The wine business is continuously in flux. To stay in step with what consumers want requires a great deal of agility, and for a winery, this attribute isn’t cultivated under the heavy burdens of expensive capital, tangible investments or real estate until one’s wines have traction in consumers’ minds. Brand awareness translates to mindshare by way of 1) tangible experience, 2) repetitive branding, and 3) consensus. That is, if a winery delivers a positive, hands-on experience, stays in touch with news and special “insiders’ incentives” – and those consumers can attest to friends that the wines were tasty – the winery itself creates memories that endure. And in the dark of night, consumers reflect and remember “So-and-So Winery” as enjoyable and worth recommending. In challenging economic conditions, the winery without bucolic views and a gorgeous tasting room need not despair. According to consensus, enter the Warehouse Winery Model.
From Portland (ex: Middleton Family Wines) to Lompoc’s “Wine Ghetto” (ex: Fiddlehead, Ampelos Cellars, Loring Wine Company) to Sonoma County’s Coffet Lane warehouse winery district (ex: Carol Shelton Winery, Inspiration Vineyards, Simple Math Cellars)…there’s a lot to explore without the requisite strolls through vineyards or high-end gift shops. Here, in the industrial setting (hang on there – winemaking requires sanitation, so don’t envision funky/nasty/gross), one can have a tasting room experience, sit on the forklift, saunter around the stacks of barrels or observe the crush pads. Just as in the big ol’ Mediterranean-inspired destination wineries of Napa! Most importantly, here’s where one can taste wines and hobnob with the people right up at the top: the proprietors and winemakers who make it all happen.
Often, appointments are required, yet many facilities like this operate tasting rooms right on schedule with the ones we all know and love, typically from 11-5:00, Mondays through Sundays. Upon visiting a winery like this, it becomes obvious why warehouse wineries exist: agility in a volatile marketplace, flexibility for consumer tastes, and efficiency (most of them don’t have the enormous funds necessary to hire multiple departments of employees and are truly family-owned and -operated). I encourage you to give this type of winery a try. Look one up, using search terms like “warehouse winery” or “winery cooperative”. Pay a visit. Taste some wines. Hear the stories and exercise your imagination. Your senses – primarily your gut – will tell you that this new way of wine business is just A-OK.
Several warehouse wineries will open their doors spring during Barrel Tasting Weekends, March 4-6 and 11-13. See Wine Road for more details and to purchase a ticket.