A Wine Story a PR Guy Can Sink His Teeth Into

It’s rare that I post about a client here at Fermentation. But I’m going to do it today to demonstrate a point about public relations in the wine industry: The authenticity and quality of a winery’s "story" determines the enjoyment of promoting them as well as the degree of ease in finding an audience for their wines.

Wark Communications was recently engaged by Bucklin, a winery that happens to be located right here in Sonoma Valley.Consider their story:

-The Bucklin Family is the steward of the Old Hill Vineyard

-This vineyard was first planted in the 1860s

-It was the first in Sonoma County to plant grapes that were not of the Mission Variety

-Wines made from their vineyard in the 1860s are credited with demonstrating the quality of Zinfandel and prompting a planting boom of the variety at that time

-In the late 1960s the family was told to rip out the vines, that the vineyard was no good


-They didn’t.

-They went on to sell the grapes to Ravenswood who made the vineyard famous with their Old Hill Zinfandel that today sells out at $60 per bottle

-The vines are truly ancient, and some believe it is Sonoma County’s oldest vineyard

-The vineyard is a field blend of over 20 different vines, with Zinfandel as the main component

-The Old Hill Vineyard is dry farmed, gives about 1.5 tones per acre, and is farmed organically.


-The Bucklin,as well as Ravenswood, wines made from the Old Hill vineyard have an extraordinarily unique flavor signature.

The only problem with this kind of truly authentic, fascinating story from a publicists perspective is where to start. Yet rest assured, we’ll figure that out just fine.

The Bucklin Family figured out a long time ago that the vineyard was the star of the show, regardless of how good the wine is….and it is very good wine. Their response to the significance of the vineyard was to re-create the anatomy of the vineyard on paper by first documenting each and every vine in the vineyard with the help of an ampelographer.This is the piece they developed:


Of course, looking at a vine by vine map of the vineyard is fun and fascinating, out of the ordinary and educational, but not the same as walking through this historic piece of land. Getting media and trade to do just that will be one of our most important tasks. From personal experience I can assure you that walking in between the rows and hearing the story of the vineyard is an eye opening experience that leans toward the reverential.

We spend lot of time, us publicists, crafting stories for out clients that will be compelling to the trade, media and consumers. Connections and interest that can be created by crafting these stories are what generate interest and sales. People want to drink, be a part of, and support wines and wineries that touch them as significant. It’s not different than how we react to any other luxury good.

Most wineries, if you dig and think about it, have some compelling story they can tell. However, it’s rare to come across a property whose story is so naturally compelling and significant on so many levels. Bucklin has done very little marketing. They don’t make huge amounts of wine and they’ve developed a pretty good distribution network. Our job at Wark Communications will be to advance their story so that consumers and trade can decide for themselves if Bucklin is what I and others understand it to be: one of those rare, lesser known properties that mean something by their very existence.

We’ll certainly be sending out samples, creating educational tools and contacting the media just to introduce them to the Bucklins, the Old Hill Vineyard, the vineyard’s history, the vineyard’s historic and current day significance, as well as to its wines.

For the wineries out there that read FERMENTATION, the message is not if you don’t have a 150 year old vineyard you don’t have a story. The message is, think deeply about every aspect of your wines, people, vineyards, markets, habits, commitments, winemaking and goals. Find the story that is most compelling, most defining for your market and most comfortable for  you to tell. Then, go out and tell it to the wine media, the consumer and the trade.

5 Responses

  1. jens at cincinnati wine warehouse - December 7, 2005

    I tasted some of the Bucklin wines sometime in the last year and although I can’t get my hands on the tasting notes, remember the wines to be very good and the Bucklin managing the table very nice and knowledgeable. They had the chart there, and later I went to the site and dreamed of staying in the cottage for a few days. What a great client to get!

  2. Tom Wark - December 7, 2005

    You probably spoke with Will Bucklin who is VERY passionate about his vineyard and wines. He sees himself as a steward of this vineyard. It’s a pretty nice area to stay in if you ever get out this way.

  3. Tish - December 8, 2005

    That map is just incredible. Such a throwback, and the idea that they are documenting it in order to preserve it is even more heartwarming. Are Bucklin wines in NY?

  4. Tom Wark - December 8, 2005

    Bucklin is disributed in 22 states. However, the closest one to NY is NJ. They have in fact been slowly looking for just the right distributor in your state. By all means, if you think you know the right one, give us the name.
    The map is amazing. What’s really cool is walking through the vineyard with map in hand and vineyard owner in tow.

  5. Fredric Koeppel - December 9, 2005

    Hey, Tom, I visited the Old Hill Vineyard in June, talked with Will Bucklin and Joel Peterson, walked through the rows of ancient vines. It was one of the most inspiring vineyard visits I have ever made. No expensive winery, just that cottage. A big pile of mulch. An old tractor. A dog running through the rows chasing whatever dogs chase. Hawks soaring in the blue sky. And this sense of history and custodianship that Will Bucklin takes absolutely seriously. The wine, both his under the Bucklin label and Ravenswood’s, truly tastes like the vineyard, the soil, the lie of the land itself. That’s what terroir is all about. Isn’t that your story?

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