Feb. 10, 2021



“Even Cooler Than You Think” and “Where Wine Takes You” sum up not just what the Paso Robles region is about but also the names of marketing campaigns and the Paso Wine Country podcast. Chris Taranto, Communications Director of the Paso Robles Wine Count

“Even Cooler Than You Think” and “Where Wine Takes You” sum up not just what the Paso Robles region is about but also the names of marketing campaigns and the Paso Wine Country podcast.  Chris Taranto, Communications Director of the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, tells us about the diversity, friendliness, and character of the Paso Robles wine region.  As well as how they promote and position the region within the state and across the country.  From Zinfandel to Rhone blends and weekly zoom webinars to consumer events, Chris educates us on all things Paso.  

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Paso Robles wine region overview
    • Halfway between San Francisco and Los Angeles
    • Along the California Central Coast (Monterey to the North, Santa Barbara to the South), close to the Pacific Ocean
    • 41,000 vineyard acres, >600,000 acres total
    • 11 different AVA’s
    • 60+ different grape varieties
    • ~200 wineries, ~170 physical wineries
    • ~600-2,200 ft elevation for vineyards
    • Population - ~30,000 people in town, ~100,000 in county
    • Up to 100+F during the day, but cools off to 50F at night due to the impact of Estoro / Morro Bay creating invection fog through the Templeton Gap
  • Rhone varietals
    • Syrah introduced by Gary Eberle in the late 1980s, early 1990’s
    • Tablas Creek (the Haas and Perrin families) - imported grapevines from the Rhone (Chateau Beaucastel, owned by Perrin’s) and propagated
      • TCV (Tablas Creek Vineyard clones) - shared these clones, jumpstarting the region to embrace Rhone varieties
      • Perrins chose Paso due to calcareous soils, similar to limestone
  • AVA’s - started in 1983 when Paso Robles AVA was created
    • York Mountain was excluded because the owner of land in the area believed it was very different from the rest
    • Submitted for all 11 AVA’s at once, took 7 years, approved in 2014
    • Have conjunctive labeling law - wineries must include both sub-AVA and Paso Robles, which must be of equal or greater font size
  • Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance
    • Mission: promotion and preservation of Paso Robles
    • Marketing organization - preserve the Paso brand and brand integrity
    • Works with member wineries with educational tools
    • Market Paso to different audiences - consumers, sommeliers/retail buyers, journalists (3rd party endorsement)
    • Metrics that are measured
      • Consumer events - P&L, experience surveys
      • Advertising - reach
      • Articles / PR - audience numbers
    • Members are primarily growers/vintners but capture the whole wine community, including hotels, restaurants, and associate memberships (e.g., suppliers like bottle or label manufacturers)
    • Fees are a sliding scale based on case production or vineyard acreage, room count (for hotels)
    • Almost all wineries are members - ~190 of 200 wineries are members
    • Have sponsorship opportunities for suppliers -> allows them to speak to the members
  • Trade & consumer events
    • In-market events are mostly budget neutral
    • Local events - profits help augment the operating budget
    • Volunteer participation for wineries, most have no fee (except for one annual event in Cambria)
  • The geographic focus of promotion
    • California (south of Paso is a big feeder market, Bay Area more challenging due to competition with Napa / Sonoma)
    • TX, IL, NY, FL also important
    • Export - mostly Canada, and most activities through the Wine Institute
  • Most effective promotions are 3rd party endorsements / PR strategies - journalists, bloggers, etc.…
    • Advertising more to get lots of eyeballs at once
    • Hosts a weekly Zoom webinar - “Paso Wine Hour
    • Tell members to tell your own true story; Paso is full of mavericks and cowboys, no real rules
    • Paso Wine tries to layer up personalities of Paso in PR messages
    • Podcast - “Where Wine Takes You
      • The audience has mostly been driven organically
      • Anecdotal evidence of driving sales, but no hard data yet
  • Member education
    • Have a monthly education series - for growers, winemakers, tasting room managers, hospitality
    • Bring in expert guests to provide educational tools for their businesses
    • One of the next ones - building a playbook on how to present your brand on digital platforms best
  • Tourism important for the region
    • 2015 - tourism economic impact of $1.5B for Paso Robles ($1.9B for the county, San Luis Obispo) with tourism spending of $194M
    • A lot of messaging is to drive people to visit
    • Consumer tagline - “Where Wine Takes You”
  • Major issues for Paso Robles
    • Water - there’s a moratorium on new vineyard planting within the water district. It doesn’t get a lot of rain
    • Wildfires - no meaningful impact in 2020, but a constant issue
    • Sommelier/trade perception that the region is too hot for grape growing - came up with the tagline “Even Cooler Than you Think” - though wines may be high alcohol, they are balanced
    • Consumer messaging
      • Don’t try too hard to understand the AVA map yet
      • Get the personality of the region - there's friendliness to it
      • Be adventurous. There’s lots of diversity
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