Family-owned wineries from Sonoma County said they welcomed the exposure they received as part of a nearly $1 million local effort to promote the industry and tourism as part of Super Bowl 50 festivities.
“It was a great experience,” said Kim Stare Wallace, president of Dry Creek Vineyard in Healdsburg, who spent a week down in San Francisco. “I thought it was a real coup for Sonoma County.”
The winery owners said they were grateful to be able to participate as part of an effort by Sonoma County Tourism, the Sonoma County Vintners and the Sonoma County Winegrowers. They had their labels poured at a wine lounge located in the heart of Super Bowl City, where an estimated 1 million people visited, and were able to participate in private VIP parties from Jan. 30 to Feb. 7.
Their promotional efforts come during an era of increased consolidation in the wine industry, where the big wine companies such as E & J Winery and Constellation Brands Inc. control the vast majority of the market. These smaller wineries lack the marketing and public relations resources of the majors and have to rely on direct-to-consumer sales, most notably through their wine clubs, to survive.
Guy Davis, owner of Davis Family Winery in Healdsburg, said he thought his $1,000 investment to participate in the last two days of the wine lounge was a worthwhile investment. His winery produces between 5,000 and 10,000 cases annually and relies on sales through his wine club and top restaurants in major markets.
About 200 people tasted his red blend through the wine lounge.
“I was able to have a one-on-one conversation and enhance the experience,” Davis said. He noted that as a winery owner, he could convey a sense of authenticity in speaking about his product, especially crucial to the millennial market.
At Dry Creek Vineyard, Wallace said it would be difficult to quantify the return on investment for the winery’s participation in the Super Bowl events. “That’s how it is with most public relations strategy,” Wallace said. But, she added, “If we hadn’t participated, we would have regretted it tremendously.”
Iron Horse Vineyards took a different route in promoting the Super Bowl. The Sebastopol winery produced a special Super Bowl 50 Cuvee with a pigskin-like label for $62 a bottle. The product, done at the behest of distributor Young’s Market Co., was a hit and the winery sold out of its 300 cases, said Joy Sterling, chief executive officer of the winery.
It also participated in two days of pouring at the wine tent and at a private party kicking off the Super Bowl activities. Sterling said it would be difficult to determine if the people she met would actually end up at her highly rated tasting room. But she said she participated primarily to help the local industry and her winery wanted to be a good corporate citizen. “First and foremost, we wanted to promote Sonoma County,” Sterling said.
More than 20,000 glasses of wine were poured at the wine lounge, according to a press release from Sonoma County Tourism, which says that the Super Bowl promotional effort will show returns for the county over the next five years. Independent economists have questioned the economic benefits for Super Bowl host cities, citing research that shows the return is a fraction of what is promoted and that the big game displaces tourists who would have otherwise visited.