Napa Valley In Decline?
Well, the gauntlet was certainly thrown down today.
Is the "Napa Valley" Brand in decline? Is it faltering in the face of increased competition. Is it possible that the marketing powerhouse that is Napa Valley Cabernet hasn’t kept up with the competition?
Bill Ryan, a columnist at the Napa Valley Register, essentially told his readers (those in the wine industry), either change your marketing ways or see the demise of Napa Valley as the premier wine region in the New World. It was, to say the least, a call to arms.
Here’s the gist:
"we cannot grow and sell $15 wines here. So, we have to more vigorously
market our super-premium cabs. It’s becoming clear that we aren’t able
to compete in the growth sectors of wine lists. We must improve the way
we encourage, receive and treat wine enthusiasts who still want to
visit Napa Valley. As dedicated enthusiasts, they can help us get our
wines placed on wine lists. Time is short; let them go to the many
other, sexier wine regions in the New World and risk never getting them
back. Remember, we owned that category back in the ‘80s; there weren’t
any other luxury wine destinations in the New World. Presently, we rank
far down the list."
What Ryan is noting is the obvious. There are a lot more games in town for wine lovers. it used to be that if you wanted to drink the elite, but not hit up Bordeaux or Burgundy, you gravitated toward Napa. But now, look around: Central Coast Pinot, RRV Pinot, WA Reds, Oregon Pinots, Argentina Malbecs, Aussi Extract Bombs, British Columbian beauties, New Zealand Pinots, Spanish Cults, Austrian GV’s, Israeli wines, Lodi Zins, Anderson Valley wines….It’s endless. It’s not that these places didn’t make wines before, it’s that they weren’t very visible and often weren’t imported to the U.S in much volume. Now they are. Add to that the increased availability of direct shipping and many of these wines are as available as any Napa Cabs.
Ryan concludes with his call to arms:
"Next steps call for a sea change in our approach to the only business
we have that will keep us employed, keep our hospitals open and the
school bells ringing. We need to come together, agree to engage experts
to chart a path and agree to the spending required to reestablish Napa
County as the super-premium wine region in the New World. This is the
classic case of “damned if you don’t.”
He wants more marketing, and marketing not aimed at pointing out that Napa is home to "Cult" wines since "Cult" doesn’t necessarily only apply to a Napa-made wine. Ryan suggests Napa Valley better step up its marketing efforts now, particularly with its best customers, and explain to them exactly why they can’t live without Napa Valley wines.
If it were me, the first place I’d start my new marketing efforts is inside the Napa Valley itself. Captive audiences right there in your back yard. Is there a way to speak to these folks more effectively? I wonder how visitors feel about paying $15 to taste a few ounces of wine? That’s just my first thought.
Napa Valley already does a tremendous amount of marketing that works toward maintaining the "Napa Valley" brand as the height of prestige and quality in American wine. The region is literal adult playground (assuming you can afford entry into the sand box).
I rather like these desperate calls to arms. They make people think and evaluate their position in the world. They cause controversy that ferrets out the stakeholders and identifies where they stand.
I’ll be looking forward to seeing the response that Mr. Ryan’s column gets.