Marketing Sessions Stand Out at Unified

Speakers to focus on direct sales and new generation of wine influencers

by Kate Lavin
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A giant trade show catered to the wine industry is a highlight of the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento, Calif.

Sacramento, Calif.—As North America’s largest event for the wine industry, the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium is known for its winemaking and grapegrowing content as well as two giant exhibit halls and the State of the Industry address, where business executives learn about key trends impacting wine sales. When the Unified celebrates its 24th year later this month, public relations professionals will have several noteworthy sessions of their own to choose from.

The changing landscape of social media, website engagement and user analytics will be front and center during “How to Be Smart and Effective with Influencer Marketing,” a session scheduled for Jan. 23 to shed light on where wineries can get the most return on their marketing investment dollars.

Lise Asimont, director of grower relations for Francis Ford Coppola Winery and chair of the Unified Program Development Committee, told Wines & Vines, “The influencers in our market now aren’t the influencers we had before. In years past, an influencer would have been a well-respected critic, a top sommelier, a big Cabernet wine buyer, a large distributor.

“Now the influencers are bloggers, they’re lifestyle gurus. People look to Pinterest, they look to Instagram, whereas before it was: Wine Spectator gave us this great score.”

Bridging the gap between conventional and influencer marketing is winemaker Julie Lumgair of J. Moss Winery, who will moderate the Jan. 24 session “From Traditional Wine Media to Lifestyle-Driven Outlets.” In addition to garnering dozens of awards for her wines, Lumgair is an expert in brand management and a former Fortune 100 executive who uses her media savvy to serve as a brand ambassador and instill a “clear, targeted message that educates and sells at many levels.”

Amy Hoopes, president of Wente Family Estates, will moderate the Jan. 25 marketing session “Direct to Consumer: The Big Picture.” With a huge export program and devoted consumers across the globe, Wente has a stronghold in the direct-to-consumer sales landscape. But wineries don’t need to have a dedicated marketing staff and be fluent in DtC sales to take home useful information from this session. Speaking in the Silicon Valley Bank State of the Wine Industry webinar earlier this year, Hoopes emphasized how small wineries can look to larger producers to see what works (and what doesn’t) and apply those lessons to their own operations. “It is important to understand what is resonating with the consumer, because at the end of the day, we are growing, making and selling wine for consumers.”

Powdery mildew
A late-season addition to the Unified grapegrowing track will tackle a major vineyard problem from the 2017 growing season: powdery mildew resistance. Asimont said she believes the increase California growers saw in powdery mildew last year was related to climate. “There was an extended period of time between 75° and 85° F,” she said. “We got more record rainfall, and in response to that vines were bigger. When you have that, you’re going to have mildew.”

But unlike in past years, growers reported the disease didn’t respond to Fungicide Resistance Action Committee (FRAC) Group 11 treatments. “If that is true, we’ll need to look at chemistries and management of powdery mildew,” she said.

Bart Haycraft, a vineyard manager for Jackson Family Wines in Santa Barbara County, and Chris Storm, a viticulturist with Vino Farms, will tackle the topic during the Jan. 24 session “Powdery Mildew Money Tree.”

The Unified Wine & Grape Symposium convenes Jan. 23-25 at the Sacramento Convention Center in California’s capital city. The event is organized by the California Association of Winegrape Growers and the American Society for Enology and Viticulture. To register, visit unifiedsymposium.org.


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