Wineries strategize marketing

POLK COUNTY -- Local residents already may have discovered the richness of the wine industry in Polk County.

POLK COUNTY -- Local residents already may have discovered the richness of the wine industry in Polk County.

But area vineyards seem to be overshadowed by the more noted wineries farther to the north.

A gathering of local wine industry folks next week will focus on strategies local wineries can use to change that.

Rep. Jim Thompson is organizing the seminar, which will include about 80 wineries at Eola Hill Wine Cellars in Rickreall on Wednesday, Jan. 4.

Thompson said the meeting will feature presentations on regional marketing and branding from representatives of Travel Salem and Travel Oregon, Oregon Wine Board and Oregon Wine Growers Association.

"It will be an opportunity for cooperative marketing," Thompson said. "I'm trying to bring more wineries together to work on regional marketing."

He said individual wineries in the area have been successful, even in a down economy, and he wants to see if they are open to sharing strategies and working together to promote the area as a whole.

He said areas such as Napa Valley and Sonoma County in California have been able to market each region as a whole as wine destinations, but that hasn't happened on a large scale in Polk County -- yet.

An example of such a promotion is a program launched by some Dallas-area wineries called the "October Passport."

The month-long promotion encouraged people to visit each of the wineries involved.

"It was successful for the small group that worked on it," Thompson said.

Eric Rogers, the business manager for Eola Hills -- which was part of October Passport -- said the winery noticed more people visiting during the month-long event.

He hopes similar promotions on a larger scale come out of the seminar, opportunities for wineries to work together for the benefit of all.

"A rising tide raises all boats," Rogers said. "I would like to see people from all over the country and world come to Oregon and see what we are doing."

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