Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

Another Wine Festival?

By Doug Fabbioli

Not much is easy about the wine business. Scratch that.  Drinking great wine that you grew and produced, is easy.  Translating the process into a consistent business that covers all of the costs and gives back a bit of a profit, that part is hard. Between our tasting rooms, event facilities, off site tasting rooms, farmers markets, retailers, distributors, restaurants, box stores and on line sales, some may think that selling wine is easy. Well, selling wine has been pretty hard lately. Each of the above outlets have a cost to them, and when people buy less, the costs to operate remain the same. Our local wine industry is having some growing pains and many folks are looking at ways to increase sales. One outlet that has been on the schedules of wineries and wine lovers here in Virginia, is the wine festival.

When I arrived in Virginia 26 years ago, I did not have a lot of experience selling wine, let alone experience with wine festivals. We didn’t have anything like this in California. Sure they had events in the square of Sonoma, or at a park with food and wines, but we did not sell wine. These events were for marketing and press. Here in Virginia, the wineries can obtain a “remote license”, to set up sales and tastings in another location. There are legal steps, insurance and safety considerations, but, we can bring the wine and experience to another location, present the wine and sell by the glass or bottle to those that want to take it home.

With bigger events, event companies run the show. The wineries are the attraction, as well as the music, food, location, seminars and such. Back in the day, wineries would bring a large volume of wine to the festivals, as folks would buy wine to take home. Guests would have a chance to taste wine from a winery they had not visited, or stock up on their favorite bottles. Over the years, sales at the festivals dwindled. More drunk customers at the end of the day, and more wine that did not sell, was left to take back to the winery. The goal of these festivals is to have a win-win for all involved. The event company, the wineries and the customer all come out feeling that it was worth doing, and look forward to next year. I feel each wine festival has its own feel and clientele. There are some great folks attending that want an exposure to Virginia Wine without the travel. There are an incredible number of folks that are new to wine, let alone Virginia Wine, and we want them to have a great experience, especially if it is their first time.

Our winery was initially doing the festivals back in 2006 or so, in order to meet folks, show our wines, and build our customer base. Over time, we focused on bringing the folks out to the winery to get the full experience of what we have to offer. But, as visitation has dropped off a bit at the winery — with so many other venue and craft beverage choices out there — we are looking at other opportunities to take our wines on the road. Staffing is always a challenge as having a well-trained wine person on the road will make all of the difference in welcoming a taster — all the way through to closing the sale. This staffing issue is critical in the tasting room as well.

Some of our best road show spots have been smaller. Farmer Johns Market right down the road from us, the antiques stores and other smaller venues can give a more intimate feel and give the wine educator an opportunity to connect with the guest. Less scheduling issues, less set up and breakdown, mean less costs in doing the event. That being said, back to the larger wine festivals, they attract many people who are looking specifically for wine! Some of those people will buy wine, and some of those people will come out to experience the wineries. As we all reach out to sell a bit more wine, each opportunity will be considered and evaluated for what could add to our success.

It is almost harvest season here in the Mid Atlantic wine region.  Harvest begins in September. Come visit the wineries.  Ask what is happening in production that day.  We love what we do and we love to talk about it.  Many wineries will give you an opportunity to see, smell and maybe even taste the happenings. The grapes come in every year and your purchases give them a home. Thanks for supporting Virginia Wine!

About the Author: Farmer, winemaker, entrepreneur, educator, and leader, Doug Fabbioli has been accelerating the growth and quality of Virginia’s wine industry since 1997. With his wife Colleen, Doug is the owner/operator of Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg, VA. He is the founder and director of The New Ag School, which focuses on teaching the next generation of farmers and agriculture-related leaders. No wonder they call Doug Fabbioli the Godfather of DC’s Wine Country.

0.00 avg. rating (0% score) - 0 votes