Family-Owned Winery

Family wineries are on the rise and are being noticed more by consumers. With the rise of the DTC channel and enotourism, the family-owned winery finally has a shot to compete with the larger brands.

Consumers are looking for authentic experiences that match their values, and family-owned wineries are delivering. Let’s take a look.

How family wineries are grabbing attention

Family wineries are offering some of the best tasting room experiences out there. With in-depth tours and sit-down tasting experiences, tourists are willing to flock to their establishment for the right price and service.

In Napa, California, Schramsberg, owned by the Davies Family, offers visitors a tour of its original cave sparkling wine cellar. The tour guide explains the process of making sparkling wine and the history of the cave. Then, 12-guests will sit down and enjoy cheese pairings and the sparkling wines.

Wolffer Vineyards in the Hamptons has become the “IT” place to be during the summer. This winery offers events, tastings, and tours all with perfect Instagram-worthy views.

Cave tasting at Schramsberg Vineyards. Photo courtesy: Schramsberg Vineyards

How they make their money

Family-owned wineries make their money by cutting out the middleman. In fact, direct-to-consumer sales make up 61% of family-owned wineries’ revenue, according to the Silicon Valley Bank 2019 State of the Wine Industry report. This is a mix of tasting room visits and purchases, and wine club memberships.

However, family wineries face some challenges in this area. While shipping laws are making it easier for them to sell to their customers, they mainly acquire customers through tasting room visitations, which were down last year.

Tourism is still booming in the dominant wine regions in the US — Napa and Sonoma — but when the tourists arrive, they’re not visiting as many tasting rooms, and they are gravitating towards ones with lower tasting fees.

However, with shipping laws changing across the country in favor of the wineries, that channel is expanding rapidly.

“At around 2,000 cases, we are able to sell all of our wine DTC [Direct To Consumer] through our Wine Club and private tastings done by family members,” Sandy Taylor-Carlson of Taylor Family Vineyards told Forbes.

“All tastings are done on a referral basis. We never want to grow beyond this business model, because we do not want to lose control of the quality of our wine (the vineyards we use can only yield a certain amount without sacrificing quality), and we love that we know everyone who drinks and buys our wine. So far, we have been able to ‘sell out’ of every vintage of our wine, which is a double-edged sword because we would love to have a more substantial library.”

How your family-owned winery can drive more business

If you’re looking for ways to get your family winery more attention, draw on the successes of others.

For example, family-run Wolffer Estates in Long Island relies on the beautiful packing of its Summer In A Bottle wine and launching new products like its rosé cider.

Other wineries in New York State and Oregon try to compete with the Napa and Sonoma Valley by offering lower tasting room fees, paired with excellent hospitality, to encourage a more affordable trip to their region.

Consumers are willing to travel for wine, with enotourism on the rise, but they expect an amazing tasting room visit. Run a training with your staff so they’re familiar with the gapes and history of the winery and are ready for questions from customers.

Next, take to social media to help newcomers find you! Ensure your winery has a location tag on Instagram and Facebook so customers can tag their location when they visit. Then, tag your own photos so potential new customers can find you.

If you’re tech-savvy, you can consider doing a live stream of your winemaker actually making the wine to spark interest of new customers.

Wine and Spirits

Meredith Galante

Meredith Galante is a freelance writer based in New York City. She has been published in USA Today, amNewYork, Newsday, Square and more. She's interviewed then-Mayor Cory Booker, Ryan Seacrest, and other New Jersey folks who made their community better. She's covered breaking news, sports, features, and now frequently writes about small businesses.