Thank You TEXAS!


When Zephyr Conferences sat down in Virginia with our future #WMTC16 conference hosts, we knew this coming year would be fantastic.  Each step of the way to planning the 2016 Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference, our wonderful Texas hosts have been engaged and passionate about sharing the Texas Hill Country with wine industry professionals from across the country.  Through the entire conference, Fredericksburg, Texas has glowed with charm, friendly people and fantastically impressive wines.  #WMTC16 attendees have been given a glimpse into the Texas spirit and have had loads of fun experiencing Texas wines.  Thank you to our hosts and sponsors; Visit Fredericksburg, GO TEXAN and Texas Hill Country Wineries who have shown us such incredible Texas hospitality.

Texas Hill Country has been amazing and as we searched for a new location for 2017, WMTC is excited to head to Santa Rosa in 2017!  We will be hosting a unique format for WMTC17 just before the 2017 Wine Bloggers Conference.  For those looking for more content or to connect with dedicated wine writers, we hope you consider joining us for both events.  More details to some soon and please stay up to date by following the blog feed here.

See you in 2017 as #WBC17 already has a record attendance and we expect to sell out for both wine events.

Cheers to TEXAS and a great 2016 event and see you next year!

WMTC16 Workshop and Wine Expo Recap

A huge thank you to our #WMTC16 2016 sponsors!


Looking back on the pre-conference workshops and wine expo, the day was a huge success offering content for attendees who received in-depth information on social media and online advertising targeted for the wine industry as well as tasting room management, best practices for tour operators and a winery associations summit.  To see what sessions were offered during the workshops this year, read the descriptions and their associated blog posts here.

Following the workshops, the 2016 Wine Tourism Expo did not disappoint with a heavily attended wine party celebrating wines from across the country.  Wine was poured and presented to attendees from emerging wine regions and, of course, wines produced locally in the Texas Hill Country.  After networking and making some new friends, many attendees were whisked off the William Chris Vineyards for a private wine dinner and winery tour.

Today marks the first official day of #WMTC16 beginning at 9am with Bryan Daniel from the Economic Development and Tourism Division of the Texas Governor’s Office.  This morning, WMTC16 content will continue to focus on wine and tourism progression in Fredericksburg, Texas and the beautiful Texas Hill Country.  Attendees will have the opportunity to hear from principal players in the wine tourism development in the area and learn more about winery development and production in Texas.  Following an in-depth introduction to Texas wines will be a panel of wine writers discussing relationships with wineries, wine tour operators and destination tourism agencies working as influencers in the wine industry across the country.  Attendees are all invited to Woodrose Winery for a wine lunch excursion which will be a real treat.

As we continue into day 1, be sure follow along with the agenda for the day and stay tuned with all things #WMTC16 on Twitter!


Tasting Room Management with the Pros

tasting-room-managmenetOn Tuesday, November 8th the pre-conference workshops will kick off!  The 2015 workshops were very well received and this year the workshop sessions were designed to go even more in-depth based on feedback from last year’s attendees.
The morning workshop will focus solely on digital marketing including social media and online advertising for wineries and wine destinations.  The afternoon workshop will feature 3 choices for attendees:
  • Tasting Room Management – read below!
  • Best Practices for Tour Operators – see blog post here
  • Winery Association & Tourism Agency Workshop & Summit – see blog post here

We hope you will join us for both the morning and one of the afternoon sessions!

Tasting Room Management Workshop

This year’s tasting room management workshop is set up a bit differently.  Attendees will learn best practices for leveraging an ideal blend of technology and processes to convert first-time visitors into loyal customers and club members. A “tasting room management checklist” will be provided with five improvements that can be implemented the very next day. The workshop will be led by Sandra Hess, the founder of DTC Wine Workshops, which supports wineries of all sizes in the areas of e-commerce, CRM, DTC Strategic Planning, and Training Services. Assisting Sandra will be tasting room pros Jesse Barter, General Manager of 4.0 Cellars; Anthony Harvell, Director of Sales and Operations for William Chris Wines; and Sabrina Houser, owner of Dry Comal Creek Vineyards.
We got a chance to ask Sandra a few questions about what attendees can expect to take away from her workshop:
Can you paint us a picture of what a successful tasting room should look like?

A successful tasting room is filled with engaged customers, club members and first-time visitors enjoying a variety of tasting experiences. Consumer demand is shaping the way wineries throughout the nation are updating their tasting options. Millennials are showing a great interest in wine exploration and want more education and high-impact experiences when visiting wineries. Loyal club members and long-term customers expect to be treated like VIP’s when visiting the tasting room and in many cases are looking to make an advance reservation or enjoy a club member lounge space. The key ingredients to managing a successful tasting room is having the right people and systems in place. In the Tasting Room Management workshop at the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference on November 8th, the top five tools for managing a successful tasting rooms and growing direct wine sales will be revealed.

Can you tell us a few mistakes that wineries make in setting up what they perceive as a good tasting room environment?

While creating a sense of demand is great for selling more wine, tasting room managers who aren’t mindful of managing guest experiences will lose out on repeat business. Most of us have been in a crowded tasting room where it is difficult to event get up to the tasting bar let alone get our hands on the first pour. As direct to consumer wine sales now represents over $2 billion in wines shipped and consumers want more from their visits to tasting rooms, it is essential for tasting room managers to map out guest experiences and have a solid plan in place. To maximize use of space and ensure that both first time visitors and repeat customers are welcomed properly and treated with care, the proper mix of staffing and tasting spaces need to be in place. More will be revealed around the top mistakes to avoid in our workshop session. 

When looking at smaller wineries, what is the most important factor they should be investing in when developing a plan for setting up their cellar door sales?

Smaller wineries have the opportunity to have meaningful conversations with tasting room visitors that can lead to long-term and loyal customers relationships. The most important factor in building a successful direct to consumer sales division is to listen to customer feedback and match tasting experiences and events that appeal to the interests of most. Training the tasting room staff to first offer excellent hospitality and the wine experiences will ensure that customers keep coming back. Documenting key data through the POS and CRM systems doesn’t need to be cumbersome but is critical in staying connected to repeat customers and club members. We will be sharing case studies around how small wineries are leveraging the right tools to grow direct sales in this hands-on workshop session.
Sandra HessSandra Hess is the founder of DTC Wine Workshops, which supports wineries of all sizes in the areas of e-commerce, CRM, DTC Strategic Planning, and Training Services to grow direct to consumer wine sales and retain loyal customers. Prior to joining the wine industry, Sandra served small to mid-sized businesses as well as global corporations in the areas of CRM software, website design, online marketing, public relations, compliance management and workflow automation solutions.
  We have great attendance numbers already for #WMTC16 and look forward to seeing many exciting wineries, DMO’s, tourism agencies, tour operators and wine writers in Texas this coming November!  Have you registered yet?

Wine Country Videos Done the Right Way

wine-country-videoTelling your wine and wine destination stories with video will instantly delight, educate, entertain and capture the heart of your fans and followers.  Additionally, well executed video will deliver tourism opportunities by allowing travelers and wine lovers from around the world to see and follow your flavor in regards to your wines and your wine region.
On Wednesday, November 9th, #WMTC16 offers a session titled, Wine Country Videos: Learn what it takes to make an engaging video and how it can help define your brand and bring you more visitors. We’ll discuss everything from concept development to production to distribution.
Filmmaker Dina Mande from Juice Media will help guide you through the process of choosing when, where and how to create successful video content to engage your viewers, boost your social views and promote your brand.
Juice Media is a fantastic resource for the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference and Dina, being an experienced producer and presenter will be prepared to share some extremely valuable tips for wineries and wine destinations to get off the ground with wine country video production.
Dina Mande is a multidimensional director, editor and producer who lives to discover energetic visual stories that connect heart and mind. Mande has filmed interesting people, fantastic places, lush vineyards, and worked with leading wine brands and regions including The California Wine Institute, Napa Valley Vintners, Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, Silver Oak Cellars and J. Lohr Vineyards and Wine

As founder of Juice Media in Paso Robles, Mande has continued to expand her horizons, directing over 500 videos since 2010, winning 19 Addy Awards, a Telly award, and four top Wine Spectator Video Awards. She’s the director and co-creator behind the popular viral web series “Paso Wine Man,” which has become a cult phenomenon within the wine world.  With an unwavering love for telling bold, unforgettable stories, Mande continues to chase down inspiration, camera first.

 Have you registered for WMTC16 yet?  Pricing increases October 1st so reserve your spot at the early pricing today!

Learn How To Create Great Events to Bring in Big Numbers at WMTC16


Creating Engaging Activities & Events: Events are one of the major drivers of visitors to wineries and to wine country.  Expert Beth Costa from Wine Road will be presenting to attendees about creating interesting themes, executing effective planning, ensuring financial success, and what works and more importantly what does NOT work when designing wine country events.

Beth Costa is the Executive Director of Wine Road, an association of 197 wineries and 54 lodgings in the Alexander, Dry Creek, and Russian River Valleys of Northern Sonoma County. Wine Road is famous for its many events, including three large annual celebrations including many of the area winery. Beth previously worked for Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates as the Tasting Room manager of multiple properties. WMTC asked Beth Costa to tell us a little more about herself and her presentation details to give some insight.


“I have been living and learning how to manage large industry wide and winery events for the past 16 years.  My, how times have changed!  Sixteen years ago it was work to simply get the word out that you were hosting an event. Printing stacks of postcards, collecting mailing addresses, lots of busy work.

We no longer see a need to print and mail postcards; it’s easy to get the word out. Now the issue is how to price an event so the right amount of people attend and buy wine. You need to create an event where the attendees make connections with the winery or wineries so they want to come back and support those wineries in the future.

I imagine every speaker at the Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference will touch upon on how today’s consumer wants an “experience” not just another belly-up-to-the-bar tasting.  This is true for every winery event. As an association representing 200 wineries the challenge for us is creating experiences that work for so many players.

In Sonoma County, California we are also in the midst of a heated debate between residents, wineries and the county planning department.  Issues on the table are how many events are too many, along with how to better manage the flow and the concentration in rural areas.  If this debate is not currently happening in your neck of the woods…believe me, it will. 

In this session I will share what we have learned during this wild and crazy year of celebrating our 40th Anniversary of Wine Road, with a different event every month. What were we thinking??!?

This was a year of learning and I look forward to sharing my experiences, successes, and sometimes failures with this year’s Wine Marketing & Tourism Conference attendees.”


Interested in improving your event planning and execution?  Register for WMTC here.

Modern Day PR For The Wine Industry

On Thursday, November 10, WMTC16 will offer a session on Modern Day PR.  The importance of public relations and media coverage to drive business has not changed but getting that coverage is trickier than ever.  We can’t survive on Facebook posts alone to garner interest in our wineries, tour companies, and wine destinations but getting your press in front of the right outlets is not always easy.  The key to doing PR right is getting tips from the experts and we are thrilled to have Paul Wagner, founder of Balzac Communications, presenting on Modern Day PR to attendees.

WMTC asked Paul for a little background on his journey through the ever changing landscape of the PR world and what attendees can plan to gain though attending his session.


“When I first started working in wine and tourism public relations, a generation ago, there was a classic description of the perfect public relations director.  She would be cute, blond, and perky.  Her career often started out in the retail store, tasting room, or as a personal assistant, and then grew to include local tastings, major festivals, and the organization of company events.  And that was the job.

Well, I am not cute, I am not blond, and I am very rarely perky, but after many years of working in public relations for small wineries, breweries and olive companies and cheesemakers, I think I know what it takes to be successful.

It turns out that being blond is not really that important.

Over the past twenty-five years, food and wine-related brand marketing programs have evolved from a few shelf-talkers and table tents to huge sponsorships of everything from the Academy Awards and NASCAR to breast cancer research and public television – from newspaper and radio to social media and mobile apps.

And public relations campaigns have gone from private invitations to a few key writers to massive national campaigns.  It used to be that a nice press kit and a smiling face could usually get you some coverage.  Now we see celebrity chefs, podcasts, and concert tour logistics have all become part of the package.

While individual producers are often still small, artisan food and wine has become big business, and public relations programs have grown up alongside the industry.

But for most smaller producers, the challenges still remain—as they do for all small businesses.  They don’t have the dollars to compete on a national scale, and their only hope for success in the world of public relations is to be more costs effective, more targeted, and smarter than their competition.

Cute, blond, and perky?  Nope.  Try smart, effective, and focused.

Making sure that’s how you approach your public relations effort is what this session is all about.”


This is sure to be a valuable session for anyone looking to navigate the world of public relations better!
Bio for Paul Wagner:

1 paulwagner1 12 11 (3)Paul Wagner studied sociology and education at U. C. Santa Cruz and classical guitar at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Seville, Spain.

After several positions in Public Relations and Marketing in the wine industry in Napa Valley, Mr. Wagner formed Balzac Communications & Marketing on April 1, 1991.  Current clients include Diageo Chateau & Estate Wines, the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, Wagner Family of Wines, Wente Vineyards, Mendocino Wine Company, Simply Italian, Sogevinus of Portugal, Bodegas Salentein, Villa Trasqua, Miner Wines, Rioja Alavesa, and a host of other wine and food specialists.

He has been an instructor for Napa Valley College’s Viticulture and Enology department for the past twenty-one years.  In addition he teaches at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, is a guest lecturer at many universities and has spoken at more than eighty conferences throughout the world on wine business, communications, wine tourism, public affairs, wine, and wine marketing.

With Liz Thach and Janeen Olsen, he authored a book:  Wine Marketing & Sales, Strategies for a Saturated Market by The Wine Appreciation Guild, which won the Gourmand International Award in 2008 for the best wine book of the year for professionals. A second edition of that work was published in 2011, and a third edition is underway.  He was a columnist for Vineyard & Winery Management Magazine for ten years, contributes to in the field of wine and food, and served on the board of directors of the Society of Wine Educators for many years.  With Rick Kushman of Capital Public Radio, he hosts “Bottle Talk” at  a weekly conversation about wine.

Paul Wagner has judged many international wine competitions, is a founding member of the Academy of Wine Communications, a member of the nominations committee of the Culinary Institute of America’s Vintner’s Hall of Fame, and was inducted into the Spadarini della Castellania di Soave in 2005.  In 2009 he was honored with a “Life Dedicated to Wine” award at the Feria Nacional del Vino (FENAVIN) in Spain.

Don’t miss out!  Register for WMTC today!

Wine Tourism Conference 2015 Wrap Up and Presentations

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! We had such a wonderful time in Virginia and now that we have all of the available presentations, we wanted to share them with you.

Find all of the 2015 Wine Tourism Conference presentations HERE

We have received a lot of great compliments and constructive feedback from our 2015 alumni. As we look forward to next year in Fredericksburg, Texas Hill Country, we are getting a good bit of our agenda planned out and set up early so folks can get on board as early as possible.

Check out the 2016 Agenda HERE  

For 2016, we are again going to offer pre-conference workshops for those looking for an intense day of learning. We will have new experts to throw down knowledge but most of the topics will remain the same as we got great feedback on the intention of the sessions.

See what we have so far HERE

Keep in mind that early registration for the 2016 Wine Tourism Conference is a GOOD idea…

  • $295: Through December 31, 2015
  • $325: Through April 30, 2016
  • $350: Through September 30, 2016
  • $395: After September 30, 2016

Ready to rock? Go right ahead and register HERE

Make sure to stay tuned with us on Twitter and Facebook for updates on sponsors, speakers and MORE!

Thank You for a Fantastic 2015 Wine Tourism Conference

To all our partners, sponsors, presenters and friends….THANK YOU for a wonderful conference this year!

I will be posting a recap and some highlights of the conference, plus of course the available presentations after Thanksgiving week on our website and sending all attendees an email with access to those.

As we start to turn into the New Year, we will continue to plan out #WTC16 in Texas Hill Country! This is going to be an outstanding location and the conference will be packed full of some new and exciting content. I will post updates to our website starting with this years presentations and then in January 2016, we will open up a call for content to get some ideas and suggestions flowing from you all for the 2016 agenda. I loo forward to hearing some new ideas as I have a few of my own!

Make sure to subscribe to stay up to date on new developments. If you are and attendee, please request to join our Wine Tourism Conference Alumni Facebook group so you can get new information and connect with your friends!

Lastly, don’t forget to register EARLY!  This year we are offering a huge discount for those who get registered before December 31, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving to everyone and thank you again for a great #WTC15

Wine Tourism Conference | Day 1 Morning Review

The 2015 Wine Tourism Conference is off and running on a fantastic morning with our speaking and panel sessions. This year brings a diverse crowd of attendees and topics digging in to the root of wine tourism and it’s potential.

Spanning topics from global influences on the wine industry and tourism, to marketing and operations performance, Wine Tourism is pushing forward in a positive way. The basics have been covered and this year’s group is forging ahead to learn more and more on how to promote the most FUN form of tourism around.  A big thank you to our partners, presenters and attendees for gathering at Landsdown Resort today (and tomorrow) to synergize learning and knowledge amongst some fantastic folks!

Today’s agenda is packed full of great content and activities. Looking forward to our lunch excursion hosted at Stone Tower Winery with transportation sponsored by Reston Limousine and lunch is sponsored by Loudoun Virginia Economic Development.

After our afternoon breakout sessions, we will have a conference dinner at the resort where our attendees can sip on a variety of Virginia’s finest wines in the Lansdowne Ballroom and meet Virginia winemakers before enjoying a three-course dinner featuring Loudoun’s award winning wines. Sponsored by Virginia Tourism Corporation, The Virginia Wine Marketing Office, and the Loudoun Wineries Association.

Got Wine on Your Mind This Evening? The #WTC15 Registration, Expo and Wine Tasting is Open for Conference Attendees Tonight

Make sure to come by this evening and enjoy some fun, great wines and meet new friends at #WTC15 in the Terrace Ballroom. We are excited to have some awesome sponsors and attendees here and looking forward to starting our full blown conference tomorrow.

Our Wine Tourism Expo & Opening Night Wine Reception is going to be a great time to check in to the conference.   Enjoy the Wine Tourism Expo and opening reception presented by Touring & Tasting Marketing and Media.  Meet all our sponsors and enjoy wines from across North America and the world.  This is a unique opportunity to try wines from New Jersey, Texas, and Michigan as well as West Coast favorites, East Coast standouts, and wines from other countries.

We will have tables where people are pouring wine and other folks there to share knowledge and information.  We also have a few tourism boards on hand with their partner wineries.

Make sure to stop by to meet and taste with our main conference sponsor, Visit Loudoun who will be pouring an “epicurience blend”, an award-winning collaborative wine with Bluemont Vineyards, Tarara Winery, and Breaux Vineyards

Make sure to check out some of our other sponsors and associations below!

Virginia Wine Marketing

Fauquier County Department of Economic Development

Garden State Growers

Glass House Winery

Oregon Wine Board

Ontario’s South Coast Wineries and Growers Association

Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association

Monticella Wine Trail

Visit South Jersey

Slovenian Wine Tourism Association

Norfolk County Tourism and Economic Development

Visit Santa Ynez

Wine Tours Toronto Inc.

Leelanau Peninsula Wine Trail

Colorado Wine Industry Development Board

Livermore Valley Winegrowers Association

Reston Limo

Chatterbox Wine Marketing

Sacramento International Airport

Kentucky Grape & Wine Council

Wine Buzz