Edna Valley Vineyards of Baileyana Winery

Why Cool Climate Edna Valley is Hot

Five things to know about Edna Valley AVA.


The Coolest AVA Around.  Sitting just 5 miles from the Pacific Ocean and Morro Bay, Edna Valley is the single coolest AVA in California, as cited in a study from the University of Southern Oregon. This rare transverse valley funnels fog from three entry points keeping the valley particularly cool creating a long growing season. Additionally, the Morro Rock sits at the mouth of the valley. A deep, underwater ravine right off the coast creates a large mass of cool water that feeds afternoon winds and fog that settles in overnight.

Longest Growing Season

Perhaps the longest growing season in the state. Budbreak can occur as early as February and harvest lasting into November. Long, cool growing season = ultimate ripeness of fruit, while maintaining refreshing acidity levels.

Cool Climate Varieties Star

Chardonnay is the leading variety planted in the Edna Valley AVA followed by Pinot Noir. The Baileyana Firepeak Chardonnay at $20 showcases the region’s famous style – fruit forward wines balanced by a backbone of acidity.

Baileyana Wines

From Chick Peas to Chardonnay

The modern era of grape growing in Edna Valley started in 1973 when the region was better known for its garbanzo beans than its Chardonnays. The AVA was recognized in 1982. Baileyana Winery’s founder Jack Niven came to the valley in the early 70s. With input from both UC Davis and Fresno State Universities, he began planting wine grapes in 1973. Jack Niven was also instrumental in the Edna Valley becoming officially recognized as an AVA.

Small but Mighty

The AVA is home to less than two dozen wineries, including client Baileyana Winery. 25,000 acres are planted in total within the AVA. (For context, there are approximately 637,000 acres under vine throughout California according to the Wine Institute – 2018. Napa Valley, another small AVA, has 46,000 acres planted to vines).


The San Luis Obispo region, as a whole, is a favorite with filmmakers. The Guadalupe-Nipomo Dunes, for example, were used in the 2007 Pirates of the Caribbean installment

Expert Source: John H. Niven, Baileyana Brand Ambassador. John H. Niven, grandson of the late Baileyana founders, has lived and breathed Edna Valley wines for the last 20 years.

The Modern Wine Rack

The Modern Wine Rack

We’ve assembled our criteria for each coveted spot in a six-bottle wine rack. So here’s our take on “the modern wine rack.”

Sparkling Wines Shared at Other Iconic Celebrations
Save a space for some bubbly, because there will always be something to celebrate – even during Shelter in Place.

Hospitality Wine
Another space in this rack needs to be home to your ‘house wine’. You never know when you might be having someone to dinner, or even when that next virtual happy hour is.

It’s Always Rosé Season
No longer a fleeting style only seen and enjoyed during a few months of the year, rosé wine should now command a permanent space in your collection. We recommend an easy-going and approachable rosé.

Put Your Money Where Your Values Are
What really resonates with you about a wine is its story, not just its age ability. When looking at what to buy, we recommend stocking up on wines that are giving back to their communities or are produced in a way that aligns with your own values. There are also ways to support the #BLM movement by stocking up on wines from black owned wineries or winemakers.

Travel Through the Power of Your Glass
Everyone needs an escape now and then and if we can’t do it physically, do it through a wine glass. Stock up on wines from a place you’ve been to and truly love, or even some place you haven’t been, but have always wanted to explore.

Whatever Wine You Are Curious to Learn More About
There’s always something new to learn about wine, but you can also always go more in depth with the familiar. So, keep a slot in your wine rack dedicated to wines that represent something you want to learn more about.

Let us know if you need help finding a wine in any of these categories. Our clients have an array of wine that is sure to hit the spot! Contact monty@bensonmarketing.com to connect with wines to fill your rack.

panoramic view of Santa Lucia Highlands

5 Things to Know About the Santa Lucia Highlands

The Santa Lucia Highlands flies under the radar for many wine lovers, but Pinot Noir and Chardonnay enthusiasts know to look to this region for remarkably consistent wines. Here are five more facts to get you oriented to Santa Lucia Highlands (SLH) AVA.

  • Cool Climate Varieties Dominate: The SLH AVA is comprised of 6,400 planted acres, with a majority being Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. It is worth noting that the appellation stretches roughly 18-miles long, two miles wide, and 22,000 total acres, much of it unplantable mountainside.
  • The Pioneers: In 1973, the first commercial plantings began with early pioneers, such as Hahn Family Wines founder, Nicky Hahn, established the first quality, modern-era vineyards. In 1991, compelled by the application submitted by pioneers like, Mr. Hahn, the SLH was officially recognized as an American Viticulture Area.
  • Cool+Dry+Wind = Loooong Growing Season: It’s not atypical for a Santa Lucia Highland growing season to stretch from February through November.
  • More about that Wind: A defining feature of the region, strong daily 5-25 mph winds off Monterey Bay are key factor in long “hang time” and phenolic ripeness – winds diminish photosynthesis early in the day, extending the growing season.
  • Location, location, location: Located in Monterey County adjacent to the famed Salinas Valley, the eastern facing vineyards of the SLH stretch between 50’ and 1,650’ above sea level.

Expert Source: Paul Clifton, Director of Winemaking for Hahn Family Wines, has spent a career understanding the wind, sun and soils of the Santa Lucia Highlands.  If you’re looking for more information regarding the SLH or about Hahn Family Wines for any upcoming features please contact Alex Parker at parker@bensonmarketing.com to schedule an interview.

Paul Clifton beside wine barrels
Paul Clifton, Director of Winemaking for Hahn Family Wines

5 Fun Facts about Wine Direct Shipping

Here are five fun facts about winery DTC shipments, and some resources for stories on wine direct shipping.

Wineries Everywhere!

Over the past three decades, the number of U.S. wineries has increased five fold to more than 10,000. There’s one in every U.S. state!

What drives the DTC Issue?

Consumer choice. America’s wineries produce more than 100,000 new labels each vintage, more than any wholesaler or retailer could stock. It’s all about consumer choice, not, as many believe, the rise of e-commerce although that has certainly contributed.

Why do so few states allow for retailer DTC Shipments?

Over the years, wineries cooperated and supported a common “model” direct shipment bill. Additionally, many powerful local retailers oppose DTC shipping. Read our blog post

What is a “Capacity Cap?

Some states have implemented arbitrary rules banning shipments from wine companies producing, in aggregate, more than 250k gallons, about 106k cases, each vintage. This reduces consumer choice since more than 90% of U.S. total wine production is from wineries and companies producing in excess of the capacity cap. As of September 2020, two states continue the ban (NJ, OH), while others have repealed them (MA, OH).

How Many Legal States are There?

Free the Grapes! has worked with industry lobbyists, regional associations, and the Coalition for Free Trade’s legal team to streamline onerous regulations and to increase the number of legal states from 17 to 45 as of September 2020. Kentucky is expected to be number 46 by year end. (CFT “retired” in 2014 after achieving its goals. And that’s a fun fact: how many wine industry associations have shut down upon success?).

What Does Free the Grapes! Do, Anyway?

Free the Grapes! is a client of Benson Marketing Group, hired by the industry way back in 1998 to run this campaign. The coalition advocates for augmenting, not replacing, the three-tier system with limited, regulated direct-to-consumer shipments.

Free the Grapes! focuses on two strategies:

First, the coalition engages consumers to actively advocate for DTC bills that support wineries, consumer choice and meet the needs of state regulators and tax collectors. Second, Free the Grapes! keeps the issue alive in the media, especially in states with pending legislation.

Free the Grapes! was founded by five wine industry associations which together represent thousands of U.S wineries. A 501c(6) non-profit California trade association, Free the Grapes’ operations are funded exclusively by contributions from wineries and net income from the Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium, an annual conference.

Expert Sources and Resources

Virtual Wine Tasting Events for Press Interview

How to Host a Private, Virtual Wine Tasting for Press

How to do you plan and host a successful, private virtual wine tasting for press?

Sarah Jones Gillihan, vice president at Benson Marketing Group, was interviewed by journalist Stacy Briscoe for Wine Industry Network. Here are the key points from their video interview:

  1. Find the Intersections.  Regardless of the format of the virtual tasting, find the intersection where your winery’s story intersects with current trend, or, if it bucks trends.
  2. Webinars are Storytelling Opportunities. Facts like pH and row orientation don’t make good storytelling. Think about these virtual press encounters as opportunities to share your winery’s insights and expertise, not just facts and figures.
  3. A Webinar is not a Wine Tasting.  Too many press webinars simply try to translate an in-person wine tasting to the digital realm. But the experience itself is different, because the medium is different. Generally, if you might have a 60 minute in-person tastings for a journalist, do the virtual version in 30 minutes.
  4. Use Multimedia. Two dimensional virtual tastings benefit by the use of pre-recorded video, props, and other “show and tell” that convert a boring monologue into a more engaging encounter.
  5. Who’s Your Audience’s Audience? How does your webinar connect with the journalist or freelancer’s specific audience? So do your homework: research their last 5 articles, understand the demographics of their media outlet, and know the outlets slant.
  6. Share their Story. Make a point of sharing the writer’s story through the winery’s social channels; their ‘report card’ is often determined based on engagement.

Until then…we’ll focus on virtual press tastings, webinars.

How to Avoid Common Mistakes

Additionally, there are practical tips for ensuring the webinar is productive and professional.

Here are a few mistakes we often see and ways to correct them:

  • Weak Internet Connection: Wherever possible, use a plugged in Internet connection rather than WiFi during your session. We’ve seen live interviews from the vineyard on a cell phone, with poor cell coverage, in high wind – it doesn’t work.
  • Bad Audio: Use a wireless or wired microphone/headset for better audio quality. Simple earbuds are often better than relying on your laptop’s mic.
  • Poor Lighting; Find an indoor location with good lighting on your face that avoids shadows.
  • Unflattering Camera Position: Ideally, the camera should be positioned slightly above your head, pointing down to your face, not the opposite.
  • Reverse Video: If you hold up a bottle to show a pretty label, make sure you know if the image is reversed for the viewer.

At Benson, we believe virtual press tastings are here to stay. Today’s wine writer is likely a time-strapped freelancer who needs to pitch her editors and get assignments. She doesn’t have time for luxurious lunches and multi-day press trips unless there’s an assignment.

Bottom line: it’s about respect. Respect for journalists’ time, respect for the demands of their editors, and respect for their audience. If you take an empathetic approach and do your research, you are more likely to help deliver successful, productive virtual wine tasting events for you and the media. That leads to coverage.

Resources and Related Stories

WIN Interview: Stacy Briscoe, Sarah Jones Gillihan
Interview Series: Jeff Ngo, SVP Marketing, WX Brands.