Wednesday, July 20, 2011


By John M. Olney, July 19, 2011
Copyright, all rights reserved by Wine Country Marketing and Promotions,
1370 Trancas St., #409, Napa, CA 94558 Phone: 707-299-9548
Web site: E-mail:

THE GOAL: Attracting New Vineyard Growers, Vintners & Consumers to Nevada County

The Nevada County Wine Industry underwent tremendous growth and expansion during the last 12 months covering the period July 2010 through June 2011 Clearly all of the changes and expansions listed below speak of an enthusiasm, individually and/or collectively, to build a solid wine industry in the county. These moves also seem to represent that the Nevada County Wine Industry is on an economically sound footing particularly when considering the current depressed economic conditions.

Here is what happened during the past 12 months:
New wineries were added to the already existing 17 wineries to bring the current total to 19.

Expansion - Both began bonded operation in late 2010

Besemer Vineyards - Grass Valley area - Tom & Kristi Besemer. He is also President of the Sierra Wine & Grape Growers Association - /

Gray Pine Winery - Penn Valley, - R Guy Lauterbach, no web site developed yet

Bonded and Calif. ABC licensed are listed below but they do not advertise in any publications nor are they a member in any of the local county wine industry associations

Villanelle Wine - Nevada City area -" founded in 1996, by G. M. Johnson" - - no email address provided on web site

Oaksprings Vineyard and Winery - Penn Valley -

Leslie G. Fleming - Penn Valley - have not found a web site yet thus no email available

Charles Travers Winery - near Lake of the Pine intersection Hwy 49 - Nick C. Robunson - have not found a web site yet thus no email available

Actual and commitments to expansion of the number of acres of new vineyard planting:

Expansion acreage:

Clavey Vineyards adding seven (7) acres bringing it to a total of about 14.5 acres.

Sierra Starr adding three and a half acres bringing it to a total of about 15 plus acres

Committed expansion:
Szabo Vineyards adding 12 acres bringing it to a total of about 52 acres

Expanding/relocating Winery production facility:

Sierra Starr’s and its new winery and barrel storage facility currently under construction taking its production Facilities from about 1,000 to over 4,000 sqft,.

Clavey Vineyards production facilities moving from Meyers to Power Line

Tasting room additions/relocations:

Winery License

Clavey Vineyards opened its off-site tasting room in downtown Nevada City

Grass Valley Wine Company relocated its multiple member of participating wineries (Bent Metal, Pilot Peak and Solune) from its inaugural location to a new, remodeled site across the street.

Sierra Knolls constructed off-site second tasting room located along Hwy 49 near Lake of the Pines in thesouthern part of the county.

Szabo Vineyards opened its off-site tasting room in downtown Nevada City

Retail License

151 Union Square, a retail wine licensed event center features the wines of four local wineries - Coufos, Double Oak, Montoliva and Naggiar

B.Y.O.B. Wine Sellers opened a unique tasting room and sales outlet just outside of Nevada City with the environmentally focused concept of refillable wine bottles.

With these additional tasting rooms, now the wines of 15 of the 19 plus wineries located in Nevada County can be experienced within the two communities of Grass Valley and Nevada City located only about 3.5 miles apart. Before June 2010 there were only eight wineries spread among the two towns.

Sierra Vintners - Re-Branding of organization representing 15 of the wine producers of the county who have joined forces

Attracting New Vineyard and/or Winery Owners

When I interviewed Mr. Alex Szabo, President of the Sierra Vintners association representing 15 of the Nevada County wineries, I asked him about what he sees as the future growth of the wine industry in the coming years. He responded that it might be possible to see as many as 10 new wineries come into product in the next about 8-10 years.

The new tasting room constructed by Sierra Knolls Vineyard and Winery along Hwy 49 in the southern part of Nevada County community of Lake of the Pines will become the wine country gateway site for all the wine outlets in the county because it will significantly raise the awareness of the traveling public that Nevada County has wineries. This will be particularly true should the owners continue to plan for and then implement planting of a vineyard on the land surrounding the tasting room property.

Coupling this new Hwy 49 roadside wine tasting room with the fact that the two downtowns of Grass Valley (11 wineries) and Nevada City (4 wineries) now have the wines of 15 of the county’s wineries readily available to the wine consumer who does not need to travel 20-40 minutes along winding and narrow two lane backroads between wineries to taste the wines of Nevada County.

Now add the fact that travelers on their way to camping sites, swimming & fishing spots and gambling casinos of the Sierra Foothills, Tahoe and Reno who will come to these downtown cities for interim lodging, dining and shopping will suddenly discover themselves running into six (6) storefronts in Grass Valley serving the wines of 11 wineries while four (4) storefronts in Nevada City represent four more wineries of the county.

Many travelers would not have realized that Nevada County had this many wineries if it were not for those who will gain their first exposure to Nevada County wines at the Hwy 49 location of “Bear River Wine Tasting” facility of Sierra Knolls and then pursued the tasting rooms located in town. Truckee River Winery could also become such an initial marketing arm for all the Nevada County Wine Industry. In order for these entities to realize such positions, they will need to lobby for very visible signage marking them as the “Northern Nevada County Wine Industry Gateway” [Truckee River] and “Southern Nevada County Wine Industry Gateway” [Bear River Wine Tasting-Sierra Knolls Vineyard and Winery]

There are a few market analysis and programs that I believe would substantially assist the Nevada County Wine Industry to realize its dreams of sustained but controlled growth.

Statistical Data Collection and Analysis
I want to suggest that those involved in the Nevada County Wine Industry participate in a questionnaire survey designed to assess where these entities are deriving their tasting room clientele. To encourage the consumer to complete the survey, the wineries might consider waiving the tasting fee for those who participate. The questionnaire needs to be simple so it does not scare off the participant but thorough enough to provide an accurate measurement of the way consumers discover the Nevada County Wine Country . The survey needs to be sure that it covers the many ways the consumer could have learned about the wineries of Nevada County. It should probably run continuously for the next three to five years so that the Nevada County Wine Industry can access their strong and weak points in marketing and acquiring consumers.

A Nevada County Wine Industry Master Plan for Future Growth
The Nevada County Wine Industry needs a document that lays out all the important factors about the vines-to-wines industry from which potential investors in that industry can reasonably gage the chances for them to be successful as a new operation in the county. After 15 months of document research and data collection, and contact and interviews with private and governmental entities, I can conclusively say that no such comprehensive document and/or plan exists, or at least was exposed to me for review.

Such a document should show and/or include at minimum:

- location of all the existing wine grape vineyards (whether part of a collocated winery operation or not) with elevation range, associated list of varietals being grown, and wineries and separate off site tasting rooms (if applicable).

- geographical land areas of highest to lowest probability of successful wine grape production where county land zoning codes will allow for such use and in association with list of “best” or “most suitable” grape varietal for planting

- statistical information on annual vineyard grape harvest tonnage and wine production by gallons & cases separated by varietal

- And other import economic investment indicators

This publication should not be formatted as a boring ”government” tool but rather as a marketing instrument that presents the story in a business-like prospectus format.

“Take It On The Road!” Marketing Events
I would suggest that the Nevada County wineries who have a large enough number of wine case production to do so, provide a sufficient amount of wine each that could be used in a ‘traveling road show’ approach to marketing the NC wineries and growers to attract new consumers and new growers/vintners. Such events should have “trade only” as well as “Open to the public” tasting hours.

Since the Nevada County Wine Industry does not, to my knowledge, have a master/comprehensive growth plan to show those in the trade and the consumers, I would of course, have my booklet, "Olney's Guide to the Wineries of Nevada County" (in draft) at each show and would do autograph sessions. Although this may sound self serving, my booklet nevertheless will be the most comprehensive summary in print of the past and present history of the Industry and thus it can be used to show the attendees what they can expect to find - not to mention increase sales of my booklet. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

The initial road show might consist of seven stops visiting Sacramento, Roseville, Rocklin/Loomis, Grass Valley/Nevada City, Truckee, Tahoe and Reno. I’m still thinking about whether a tasting charge should be made or not. If a charge was made it should be fairly low. I would also hold a separate “for free” tasting period - say two hours before letting the general public in the door - conducted for “trade only,“ registered attendees. For this latter portion of the marketing events all wineries would hopefully provide tasting samples for the trade folks.

I would suggest that Corti Brothers ( ) be invited to host the first such tasting and book autographing event for the Sacramento area. Darrell Corti helped establish Bob Trinchero/Sutter Home in the Zinfandel wine business, and is probably the most respected wine retailer in California at this time. He was recently inducted into the California Vintners Hall of Fame. We would want to find the “best and most popular” retailers of wines in the other communities to host such a special tasting and book autographing event.

I also believe that witnessing and participating in these events might help to entice Besemer, Gray Pine, Clavey and Truckee River as well as possibly some of those winery operations mentioned above who I recently learned about, and make them realize that membership in the Sierra Vintners would indeed benefit their individual business interests and therefore they might reconsider their position and join.

I also think that this road show should include representation from the Sierra Wine and Grape Growers Association to speak about their successfull operations and the benefits they realize as only growers selling their crops to vintners instead of producing their own wine label.


ABOUT THE "OLNEY'S GUIDE TO...." The Nevada County Guide will be the first in a series of booklets that will eventually encompass all the gold counties of the Northern Sierra's

Additionally, Mr. Olney has been developing a book which will include the history of the rise of wine production amoing the early days of mining through the present day in the industry. The draft cover to this book is shown below. You can click on the picture to enlarge it.

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