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Winemakers work on their brand

Rogue Valley Vintners have defined their region as “Rogue Valley Wine Country.”

It’s a designation meant to convey the diversity and creativity of Southern Oregon wines, as well as the region’s many natural wonders. The phrase heralds a world-class experience, a confluence of everything that makes this place remarkable.

Almost 100 grape growers and winemakers participated June 19 in the annual membership meeting of the Rogue Valley Vintners at Rogue Regency Inn of Medford. It was the second time Rogue Valley Vintners came together as a new co-operative marketing association to mark the progress and rapid ramp of the strategic planning and branding initiatives.

Steve Eadie, chair of the group’s Strategic Planning Committee and controller at Naumes Crush & Fermentation, reported on the association’s newly defined mission, vision and strategic pillars. RVV is starting out with solid financial ground thanks to the $50,000 Wine Country license plate award from Travel Southern Oregon to fund the group’s planning and branding effort, which is being matched locally by membership dues and funds generated by the sale of Solidarity wines.

Eadie presented results from the University of Oregon wine economics survey of Oregon residents and visitors, which showed out-of-state visitors reported spending an average of $361 per day, an average of 7.1 bottles purchased per visit. Sixty-eight percent of respondents visited one to three wineries, and 49% reported that the primary reason for their trip to Oregon was to go to local wineries. Visitors said they selected wineries based on the natural beauty of the property, ambiance and quality of the tasting room, and knowledge of the wines produced at the winery.

Holly MacFee, principal at Lookout, a Portland-area brand strategy company, leads the RVV Brand Advisory Team and provides creative assets. She previewed some of the work in development to describe the Rogue Valley Wine Country brand vision and taglines and showed four logos that the Brand Advisory Team is considering. Marketing plans are on track for later in 2019.

Barbara Steele, owner/operator at Cowhorn Vineyard & Garden, who is on the RVV Brand Advisory Team, described the thinking behind Rogue Valley Wine Country.

“There are these incredible opportunities here to be on the river, to see art, to be at Britt or Shakespeare, to see the deep, deep blue of Crater Lake — just to be here in this community where wine is part of everything. It’s a deep and rich experience here in Southern Oregon, and it’s a feeling. You can see it in visitors’ faces, they’re feeling that extraordinary moment,” Steele said. “The next step is to craft logos that are expressive of the region and that are expansive of the region. We are not a single varietal; we’re not just a wine region. We’re a marriage of the confluence of the extraordinary.”

Others on the Brand Advisory Team include Brad Niva and Bob Hackett (Travel Southern Oregon), Bryan Wilson (Cuckoo’s Nest Wines), Craig Camp (Troon Vineyard), Galen Wright (Steelhead Advertising), Steve Eadie (Naumes Crush), Drew Gibbs (Alchemy Restaurant) and Ava DeRosier (independent consultant).

Floyd Harmon, Asante Foundation executive director, reviewed the growth of the Oregon Wine Experience, in its sixth year. The event is now year-round, with advance educational classes and events and a standout winery video series. Nearly 5,000 people from across the world attended the 2018 Oregon Wine Experience, and 95% of last year’s sponsors have renewed, promising an even larger event in 2019.

Floyd Harmon encouraged the fledging association and Rogue Valley grape growers and winemakers to “be patient and relentless; show people you deliver.”

Harmon announced a $360,000 to $450,000 three-year commitment to RVV at the meeting. The commitment includes office support, marketing expertise and contributions toward a RVV signature event that does not compete with the Oregon Wine Experience. The Foundation’s recent purchase of the Sky Oak Financial Building, 229 N. Bartlett St., in downtown Medford, makes office space and administrative support for RVV a more manageable give.

“We want to help early on to get Rogue Valley Vintners’ marketing going,” Harmon said. “We can bring the organization, the wherewithal and can help you create an event.”

Tom Danowski, president and CEO of the Oregon Wine Board, mentioned that there were now 10,000 competitive wine brands in the United States and 250 AVAs. He congratulated RVV for understanding the region’s unique properties and “bolting on to what nobody else has but everyone wishes they did.”

For more information about the group, see RVV.wine.

Reach Ashland freelance writer Maureen Flanagan Battistella at mbattistellaor@gmail.com.

Holly MacFee, principal at Lookout, a Portland area brand strategy company consults with Rogue Valley Vintner members after the 2019 meeting.