Practical Winery
65 Mitchell Blvd, San Rafael, CA 94903
phone: 415-453-9700 ext 102
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Winter 2011
As we were about to launch I heard about the Yellow Tail brand. At the last moment, I positioned against them, putting boxing gloves on Rex-Goliath and creating shelf-talkers with Rex punching out a Wallaby. Rex was and is uniquely American — Red, White, and Blue. His personality is “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.” No matter what the wine pundits and writers say, California can make great wines for $10 per bottle. More on that later.
After the sale of the Rex Goliath brand to Constellation Wines in 2005, I launched the new Cycles Gladiator brand, with another beautiful whimsical label. It was another instant hit. Clearly it seemed to me that this Millennial thing had “legs.”
Bill Leigon, President,
Hahn Family Wines, Soledad, CA
oday, wineries and growers need to constantly re-invent themselves to adapt to economic and demographic changes that have caused a fundamental shift in the wine industry. We have seen changes in our target consumers, their motivation to buy our wine, and their ability to afford to buy it.
Here, I am going to share my thoughts on current and future market trends, what grapes to plant and what not to plant; and how to use social media, the Internet, and smartphones to help build a brand that can succeed.
Marketing to Millennials
With the success of the Rex-Goliath wine brand that we created at Hahn Family Wines in 2002, I stumbled upon the power of the Millennials. I became further entranced with this demographic when I had our marketing department focus on social media. While other wineries often get the credit, I actually appointed the first social media director in the
This text was adapted from the Keynote Address at the 2010 Wine Industry Financial Symposium (Napa, CA), September 21, 2010.
wine business. I did not know what it was called then, so I called it Director of New Media Marketing.
By 2005 I, like many of my colleagues, was convinced that the Millennials were now driving the train. The reports seemed to indicate that their buying habits mirrored those of the Boomers. They had spendable income (from somewhere), they regularly bought $10 bottles of wine; spent $25+ on special occasions, were interested in new and innovative ideas, liked innovative labeling and packaging, and, significantly, seemed to view wine the way my generation viewed cars — imported is better.
Rex-Goliath was perfect — the absolute right product at the right time. I knew I had a hit because all of my distributors universally hated it. The name was exotic-sounding, Latin based so we Texans could pronounce it, and the label sported a giant rooster. Once you saw it; you never forgot it. I created the package to look vaguely European so it was not readily apparent it was a California wine.
Texas-born Bill Leigon has 37 years experience in the wine industry. He was co-owner of a wine retail store in New York City, National Sales Manager for J. Lohr Winery (San Jose, CA), a co-founder of The Wine Trust and of Ariel Vineyards, and Vice President of Sales & Marketing for Associated Vintage Group. He is now president of Hahn Family Wines, Inc. (Soledad, CA), owned by Nicky and Gaby Hahn and currently undergoing the generational transfer to their children, Philip and Caroline.
Hahn owns about 1,400 acres in Monterey County, including 650 acres planted in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Hahn sells about 140,000 cases/year and 180,000 cases/year
of Cycles Gladiator (California appellation). Estate wines include: Hahn Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Syrah, and Lucienne Doctor’s Vineyard and Lone Oak Vineyard Pinot Noir. Another 80,000 cases/ year includes Smith & Hook Cabernet Sauvignon (12,000 cases), Huntington Wine Cellars (40,000 cases), Copa Del Rey (Chile), Lucienne, and private label
Bill has a unique perspective as president of an organization that operates both as a grower and as a winery, typically selling about as many tons of grapes as they buy each year. He is happy to share that perspective with others in the industry.