This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the American wine community from across the U.S. Vintner Magazine will share business and personal insights from Winery Owners, Vintners, Marketing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA staff and others each month to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.
Ron Yates, Owner/President, Spicewood Vineyards – Spicewood, Texas
VINTNER: How has your business strategy evolved to help grow and stay competitive?
YATES: We had to swiftly move into an online business during the lockdown. We were closed for four of the first eight months of the year and we really had to find new ways to reach our customers. We started doing online wine tastings and meetups as a way to stay connected to our fans. This really helped to drive online sales and curbside pick-up sales which helped us stay in business until we could open the doors again.
VINTNER: What has your winery changed because of the pandemic that you believe benefits your company and will be sustainable when things go back to normal?
YATES: The online tastings and events have been a wonderful new revenue stream as well as a great introduction to people who don’t know of us yet. We will continue to do the online tastings and we have created a new tasting and music show that we do from the wine cellar on the first Monday of every month which will continue once things are back to normal. While these new avenues may not be as fully useful as they were when everyone was at home, they have shown us a great ability to reach customers and will be a part of our overall strategy moving forward.
VINTNER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
YATES: I have a few mentors in the wine industry and I believe that I have learned things from all of them. Jim Johnson from Alamosa Cellars and Dan Gatlin from Inwood Estates were two people I called when we first got started because they were already successful with the Tempranillo grape and that was the wine I wanted to make here in Texas. My cousins Ed and Susan Auler who own Fall Creek Vineyards were very helpful when we were just getting started and we owe them a lot of favors for all of the knowledge they gave us.
VINTNER: What idea did you or your team come up with lately that has been a big benefit to how your winery functions?
YATES: We started taking reservations for wine tastings once we were able to reopen and that has really improved our ability to better serve our customers. Knowing when a group will arrive and being ready for them before they get here has really benefited our ability to function more smoothly.
VINTNER: If you had one business strategy that you could implement to better the wine industry, what would it be?
YATES: I don’t know if it’s a strategy as much as a wish, but it would be great if we could actually ship our wines into all of the other 49 states without distributors or expensive licenses. We have traveling customers from all over our country who fall in love with our wines and once they leave we can’t get it to them.