Sauvignon Blanc: Through the Eyes of Winemakers

Sauvignon Blanc is having a moment.

In July 2020, Nielsen reported it was the fastest growing wine type with a 38 percent increase in sales. Even before the pandemic, volume was up 8.9 percent in 2019. This can be attributed to a variety of factors like how the grape grows very well in multiple regions, its accessibility around the world, and its range of price points for buyers.

Benson’s press webinar was held April 22, 2021. To review materials, view this Dropbox link.  Or, you can view the webinar on YouTube here.

Take it from these winemakers who have mastered the grape’s potential and consistently create standout bottles.

Anthony Beckman, Balletto Vineyards 

Working with 850 acres of estate vineyards at Balletto Vineyards, Anthony Beckman is able to create unique wines specific to the Russian River Valley area. Working there since 2007, he has contributed to much of the vineyard’s success and continues to do so with his approach to winemaking. His philosophy is to let the vineyards authentically speak through the wines to make the statement, “this wine can only be grown and made here.”  

Let the vineyard speak to you through this Sauvignon Blanc: Sauvignon Blanc, Sonoma County, California – SRP $20 

Elunda Basson

Elunda Basson, Steenberg Vineyards 

An accomplished winemaker and respected specialist in South Africa with more than 20 years of experience, Elunda Basson took her talent to Steenberg Vineyards as Cellarmaster in 2019. The vineyard produces some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the country due to its location in the Constantia area near the ocean and its storied winemaking history dating back to 1682. Under Elunda’s expertise, the wines exhibit freshness, elegance, and finesse.  

Enjoy this unique twist on Sauvignon Blanc: Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc, Constantia, South Africa – SRP $18 

Juan Jo VerdinaJuan Jo Verdina, Hahn Family Wines 

Joining Hahn Family Wines in 2002 as part of the cellar team and working toward becoming Winemaker, Juan Jo Verdina knows the wine production of the estate inside and out. He heads the Hahn and Boneshaker brands with Hahn’s portfolio including six varietals and Boneshaker’s focusing on a robust Lodi Zinfandel from 40-year-old vines. The Hahn Winery Selection Sauvignon Blanc is sourced from a vineyard in Monterey County that experienced a mild vintage resulting in a naturally balanced acidity.  

Taste the Hahn experience with its Sauvignon Banc: Hahn Winery Selection Sauvignon Blanc, Monterey, California​​ – SRP $32 

Rob Takigawa, Tangent Wines  

With 20 years of experience working with Tangent, Rob Takigawa worked his way up starting as a Tank Room Manager, then Assistant winemaker, Winemaker and now, Director of Winemaking. He has grown further knowledge with each passing vintage, learning how to capture Edna Valley’s uniqueness to the rest of California’s growing regions. The Sauvignon Blanc is harvested at different levels to achieve the ideal finish and sourced from a vineyard with a Sustainability in Practice Vineyard Certification. 

Try a uniquely Edna Valley Sauvignon Blanc: Tangent Sauvignon Blanc, Edna Valley, California​ – SRP $17 

 

Linda Trotta, North Coast Winemaker, WX Brands

With 30+ years in the industry, Linda has worked harvests around the world including Italy, South Africa and Chile. One thing she is most proud of in her career is that in her leadership role(s), she mentored and developed talent who have gone on to make their own marks of excellence in winemaking and viticulture. Her Bread & Butter Sauvignon Blanc shines with bright aromas of lemon zest and a hint of tropical fruit. The Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc is made from sustainably grown Sauvignon Musque Clone, known for its intensity and array of aromas and notes associated with expressive and fine Sauvignon Blanc.

Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2019, SRP $18 Wine.com

Bread & Butter Sauvignon Blanc 2019, SRP $16.99 Online shop

 

Celebrating the Women Behind Wine

With each glass selected, we have the opportunity to champion women and the other underrepresented winemakers in our communities.

To celebrate Women’s History Month,  today we spotlighted four spirited women from coveted regions across the U.S. as well as South Africa in a virtual tasting for press. (For some additional background, these stories in Uproxx and News-Press feature women in wine including our clients described below.)

Sharon Fenchak

Sharon Fenchak, Winemaker for Biltmore Wines

Sharon joined the team at Biltmore Wines (you’ll recognize that name from the Biltmore® Estate in Asheville, NC) in 1999 and is Head Winemaker as of 2018. She oversees wine production not only from Biltmore’s estate vineyards in North Carolina, but also with fruit sourced from key growers and partners in prime wine appellations on the west coast as well. In this way, she is crafting a storied wine portfolio for Biltmore to continue the legacy of hospitality set by George Vanderbilt himself. Share in some of this storied Vanderbilt hospitality by enjoying a Biltmore wine with your friends and family! Two wines to try:

Biltmore Reserve Chardonnay North Carolina 2018, SRP $24

Biltmore Estate American Cabernet Sauvignon 2019, SRP $22

Megan McCullough

Megan McCollough, Winemaker for Smith & Hook, of Hahn Family Wines

Megan McCollough, Winemaker for Smith & Hook, leads Hahn Family Wines’ Central Coast red wines that pay homage to the Hahn family’s first Monterey County properties, known today as the Smith Vineyard and Hook Vineyard. With nearly a decade of winemaking experiences under her belt, McCollough is setting an example for other young women winemakers in California. Try some of her latest reds:

Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, SRP $25

Smith & Hook Proprietary Red Blend 2017, SRP $25

Smith & Hook Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2018, SRP $45

 

Linda Trotta, North Coast Winemaker, WX Brands

Linda Trotta –  With 30+ years in the industry, Linda has worked harvests around the world including Italy, South Africa and Chile. One thing she is most proud of in her career is that in her leadership role(s), she mentored and developed talent who have gone on to make their own marks of excellence in winemaking and viticulture.  In her role with WX Brands, she she has received numerous accolades for her wines, including a Wine Spectator Top 100 selection for her 2018 Reata Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. We recommend:

Reata Sonoma County Chardonnay and Three County Pinot Noir ($25)

Silver Spur Lake County Sauvignon Blanc 2019 ($18)

Silver Spur Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 ($28)

Elunda Basson

Elunda Basson, Winemaker for Steenberg Vineyards

Steenberg Cellarmaster Elunda Basson is an accomplished winemaker and respected specialist of her craft. She joined South Africa’s Steenberg Vineyards in June 2019 at the pinnacle of an illustrious career spanning more than two decades making still and sparkling wines for leaders in the industry. Located in South Africa’s storied Constantia wine region, Steenberg Vineyards can also boast of being the oldest registered farm in the country, dating to 1682. Today the property thrives under Elunda’s expertise, producing some of the best Sauvignon Blanc wines in the country. Steenberg’s distinctive terroir results in wines exhibiting freshness, elegance and finesse. Alongside Sauvignon Blanc, the vineyards are home to Bordeaux varietals and one of the few investments in Nebbiolo in the Cape area.

Check out this truly unique take on Sauvignon Blanc — traditional method sparkling twist on everyone’s favorite varietal!

NV Sparkling Sauvignon Blanc ($18)

Contact Alex Parker, parker@bensonmarketing.com, to connect with these women and their wines.

Among many other outlets, FirstLeaf (not a client of Benson) featured a blog post in March on women re-imagining the industry.

Balletto Vineyards

Preparing for H2: 4 Marketing Projects to Tackle Now

What can strategic marketers do in the next few months to plan for a successful second half of 2021?

In this post we make some assumptions based on economic data and recommend specific actions for preparing for a successful H2.

Let’s Start with Assumptions

It’s March 16, 2021. As we write this post, we can make some relatively safe assumptions drawing on current economic data and consumer behavior:

  • Massive Economic Stimulus: Stuck at home, America’s retail sales jumped 7.4% in January versus January 2020, even before the latest stimulus checks. America has $1.6 trillion in excess savings during the past year, according to The Economist¹. And unemployment is forecast to drop below 5% by year end. With relatively low inflation, low interest rates, high asset values and pent-up demand, there’ll be a lot of cash sloshing around the U.S. later this year. Who doesn’t want to go on vacation and visit a favorite restaurant?
  • Consumers Reward Convenience: We all know delivery and DTC is the new norm. Winery DTC shipments jumped 27% in 2020². Wine.com’s “StewardShip” program is booming. And investor money is following the trend: Uber is absorbing Drizly and Vivino got a large cash infusion Not to be left out, many states are considering beer and spirits DTC legislation.
  • Competition from Everywhere: Competition for consumer attention is coming from more places, with more brands, with more backing. Robust retailer DTC sales, new delivery channels, third party providers, new e-platforms, suppliers entering new categories, the e-premise, etc.

Approaching Uncertainty

Will COVID vaccinations go faster or slower? Will new COVID variants affect the return to “normal”? Will we enter a period like the “roaring 20s”?

While we can’t predict the future with much precision, it appears likely that consumers will have the willingness and means to spend more this fall.

Maybe more importantly, does anyone believe we will return to the “before times”? Can wineries rely on winery visits to drive all club memberships, or rely on 90-point scores and a $100 Facebook monthly budget to define their marketing mix?

Of course, we need to take our brands to consumers, not wait for them to find us.

We assembled a few practical actions to take now. The list isn’t meant to be exhaustive, or to represent a long-term strategy. It’s meant to be a useful checklist for a solid but agile H2 plan.

  1. Refine Brand Identity: Lean into your values – there’s a market for that. Brand marketing is not about a SKU, a price, and a rating. Plan a 30-day brand identity blitz to document what’s important to your company. Great marketing is about narrowing your message, not comprehensiveness.
  2. Invest in 3-tier Digital: Advertising on Facebook, Google, and other platforms isn’t just for DTC sales. Build brand awareness and support your retailer partners with legal, geo-targeted Facebook/Instagram advertising (mention no less than 3 retailers in a social post to avoid tied-house issues). It’s not expensive –start testing what works at a minimal spend.
  3. Seek out Partnerships: Work with brands or well-vetted influencers in other product/service/interest categories that attract your target demographic: home entertaining, home decor, gardening, skiing, tennis. Test interests that correlate postively with your brand identity, and create bridges to new prospects.
  4. Think 360-degrees: Include your outside agencies and subcontractors in brainstorming so you can integrate and leverage their marketing ideas. Outcome? Better results for the same money.
Balletto Vineyards

Balletto Vineyards

Let’s Calendar That

April – May

  • Refine Your Brand Identity: Hold 2-3 brainstorming meetings with your team to do a quick-and-dirty SWOT analysis, identify key brand benefits and your unique selling proposition. A few standard exercises will better direct marketing and sales.
  • Research Partnerships: Identify and approach a few other brands or influencers for potential holiday partnerships, or for spring and summer 2022.
  • Set Your H2 PR Plan: Define what story angles are pitched to press, when, and how. Consider virtual tastings and events.
  • Engage your Partners: Include any agencies or subcontractors in your brainstorming.
  • Digital Advertising: Identify key holiday promotions and start developing landing pages and creative.
  • Influencer Marketing: Identify a diverse group of influencers and match them with key brand messages; schedule giveaways and IG takeovers through the end of the year.

June – July

  • Test Facebook Advertising: Setup a rapid-fire test of different creative, formats, audiences, etc. Owners and senior managers: dig into the numbers. You don’t have to be a social media expert to learn what’s working and not.
  • Retail Sales: Test some geo-targeted, digital ads to drive impressions and brand awareness in your key retail markets as a precursor to a larger Q4 spend.
  • Campaign Themes: Finalize one promotional theme per month for SOND, if you haven’t already. For example, build a campaign of social posts, ads and PR to support a new wine introduction in September.
  • Instagram: Schedule IG Lives with key team members (winemakers, viticulturalists) to share harvest season updates.

August

  • Finalize SOND Action Plans: Finalize metrics and goals, campaign responsibilities and accountability. Create an internal campaign theme to rally the whole team behind the effort.
  • Finalize Marketing Creative: Finalize digital, social media and PR creative assets such as copy, images, video, infographics, etc.
  • Finalize Digital Ad Spend: Plan to spend more during in November through December.
  • Influencer Marketing: Schedule holiday giveaways with key influencers and schedule practice sessions.
  • Instagram: Stay flexible with IG Live as harvest schedules shift.

Let's Calendar That

September – December

  • Execute starting in September. Don’t wait.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Be flexible. Don’t be afraid to adjust digital ads, PR story pitches and other actions if the actuals don’t match up well with goals.
  • Watch Ad Costs: Digital platforms will likely get pricey as we get into late October and early November as larger advertisers increase auction costs. Consider shifting ad objectives to not overpay.
  • UGC Content: Watch for key pieces of user generated content and share via IG Stories to connect to your audience.
  • PR Blitz: Anticipate an uptick in articles recommending what to buy for holidays and gifting, Ensure you are on the radar of press and can provide them with links to your e-commerce cart  for readers/consumers to use. Review online content and e-store functionality to remove any barriers or old information.

Sources and Resources:
1. The Economist, March 13-19, 2021, Leaders section.
2. SOVOS ShipCompliant/Wines Vines Analytics 2021 Direct Shipping Report.

Positive on Paso: Why you should be looking at Paso Robles for Cabernet Sauvignon

Positive on Paso: Why You Should Look to Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon

Cab is still ‘king’ in the U.S. wine market, but 2020 has shown it’s time to start looking at the areas these wines come from differently. According to Sovos ShipCompliant data, Cabernet is still the most ordered varietal, but the price per bottle is dropping.

And why is that?

COVID-19 lockdowns drove many people to buy online, and many of those buyers were in the Gen X and Millennial generations, an important demographic for the present and future of the wine industry. Looking for good value in the bottle, they migrated towards Cabernet’s NOT from pricey areas like Napa Valley.

Enter Paso Robles.

This region has long been known as a region that delivers all of the fruit and structure wanted in a Cab for more approachable prices. These are wines to enjoyed with family and friends at any time and not stored away for special occasions. But don’t take our word for it. Explore these Paso Robles clients, their winemakers and wines with our webinar, “BensonLive Presents: Positive on Paso Cab,” an interview with four winemakers taped June 24, 2021, located here on our YouTube channel.

Clockwise from top left: Kip Lorenzetti, Anthony Riboli, Roy Takigawa, Megan McCollough

Megan McCollough, Smith & Hook, Hahn Family Wines
Megan McCollough, Smith & Hook Winemaker, leads Hahn Family Wines’ Central Coast red wines that pay homage to the Hahn family’s first Monterey County properties. With nearly a decade of winemaking experiences under her belt, McCollough is setting an example for other young winemakers in California. Try one of her latest wines from Paso Robles: Smith & Hook Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $45

Kip Lorenzetti, Chronic Cellars
Kip Lorenzetti’s winemaking career has taken him around the world, but he has called Paso Robles home for more than five years. Prior to Chronic Cellars, he was the winemaker at Wild Horse Winery & Vineyard, a pioneer in the Paso Robles area. It is the mission of Chronic Cellars to bring the nuances of the 11 different sub-AVAs in Paso into its wines. Good wine is in the winery’s bones.
Check out something noble with Chronic Cellars Sir Real Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $15

Rob Takigawa, True Myth
Rob has been making wine in SLO County for over 20 years. Each vintage has furthered his knowledge of growing and making excellent wine in Paso Robles. A native of the Central Coast, Rob is a graduate of Cal Poly with a Soil Science Degree. After first understanding the science side of wine, Rob was inspired to get his hands dirty and ventured into the in winemaking side in 1997. From there he has never looked back. Taste his experience in Paso through the latest vintage of True Myth Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $24

Anthony Riboli, Highlands 41, Riboli Estates Group
Fourth generation family winemaker Anthony Riboli received his M.S. in Viticulture from the University of California, Davis. Since apprenticing under Michael Weis at Groth in Napa Valley, he has lead winemaking and grape growing for the California portfolio at Riboli Family Wines. Anthony’s foremost goal has been a meticulous focus in the vineyards as well as winemaking at Riboli Family’s state-of-the-art facility in Paso Robles. Start your Paso Robles adventure here: Highlands 41 Cabernet Sauvignon, SRP $15

Contact Thea Schlendorf at schlendorf@bensonmarketing.com to connect with these winemakers and their wines.