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MailTribune.com
  • Finding Southern Oregon's vintage appeal

    Wine producers, enthusiasts meet in Central Point next week to talk about marketing
  • While maturity may still be on the distant horizon, adolescent exuberance and growing pains have arrived for Southern Oregon's wine industry.
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  • While maturity may still be on the distant horizon, adolescent exuberance and growing pains have arrived for Southern Oregon's wine industry.
    Nearly 100 of the region's wine producers, growers and supporters will gather in Central Point next week to examine ways of expanding market share beyond the state's borders.
    The need for that is underscored by the knowledge that less than half the region's wine production is consumed by Oregon buyers. Statistics show that tasting rooms, wine clubs and event transactions account for 22 percent of sales, while an equal amount is sold by nonaffiliated retailers in the state.
    "That means the other 56 percent of production needs to go to a broader market," said Laura Lotspeich, partner in Trium Wine and Pheasant Hill Vineyard outside Talent. "That could be distribution in one or two other states or other countries."
    The local vintners and grape growers will consider sales distribution strategies during tough times and ways of advancing their marketing plans during the sold-out conference at the Oregon State University Extension Service Auditorium. E-mail, direct and telemarketing will be examined along with social media marketing.
    "All of us know what social media is, but many of us don't have a great deal of time to develop it," Lotspeich says. "We'll be getting a better grasp of it and develop ways of getting our name out there."
    She will be the moderator in a discussion of maximizing the value of trade associations.
    The challenge for owners and operators of the 113 vineyards and 42 licensed wineries in the grape-growing area known as the Rogue Appellation is cranking up brand recognition and an understanding of the region's diverse offerings. The Willamette Valley is synonymous with pinot noir, but it's not that simple for Southern Oregon.
    "One of our strengths is also a weakness in that we do a wide variety of wines well," Lotspeich says. "Over the years people have tried to identify what wine or product might be our signature offering. But with our micro-climates and diverse soil types, I don't know if this valley will ever hang its hat on a single varietal."
    The answer may be development of events such as the World of Wine, in which all the wines of the region collaborate in a competition and fundraiser. The breadth of the offerings in the annual summer event at Del Rio Vineyards near Gold Hill lives up to its namesake.
    "It's based on the fact we do produce wines from around the world in one region and that may be the way we market our area in the end," she says. "You can experience a world of wines here along with world-class theater, music and recreation. We could package ourselves as a destination with something for everybody."
    Finding distributors and receivers to service distant markets can tax the resources of the small operators typical of Southern Oregon. It also requires more product than most local wineries produce.
    "We produce 1,000 cases," Lotspeich says. "For me to spend a great deal of time and energy to find distributors is expensive. It would be beneficial for the folks in the region to find a cooperative way to market our wine out of state through advertising and trade show tastings."
    Even with the value of the Euro falling, making it easier for European wines to sell in foreign markets, Lotspeich thinks local wines can continue carving a niche.
    "The global economy is certainly going to influence wine selection," she says. "We can produce a wide variety and a high quality. We will never compete on the global market in quantity, so we have to compete on quality and good value."
    Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.
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