by Eve Bushman
Phifer Pavitt Estate
On a recent trip to Napa, and staying at the guesthouse of winery owner Suzanne Phifer Pavitt along the Silverado Trail, I wondered how a small 300 case producing winery that stays away from retailers, restaurants and tasting rooms markets their 95 point scored wine. Through the web.
I met Suzanne Phifer Pavitt at a well-attended wine tasting event hosted by a website earlier this year in the Hollywood Hills. Her only label, literally hand attached as it's almost a 360 degree circumference, Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon "Date Night", was being poured.
Suzanne enraptured me with stories from the winemaking business in Napa that night and extended an invitation for me to stay at her guesthouse, anytime. That time was last weekend. And I got a few more questions about how a business markets itself on the Internet answered.
"Our product is moved by bloggers talking about our wine and driving their readers to our website. By far, those bloggers bring in the most customers. I have had to expand the website to include more information on ourselves, our wines, our press and our mailing list to make them happier. I wish I had the time to devote to it more."
"We really are trying to stay out of the retail market because we are small and just on our second vintage. March of 2009 we will release our 2006 Bordeaux styled Napa Cabernet. As we reserve some of our production for charity we will only have 275 cases available."
"We are also trying to keep our price low, less than $100 for a Napa Cab that is handpicked and hand-labeled, is almost half the going rate giving you an excellent value."
Suzanne also takes pride in being a part of a growing group of women involved in the wine industry. "I meet with local women for lunch once a month; no one brings their own wine but something from their cellar. We share a lot of information, as farmers tend to do, so that it's a learning, as well as a fun, experience. I've also had the opportunity to meet women in the European wine industry and have enjoyed the same give and take relationship."
"Women used to choose a wine like they would a race horse: by how they liked the name. They also have to choose from the grocery shelves during their weekly marketing. We are changing all of that" (And I would bet the Internet is the device.)
One of the websites Phifer Pavitt wines has been highlighted on is geared for women wine drinkers while other sites are more general. And of course, there are some print articles, but the Internet articles outweigh them. Suzanne's home office is centered by her computer.
"Coming from Georgia, going to college, working…it all changed when my husband Shane and I made a five year plan, on a 'date night', to raise our children in a farm atmosphere. We bought 24 acres and had a blank canvass."
When I queried Suzanne on the number of staff she has I was surprised at her answer. "It's just me basically," She began. "From ordering the quieter equipment to keep my neighbors happy, to filling online orders, designing labels, hosting people in my home, updating our website; I'm either on the phone or on the computer."
"And with a 'rock-star' winemaker we keep our hands off his perfected style. He doesn't toot his own horn but I have to say he uses the best organically farmed fruit, wild yeast fermentation, mother nature…lady bugs and all."
"And now, as you see, we're creating a hybrid in winemaking here."
So now it brings me back to the web and this article you prefer to read from a backlight square inches from your face. There are new ways to market your business and being a hybrid is necessary to compete. It's not the future; it's now, are you going to let every other business owner, be it centered on wine or not, grab it?