By Nike Kern, Biz Reporter
More than 100 members of the Willamette Valley Wineries Association hosted its annual Wine Country Thanksgiving this past weekend across the region where revenues and participation were mixed depending on the winery due in part to the economic crunch along with other events throughout the state competing for dollars.
“Oregon’s patriotism was running high,” says Dan Nechemias, direct sales manager at Argyle Winery in Dundee. “We are very pleased with the turn out as it was higher than last year for us.” Argyle believes that its customers from both Oregon and Washington realize that this is the right time of the year to purchase wines that may not be available year round. Participants could be seen traveling in limousines and tour buses to responsibly enjoy themselves throughout the weekend.
Holding two big events each year the Association boasts festivities that include tastings of new wine releases and older vintages, barrel tastings, specialty food and gifts plus the sales of limited quantity wines. The winemakers themselves are also available and are seen mingling with guests and fielding questions about the labels, the industry and more.
At Amity Vineyards, Inc. revenues were down compared to last year. “We were down about 15 percent and believe it was a direct correlation with the ‘Civil War’ football game played on Saturday,” explains Jo Powell, tasting room manager at Amity. “We would hope that the football industry would reconsider playing that game during our industry’s biggest weekend in the future.” Although Amity does report that its wine and branded chocolate package sales were up from last year.
Another Dundee winery, Duck Pond Cellars offered a $15 cover charge that included live music from the popular Portland band, Soul Vaccination, five wine tastings and a take-home glass. “We had about half of what we had last year both in revenues and participation,” says Melissa Columbus of Duck Pond Cellars. “Off hand, we had a great band and if they couldn’t pull them in nobody could.” Duck Pond developed its weekend around a middle ground strategy considering the current national economic situation. Not wanting to offer its music and tasting at too low an entrance fee, or too high a one, they settled in the middle price range.
Hard numbers are not available on the weekend revenue quite yet. The vineyards are still looking for what’s left of the holiday season to make up for what might have been missed during the annual sales weekend. Most vineyards offer both wine and gift items and are eager to ship if necessary.
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