License to Steal

By Michael Kaiser

Last week I had the pleasure of attending License to Steal, the National Wine Marketing Conference. The conference was held at the Lodge and Conference Center in Geneva State Park in Geneva-on-the-Lake, Ohio. Located right on the shores of Lake Erie, Geneva is home to many wineries in OH. The Grand River Valley appellation is perfect for growing Riesling and other varietals such as Cabernet Franc and Vidal Blanc.

License to Steal is the brainchild of Donniella Winchell, the Executive Director of the Ohio Wine Producers Association (and long time champion of WineAmerica). It is the first wine conference completely devoted to marketing. The marketing directors from several state associations organize the topics and content of the conference. This year Indiana, Missouri, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York all had a hand in developing the agenda for the conference. Wineries from Maryland to Texas were in attendance.

I was a featured speaker on the second day of the the conference. My topic of discussion was the CARE Act and other federal issues that will impact the wine industry. I also discussed the importance of joining WineAmerica. It was great to see so many members in attendance.

The License to Steal Conference is an important tool for any winery, no matter the size, to learn how to better market themselves to consumers and retailers. Social media dominated the discussion, as expected. Facebook and Twitter have really surged in use by wineries and License to Steal can teach wineries how to really use those programs to reach out to their consumers. I urge any winery looking to change or improve their marketing practices to attend License to Steal next year.

On my way back to the Cleveland airport I stopped at Ferrante Winery. Ferrante is a long time WineAmerica Member. Nick Ferrante, who is a third generation winemaker at the winery, and has become known for his Rieslings. If you are ever in that area of Ohio I urge to to stop at Ferrante Winery and all of the other great wineries in the region.

This week it is on to the Pennsylvania Wineries Association meeting. I’ll have a report on that later in the week.