Sonoma’s vaunted wineries embrace online sales, budget pricing to woo pandemic drinkers

In Sonoma Valley, home to 60,000 acres of grapes and 400 wineries, the pandemic has crushed the local business model and disrupted an 150-year-old supply chain.

Grape growers that once focused on selling to high-end wineries are lowering their prices and supplying cheaper brands. Wineries that can no longer count on tourist visits are replacing in-person events with online campaigns. Restaurants that boasted of expansive wine lists now tout their to-go cups.

The industry is “doing whatever [it] can over the last five months to really look at and examine their business model to figure out how they can sustain themselves,” said Maureen Cottingham, executive director of the Sonoma Valley Vintners and Growers Alliance. “Of course, there are some businesses that will not be able to sustain themselves, and unfortunately that will close.”

It’s the biggest challenge to Sonoma Valley since three wildfires in 2017 destroyed thousands of acres in the region, and comes as devastating fires are once again raging across California. To recover this time, the industry says it must adopt the types of changes that have been long resisted and find a new path.

Here are the stories of four companies along a single supply chain in Sonoma Valley.

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