Clubs Vs Subs; Which is Better?

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

Unless you’ve lived in your cellar for the past five years, you’ve noticed we live in a subscription economy. We have subscriptions for food, clothing, pets, razors, socks, movies, sports, makeup, and almost anything. You name it, and there is a box that can be delivered with options on your schedule.

  How sustainable is this trend? Will we forever be ordering small packages in bright boxes with sample sizes, or is this just a fad? And is the decrease in wine clubs part of it?

  Let’s start by defining a wine club. This recurring sales model provides wineries with a direct channel to reach high-value consumers and bypass traditional distribution channels. They are structured to offer repeat customers a winery-curated selection of wines at a small discount delivered to their homes monthly or quarterly. Key prospects for club membership are customers who have purchased multiple times at a winery and have some affection for the wines and brand. Clubs are typically free to join, and the benefits of being a club member include a discount on wines (typically ten to twenty percent), first access to new releases of wines, and invitations to events. Some wineries will have special seating areas or experiences for participants, and members are encouraged to visit the tasting room for complimentary activities.

  In 2022, the Silicon Valley Bank report noted that the average winery gets 24% of its sales from wine clubs. Wineries cling to this model because they can better control their brand messaging, pricing, and customer experience while capturing more sales value. It is also a bankable recurring revenue stream with projectable inventory depilation. Repeat purchases typically offset the discount.

  Most clubs have an average membership tenure of over two years, and club members almost always have a higher-than-average lifetime value. Wine clubs are historically the largest part of a winery’s DTC playbook. As such, wineries protect this loyal customer base fiercely.

  Using a dating analogy, wine club relationships are married. This channel buys the most expensive magnums and enjoys the most elaborate experiences. Club members routinely plan vacations around their wineries and even go on extended cruises or world wine trips with clubs. Club members have been known to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars at one winery and have been members for 10+ years. Wineries, in turn, are expected to know the intimate details of these very high-value contacts. Many club managers have club members’ contact information on their cell phones, with preferences, birthdates, children, pets, and personal information. Some are trusted to have the card on file with blanket approval for purchases or arrangements. These trusted face-to-face relationships take years to forge and are rooted in trust and familiarity.

  Wine Clubs have worked perfectly over the past 20 years for Baby Boomers in the loyalty phase of their relationship with wineries and don’t mind handing over their credit card for randomly selected wines shipped to them at a future unknown date. The consistency, VIP status, discount, and comfort of guaranteed access to wines they’ve endorsed, check all their boxes for dependability and responsible accumulation. Wine clubs have been developed around and for Baby Boomer pressure points.

  But to any consumer under 40, this model is frustratingly rigid. Consumers who grew up with the internet are accustomed to variety, transparency, and immediate access with no strings attached. To withhold these basic qualities will not fly with them. Moreover, younger consumers don’t want the same wine delivered periodically. They grew up with the internet and know what it is to have options, so their goal is not to decide on a favorite and stick with it. Instead, they live in a perpetual state of trial.

  The long process of waiting on some allocation lists isn’t appealing to them, either. Baby boomers equate loyalty point tiers based on spending, passwords to hidden website pages, and private access to winery areas as luxurious and aspirational. Millennials see one-click orders, open company values, and delivery within 30 minutes as luxury and desirable.

  So, what will happen to wine clubs? Are wineries doomed to lose 24% of their sales? If done right, the goal should be to evolve them into subscription models. And, no, that isn’t just semantics.

Subscription models are different from Wine Clubs because they place control of the relationship in the customers’ hands. Typically, all interactions are online so that they can be managed anytime and anywhere. Many have apps. The consumer signs up and chooses frequency and dollar amount. The focus is on new brands and products, typically highlighted with in-the-box collateral containing stories about the new items.

  Subscriptions have become popular in the last half-decade, with young urbanites 25-44 years old leading the charge. Skimgroup reports that 48% of Millennials have four or more subscriptions. Why? 80% of those polled said subscription boxes made their lives easier, and 74% said it was because they liked to try new things. 55% replied that they joined so they didn’t need to go out to get the items. Those answers make it easy to see why the current club model of complex offers, repeated products, and on-site visits will soon be extinct.

  Subscription selling is not like selling to a wine club. First of all, it is not face-to-face. A subscription manager will not intimately know the people they are selling to. They will be names on a shipping manifest. The manager will focus on trends, variety, fun collaterals, and packaging that can make each box opening Instagram-worthy. The more exciting and interactive the manager can make each shipment, the longer the customer will stay in the subscription program. Aim for fresh takes on tasting notes and brand information and lean heavily into visuals and stories instead of words and data.

  Do not expect a subscription customer to stay as long as a club member. It’s all about trial, right? This is the biggest difference between subscriptions and clubs: Subscriptions are at the other end of the funnel – they are an introductory tool. Expect consumers will want to move on once they’ve tried your wines and figured out your vibe. But churn can be mediated with many opportunities to share their experience and bonus incentives if they sign up friends. Remember, this group likes to share the good news, so give them the tools to spread the word. And that intrinsic curiosity which causes one member to move along will bring two more to sign up.

  There are a few things that will have to happen for the subscription sales channel to become a mainstay in wine marketing:

•    Wineries need to consider subscription models useful in the initial trial phase, not replacing clubs in the loyalty phase. As a salesperson, you would never come out of the gate with a wine club offer as it is now. That would be like walking up to someone you don’t know at a party and asking them to marry you. It’s too much of a commitment. But subscription models are less cemented in routine. If a wine club is a marriage, the subscription model is speed dating. You can try wines for a while and then move on. It is the perfect introduction to a brand. This sounds simple, but the entire sales process is different. Online ads targeted to new customers will be for trial subscriptions. If someone doesn’t want to buy wine, a salesperson could offer them a subscription to try the wines instead. It’s a different way of thinking for most wineries.

•    Technology needs to catch up. If we were selling t-shirts today, there would be a multitude of plug-ins and templates for us to set up a recurring sales model on an e-commerce site. But, because we’re talking about a controlled substance, we must involve compliance, and our websites have limited online subscription choices. Right now, only Commerce7 and Shopify/Drinks offer the customization, but others are in development, and this will not be an issue for long. But as a whole, technology has been slow to respond to this usability shift.

•    Fulfillment needs to step up. Amazon has taught us all that we want 2-day shipping for free on everything. Wine is fragile and heavy and susceptible to heat and cold issues. This is unavoidable, but consumers’ standards are set, and other subscription services have extremely fast turnarounds. Large clubs like Winc are handling the volume, but to the average small winey, the logistics of giving a choice and cadence control over to the customer is a logistical nightmare.

•    Since subscriptions are virtual, the companies that offer them have no brick-and-mortar overhead. They put all their money and attention toward delighting the consumer with bright, cheerful curated boxes and providing excellent, fast, seamless customer service. Most wineries have spent years perfecting their tasting room hospitality service, not their shipping and remote customer service. We pack wine in plain boxes and call UPS and call it a day. These new consumers care about what the box looks like, what surprised are included inside, how well the delivery is managed/ communicated, and how easy it is to return, refund, or change their minds. These are not qualities that the wine industry typically excels.

  To be clear: If you successfully work out the logistics of a subscription, we do not recommend migrating your club over to it. Your Baby Boomer customers have done their research, spent a lot of money, and are perfectly happy being first in line to get all your new releases in their wine clubs. You want to offer a subscription in addition to the wine club. Position the subscription as a virtual sale to states outside of your tasting room or as a gift for tasting room fans to give their family and friends back home. Think through what you can do virtually to connect with these customers, even if only for six months or a year. Subscriptions are a complementary tool to get in front of people not standing at your tasting bar and a platform to communicate all you can about your brand story and wines. 

  Overall, wine clubs in the past have effectively disrupted the DTC wine market by offering consumers a convenient and personalized way to discover and enjoy wines while providing wineries with a direct sales channel and a means to build customer loyalty. As the target audience of wine clubs continues to diminish and technology enables choice, we can expect subscriptions to play an increasingly influential role in shaping the future of the wine industry. It is crucial for wineries to start thinking of these trial subscription models in parallel to clubs so that as the balance of visitors and customers changes, they can keep that 25% of their business healthy.

  Susan DeMatei founded WineGlass Marketing; the largest full-service, award-winning marketing firm focused on the wine industry. She is a certified Sommelier and Specialist in Wine, with degrees in Viticulture and Communications, an instructor at Napa Valley Community College, and is currently collaborating on two textbooks. Now in its 11th year, her agency offers domestic and international wineries assistance with all areas of strategy and execution. WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California, and can be reached at 707-927-3334 or

Steps for the Long-term Success of Your Brand & Business

By: Lauren A. Galbraith

Family wineries face certain common issues when it comes to succession planning, and there are steps you can take to help ensure the longevity and success of your brand and business.

Step 1 – Develop a Plan

  Benjamin Franklin is thought to have said:  “By failing to plan, you are preparing to fail.” This rings true for family wineries, where planning can substantially increase the odds of the business achieving its full potential over the long term.

  Some forms of planning end up memorialized in legal documents. Thoughtfully drafted governing documents for the business lay essential ground work. For example, a shareholder agreement can establish a framework for the transfer of ownership within the family and restrict the sale of business interests to nonfamily members. The business’s governance and management structure can be tailored when it comes to, for instance, using a management committee or vesting control in single strong executive, setting the voting thresholds for approval of major decisions by owners, or instituting a family advisory board to help set goals and priorities for professional managers or to provide a mechanism for passive owners to have a voice. 

  A business leader helps to ensure stability for the business and its stakeholders upon his or her death or in the event of incapacity by having in place certain core estate planning documents such as a revocable trust, will, and power of attorney. Lifetime gifting may be part of a plan to minimize estate tax at the death of the senior owners such that the family has the freedom to continue as family-owned. In California, avoiding or deferring property tax reassessment can be an important objective to minimize future costs to the business. 

  In transferring business interests, some families choose to align controlling ownership with successor management. To the extent one can discuss these matters and the rationale for certain decisions in advance of the decisions taking effect, it can help to preserve family harmony and avoid conflict and resentment among the next generation after a death.

  Identifying talent and cultivating future leaders is an important part of the planning process. This leads to the next topic of taking steps to encourage full and frank communication.

Step 2Open Communication Channels

  An important step of family business succession planning is to examine the desires and expectations of next generation, as well as their strengths and weaknesses. Some children readily see the business as their family legacy and relish the opportunity to continue its growth. Others view it as a family legacy that they are honor bound but not excited to inherit. Still, others see it as an asset to be sold as soon as the parents are deceased to provide the capital to pursue the children’s true career objectives. Before moving forward with a family-based succession plan, parents should seek to ensure they are getting an honest answer from their children as it relates to taking over the family winery.

  A coach or consultant may be retained to conduct family interviews and synthesize findings into a plan of action. Coaches can also help family members develop communication skills to improve how they work together, such as effective listening, understanding and responding while not shrinking from difficult conversations. 

  A collaborative and diplomatic style can feel unnatural to a strong, independent leader. But a pivot in approach may be what enables longevity. Sustainable solutions are more likely to be designed in environments in which individual values and aspirations are expressed. Relatedly, a leader must learn to let go and, at some point, allow for transition of real management and decision-making authority such that next generation of leaders can gain confidence and skills, make mistakes, learn, improve, and, perhaps most importantly, know what it feels like to have family members, employees and their families rely on their ability to make wise decisions. Real, sometimes difficult experience tests skill sets and suitability but also enables the family member to make an informed decision as to whether the contemplated role for him or her is the right fit.

Step 3 Plan for Potential Estate Tax

  Some family businesses fail due to overwhelming debts or taxes, in particular the 40 percent estate tax. However, with enough lead time it be possible to eliminate estate tax or at least to minimize and defer the payment of such tax. This can make all the difference in allowing a family business to endure and thrive.

  Under current law, U.S. persons have a combined gift and estate tax exemption of $12.92 million, but decreasing on January 1, 2026, to $5 million, indexed for inflation, absent a change in law. Some family winery owners are choosing to make large gifts in order to “lock in” the record-high exemption before it shrinks. Transferring business assets today has the added benefit of removing future appreciation from the transferor’s estate.

  By transferring a portion of a family business during life, you can ensure that your estate includes less than a 100% interest in those assets at your death, which is advantageous from a valuation perspective, especially if you decrease your position below 50%. When fractional interests in a private company are valued, they are typically eligible for generous discounts for lack of control and lack of marketability.

  Lifetime gifts have the additional advantage of being valued on a per beneficiary basis, rather than based on the grantor’s aggregate ownership. Example: (a) You die owning all 1,000 shares of a business with fair market value of $4 million, passing to your four children (taxable estate includes $4 million) versus (b) you give each of your four children 250 shares in the business (each valued at $750,000, or $3 million total, using a 25% discount).

  Once you transfer assets you can no longer have the income from those assets, but there are methods to address this if a concern.  For example, a person who wishes to maintain cash flow might sell (rather than gift) interests to trusts for their descendants and receive in return a promissory note payable in annual installments.  This essentially converts an asset that would have been part of the transferor’s taxable estate into liquid funds for consumption and at a price that is the fair market value at a fixed point in time, excluding post-sale appreciation. 

  Keep in mind that appreciated assets transferred during life, by gift or sale, do not receive the step-up in basis that is available under current law for assets transferred at death.  The step-up would reduce or eliminate capital gains exposure on a subsequent sale of those assets. This is of less consequence, however, if the transferred assets are not intended to be sold and will instead remain in the family.

  For active family business that make up a significant portion of a person’s estate, estate tax obligations may be deferred and paid in installments over as many as fourteen years under a family-business minded provision of the Internal Revenue Code, Section 6166. If your family will want to take advantage of this deferral, it is prudent to examine whether or how lifetime transfers, debts, etc. might jeopardize eligibility.

  Many families use life insurance to address and pay for estate tax.  Large policies of life insurance should be held in irrevocable trusts, with premiums paid following certain technical procedures, to help ensure the insurance proceeds are not subject to estate tax.

Step 4Pre-Sale Planning

  If the next generation lacks interests or ability to carry the business into the future, sometimes the right choice for a family to continue the legacy of its brand and business is to sell to a third party.  In such case, careful planning can maximize value and minimize tax consequences. 

  In an effort to put the best foot forward, wineries may engage professionals to help them “clean up” their financial statements in the years leading up to a sale.  If individual family members or family trusts that are partial owners of the winery have loaned funds to the winery, those loans may be converted to equity and, if necessary to avoid dilution of other owners, superseding loans may be made between owners to move the debt off the winery’s balance sheet.

  Any transfers of interests in the family winery to trusts for the next generation should be accomplished well in advance of a sale, to potentially achieve favorable valuations that leverage one’s gift tax exemption.

  Those business owners with philanthropic inclination might choose to make gifts of the business interests in kind to charity to reduce the income tax burden of a sale.  To achieve the desired tax benefit, such gifts should be considered and executed prior to negotiations to sell and certainly before entering a contract for sale, so as to avoid application of the step transaction doctrine which would treat (and tax) the individual as seller, rather than the tax-exempt charity.


  Far from morbid, anticipating personal and business life changes provides peace of mind and helps answer the critical question, “Who will take care of this winery or vineyard once I am no longer able?” From an emotional standpoint, planning helps to ensure that the great wine of today continues to be produced and poured well into the future.

  Lauren A. Galbraith is a partner with Farella Braun + Martel LLP in St. Helena, CA. She advises individuals and families on all aspects of estate and tax planning, estate and trust administration, and business succession planning. She can be reached at

A Glass a Day Keeps Stress at Bay

Embracing Wine in the Lives of Everyday People

By: Heidi Moore, Host – Wine Crush Podcast

The number of factors bringing stress into our lives has increased exponentially over the past few years. First, there was a global pandemic that brought a wicked mixture of fear, isolation, and uncertainty to our lives. The pandemic was followed quickly by economic instability, in which inflation drove up prices of everything from eggs to oil to airfare. Seeking ways to deal with the economic fallout from inflation, many businesses turned to layoffs, leaving hundreds of thousands of employees suddenly without a paycheck.

  As Americans seek to deal with these and other stressors they face in today’s world, they often turn to activities like hitting the gym, getting out in nature, or talking with a therapist. One of the simplest formulas for keeping stress at bay, however, is taking the time to enjoy a glass of wine.

Sipping the Stress Away

  Wine’s ability to calm us down is founded in science. Specifically, wine contains a compound called resveratrol that has been shown to bring our emotions back into balance.

  Resveratrol is a chemical compound found in grape skins and is often associated with red wines because red grapes typically have thicker skins. However, all grapes are known to produce resveratrol.

  Resveratrol’s stress-reducing properties are related to the effect it has on the body’s stress hormones. In times of stress, the hormone cortisol is released to help the body respond, but when stress is not addressed, an overabundance of cortisol can be released, leading to anxiety and depression. Studies have shown that resveratrol keeps stress hormones from getting out of control, helping our bodies avoid the type of feelings that we typically describe as “stressed out.”

Taking a Break from Stress

  While the presence of resveratrol certainly contributes to the stress relief wine can bring, it is not the only factor at play. Sitting with a glass of wine at the end of the day can help us to embrace a number of other stress-relief strategies.

  For example, stopping our work at “wine-o-clock” is an excellent way to assert boundaries. Stress often flows out of being overloaded, which drives long workdays and restless nights. Sitting with friends and loved ones for a glass of wine is one way to say that our lives are about more than just work.

  Having a glass of wine with friends also creates a space for us to talk about our stress. In many cases, simply talking about the stressful things in our lives can reduce their emotional impact. Sharing our feelings can also lead to finding the support we need to make it through stressful situations.

  Laughter is another common side effect of a glass of wine that can help us with our stress. Laughing releases endorphins that improve our mood and our resiliency. It can also help us reframe our perspectives, taking the power away from temporary situations that trigger stress.

Measuring the Popularity of Wine

  Despite its obvious benefits as a stress-relief tonic, everyday people in the US typically don’t turn to a glass of wine when they want to unwind. Recent stats on alcohol sales show that beer is the drink of choice for most Americans, with beer sales having accounted for 54 percent of all alcohol sales in the US in 2022. Liquor, such as tequila and vodka, were next in line, accounting for 24 percent of retail spending.

  Wine is at the bottom of the list in terms of alcohol sales at just under 23 percent, which represents a decline from sales in 2019. Reports from the wine industry anticipate that sales of wine will continue to go down because millennials don’t appreciate it as much as the baby boomers who came before them.

  The apparent lack of interest in wine in the US doesn’t track with alcohol consumption in the rest of the world. In fact, in terms of per capita wine consumption, the US does not even make the top 10. Portugal is at the top of the list with 67.5 liters per capita, followed by France with 47.4 liters per capita. In comparison, the number for the US is 12.6 liters per capita.

Understanding the Way we See Wine

  To understand why wine is not embraced by more people in the US, one must understand its reputation in US culture. Compared to other alcoholic drinks, wine is more often portrayed and perceived as a drink of the high class and elite. As often portrayed in Hollywood films, wine is typically referenced as a beverage that wealthy people drink on their yachts or order in exclusive restaurants.

  Wine is not seen as a drink for everyday people. When the working class unwinds and cracks open a cold one, they are typically reaching for a beer. Beer is commonly considered the go-to drink for sporting events and family picnics. It is what you’ll find at campus parties, where Americans typically develop their drinking habits.

  If wine is enjoyed by everyday people, it is typically only for a special occasion. A couple will share a bottle of wine on their anniversary, but have a draft on a typical date night. Beer is the “everyman” drink seen as more accessible, more masculine, and — by many — more patriotic.

  This attitude toward wine is not universal, which is clearly shown by the stats on per capita wine consumption. In Italy, for example, drinking wine is considered an everyday custom, not a luxury for special occasions. Similarly, in Argentina, one of the world’s top wine producers, wine is present at virtually every meal, but especially when families gather.

  In France, wine is something that is enjoyed every day, often at lunch and dinner, by a large part of the population. In fact, it is said that parents in the Champagne region of France give their children a taste of their famous wine even before they give them breast milk.

Seeing Wine in a New Way

  To promote the image of wine as an everyday drink for everyday people, the wine industry has launched many new initiatives in recent years. Educating consumers is at the forefront of these initiatives. The belief is that a deeper understanding of wine will lead to more appreciation and greater comfort.

  Enhancing the information available on a wine label’s website is one way to educate consumers. Through online blogs, companies can go beyond product information to share ideas on when, how, and why to drink wine.

  Providing educational information via social media is another promising strategy to increase the public’s appreciation for wine. With social posts, wine companies can target certain demographics or join ongoing conversations. Social media also allows companies to gain a deeper understanding of how their products are perceived by the public, and to address misconceptions.

  Bringing potential wine drinkers into wineries and wine shops is another way to further their education. This can include winery tours, which build an appreciation for the care involved in the wine-making process, and classes or seminars on wine-making. Wineries can also offer tasting room experiences specifically designed for those new to wine.

  Podcasts provide another excellent opportunity to increase the general public’s wine IQ. There are a host of popular podcasts available today on wine that introduce listeners to wine culture, helping them navigate the process of buying, serving, and enjoying wine. Many of the podcasts feature episodes for those who are new to wine. Some podcasts focus exclusively on wine newbies.

Bringing Inclusivity to the Wine Industry

  Boosting inclusivity in the wine industry is another initiative launched in recent years to make wine more accessible to the masses. Several years ago, media reports drew attention to the fact that minority communities were largely underrepresented in the wine industry. The reports argued that wine’s image as an exclusive drink was something that the wine industry perpetuated by failing to promote diversity and inclusivity in its ranks.

  In response, the wine industry has sought to make wine culture more accessible by increasing its inclusivity. In 2020, for example, Napa Valley Vintners (NVV) committed $1 million to efforts to increase diversity in the wine industry. NVV is a trade association that represents more than 500 wineries in the US.

Addressing the Affordability Issue

  Affordability is also a factor that needs to be considered in efforts to inspire everyday people to add wine to their routines. Because wine is viewed as a more exclusive drink, it is also considered a more expensive drink. Helping consumers understand that inexpensive wine is available and enjoyable is an important part of the education process.

  Sharing tips for buying wine on a budget is one way to make it more accessible. By buying directly from the winery, for example, consumers can avoid paying mark-up costs. Consumers may also not be aware that they can get good wine at good prices by shopping for it at grocery stores, discount outlets, and warehouse clubs.

  A variety of factors have led to the perception that wine is not a drink for everyday people. The truth, however, is that everyone can enjoy wine and, more importantly, everyone can benefit from its stress-reducing properties. Now is a perfect time to change the narrative on wine, rewriting the story so that a more diverse group of people can call themselves wine lovers.

  Heidi Moore is an insurance broker by day with a special focus on wine, craft beer, cider, and farming. Ten years ago, she was not a wine drinker, but when the opportunity to learn about wine presented itself, she jumped at the chance to learn something new. She ended up falling in love with the personalities, the process, and the farming surrounding the wine industry. After that, she created the Wine Crush Podcast and felt it was a great opportunity to showcase the personalities in the wine industry, dispel the myths surrounding wine, and encourage those unsure about it to step up and try it!

10 Tips That Will Make Your Brand Pop at a Wine Sampling or Tasting Event

By: Ray Sheehan, Founder – Old City Media

When attending a wine-tasting or sampling event, your brand needs to sparkle like fine champagne. Potential customers need to see you and know you are the best brand in the room.

No matter what you are selling, if customers don’t believe it, they won’t buy it. With that in mind, here are 10 tips that will help your brand make an impression.

Tip #1: Hire Knowledgeable and Outgoing Brand Ambassadors

Whether you hire internally or outsource to an agency, knowledgeable and outgoing brand ambassadors are the key to a successful wine-tasting event. During the night, they will represent you to potential customers and introduce them to your product because they serve as the face of your brand.

  It’s critical to hire friendly and outgoing ambassadors who easily engage with customers. At a wine sampling event, personable ambassadors attract a crowd, while shy and reserved ambassadors can appear unapproachable. Once they get people talking, they also need the confidence to motivate consumers to buy products.

  Your brand ambassadors also need to be knowledgeable about your brand and the wine industry as a whole, which is why a TIPS and/or RAMP certification is a must. These certifications ensure your brand ambassadors know what they’re talking about and can be trusted to represent your product.

Tip #2: Train Brand Ambassadors about what Makes Your Brand Special

  You may have the best wine in the world, but if your brand ambassadors don’t know how to present it properly, no one will ever know. Before the tasting event or sample sale, train them thoroughly about what makes your brand special. They’ll need to interact with new customers, answer questions about your product, talk about what sets it apart from other wines, and convince them to buy it.

  Before brand ambassadors represent you at the tasting event, they should know your brand’s story, mission, and values as well as yourself. If your brand has a competitive advantage over the other wines available that night, make sure your brand ambassadors know it.

  Make sure to provide thorough training to address the following aspects of your brand:

   Your brand’s history — brand ambassadors should be well-versed to speak about how your company came about, who founded it, and why. This information will help ambassadors answer questions with a personal flair that tells customers why they should buy from you, not another company in the industry.

●   Your brand’s unique products — brand ambassadors need to be able to speak about each separate product you offer. For this reason, train them with specifics about how your wines are made, how you source ingredients, how you promote sustainable manufacturing, and what makes your wine stand out compared to other brands on the market.

●   Your customer benefits — brand ambassadors must be able to highlight the value of your product(s). For instance, if a prospective customer walks up to them and asks what results they can expect to see, taste, or feel, this can include things like less sugar, fewer calories, organic ingredients, and unique flavors.

Tip #3: Scope Out the Event’s Location Before the Wine Tasting

  Call the event manager and ask for a tour of the space. As you look around, ask about the venue and what amenities to expect. Find out if the event has Wi-Fi, as well as if you will be able to access a sound system, and ask whether you can use a stage or podium.

  It’s a good idea to bring a list of questions regarding the venue’s expectations. Find out if the venue has restrictions on branded materials, such as professional banners or tablecloths, and ask if the venue allows games and activities at tasting events.

Likewise, ask event organizers about other products that will be served during the tasting. Find out if there is a dress code, and be sure to abide by it. If the event is at a restaurant or marketplace, ask about their set-up expectations. When you arrive with all your supplies, you will want to be able to set up without taking away from the customer experience.

  Finally, confirm the event will have your product available at the wine sampling. Believe it or not, many brands simply assume this and arrive to find out otherwise.

Tip #4: Establish Clear Goals and Objectives for Your Bbrand Ambassadors

  Before the wine sampling, establish clear goals and objectives for each of your brand ambassadors. To set these goals, consider how you will ultimately measure success for the event.

  Successful event marketing has a solid foundation with clear goals and objectives. In other words, before you can put on a successful event, you need to know what success will look like and how you will measure it. To do this, set key performance indicators (KPIs) to evaluate your ambassadors’ performance. In a nutshell, KPIs allow you to judge performance in relation to a specific and measurable standard.

  Decide whether your goals relate to sales volume or customer satisfaction. In either case, take a hard look at those numbers now. Next, determine how your brand ambassadors can enable your brand to maintain or surpass those numbers at the event. Finally, set your budget for the event, and make sure your goals realistically justify that expenditure. 

  You should offer your brand ambassadors incentives to drive sales at the sampling event to meet these goals. These incentives can be in the form of inexpensive gift cards or free products.

Tip #5: Ensure Your Brand Ambassadors Look Professional in Branded Attire

  Make sure your brand ambassadors are dressed to impress by providing branded apparel that looks like it belongs at the wine sampling. Your ambassadors should have clothing that is both professional and comfortable.

Remember to plan for all weather. Equip your brand ambassadors with a change of clothes if they find themselves outdoors in wet or dirty conditions.

Tip #6: Design an Enticing Branded Setup

  Make sure your branded setup is eye-catching, even from across the room. Creative and fun booths are guaranteed to draw customers your way. Picture a balloon arch that mimics grapes on a vine. 

  For smaller sampling events, I recommend a 10’x10’ booth and cocktail table set-up, a professional sign to promote your brand, and a banner or backdrop that can be used in photos. To add flair, finish your booth with a branded tablecloth and wine glasses.

  In all the fun of designing a creative space, remember to keep it clutter-free and easy for attendees to navigate. If you display too many products in one area, people will likely get confused and purchase less.

Tip #7: Bring Both Digital and Hardcopy Marketing Materials

  In this day and age, we all know the value of digital marketing materials. Shareable social content will allow your experience to live on long after the last sip of wine. Bring favors emblazoned with your event’s hashtag, and find a clever reward to encourage your customers to snap and share pictures on their social media channels.

  Someone on your own staff should also be there to document the tasting. After the event, that staff member can publish those videos and pictures on your brand’s social channels.

  In addition, always come prepared with hard copy marketing materials in case the location has Wi-Fi issues. Print branded fliers that highlight the wines you are serving at the event so attendees who enjoy your product can jot down key notes before moving on. Best of all, they will be able to access the information about those wines when they get home.

  Hardcopy materials can also present an opportunity to collect customer information. For example, if you offer customers business cards at a wine-tasting table, you can naturally ask for their contact information during the exchange.

Tip #8: Increase Engagement with Games, Q&As, and Free Samples

  Plan to draw potential customers to your booth with games, Q&As, and free samples. A simple spin-the-wheel game increases your brand’s visibility and engages interest around the entire room. The truth is that, if you can get people to have fun, they’ll be far more likely to remember what they liked about your wine in the future.

  Plan games that are relevant to your brand’s identity. Games are a great way to engage with customers and get them talking. For example, a matching game can launch a conversation about favorite wine and food pairings. The activities you plan don’t need to be lengthy — five minutes max should do it.

  Another idea is to use samples of your product to make the games more fun. For example, blindfolded contestants can guess the color of grapes to earn their tastings.

Tip #9: Reward Potential Customers with Free Swag

  You need to give away some sort of free swag. A small gift, sample, coupon, or even a branded hat will make people feel special.

  The best swag is relevant to your brand, the event, and the target audience. For a wine-sampling event, branded wine glasses or corkscrews are perfect.

  The most important tip is to ensure your customers walk away with something useful in their hands. When guests leave your event with merch they value, your brand gains a pair of legs that take it beyond the sampling. Customers will carry your branded swag to cars, houses, and offices. If those souvenirs remind people of the fun they had that night, they may even share the experience with friends and family.

Tip #10: Above all, Have Fun!

  The most important thing to remember when working at a wine sampling or tasting event is to have fun! Before the event starts, ensure your brand ambassadors know their roles, and are relaxed and ready to go. Your final pep talk should not be about making more sales or getting more traffic on social media. It should be about making sure the brand ambassadors have fun. This event allows them to show off their personalities, so let them shine.

  A wine-sampling event can introduce your brand to new consumers and strengthen your relationship with current ones. Use these 10 tips to design an event that will create a memorable experience for your patrons, increase awareness around your brand, and learn even more about what your target audience wants.

  Ray Sheehan is the Managing Partner of, a North American event production and marketing company. He has a background in strategic planning, marketing, event management, and advertising and has helped the company expand from one city to over twenty states. Before this role, Ray owned and operated, a production and news company in Philadelphia and South Jersey. He oversaw all aspects of the business and produced a nationally syndicated television show. In 2020, he launched the G.I.F.T Program as part of Old City Media. Ray is recognized as a leader in the special events industry and an innovative thinker in the Philadelphia community and beyond.

WINE PACKAGING: More Than Just a Pretty Face

By: Cheryl Gray

Wineries depend upon the knowledge of packaging companies, not only to boost their products’ aesthetic quality but also to maximize time and minimize product loss when it comes to filling, sealing, shipping and other aspects of the packaging process.

  Among the experts is A-B-C Packaging Machine Corporation, based in Tarpon Springs, Florida. Bryan Sinicrope is the vice president of marketing and integrator sales. As an engineer with 46 years of industry experience, Sinicrope describes what is essential in helping wineries to get started, maintain and eventually expand with A-B-C products and services.

  “As far as essentials, I would say having clear goals on what the winery wants to accomplish is highly important. Many wineries are looking for automation to protect their employees from potential injury in handling heavy cases of glass bottles, whether filled or unfilled. Others need increased production speeds, and still, others want automated flexibility to run multiple product lines or bottle styles. So, it’s important to identify which areas will benefit most from automation. This is even more important if the winery has a conservative budget or will need to automate incrementally over time. 

  When working with wineries, our first priority is reviewing their needs and (if not already determined) helping them set their goals. Wineries have traditionally been labor-intensive operations, particularly for smaller producers. They may feel it is difficult to budget for automated equipment. However, once the labor, insurance and liability costs are calculated, even for low-volume wineries, automation can make good financial sense.”

  Sinicrope describes the company’s vast wine packaging expertise, which he says has earned the respect of wineries that range from smaller operations to some of the most prominent names in the wine industry.

  “As a supplier of secondary packaging machinery for the dry end of wineries since the early 1960s, A-B-C has extensive experience in the intricacies of wine packaging. Notably, the visual appeal of the product is paramount. Packaging machines must handle the glass gently to prevent defects that could lead to breakage and spillage on the line, in distribution or at the end user. Also, the packaging machinery must maintain optimal finished package integrity so the product looks great at the retailer with no scuffed or damaged labels or closures.

  Our equipment is designed with features to protect the package throughout the packaging process and beyond so the wines reach the consumer in perfect condition. Some specific examples are our decasers and depalletizers that unload and single file bottles under complete control and with minimum contact to eliminate potential damage that can cause failure on the bottling line or in distribution.

  Our case erectors have exclusive features to ensure square cases that perform bottle inserting at the packer. And all our packers are no-drop, with bottle handling devices that ensure soft loading while protecting the labels and closures, including foil closures used for sparkling wines.”

  Sinicrope gives an overview of A-B-C’s equipment offerings and what makes the company stand out from its competitors.

  “Our experience in wine packaging sets us apart, as we have provided packaging for many styles of wine packaging, from standard glass to reverse taper bottles, bottles of all sizes, cartoned wine and more. We manufacture a wide range of solutions, from empty bottle decasers and depalletizers to case erectors, partition inserters, packers, sealers and palletizers for many sizes, speeds and applications. So, when a winery comes to us, we can offer a customized solution from our standard line of equipment. This keeps costs down and minimizes delivery time. 

  Our equipment is built for reliable performance and low maintenance, which reduces the cost of ownership. All our machines, from semi-auto to high-speed systems, are built with heavy-gauge steel frames and all components, whether made in-house or sourced from our suppliers, are made for long-term operation. They are designed and manufactured in the U.S. and offer smart technology for connectivity to winery automation and remote connectivity for service calls. Our service technicians are PMMI-certified trainers.   

  Finally, our machines are built for flexibility and quick changeover. For example, our depalletizers can run glass, plastic, composite containers or cans interchangeably, with no changeover or change of parts. Our palletizers offer simple touchscreen control for product changes and new pallet configurations. Our standard case erectors and sealers run a range of cases with a two-minute changeover, with optional auto-changeover for wineries running many case sizes.”

  Sinicrope highlights some of the most popular products offered by A-B-C.

  “A-B-C decasers are a staple in many wineries for unloading and single filing bottles from necks-down reshipper cases. These machines are valued for their gentle handling during unloading and features that minimize bottle-to-bottle contact during single filing. Larger wineries that purchase bottles in bulk utilize A-B-C depalletizers for unloading the bottles and feeding the line. For reverse taper bottles, A-B-C has a proprietary handling solution that keeps these inherently unstable bottles upright from pallet to the production line. An advantage of our depalletizers is their flexibility to run a range of bottle styles with no change parts or downtime for the changeover, allowing a winery to feed multiple production lines from one depalletizer.

  Palletizers are also popular with wineries, and we offer a selection of standard models for many requirements. All are low-level designs, enabling floor-level installation and maintenance, which minimizes costs. They offer full flexibility to build new pallet configurations on the production floor at the operator station. All functions can be controlled and set at the panel, which also shows maintenance alerts and fault detection, ensuring top productivity.

  We also supply case erectors, partition inserters and packers for bulk packaging lines.”

  Where space and budgets run tight, Sinicrope says the company has a new product called the 72AN Palletizer designed to address both needs.

  “For wineries with either limited floor space or a small budget, this fully automatic, compact palletizer offers a simple and economical solution to increase production and eliminate the issues related to manual operation. It occupies from 10 to 30 percent less floor space than conventional low level palletizers and offers complete flexibility for product feed and pallet configuration.”

  Prospero Equipment Corporation is a family-owned and operated business that began in 1972 when founder Tony Prospero started selling wine-making equipment from Italy to winemakers who had immigrated from Europe to America. The company has since expanded its product lines and services to address the needs of commercial wineries with offices across North America, including packaging solutions for wineries of virtually any size.

  Andy Robinson represents the company’s sales division from its West Coast offices in Windsor, California. With nearly 35 years in the wine industry, Robinson lends his expertise to winery clients looking to Prospero for packaging essentials.

  “Prospero offers sales consulting, engineered drawings, parts departments and a technical team for service, installation and training. Having effective product and packaging consultation allows direct discussions for future growth and wiser investment strategies. Providing engineered drawings allows for a seamless installation, parts to be on hand if needed and a direct format for our technical team to follow.”

  Robinson explains how Prospero helps its customers build toward the future.

  “A company should plan for future development of products and production volumes. This also includes added closures and perhaps canning. Investing in high quality equipment helps guarantee longevity, ease in maintenance and the finest quality finished product. Prospero technicians fully train all new equipment owners after installation to guarantee all operators are knowledgeable about the machinery and the supporting equipment. This support is backed up by our service and parts department for maintenance and repairs.”

  In addition to its existing lineup, Robinson says that Prospero has added some new products to its roster designed to assist with packaging for wineries and other beverage industry sectors.

  “Prospero represents GAI Machinery in the USA. GAI sets the upper standard of machine manufacturing and offers the highest quality packaging equipment available. Prospero now offers a revolutionary new technology with the UNICA filling valve, an Electro-Pneumatic filling valve capable of filling from 0-6 BAR pressure. This has allowed many companies to expand their product lines and be able to package all of them within the same Monoblock. The UNICA filling valve is now also available with a Volumetric Electro Pneumatic filling valve, offering the most precise filling for a wider range of container sizes and formats. 

  Offering still and counter pressure filling in the same filling valve has brought new technologies to the forefront of packaging for the beverage industry. The UNICA filling valve is also offered on the GAI canning Monoblocks. The GAI Monoblock design is engineered so all main gears are interlocking and connect all turrets, thus eliminating any risk in loss of machine timing.”

  Among the companies in the packaging industry delivering products with the environment in mind is Encore Glass, headquartered in Fairfield, California, right outside the Napa and Sonoma wine regions. As its name implies, Encore Glass recycles bottles for wineries, a practice it began some 40 years ago. The company has since expanded its services to include custom-printed boxes, decorated bottles and even custom molds, allowing clients to create bottles exclusive to their brand. Consulting services include assisting clients with choosing bottle styles, how many bottles to order, setting timelines, and even how best to use existing stock such as labels, corks and even bottles. 

  Encore Glass touts an extensive quality assurance program. Its field support prioritizes testing labels, closures and capsules before placing any bottle order. It offers clients in-house 3D print prototypes designed to shorten development time for custom molds. Wineries that offer wine clubs can ship their products in specially designed shippers that are lightweight, meet commercial shipping standards and are biodegradable.

  Packaging experts help wineries avoid missteps by not wasting product, time and money. Choosing the right packaging company, experts say, depends largely upon a winery’s immediate needs, budget and long-term goals. 

New Technology Affecting Your Marketing Right Now

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

At the DTC Symposium last month, there was a session about new technology trends and their application for wine marketing. We spoke with a panel about big data-driven advertising, NFTs, and their use for marketing and augmented reality. Each speaker had a case study on wine, and the Q&A session explored everything from costs to legal ramifications. These new tools only scratch the service of all the exciting trends in marketing wines. This blog highlights three trends affecting our marketing planning right now and in the near future.

AI:  Artificial intelligence and machine learning are becoming increasingly important in the online marketing arena. These technologies allow marketers to analyze data and take that analysis to automate routine processes, make decisions based on behaviors, anticipate responses and improve customer experiences. It can have applications in websites, emails, online ads, and offline content development.

  In design, AI tells us which content will most likely engage a specific tagged customer. This capability allows us to create dynamic (changing) websites and emails personalized to individual customer preferences. We are not quite to the level in the movie Minority Report, where biometric-tailored ads talk to us wherever we go, but websites that offer personalized experiences, such as customized content and recommendations, are already in high demand. With AI constantly learning, this trend will only get more precise.

  One of the fastest-growing uses of AI is long and short-form writing. Chat GPT, Jasper, and Copymatic advertise well-researched and relevant blogs in seconds, negating any excuse not to deliver new content to your winery followers. Ironically, just as fast as these new AI tools to create AI content pop up, they are followed closely by another stream of tools to identify artificially generated copy (e.g., Content at Scale, etc.). AI writing has a certain “canned” quality, so just pumping out AI-generated content without personalization isn’t recommended. But it is interesting how efficient marketing is becoming. It will be interesting to track the results and see if consumers find AI content as engaging as messages from the heart.

Voice:  Keeping an eye on voice search and voice user interface (VUI) are increasingly essential thanks to the rise of virtual assistants like Amazon’s Alexa and Apple’s Siri, and Google Home. In 2022, InsiderIntelligence estimated that 142.0 million people in the US, or 42.1% of the population, used a voice assistant.

  Why is this significant for marketing? Because people don’t type the way they speak. When people use voice search, they are more likely to use natural language and ask longer, more complex questions. So, when optimizing for voice search, it’s important to use conversational language or long-tail keywords that match how people speak to help content appear in voice search results.

  In addition, if you want your website to appear when people voice search, your website must include the correct schema markup in the code. Schema markup is a type of structured data that helps search engines understand the content of a web page. By including schema markup for voice in your website code, you can make it easier for search engines to understand your content and display it in voice search results.

Influencer or Peer Marketing:  As we witness the shift in values from Boomers to Millennials, the power of persuasion sways away from the press or pundit toward the peer or friend. To people under the age of 40 with foundational experience with the internet, ratings, peer comments, and social media content by others about a product are among the most persuasive reasons to buy. It is no wonder why Forester reported 73% of companies are increasing their social media budget for 2023.

  “Wait,” you say, “social media is hardly a new technology.” True. The focus on the increase in social media budget is significant when paired with the growth of social commerce or selling products directly on social media platforms. This capability is relatively new but expected to grow 30.8% in 2023 to hit $1.3 trillion in sales. Finally, we can show management a direct ROI tied to the social media budget.

  Social commerce is so effective because it happens in a supported peer environment and offers an easy, convenient, and seamless shopping experience for customers, which can lead to increased sales and customer loyalty. It’s an effective sales strategy because it removes friction from online shopping experiences that start on social platforms. Many people discover products they like while browsing social media.

  Influencer marketing, buying something you saw on Instagram and peer review sites like Yelp, are familiar, but we can expect more brands to focus on these partnerships to promote their products and services in the future. This will drive prices up, create clutter, increase the need to pay for views, and heighten the importance of developing engaging content to break through to new customers.

  There are certainly more trends to discuss, as this is only a partial list. The importance of dark mode design, augmented reality, interactive and immersive design, and the new Google Analytics are also at the forefront of our conversations and will be the subject of future posts. What is clear is that technology is evolving our ability to plan and execute marketing far beyond what was done even in the last ten years.

  Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. Now in its 10th year, the agency offers domestic and international clients assistance with strategy and execution. WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California at 707-927-3334 or    

Could the Wine Industry Benefit from Virtual Assistants?

AI Chatbot smart digital customer service application concept. Computer or mobile device application using artificial intelligence chat bot automatic reply online message to help customers instantly.

By: Craig Goodliffe, Founder & CEO — Cyberbacker

Digital innovations within the workplace are nothing new these days. With more and more people working from home, employees are becoming accustomed to relying on technology to help with work-related tasks that used to be completed in person.

  Today, virtual assistants (VAs) are changing the way companies interact with and engage customers, get their name out into the market, and improve overall profits. VAs are part of the digital revolution that has reinvented the landscape of modern work, and business leaders across a wide array of industries are leveraging the skills these professionals offer to help scale their businesses, manage tasks, and free up their time.

  When one thinks about viniculture and the wine industry, it may bring to mind images of vast fields of grapevines, wineries with knowledgeable sommeliers giving in-person recommendations, and an age-old, often family-based company structure. One’s mind typically will not jump to a tech-heavy culture.

  However, according to a recent article in Forbes, many wine companies have not only adapted to changes in technology, but debuted some wine industry-specific innovations. For instance, some companies have outfitted their wine labels with QR codes that give consumers greater insight into the wine’s origins. The company Sparflex has developed a wine foil that allows the consumer to access animations straight from the label, and WineCab is a robotic, AI-powered sommelier; some wineries are even using drones and satellites to collect data on their vineyards.

  Although the viniculture industry may not seem one “ripe for the picking” for help from virtual assistants, the wine industry has a history of adaptation to new technologies and innovations. This could make them the perfect industry to adopt the use of VAs. 

What Value can VAs Bring to Winemakers and Viniculture?

  Virtual assistants are remote workers who can help companies with a number of tasks, and their role has taken on new meaning as remote work has grown in popularity. Once used for mainly administrative tasks, VAs are now heading up social media campaigns, handling the entire accounting or customer service department of companies, and — in some cases — even stepping into C-suite leadership roles.

  Throughout the past several years, the wine industry has faced the same challenges that many other industries have run across, including customer service concerns, supply chain issues, and a focus on employee retention in the wake of the Great Resignation. Virtual assistants can help winemakers navigate these challenges as well as many others.

  One of the biggest benefits a VA can bring to the wine industry is their ability to take on tasks that may not be in the wheelhouse of a business owner, CEO, or other leaders. VAs can also be instrumental in helping leaders better focus on the tasks where they excel. Attempting to scale a business on one’s own is remarkably difficult, especially in an industry as inherently collaborative as viniculture, where different teams are responsible for harvesting the grapes, making, selling, and marketing the final product.

  Studies have shown that taking on a VA can improve productivity overall in one’s business, including the wine industry, where overall productivity could make or break a winery. VAs can also help lower overall operating costs by up to 78%, which could provide crucial savings for a startup in the wine industry.

  Virtual assistants can give an owner more time to focus on what they really want to do: building their businesses. Winemakers may be surprised at how adaptable and multi-faceted VAs are, and what they can do to help a winery, vineyard, or wine store scale.

  Running and managing social media accounts

It can be difficult — if not completely impossible — to run a successful business these days without using social media effectively. Many people may not know how to leverage social media for their wine business, but there are VAs who are highly skilled in areas of social media marketing and engagement that can help one uplevel their business.

  Social media is largely about visuals, and one may wonder how someone who may work halfway around the world can help with the visual marketing of a business that is in, say, Napa Valley. Yet, because so many aspects of the modern workplace have been digitized, it’s extremely easy for a VA to take images or videos from a winery’s events — or even its wine-making process itself — and use those on social media sites to further establish its brand presence.

  VAs can also handle the engagement side of social media, which can be one of the most time-consuming aspects of digital marketing. After all, customers who are interested in your product because they saw some compelling images online will want to engage with your brand by liking, following, and sharing your content on social media.


  According to research, 70% of adults use Facebook, many of whom use their connections to brands on social media to make purchase decisions. When a brand actively engages with followers online, it increases the likelihood that the person with whom they are engaged will return to make a purchase.

  In this regard, VAs can also handle the involved job of social media advertising. Running social media ads is highly effective. In fact, that same research shows that 49% of people will be more apt to purchase an item if they see an ad for it on social media. However, running, organizing, and keeping on top of social media ads can be tricky — even for social media-savvy CEOs. Having a person whose top priority is to run and track social media ads can greatly improve a company’s reach and revenue.


  Instagram is where social media users go for imagery, and where a winery’s brand presence could easily entice customers with beautiful pictures and engaging video content. Instagram is all about meeting wine enthusiasts where they are, as these consumers are the ones sharing their own pictures of vineyards, bottles, and glasses of their favorite wines.

  Instagram posts that tend to garner the most engagement are those that highlight the human element of the business behind the screen. A great example is Tank Winery, which has harnessed the power of Instagram with personal, informative, and entertaining stories and posts that grab attention. Virtual assistants that are well-versed in the visual-heavy Instagram approach can help uplevel a business’ presence on the platform by consistently posting engaging content.


  As of September 2022, TikTok is the most downloaded social media app in the US for the third year in a row. Many VAs are also TikTok experts and can help a winery or vineyard get its head around what is likely to “go viral” on the popular platform. TikTok can be a great platform for robust marketing strategies and interesting dives into wine-related content, be they virtual tastings, or informative videos about a particular wine or brand.

  Consistency is key with all social media platform posting. Some studies show that businesses should post 1-4 times a day to have a chance of reaching viral status, but most winemakers simply do not have the time to consistently post on platforms for maximum engagement. This is where hiring a VA can help their business achieve the consistency they need to best leverage social media.

Customer Service

  If there is anything that can make or break a business, it’s customer service. No matter how great a winery’s product may be or how skilled its wine experts are, its entire operation can steadily dry up if its customer service is lacking.

  Customer service needs to be top-notch with not only consumers, but suppliers and the stores that carry one’s product. Even when they are positioned halfway around the world, VAs can field phone calls, respond to emails in a timely manner, manage chatbot functionality on your website, and provide assistance with issues that may arise. If a company is looking to expand on a global scale, having a VA in a different time zone could prove to be a massive asset.

  Additionally, as online shopping has become the norm since the pandemic, it is now even more crucial that the wine industry master omnichannel marketing tactics and remain able to pivot alongside changes in consumers’ purchasing habits. Wineries, vineyards, and other businesses in the industry need their customers to be informed and taken care of during every stop in the engagement and purchasing process. VAs can help cover the omnichannel bases, assisting with social media channels, mobile communication, and customer support online.

  By utilizing VAs on the customer support end, customers will feel heard and vendors will feel secure in knowing someone is on top of their needs. Founders and CEOs cannot possibly be everywhere at once, but allowing a VA to help with some of the ongoing customer service tasks allows them to concentrate more on the crucial aspects of their wine business requiring their attention.

  Establishing and building an online presence

A skilled VA can handle a business’s entire online presence, from website design, to updates, to running its online e-commerce store. They can spearhead the time-consuming tasks such as uploading images and information for each product that you sell, writing blog posts that further engage clients and customers, or stepping in at a moment’s notice if one’s website experiences issues and goes down. VAs experienced in event management can even host online events, such as virtual tastings or wine workshops.

  The last few years have been instrumental in building online sales innovation for the wine industry. One study showed that online wine sales skyrocketed during the pandemic and held steadily above pre-pandemic levels, even as in-person tasting rooms reopened.

  Overall, wineries stepped up their online offerings during the pandemic, with 44% of them offering online tastings and other incentives to engage online shoppers; only 22% of wineries neglected their online presence during the pandemic. The online shopping capabilities of a wine business are important for attracting and retaining loyal customers, as well as maintaining their position amid heavy competition.

  Virtual assistants can help with a number of other tasks outside of those mentioned here. Other tasks that are essential to a business, but that leaders may need a VA’s support with, run the gamut from accounting to HR, to SEO and admin. As the wine industry increasingly adapts digital tools and technologies, virtual assistants will take their place as some of the industry’s most invaluable employees.

  As a leader in your wine business, no one is expecting you to be an expert in everything. But by utilizing virtual assistants, you can outsource the expertise necessary to keep your wine business thriving and growing year after year.

Craig Goodliffe is the Founder and CEO of Cyberbacker, an innovative, mission-driven company that connects small to medium-sized businesses with the top-flight support staff that they need in order to grow. Cyberbacker is the leading provider of world-class administrative support and virtual assistant services from anywhere in the world to anyone in the world.

Top-5 Automated Text Campaigns for Wine Merchants

By:  Bryan St. Amant, Founder & CEO of VinterActive

If you’re like many wine marketers, your to-do list is a mile long. You need to post on social media, update your blog, manage your next event, and launch a new vintage of wine. And that’s only on the marketing side.

  With so many hats to wear, today’s wine merchants need any help they can get.

  That’s where automated SMS workflows can save the day with personalized messaging sent to the right customers at precisely the right time to generate game-changing results.

What are Automated SMS Workflows?

  In an ideal world, your best sales rep would stay in touch with every customer and reach out instantly when your winery can offer them something they value.

  Automated SMS workflows offer this same service by monitoring consumer behavior 24/7, then sending personalized text messages whenever your business can help individual consumers enjoy your brand.

  Fundamentally different from one-off ‘blasts’ sent to everyone on your list, automated SMS workflows are triggered when customers take a specific action, like asking for more information, ordering products, or joining your club.

  By using automated workflows, any wine merchant can offer their customers an increasingly rare experience simply by paying attention and catering to their unique needs. The result is a virtuous cycle of happier customers leading to more sales — without requiring more labor.

Ranking the Top-5 Automated SMS Campaigns Available for Wineries in 2023

  With wine merchants reporting 32 times better results using text messaging instead of email to reach their customers, the race is on to identify which SMS campaigns drive the most sales.

  So, our friends at Listrak analyzed 1.1 billion marketing texts sent across all industry segments to conclude that automated SMS messages triggered by customer behavior consistently outperform marketing blasts — generating 2-to-20 times more sales per text than typical broadcast messages.

  In their landmark report “2022 Benchmarks: Text Message Marketing,” Listrak identified the top 5 automated campaigns available to today’s wine merchants:

1.  Welcome Series

2.  Transactional Updates

3.  Shopping Cart Abandonment

4.  Browse Abandonment

5.  Post-Purchase Sequence

  The revenue generated by these campaigns averaged eight times more than the sales produced by typical text marketing blasts.

  Of course, these results shouldn’t surprise most wine marketers. Automated email campaigns also maximize sales compared to email blasts. It turns out that timing and relevance still plays a vital role in the success of direct marketing.

  So that’s why we’ve been advising our friends for years: “it’s time to get past the blast…”

Automated SMS Workflow #1: Welcome Series

  A welcome text is your chance to make a great first impression with new subscribers, wine club members, and recent guests.

  Research on human behavior shows consumers are most engaged when they first sign up to receive your messages. That’s why their experience in the first few weeks of your relationship can often determine the outcome.

  If you offer consumers many ways to engage your brand, sending a series of messages might make sense instead of a single text. New subscribers to your list might enjoy…

•  A link to your winery’s social media pages

•  Info on what new subscribers can expect

•  A thank-you gift for joining your text list

  A similar welcome sequence can work for new wine club members and retail customers by using autoresponders to send your SMS messages at specific intervals.

  However you harness the power of an automated welcome sequence, you’ll be profiting from one of the most productive marketing techniques available to today’s wine merchants.

Automated SMS Workflow #2: Transactional Texts

  While many wineries work with commerce systems that can trigger personalized text messages whenever customers place orders, make reservations, or expect a wine shipment, most wine merchants have yet to profit from transactional text messaging.

  Transactional messages like order confirmations, shipping notices, and appointment reminders are among the most popular texts sent to consumers by their favorite brands.

  For wine marketers looking to deliver a world-class customer experience, enabling your commerce system to trigger text messages opens a new channel of communication that works 24/7 to engage your best customers without adding to your workload.

  And for U.S. retailers, the sales revenue generated by transactional SMS messages averaged $1.16 for each text sent.

Automated SMS Workflow #3: Cart Recovery

  Savvy wine marketers know that repeat customers like wine club members and mailing list subscribers place most online wine orders.

  Yet, for every ten successful orders placed by repeat buyers, another seven orders are lost due to cart abandonment – when customers fill their cart but don’t complete the checkout process.

  Of course, consumers have many reasons to abandon the purchase process before completing their order. Extra costs like shipping, a frustrating checkout process, or even a slow website can send thirsty shoppers away before purchasing your wine.

  But did you know that 20-40% of these customers can be lured back with a thoughtful automated cart abandonment campaign?

  To put these results in perspective, a typical winery experiencing 70% cart abandonment and a 30% cart recovery rate will generate 20% more online sales than wineries that don’t use automated cart recovery techniques.

  For U.S. retailers, Listrak’s latest report shows that abandoned cart campaigns generate an average of $1.04 of incremental revenue for every text sent, nearly six times more than a typical SMS blast.

Automated SMS Workflow #4: Browse Abandonment

  Like shopping cart abandonment campaigns, automated texts sent to shoppers who spent time browsing your products, but didn’t add them to their carts, can also boost online sales by turning “window shoppers” into happy customers.

  Both offline and online, browse abandonment is often just a natural part of the purchasing process.

  According to sales conversion experts, for every customer adding a product to their online shopping cart, three more prospects view your products without taking further action.

  So, if your website can identify opt-in SMS subscribers who viewed your products without purchasing, browse abandonment campaigns offer wine marketers another opportunity to nudge them to buy.

  Some of the most productive browse abandonment campaigns reinforce consumer interest by featuring popular offers like…

•  product reviews

•  related products/services

•  special time-limited promotions

  And for U.S. retailers, the latest research on SMS marketing shows that browse abandonment campaigns generate an average of $0.56 of incremental revenue for every text sent, three times more than a typical SMS blast.

SMS Workflow #5: Post Purchase Sequence

  Since market research shows consumer interest peaks at the time of purchase, direct marketers can leverage this honeymoon period to build long-lasting relationships by launching an automated post-purchase campaign.

  After customers receive their wine, successful marketers often use personalized messages seeking customer feedback on the purchase process, suggesting food & wine pairings, asking for product reviews, or offering a chance to order more wine.

  While many post-purchase messages don’t focus directly on incremental sales, the latest research still shows that post-purchase campaigns generate an average of $0.51 of sales revenue for every text sent, 3-times more than an average SMS blast.

The Bottom Line on Automated SMS Wine Marketing Campaigns

  Most wine marketers face the same problem: balancing a long to-do list against limited time.

  Devoting resources to SMS messaging — the wine industry’s most productive DTC marketing channel — is an intelligent business decision. But setting up automated SMS campaigns is even better.

  For wine merchants looking to delight their customers with personalized service, engage more consumers without doing more work, and grow their business using the best practices of SMS wine marketing, automated text messaging is a proven path to success.

  By generating 2-to-20 times more sales revenue than typical text blasts, the five automated campaigns outlined in this article can help any wine merchant maximize their profits with SMS wine marketing.

About the Author

  Founder & CEO of VinterActive, Bryan St. Amant, is a pioneer in developing preference-based direct marketing and its successful application in the wine industry. His award-winning work has been featured in books, magazines, and seminars, including CFO Magazine, Inc., CNN Money, eMarketing Magazine, Integrated Direct Marketing, Direct Marketing Association, Wine Marketing Report, The Grapevine Magazine, and the Wine Industry Network. VinterActive is located in Windsor, California at 707-836-7295 or

Trends in Email Effectiveness

A Five-year Historical Review of Performance Metrics

By: Susan DeMatei, Founder of WineGlass Marketing

Since 2018, WineGlass Marketing has monitored email responses to help plan and inform our campaigns. (You can find the 2022 report at For this year, we included a look back at five years of data because it is a fantastic opportunity to track the impact of COVID on our email responses. The behavior changes of planned campaigns by wineries and customers’ reactions during COVID and Shelter in Place should be evident by looking for anomalies. This article will review the historical data to compare to 2022 data and trends.


  A byproduct of COVID is that we learned that keeping in touch with our customers is essential to our business survival. When the steady stream of new customers off the freeway to our tasting rooms stopped, we found ways to talk to existing customers in our database. We remembered what we learned when that freeway opened again in 2021. We kept adding names and coveting that connection, swearing we would never leave ourselves that vulnerable again. Between 2020 and 2021, the average database size jumped 37% to over 6.5k.

  But, we took our feet off the gas because, in 2022, we saw it fall to the lowest point since 2018. Let’s hope that in next year’s benchmark study, we see increased attention in this area and that our databases grow again.


  We interpret this increase as wineries finally started segmenting during COVID because they had the time and resources to look at their data. So, when 2021 came along, it was game on with A/B splits, automated drip campaigns, and segmented offers.

  We also noted a great deal more “resends” in the data from 2022, showing that more wineries are comfortable with reminding non-openers or non-responders that they’re missing out on a great deal. In 2022, the wineries surveyed reported an average of 5.27 campaigns per month – either completely new campaigns or resends or different segments.


  If we split out volume by month for these five years, we get an idea of the increase in campaigns in 2022 and the seasonal trends. Wineries cluster emails around club shipment times in March and fall harvest and load more holiday emails into the fourth quarter. This trend has been consistent throughout all five years.

  However, in 2022 we saw more emails during the summer. Perhaps this is because of the increased adoption of summer “cold” shipping, or segmentation and testing are planned in the summer months to minimize the impact on crucial selling seasons. But we can say that going “dark” in the hot months is no longer a common practice.


  Open rates have been on a steady decline for the past three years. But don’t worry; this is consistent with any industry trends and has been this way year after year since somebody sent the first email in the early 1990s. Why? Two reasons. First, as consumers, we’re tired of emails. As any of you know, you work hard on that subject line and content to get attention. We must overcome considerable inbox clutter.

  And secondly, there is an inverse relationship with volume. As marketers, emails are cheap, so the ROI is worth it to send a lot of them. When consumers don’t open them, we resend reminders. We get a few more opens, but typically these emails perform worse than the initial email launch, which brings down the overall campaign open rate.

  Sadly, although they clicked to go to the website, the conversion went down (shown on the cart with the orange line and right-hand secondary axis.) This decline is the fault of the website page, not the email. Click-through rates have increased. The emails enticed potential customers to open, read and click, but something happened. Google Analytics provides this data from the website. If wineries are not looking at their visitors’ paths and creating custom landing pages for each email, the most compelling email in wine country may not end with a sale.

  The common question is, “how frequently should we email our customers.” The answer is to send emails as often as possible as long as you can offer compelling content. Customers will tell you when they don’t value your email – they’ll leave.

  Looking at the bounce rates, with all the campaign increases in the past five years, wineries did an excellent job of keeping the segmenting tight and the content on point, as evidenced by the decrease in bounce rate.

  In sync with our tendency to send more emails in Q1 and Q4 – open rates by month show the inverse. Our customers are more likely to open our emails in Q1, Q2, and Q3 when there is less clutter in their inboxes. Open rates are the lowest in the fourth quarter when the email frequency is highest.

  Click-through rates follow a similar seasonality to our frequency and show a higher CTR with more campaigns. Looking at wineries’ sales, we can confirm that Q1 and Q4 is the online buying season.


  So, did all this convert to dollars? Sort of. This chart shows the Average Order Value in the blue bars, and the orange line is the average number of orders per campaign. It makes sense that during COVID, we saw a spike in orders (because there was no other way to order) yet a dive in AOV (due to discounts.)

  If you combine the relatively equal AOV and average orders per campaign for the past two years with the previous chart that demonstrates a decrease in conversion rate for 2021 and 2022, we see more frequent campaigns and higher prices to counteract the lower conversion. That is one way to compensate but imagine the impact if that conversion rate went up.

  The summary? Email is far from dead or a bad investment, but to combat lowering open and click-through rates, there is little to do about maturing channel fatigue except write the best subject lines you can and create compelling content your targets want to read. We say better content and not better offers because the click-through rate went down when everyone slashed prices and offered steep discounts in 2020. So if you focus on good content and segmentation, your emails will continue to bring you sales.

  Susan DeMatei is the founder of WineGlass Marketing, a full-service direct marketing firm working within the wine industry in Napa, California. Now in its 10th year, the agency offers domestic and international clients assistance with strategy and execution. WineGlass Marketing is located in Napa, California at 707-927-3334 or   

Celebrating Oregon’s Alternative Wines

By: Becky Garrison

Even though Oregon’s pinot noir wines tend to grab the bulk of the headlines, this region produces over 80 grape varieties. Among the most popular grapes grown include chardonnay, gamay noir, pinot gris, riesling, rosé, sauvignon blanc, syrah, tempranillo and zinfandel.

The Launch of the Alt. Wine Fest

  In 2019, Mallory Smith and Martin Skegg launched the Alt. Wine Fest in Oregon’s Willamette Valley as a vehicle to showcase the full range of Oregon’s bounty. Described as “Oregon’s Other Wine Festival,” the forthcoming 2023 festival has expanded to include 35 winemakers pouring over a hundred wines. Other offerings include tacos, lawn games and a DJ. 

  The inspiration for this festival stemmed from Smith’s work at a bottle shop in northeast Portland, Oregon. She found that those customers asking for Oregon pinot noir were mostly from out of town. When she introduced non-pinot noir varieties to locals, they would be excited and surprised that those things even existed. On a similar note, they noticed that even people who worked in the wine industry in Oregon didn’t know that there were a lot of other grapes grown right in their backyard.

  As Smith reflects, “We knew of many producers making ‘alt’ wines, but because we ran in those circles we didn’t realize how much it was an untapped market. So, the Alt. Wine Fest was not only an opportunity to highlight a lot of smaller producers and showcase underdog grapes, but also to give people the firsthand opportunity to discover, taste and explore these wines.”

  They first launched the festival at the Old Schoolhouse, a wedding venue located in the heart of the Willamette Valley wine region in Newberg, Oregon. The owner and her family helped them get this festival off the ground, and this sold-out event exceeded their expectations.

  When reflecting on the success of their inaugural festival, Smith points to a shift in the consumer market for Oregon wines. “Even though there are some corners of the industry that still believe anything other than pinot is a sideshow, there has been a shift in the last few years. People are more interested in the possibilities of these other grapes and the production of non-pinot wines has been slowly increasing. Generally, we had good support from the industry, and the likes of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association were enthusiastic about the event.”

  Following a two-year pause due to COVID, they re-launched this festival. As they knew they needed to expand to accommodate the growing interest in non-pinot wines, they sought a larger venue. So, they moved to Abbey Road Farm, a winery, bed & breakfast and event space in Oregon’s Yamhill Valley. They kept the same formula but had more people and winemakers. This event sold out again. “It was good to see that people still had the same enthusiasm for the wines as before the pandemic,” Smith noted.

  Moving forward, they hope to keep growing the event as best they can. However, they’re taking it slow to maintain the festival’s heart and soul. Smith notes, “This year, we may have a couple more winemakers, but the attendance will be about the same, as we don’t want it to get too crowded. We’re looking at the possibility of smaller side events. Maybe something educational, as that is one thing people have asked for, or dinners with winemakers or a tasting party.”

Winemakers Speak to Their Experience at the Alt. Wine Festival

  For Brianne Day, owner and winemaker of Day Wines (Dundee, Oregon), participating in the Alt. Wine Festival was a natural fit, given she produces 24 varieties of wine along with two pinot blends and two single vineyard pinot noirs. In addition to highlighting the range and bounty of what Oregon is capable of, she appreciates that most of the producers there have fun with their wines and brands with a more adventurous and creative take on winemaking and wine business creation. “It’s a fun and exciting subset of the industry to be a part of, and I enjoy being with peers who see it that way as well,” she states.

  Day does not grow any fruits and sources from vineyards in the Columbia River Gorge, around the Willamette Valley and the Applegate Valley. Most of the varieties she purchases were planted years ago by growers who wanted to see other kinds of wine made in Oregon. Sometimes growers asked her what she would like to have grown for her. So far, she’s asked for more Italian varieties in southern Oregon. One grower planted the first Oregon Nero d’Avola, and another planted the first Oregon Zibibbo.

  In her experience, these wines are pretty easy to make and bring to market. “The varieties grow well and ripen well in Oregon and in many ways are less challenging than making pinot.”

  As non-pinot fruits are not as readily available to her as pinots, she cannot produce as many of these wines, as she can to meet the demands of the U.S. wine-buying market that appreciates adventurous and creative wines. Some of her wines are only available for sale in the winery because they are in such high demand, and she cannot make large quantities of them. “My biggest challenge is just keeping my distributors happy with what I can supply and having consumers be a little disappointed when we sell out of one of their favorites,” Day observes.

  Among the non-pinots wines Melaney Schmidt and Malia Myers of Landmass Wines (Cascade Locks, Oregon) produce include chenin blanc, tempranillo, grenache and gruner veltliner. They head to the Rogue Valley for their warm-climate fruit, and for cool-climate fruit, they source from the Columbia River Gorge. Since their brand is still young, they feel they have the flexibility to work with whatever fruit interests them.

  They find freedom in making a wine that hasn’t been examined to the point of exhaustion. As Schmidt observes, “You can work with another varietal and steer it in any direction that suits you. If I want to make a juicy, fruit-forward rosé of tempranillo, there is an openness from the consumer because there aren’t any preconceived thoughts about what winemaking style I ‘should’ adhere to.” 

  In their estimation, the  Alt. Wine Fest provided them with a great forum to see and taste how others approach these esoteric varietals. “The event was a huge success and seeing so many people there eager to try new wines was incredible. I’m looking forward to doing it again!” Schmidt exclaims.

The Future of Alt. Wines in the Willamette Valley

  In particular, Oregon’s famed Willamette Valley has seen a rise in vineyards planting non-pinot grapes. According to Smith, producers have run into pinot fatigue when trying to sell into the broader U.S. market, and buyers are interested in different varieties. “It’s not controversial to say that the market is saturated with pinot, and there are already too many mediocre $50 pinots kicking around,” she adds.

  Also, not every site is ideally suited for growing pinot noir grapes. As Smith states, “The valley is big, and there should be more exploration of what else works. There are plenty of winemakers who are vehement that trying to imitate Burgundy was a misstep and that the region has far more potential with other grapes.”

  Furthermore, Smith predicts that climate change will make a difference. “Predictions show that within the next couple of decades, things will become very uncomfortable for pinot in the valley, so winemakers will have to look to other grapes. There are perhaps 90ish different varieties grown in Oregon, but many thousands more are available. Why not give some of those a try?”

  The 2023 Alt. Wine Fest will be held on July 16, 2023, with information available on their website at