Is $1.2 Million Enough for Sonoma Wine Country?

$1.2 Million

It’s not a huge amount, but it is enough to garner some attention.

This is the amount money that will be raised if Sonoma County grape growers vote to institute a self assessment to fund a "Sonoma County Wine Grape Commission"whose mission it will be to promote the Sonoma County as a grape growing, wine making haven. The vote among Sonoma County grape growers is set for May.

Based on the story in the Press Democrat it appears that many in Sonoma County feel they are being out maneuvered by other wine regions in the battled for eyeballs and devotion among wine drinkers. There is a fear that other regions that are promoting themselves more heavily will take market share from Sonoma Country, or at least scoop up more attention than Sonoma County among the widening number of consumers who buy and enjoy wine.

Of course there’s something missing here: wineries

As Dry Creek Valley grape grower Jim Forchini puts it, "This commission puts everything on the backs of growers while the
wineries get a free ride. It should be a level playing field where any
winery or grower who benefits from an improved Sonoma County wine
industry participates in paying the assessments."

Mr. Forchini is correct. However, Sonoma County wineries now enjoy the work of a Sonoma County Vintners Association as well as associations in each of the various appellations inside Sonoma County, all of which work to promote their respective regions. I suspect many wineries would suggest, "we are already doing our part."

Whether you support the idea of a commission to promote Sonoma County in general probably depends on the types of wine you make. If, for example, you are a winery that produces only Russian River Valley Pinot or only Sonoma Valley wines, I’m not sure the benefits of joining a county-wide promotional organization are in your best interests…that is, I’m not sure the assessment that would be asked of you as a sufficient return on investment.

However, if yours is winery that puts the broader "Sonoma county" on your label, you might see it differently.

I suspect the vote to form a wine-grape commission in Sonoma County will succeed. Although growers have recently come through a tough stretch, things in the wine business ands the grape growing business are looking up. This makes it easier for growers to look to their future, even if it is a future without the cooperation of the wineries financial input.

$1.2 million is a lot of grapes. However, in terms of a promotional campaign it doesn’t go THAT far. If they choose an a paid advertising route, $1.2 Million isn’t that much advertising. It will be fascinating to see what they choose to do with the money. They’ll certainly be hiring a PR firm. And a likely candidate for that job is Steve Burns’ O’Donnell Lane. Burns did amazing work for the Washington Wine Commission

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