Winemakers have a unique relationship with what they create. After hundreds of hours, pouring equal parts art and science into the wine, they can't help but develop a deeply personal connection to it. And getting that special juice into the hands of paying customers is the primary focus. Sell bottles -- lots of bottles.

As buy habits evolve, it is becoming increasingly difficult to get those bottles into the hands of consumers, directly. Here are a few reasons why:

  1. Too much choice: Wine is a commodity and the market is saturated with good options. Getting your wine in front of new customers is a real challenge.
  2. Tasting room visits are down: In California especially, the opportunity to create lasting relationships is dwindling.
  3. The Amazon effect: consumers expect free, next-day delivery when buying online. Wine isn't cheap or easy to ship.
  4. Competition: It isn't just other wineries stealing market share. Craft spirits, beer, and now cannabis is attracting younger buyers.

Wineries need to understand that economies change and if you don't change with them, you'll be left behind. One popular example that illustrates this point is the birthday cake. My grandmother would make a cake from scratch, purchasing the ingredients for about 50 cents. The economy evolved into packaged goods and my mother made cake-from-a-box for a couple of bucks. Pre-made cakes could then be ordered from any grocery store setting us back $20 or so. Today, we completely out-source the entire party by renting an experience, one that comes cake, balloons, prizes, bouncy houses, and more. For this memorable experience, we'll drop $200 or more.

Why would do we do this?

Welcome to The Experience Economy, a term coined by B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore. Although their book is now 20 years old, it is as relevant today as ever, especially for wineries. I highly recommend everyone give it a read.

This is the first part of a three-part series. I'd like to start a conversation about selling memories vs. selling bottles. A memorable experience is worth much more to us than just selling bottles, am I right? Experiences stick with us. We talk about them. They create meaningful connections to a brand.

What memorable experiences do you offer at your winery?

Stay tuned for the next article where we'll look at some case studies of how wineries are succeeding with first making memorable connections with their customers.