I was asked by Glenn Bardgett to be a presenter at the Midwest Grape & Wine Conference. The topic that I was asked to discuss is the challenges of operating a single variety advocacy group. (Don’t get me started.)

Location: St. Charles Convention Center, St. Charles, MO
Conference Dates: February 4-7, 2011

I’m there tomorrow… Flying today.

I told Glenn that one of my challenges is that we’re so grass roots, I don’t even have a travel budget to speak of. No problem… The conference covers speakers’ costs, and he made sure that he worked my presentation into the weekend, so I also don’t lose too many billable hours. I told him that “I’m in…” And then I suggested to have a Petite Sirah tasting with a variety of different members’ wines.

Why would I want to add a tasting to this discussion?

I thought hard about it. I can certainly come up with the myriad of challenges I face daily as the executive director of PS I Love You, but I was thinking of my audience; namely, how many of them were actually considering starting a single variety non-profit to market that particular cultivar? Would there even be one person really interested in this topic?

Perhaps… In the Midwest the Norton Grape could certainly benefit from a single variety marketing group.

So… if you add a tasting to this topic, and demonstrate how diverse a variety can be ~ most especially when there are no set and hard defined benchmarks (like there are for Cabernet, for instance) ~ this can be a really fascinating and beneficial topic for that one person who is so inspired.

I also put it out to the membership… “First come, first served as a winemaker, who would like to be the enology voice in this seminar?” Clark Smith of Grape Crafter jumped right on it, because he’s been to the Midwest Winegrape Conference in the past, and knows how serious these attendees are.

Tomorrow is the day that I present the following wines, along with the challenges of a single grape variety marketing group:

Petite Sirahs

  1. Clayhouse Wines (Paso Robles)
  2. Diamond Ridge Vineyards (Lake County)
  3. EOS Estate Winery (Paso Robles)
  4. Line 39, from Cecchetti Wine Company (Lake County)
  5. Mettler Wines (Lodi)
  6. Pedroncelli Winery (Alexander Valley)

The Challenges of a Single Variety Marketing Group

  1. Greatest challenge is funding: How to find the bridge to major wine corporations.
  2. Competition: How many wine advocacy groups are there?
  3. Workers: Unlike other non-profits, PSILY is based in a small town, where volunteers don’t exist.
  4. Assets ~ People: Volunteers are the heartbeat of any non-profit.
  5. Assets ~ Places: My Diaz Communications office is where it all happens.
  6. Assets ~ Things: My Diaz Communications’ equipment.

I just read a story about the corporation that bought Rosenblum Cellars, and the fact that they now have a surplus of assets. I had to chuckle to myself. When Kent Rosenblum owned Rosenblum Cellars, he was the very first member of PS I Love You to lend financial support. He continues with that support today, making our annual event more financially manageable at his new wine company, Rock Wall Wine Company. Small companies like Kent’s just get that they must all band together for the sake of larger awareness. Just look at what ZAP has done under Rebecca Robinson’s guidance. Today, California has more Zinfandel planted than any other variety. Banding together works; more assets equals more growth.

That kind of thinking went away with the sale of Kent’s company, because the major corporation that bought it doesn’t have to think of brand awareness anymore. They’ve arrived. They have to focus on excess assets for their share holders. It’s a different wine world for them. So, we’ve lost our first financial backer… Time moves on, it always does… And I would have loved for someone to have continued to support those of us who helped to create awareness in the first place, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon. It’s the way our capitalism works.

Still… This, then, brings me right back to my greatest #1 challenge: How to find the bridge to major wine corporations who have the assets to help the innovators, so that we may all work in tandem for even greater visibility for us all.

I can’t imagine that happening, for the most part, because we certainly need them more than they need us… Although, I’ve always loved and understood the Aesop’s Fable about the Lion and the Mouse.

The Lion and the Mouse
An Aesop’s Fable

Once when a Lion was asleep a little Mouse began running up and down upon him; this soon wakened the Lion, who placed his huge paw upon him, and opened his big jaws to swallow him. “Pardon, O King,” cried the little Mouse: “forgive me this time, I shall never forget it: who knows but what I may be able to do you a turn some of these days?” The Lion was so tickled at the idea of the Mouse being able to help him, that he lifted up his paw and let him go. Some time after the Lion was caught in a trap, and the hunters who desired to carry him alive to the King, tied him to a tree while they went in search of a wagon to carry him on. Just then the little Mouse happened to pass by, and seeing the sad plight in which the Lion was, went up to him and soon gnawed away the ropes that bound the King of the Beasts. “Was I not right?” said the little Mouse…. Little friends may prove great friends.

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