendly is the Paso model: friendly people, good wine and beautiful scenery.