Tag Archives: narrative

Celebrating with story at CedarCreek

The maturation of the Okanagan wine industry has given us more than fantastic wines; it has also given us delightful stories of achievement that, in the right hands, can become a powerful element of winery branding.

CedarCreek Estate Winery, near Kelowna, is a case in point. Now commemorating 25 years in business, they have produced an online video called “25 Defining Moments“. Narrated by owner Gordon Fitzpatrick, the video offers a light-hearted glance back at the trials, tribulations and successes of this well-respected winery.

With production now exceeding 40,000 cases per year, CedarCreek is no small operation by Okanagan standards, yet the self-effacing tone of the video humanizes the winery like nothing else. It’s great fun.

Lesson learned: use a personal milestone to tell your unique story with honesty and pride and you’ll capture the hearts (and the cash) of wine drinkers everywhere. 

Tinhorn Creek: branding with honesty

We’ve talked previously about the value of effective storytelling in defining and conveying a winery brand. Today I want to point you in the direction of an informative print media kit from Oliver-based Tinhorn Creek winery. You can find it here.

Tinhorn Creek’s media kit, which is a downloadable pdf file, is 33 pages of single-spaced text with a few illustrations thrown in. It covers a great deal of territory: local history, the wines, the visitor experience, sustainable viticulture practices, staff biographies, environmental management, a development timeline, community giving, and much more.

Those who hold to conventional wisdom about media kits would be appalled. Too long. Too much detail. Too few illustrations. Extraneous facts. Questionable inclusions.

I beg to differ. If you take the time to read the material, you come away with a clear sense of where this particular winery came from, how it grew, and where it’s going. The key word here is “particular”. This abundance of information defines Tinhorn as one-of-a-kind, which is precisely what every winery needs. Let’s face it, all regional wineries use the same handful of varietals to produce a single product (wine) for a highly competitive market. It is not enough to make a good Merlot; everyone makes a Merlot. You need to make a Merlot with a story.

That’s what this kit does so well, so convincingly. It creates a cohesive narrative that allows the reader to grasp the terroir and the science behind the Merlot, feel the heat as the vineyard workers re-vegetate the West Bench with threatened native species, hear the live music in the grassy amphitheatre at mid-summer, sympathize with winemaker Sandra Oldfield as she struggles to make more time for her young daughter while juggling a million winery duties and, finally, appreciate the people, the place, the skill and the caring that goes into every bottle of Sandra’s award-winning Merlot. Once you know the story, no other Merlot tastes the same.

Is the media kit perfect? No. It is, at times, repetitive, unbalanced, and poorly structured. It often reads as though it were assembled over several months or perhaps years. It has its share of typos and grammatical goofiness.

Yet none of that matters. Why? Because the kit is sincere. It mines the past to reveal the story of how Sandra and Kenn Oldfield learned the business of winemaking and became the success they are today. You can feel the pride in this ungainly narrative, yet it never sounds self-serving. Like all good stories, it draws you in and makes you want to read to the last page. And when you do, it all makes sense.

Tolstoy from Tinhorn, if you will.

Advice from a branding expert

Langley-based branding strategist Teri Conrad recently did some tasting on the Naramata Bench and was struck by the effective manner in which local wineries differentiate themselves in the marketplace. Here’s an excerpt from her blog post, focusing on the approach taken by Laughing Stock Vineyards:

They make it FUN and they show a LOT of personality!

Laughing Stock is a GREAT example! How’s this for marketing?: When they bottle a vintage they pull the ticker tape off right off the Wall Street Stock market and alert the companies who are mentioned and ask them how many cases they want! BRILLIANT!

Founders both came from the financial industry and so clearly so their tag lines like “How liquid are Your assets?” and “How is your portfolio performing? Ours is drinking beautifully.” show off their personality in spades!

Her implicit point is that these wineries make sure every piece of written content works to build an effective narrative that is unique to that particular winery. The point is well taken, and any winery can achieve similar success by focusing on their special story.

Lesson learned: Join a good story to well-designed branding and, as experience shows, the result is almost always increased market share.