One Winery's Unique Branding Approach: A 'Hands on Harvest'.
By Margie Tosch
Sunday, 26th September 2010
This week, I had the unique opportunity to attend Gloria Ferrer's 'Hands on Harvest,' a day and a half event held at the winery (and in the vineyards) of this Sonoma producer of amazing sparkling wines and Pinot Noir.

It was a fun and educational experience!

The purpose of Hands on Harvest was to gather a select group of media and trade (including restaurateurs, retailers and the Gloria Ferrer Marketing, PR & Sales team) to celebrate harvest, and in doing so become immersed in all things Gloria Ferrer. From tasting the diversity of their sparkling and still wines, to understanding the joys and challenges of harvest, and how the Carneros terroir translates into distinctive, elegant and balanced wines that are created to pair perfectly with food, they really created a unique and special experience. I'd say they hit their mark exactly!

We began late afternoon on Monday with a Royal Cuvée Vertical Tasting, 1990 - 1997, lead by Bob Iantosca, VP Winemaking Director. As we began to sip, Eva Bertran, Executive VP, asked our group to take turns talking about their thoughts on the wines we were tasting, and the similarities and differences between the years. It was quickly evident that each of us had a distinct and unique palate! Although each person had their own preferences, we all thoroughly enjoyed the rare opportunity to taste seven older vintages side by side.

Next was a lovely dinner, prepared by Big Jim's BBQ, all paired beautifully with Gloria Ferrer wines, of course. Lest we get carried away with too much of a good thing, we were reminded that we were expected in the vineyard at 6:45 AM for some hands on grape harvesting.

Tuesday dawned cold and foggy in Carneros, but everyone was in good spirits as we learned more about how grapes are grown for wine, and how to best harvest the grapes (while not losing a finger in the process). In my comedy of errors (which had me driving most of the way to the winery and back three times before finally arriving) I got a slightly late start, but still managed to get my picking done, with more than a few of the berries making it into my mouth - ripe Pinot Noir grapes are delicious!

Although it was quite cool out, we warmed right up when we saw a beautiful site - tables and tent set up in the vineyard with a gorgeous spread of delectables, and Bob Iantosca cooking us a real treat, Carne Seca Breakfast Burritos, and Elvia Peña from the production team made the incredible breakfast cake. Now fueled, we headed off with Mike Crumbly, VP Vineyard Operations for a sustainability tour and to learn the fascinating history of the land, which included viewing an Indian Midden and Miwok burial site on the property, as well as see some of the rare artifacts that have been found.

As we walked back through the vineyards we saw another beautiful site - a table laden with cheese, Hog Island Oysters and bubbly of course! After a brief respite, we moved on for a grafting demonstration by talented Vineyard Foreman Alberto Robledo. We also learned the differences in the soil and how much it varies, even within the same vineyard, and how all these things contribute to the differences in the vines and the grapes.

We had a delectable lunch, prepared by Elaine Bell Catering and paired beautifully with Gloria Ferrer sparking and Pinot Noir. The Roasted Duckling with Amber Oaks Farm Mushrooms, Dried Plum, Pinot Noir & Chestnut Sauce was out of this world paired with the Gloria Ferrer 2006 Carneros & 2005 Rust Ridge Pinot Noirs. And I have to try to make the Balsamic Roasted Black Grapes that accompanied the salad myself, they were devine.

The afternoon was spent watching the morning's grapes go through the destemmer and get lightly crushed and pumped into the tank where the process of converting juice to wine will begin. We got the rare chance to taste wine-in-the-making as Bob Iantosca poured wine at various stages of development right from the tank.

We ended what had been a fun, interesting and education day and a half with an industry round table led by David Brown, VP Business Development. It was interesting to hear the opinions of industry professionals on what is happening in the industry, especially as it pertains to the consumer.

Why did Gloria Ferrer treat the dozen or so of us to this amazing adventure?

The expectation that the Gloria Ferrer team had was to educate their front line (media, trade, sales) to be able to speak intelligently about what differentiates Gloria Ferrer from other sparkling and still wines, specifically as it pertains to their Carneros terroir.

Marie Gewirtz, of Marie Gewirtz Public Relations (who works with Gloria Ferrer) said that they "greatly met their expectations," specifically as was evidenced by the industry round table discussion that concluded the seminar. Of course, she was sure to point out that an event such as this is only as successful as the people participating. "The group was engaged, enthusiastic and most gracious in their desire to learn as much as possible about Gloria Ferrer." "Yes," Marie stated, "We will indeed host another Hands on Harvest, and it is my hope that we shall not wait until next harvest to gather industry VIPS at our Gloria Ferrer table to break bread and learn about the extraordinary wine growing practices that define this family owned winery."

Margie ~ margie@otlconsulting.com 


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