Last Wednesday I started my new job of Wine Specialist at the Harry & David Country Village Wine Cellar in Medford. Until 10 days before that I never knew Harry & David made or sold more than the Moose Munch my Dad's office secretary gave us for Christmas one year that I promised myself I wouldn't eat the entire bag, but failed miserably. To my pleasant surprise, Harry & David carries a great deal of speciality foods and a huge selection of wine at their Country Village location.
In fact, my new wine department has the most offerings of any retailer in the region- thanks heavily to the Wine Buyer, Jason Gregg who has an incredible palate and has grown the department to triple its original size. We offer wines from almost every Southern Oregon producer, often being their largest retail account, as well as approximately 120 Oregon Pinot Noirs. I'm also thrilled to be absorbing more knowledge of Italian, French, South American, German, Austrian, New Zealand and Australian wines too.
It was an ideal time to be thrown into the Harry & David family because this Labor Day Weekend was their biggest event of the year- A Taste of Harry & David. Thirty wineries, mainly from Southern Oregon with three being from the Willamette Valley, poured wines while local restaurants and artisan food producers prepared small bites, live music entertained the crowd and seminars were given by experts of food, wine and agriculture. Here are a few pictures from the event:
Shasta View Vineyards pouring their Zinfandel, Pinot Gris, and Rosé.
RoxyAnn pouring their Claret, Honor Barn Red Blend and Roussanne.
Christy of Misty Oaks Vineyards serving up tastes of her Cab Franc and Pinot Blanc.
Oregon Artisan Foods topping off a tasty confection.
Kiley Evans, winemaker at Agate Ridge Vineyards pours his Primitivo and Late Harvest Semillon.
Chanda, fellow Wine Specialist, spoke about Southern Oregon climate and varietals.
Chris Martin of Troon Vineyards spoke about the history of the Southern Oregon AVA along with vintage reports and a vertical tasting of his 2004, 2005, and 2006 Old Vine Meritage.
One of my goals in enhancing my wine knowledge and taking this new job is to learn more about the retail side of the business. I have a background with more of the wine marketing side, but it is incomplete unless I know how consumers really buy the wines. I learned many things over the weekend about wine retailing in Southern Oregon (which is probably applicable to most areas). The sweeter the wine the more you will sell, the words "This wine sells for over $35 dollars in our tasting room but here it is on sale for $20," is an instant hit and a consumer's judgement in what is an attractive label design is off from what a design book might tell you or maybe they just don't care like we've been told.
Although a little disheartened by the sole preference of sweet wines (like a kid exclaiming he dislikes all vegetables, when in fact there might be some he enjoys, he just hasn't found them yet) and that label design may not matter, I am motivated with the position I am in to educate and slowly morph wine drinkers' taste buds into liking other dryer wine offerings (while still keeping a soft spot for well-made sweet wines).
I'm excited to be down here in Southern Oregon and I can't wait to put faces to all the people that I have virtually connected with from this blog.