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April 14, 2021

People Want to Know More About Sonoma w/ Michael Haney, Sonoma County Vintners

People Want to Know More About Sonoma w/ Michael Haney, Sonoma County Vintners

Family-owned, diverse, and artisan are the key messages for Sonoma County wines, according to Michael Haney, Executive Director of Sonoma County Vintners. When people hear about the diversity of Sonoma wines around the world, they want to know more! Micha


Family-owned, diverse, and artisan are the key messages for Sonoma County wines, according to Michael Haney, Executive Director of Sonoma County Vintners. When people hear about the diversity of Sonoma wines around the world, they want to know more! Michael takes us through the global situation of Sonoma wines, the events they put on, and how their foundation supports the entire Sonoma County community. Listen in for a peek into the diversity of Sonoma and how it markets its wines. 

Detailed Show Notes: 

  • Background on Sonoma County
    • 1 hour from San Francisco
    • >1M acres with only 6% planted to vines, a lot of forest and pastureland
    • 18 different AVA’s - lots of diverse growing climates
    • 85% family owned
    • Lots of diversity - 18 growing regions, 60 varietals, and diversity within varietals (e.g., Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast vs. Russian River Valley)
  • Key Message of Sonoma Wine - family-owned, small, artisanal winemaking, diversity, and quality of the wines
    • The diversity message creates intrigue, “people want to know more”
    • They use the same message regardless of geography
  • Sonoma County Vintners (“SCV”)
    • Mission - be a leading voice for the Sonoma wine community
    • 3 main areas - trade association, event production, and charitable foundation
    • Success = meeting the challenges of the wine community and the community as a whole
    • Part of “The Trio” - Sonoma County Vintners (focused on wineries), Sonoma County Winegrowers (focused on vineyards), and Sonoma Tourism (collaborate together on marketing and consumer engagement)
    • Also partners with the Sonoma County Farm Bureau
  • Collaboration with Sonoma sub-regional bodies
    • SCV has 15 committees, with members of the groups from the regional bodies (e.g., Russian River Winegrowers)
    • Help other organizations with political advocacy
    • Help promote the story of the growing region
  • Members - 75% of the ~500 wineries in Sonoma County
    • Range from mom and pop winery to large wineries
    • Most are also a member of another sub-regional body
  • Affiliate Members - e.g., barrel, legal, HR companies - who want to support the wine community
  • Business model
    • Membership fees - based on cases sold
    • Event participation - Barrel Auction - trade event that raises money for SCV
    • Sponsorship and partnership program
    • Foundation - mostly funded through charity auction (Sept), raised $6.1M in 2019
  • International interest spiking for Sonoma wine, especially Pinot Noir, mostly Asia (incl Hong Kong), Netherlands, Canada, Mexico
  • SCV Events
    • Barrel Auction - trade-focused
    • Charity Auction - for consumers, in the fall
    • Taste of Sonoma - was 2,500 people pre-pandemic
    • Virtual events during the pandemic
  • Marketing Tools & Plan
    • Need a comprehensive approach
    • It covers all bases - social media (incl influencers), print, panels/webinars, etc...
    • Media engagement - both w/in Sonoma and out in local markets
    • New consumer engagement - “Road Trip” - put together a playlist for those going to visit Sonoma wineries
  • Improving and best practices for marketing/events
    • Survey consumers and incorporate feedback
    • Did a focus group that had 25 suggestions, 24 of which were implemented
    • Best practices for events - listen to those involved, create a collaborative plan (including sponsors, community leaders, wineries, etc.…)
    • E.g., Taste of Sonoma
      • Was Labor Day Weekend
      • Wineries said it was hard b/c it overlapped w/ harvest. Consumers said it was too warm
      • Changes implemented -> covered the entire area wines were served and now looking at moving the event to June or the Summer to not be during harvest
  • Pivots during Covid
    • A virtual auction last May
    • Virtual continuing education series
    • Helped organize 1,000s of vaccines for winery workers
    • Believes there will be a hybrid model (both virtual and in-person) post-pandemic
  • Foundation
    • Founded in 1988, more active in the last 5 years
    • Raised >$37M to date, all the money stays in Sonoma County
    • Supported >85 different non-profits in 2020 with $4M of cash donations
    • Also did food drives, supported restaurant workers, and a variety of other causes
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