I spent my 40th birthday in Napa with my wife and friends Jeff Miller and his wife Beryl. Besides making the obligate milk route through Napa Valley tasting rooms (if only to stop and shake our heads at the exercises in architectural pompousness that are replica castles and Zoroastrian temples), we made a quick dash into the Suisun Valley AVA where Jeff grows grapes for his wines.
My visit to the Suisun Valley spawned my article published today on PalatePress.com.
In my PalatePress.com article, I touch on what it takes for an AVA to forge its identity. However, I’d like to touch on another ingredient critical to success.
On one hand, a nascent AVA should focus on cultivars that are best-suited for their climate and soils so that the resulting wines show a unique character.
It is the wines that stay true to varietal character while offering complexity, balance and vibrancy that earn exceptional reputations and a place in the global wine landscape.
The other point that emerged out my visit is highly relevant to up-and-coming regions (or wine brands) that have yet to develop their identity and win fans who make up the critical mass necessary for commercial success and viability.
That point has to do with how to win fans.
Until those best-suited varieties are widely planted, the wines are made and the consumer is turned on to them, the place where the consumers interact with the wine is a crucial point of interface. That is where the hearts and minds will be won over to the Verdelhos, Tempranillos, Picpoul Blancs, Montepulcianos, Mourvedres and Aglianicos as well as the Suisun Valleys and Temecula Valleys, etc.
And that is the other key ingredient to developing a brand, building loyalty, a following and broader recognition:
Part “Burger King mentality” (where the customer gets it their way) and part polished social graces, this ingredient is all about being responsive to and accommodating the consumer.
My experience of one or two of the wines at the Suisun Valley Coop Tasting Room was less than optimal – not only because it seemed the wines were oxidized but also because when I brought up my concerns to the server he essentially dismissed them.
I’m not trying to attribute any particular intention to the pourer. Nevertheless, what remains as fact is that he was not willing to accommodate a consumer who questioned the integrity of the product being presented and did not offer to open a fresh bottle.
In the process, he cost those wine brands a possibly better showing of their wine and maybe a sale.
An average consumer in this situation might think that the particular wine is lousy. Whether they think that of that one bottle, the whole lot of that wine, that one winery or a whole AVA are just gradations of the same unacceptable result of a poor interaction with a consumer.
This is why operators and staff of points of interface like tasting rooms need to be acutely consumer-responsive. Otherwise, the AVA and its producers will have a tough uphill climb out of the abyss of obscurity.
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