Santa Barbara winner of wine tourism
People are flocking to the tasting rooms, but maybe not in the places you would expect.
| Santa Barbara drew twice as many visitors as Napa last year.
Have you been to Santa Barbara County to taste wine? If so, you are aware.
Santa Barbara is a surprising winner in the wine world reopening from the pandemic, according to a report presented Wednesday by Rob McMillan, executive vice president of Silicon Valley Bank’s wine division. The Santa Barbara wine region had nearly twice as many monthly visitors in 2021 as Napa or Sonoma counties.
Meanwhile, perhaps the biggest news from McMillan’s winery investigation is something that didn’t happen. In 2020, DTC (direct to consumer) winery sales increased dramatically because people were stuck at home. It was reasonable to expect DTC sales to plummet in 2021, but that’s not the case. Overall wine sales appear to be stagnating in 2021, but people still ordered about as much wine online as they did in 2020. This could be good news as more restaurants will open in 2022, giving people more opportunities to drink wine.
“Even if we have a recession, I think (the wine industry) is prepared for that,” McMillan said. “Wine is not recession proof, but it is recession proof.”
Regarding Santa Barbara’s success, McMillan told Wine-Searcher that part of the reason was restrictive county laws that forced many wineries to open tasting rooms in “urban” areas. such as the small town of Los Olivos (population 838), rather than the winery itself. Los Olivos now has over 50 winery tasting rooms.
“People used to drive through Santa Barbara from Los Angeles to get to Paso Robles,” McMillan told Wine-Searcher. “You’ve seen fantastic growth rates in Paso, which was doing a great job of welcoming tourists to downtown. Santa Barbara has a lot of competition with the beach. In the last five years, they’ve done a lot of marketing , and I think it’s Paid.”
McMillan also said the operation of Santa Barbara’s tasting rooms has changed, reflecting a national shift. In 2018, 83% of US tasting rooms allowed walk-ins; that number has fallen to 71% in 2021, as tasting room appointments become the norm rather than the exception. It really pays off in tasting rooms that aren’t in the cellar; 16.3% of visitors to “urban” tasting rooms join the wine club, compared to only 7.7% of visitors to the cellar itself.
“If you look at what happened with the tasting room model, everyone was walking around places and it became a pub crawl,” McMillan told Wine-Searcher. “We took the urban tasting room and started figuring out how to elevate that experience. One of them is by appointment, so you don’t overcrowd your tasting room. It makes for a better experience. C It’s a component of They’re trying to offer more experience on the ramp: maybe pouring Sauvignon Blanc instead of Cabernet Sauvigon They’re pushing some of their low-priced wines up front so they see a higher percentage of young people.
Virginia also did very well in 2021, seeing 50% more monthly visitors than in 2018. But most major wine regions had fewer visitors than before the pandemic, in part because of the accent put on reservations. On the plus side, wineries that accept tasting room reservations make more money per visitor.
Do you feel like you’ve been getting a lot of emails from wineries lately? It turns out that 25% of US wineries send weekly emails to their mailing list; 20% do it every two weeks.
“For the first time, we discovered that we could send lots of emails to people and they wouldn’t unsubscribe from our lists,” said Pix CEO Paul Mabray. “I’m surprised we haven’t seen more emails.”
One problem for wineries trying to send you more emails has been hiring people to send them. This isn’t a problem unique to the wine industry, but it can be worse for wineries in rural areas where there isn’t a large pool of potential employees.
“A client of mine said they went to Whole Foods and paid the bag boy there to come work in the winery,” McMillan said.
Today, the US Federal Reserve raised interest rates by 0.75%: the biggest one-day rate hike in 28 years. McMillan said the move will likely slow vineyard and winery sales because buyers will want to pay the seller less because their lending costs are higher.
“Then the sellers say, ‘It was worth it last week, why isn’t it worth it now? ‘” McMillan told Wine-Searcher. “I’m not saying it’s going to freeze (vineyard sales) because there are things going on.”
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