Wineries and Social Media: A Totally Unscientific Case Study (Franciscan)

Vinted on January 28, 2010 binned in commentary, wine 2.0, winemaking

A funny thing happened on my way to the 2010 Pro Wine Writers Symposium.

I did some research, and found what I was looking for, just not where I expected to find it.

Since my Symposium fellowship was underwritten by Franciscan, I’m planning on a visit to the winery when I’m in Napa next month.   So I was digging around on the ‘global interwebs’ to get my bearings on all things Franciscan before the visit.  Reasons being that I wanted to get a solid starting point of Franciscan knowledge from which to branch out when I ask them questions and generally get all, you know, in-depth on them (you know how I am); also I’m a total geek and that kind of stuff is fun for me.

Not that I am without some knowledge of Franciscan – I’ve tasted some of their flagship wines, and their website is chock full of background on their Napa legacy (and with a past that featured Agustin Huneeus and one of the first real “Meritage” wines, your bragging rights around having a ‘legacy’ are pretty safe) and their take-it-to-perfectionist-extremes focus on blending.

As for what’s happening now (and I mean, right this second) at Franciscan… not so much.  I didn’t find anything at their website to connect me to the current happenings of the people there.


I did find some of that information, though – just not at, and not without a bit of digging…

Boku amounts of this type of Franciscan info. exists on-line, thanks mostly to the brand being part of the Constellation portfolio.  Presumably, this info. was put together for the internal use of Constellation employees, but it’s not locked down in ay way so you can freely access what’s out there – if you’re willing to put up with the fuss of searching for it.

Take, for example, a more-or-less traditional Corporate America slide deck that provides an intro. to Franciscan (with a quiz at the end to ensure you were paying attention and not Facebooking instead when you were supposed to be learning).  The presentation isn’t mind-blowing, but it does have links to videos where Franciscan winemaking director Janet Myers talks about current releases and the winemaking approaches behind them.

The videos are cool, if only because they put a human face on the brand – a human connection.

Why isn’t this stuff on the Franciscan website? Dunno – seems a missed opportunity to me. I guess I’ll have to ask them next month.

Wineries are sitting on such a potential wealth of information that could connect them to their consumers, and it’s easy and very inexpensive to get started on it.  And yet… hardly any of them do it.


During my research, I also came across a few other interesting items that might tickle your wine geek fancy:

  • If you’ve ever wondered, while driving through Napa, what winery brands have their hands in what vineyard locations, the Oakville Growers Association have put together a handsome and handy interactive appellation map that tells you just that.
  • If you dig the Franciscan presentation linked above, Constellation has similar material on nearly all of their other wine brands at their Academy of Wine website – well worth a look if you happen to be sampling one of their wines and are curious for more info.
  • The Academy is also available in a mobile format, which looks smart-phone-friendly and offers quick facts about the brands and their wines.  Looks like a salesperson’s tool to me, but I could see value in it if you’re at the wine shop considering a purchase and want to check out some more facts about the brand.  Considering how big the Constellation portfolio is, I’d wager that this link could come in handy even though it has info. only on the Constellation brands – especially considering that it also contains vineyard profiles, pronunciation guides, and links to wine-related vids.






  • 1WineDude

    Thanks, Ed – great points; the swampy pace of info. flow at the big corporations…

  • Chris Oggenfuss

    Joe, Nice piece! I agree totally with you on the comment "Wineries are sitting on such a potential wealth of information that could connect them to their consumers, and it’s easy and very inexpensive to get started on it. And yet… hardly any of them do it". Perhaps it is because many of these big brands have been so reliant on others doing the connecting and selling for them, such PR and Ad agencies, old media (Wine Spectator et al), distributors, retailers and restaurants that they are slow to realize that in today's new media world it is up to them to form the connections and tell their story authentically! To engage and enter the conversation and also sit back and listen!

    The wine industry has historically been very slow to adopt innovation (wine making excluded of course). Those that do embrace social media often do so with out a strategy or road map, they prefer to take the throwing spaghetti against the wall approach and see what sticks. Or even worse the copy what others are doing and expect engagement and buzz.

    I also agree with you that the barrier to entry is very small, however the potential for miss-stepping is very large, if you are unfamiliar or uncomfortable with the new era of transparency marketing. As Chris Brogan has said “…so many people involved in marketing have forgotten how to deal with people.” And perhaps big corporations are most guilty of this! Either way new times require a new approach. The pioneers (the ones out there discovering with out a strategic map) get the arrows and the settlers (the ones that have thought about what it is they want to accomplish and how they are going to authentically engage and then execute on that strategy) get the land!

    • 1WineDude

      Thanks. Maybe there's a future for me in consulting… :-)

  • Chris Oggenfuss

    let me know! we could go into business together ;)

  • Steve Raye

    Joe, I once turned down a job as marketing director at Franciscan when it was still owned by Augustin Huneeus. Living in Napa seemed like a nice idea to me, but my wife is a New Englander born and bred and told me that if I took it, I would have a very nice life there…by myself.

    In defense of winey websites and wine marketers in general, recognize the limited manpower and time available…websites are still looked at as a project to be completed, not a work in progress. So when it's "done", attention turns to other pressing things.

    More importantly, the decisions on content are usually made ad hoc based on the marketers' perspective of what needs to be included. In my experience very few are using even the simple –and free —tools like Google Analytics to identify site visitor interest, e.g. Top Content. So for example while every wine website ought to have a "where to buy" function, it's the rare ones which do.

    On the optimistic side, I do see a rapidly evolving recognition of the importance of interactive communications including both the proprietary brand websites as well as participation in social sites. So don't throw the baby out with the bathwater yet.

  • 1WineDude

    Thanks. I'm not trying to be harsh in this example, just realistic.

    I'm starting to understand why there are so many social media-type consultants out there for the wine industry now… :)

  • vinogirl

    I love this map (seeing as I work in an Oakville winery, and it is handed out to anyone who is interested). A factoid: it is amazing that not a lot of punters know that most of Silver Oak's grapes come from up on Soda Canyon.
    The Oakville Growers provide a good service for their member wineries.

    • 1WineDude

      Yeah – I think we need more regions doing this sort of thing…

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