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Letter to the Editor: Chasing winery events disregards change in demographics

North Bay Business Journal’s Wine Industry Conference generally debunked the allegation made by Sonoma County Vintners that the “direct to consumer” model requires “events” as essential to future success.

Those who attended the Jan. 19th conference or have read any State of the Wine Industry reports for the past decade, know nothing could be farther from the truth.

Silicon Valley Bank’s expert spoke extensively about changes in the business model — partially driven by wildfire and COVID restrictions — with the conclusion that on-premise sales are down 45 percent and are not expected to rebound soon.

Sadly, even without the added expense of event-related food service and bands, small wineries will continue to struggle financially.

The new winery business model shows an increasing trend toward e-commerce and away from direct visitation.

Also, vintner organizations should start planning for the shift in demographics versus trying to take business away from restaurants: History shows the mid-1990s acceleration in wine consumption was driven by boomers reaching 37 years of age.

Millennials have not embraced wine as their drink of choice yet; however, when they do, it’s a good bet they will purchase on-line, primarily from socially conscious vintners.

—Judith Olney, Sonoma County grape grower

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