Passport wrap up

Spring winery tour is a success

VERDICT IN This year’s month-long Wine Passport made for a better overall experience for wine lovers.
Wet weather didn’t dampen people’s wine tasting spirits, as Passport sales were said to be up around 30 percent over last year.

WSCV President, Karen Seeker, notes, “People enjoyed the opportunity that the month-long format offered to visit all our wineries, taste the wines, learn about each place, owners and winemakers.”

Initially skeptical of holding what amounts to a month-long free tasting event, John Aver of Aver Family changed his tune.

“I have been very pleased with the new Passport format,” says Aver. “People are taking their time, engaging about what we make and do here and very receptive to both purchasing and joining our wine club. Lots of new people. I am a fan.”

Solis Winery’s Vic Vanni and Fernwood Cellars’s Matt Oetinger were more reserved in their opinion. Vanni thinks Passport has lost some of its buzz, but acknowledged the crowd is changing.

“Certainly over the last many years, we have noticed a younger, more diverse crowd,” Vanni says. “That’s good and maybe has led to greater recognition and market reach, which is the ultimate goal of passport, in my opinion.”

Neither was Oetinger wasn’t crazy about the length of the festivities.

“It’s been good, although a wet and wild March added an interesting element to it all,” he says.

“I’m not sure that I am a big fan of the ‘good all month’ concept, as it’s very difficult to conduct our regular winery business concurrently with people coming in to use their Passports.”

Janu Goelz of Alara Cellars at Stomping Ground thought the month-long opportunities were more favorable than the shorter wine weekends in years past.

“The first weekend was the busiest in terms of Passport tasters,” Goelz says.

“I think the demographic of the crowd is almost the same, however far more tame. Before, Passport holders had to try to squeeze all of the wineries into one weekend, but now they can space their visits out. It’s all around a better quality experience for both the wineries and the customers, in my opinion.”

Geoff Mace from Calerrain echoes that sentiment: “We have had very good traffic with live music and food trucks on Saturdays, with 150-200 tasters per Saturday,” he says. “Good number of new wine club sign ups, too.  Plenty of tasters coming down from the San Jose area for the day, choosing to come down to Gilroy rather than fight the crowds up North.”

Lion Ranch’s Kim Englehart was pleased to see more folks from out of the area were able to take part over the duration of the Wine Passport.

“Before, we normally saw around 300 people in one weekend, and now we see them over the course of the month,” Englehart says. “Because these customers have time to spend at our winery, not rushing off to the next winery, they tend to purchase wine and/or sign up for the club in higher proportions than in Passports past. More people seem to be coming down from San Jose, rather than just all local South County folks.”

The month-long format will be employed for Fall Passport as well, to be held September 7—beginning with Kick-Off party—through the end of September.

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Laura Ness is an accomplished freelance writer offering travel tips and commentary on the California wine industry.