The wine industry isn’t exactly known for its fast adoption of digital marketing tactics. It’s been a slow transition for wineries across the world and in the US to embrace social media tools and to harness their power in branding and driving sales, especially in comparison to other industries.
That said, some wineries have embraced the importance of these tools more quickly than others. During the pandemic we’re currently living through, virtual and digital interactions have replaced many of our usual in-person marketing tactics and activities. Digital marketing savvy is more important than ever.
What new and creative photography styles are wineries using? How are they using Instagram best practices to their advantage? Who has mastered the digital user experience in order to successfully drive sales from social? Which wineries have embraced the cultural revolution happening around institutionalized racism and are using their platforms to address these issues in our industry?
Below are five US wineries with exceptional social media presences–for their ability to tell their brand story, the professional look of their profiles, the stances they take, their tone, and more. This list is not meant to be exhaustive. Instead, it’s a small sampling of wineries whose efforts have piqued the interest of consumers due to their creative and progressive use of digital platforms.
Tablas Creek Vineyard
Located in California’s Central Coast, Tablas Creek is lauded for its growth and production of Rhône varieties. As an avid listener of the podcast Wine for Normal People, I was driven to follow Tablas Creek due to the host Elizabeth Schneider’s frequent admiration of their wine on the show.
Tablas Creek’s use of social media, especially on Instagram, is impressive for many reasons. They are incredibly responsive to comments and messages from their fans, which sounds simple but can be a severely lacking form of digital hospitality in the wine industry. They also employ an approachable, even cheeky tone at times, that contributes to the successful storytelling of their brand.
Tablas Creek’s marketing team shared, “We want to make sure that what we present [on social media] falls into at least one of the categories of factual, interesting, or entertaining.” And how does their team stay on top of social media management and new digital tools? “We use the scheduling software Later, and the platform’s frequent blog posts [to] stay on top of the latest trends.”
Additionally, Tablas Creek is not afraid to draw attention to the lack of diversity in the wine industry. The winery has used their 18,000-plus follower platform to amplify voices of Black people whose voices deserve to be heard.
Ashes & Diamonds
This Napa winery was designed to stand out. Owner Kashy Khaledi, previously an ad exec at Capitol Records and MTV, has taken a modern approach to both the design of the winery itself, and to the winery’s social media pages.
Ashes & Diamonds’ Instagram page is immediately notable for its use of striking photography: mouth-watering images of their rosé submerged in pool water, staff in masks showing off their wines with bright pop art-esque color backdrops, and of course, frequent incorporation of the winery’s striking zigzag architecture.
Their Instagram feed also receives very high engagement (meaning likes and comments), despite not using hashtags. At just over 14,000 followers, that could be expected, but for most brands, engagement ebbs and flows and needs to be supplemented with new people discovering their posts through hashtags.
In regards to Ashes & Diamonds’ strategy, Khaledi explains, “We don’t color match or do cute framing. That feels too corporate or influencer-y. We like to get messy and also speak from our inner voices in the caption. Yes, there are categories, having said that: our architecture, landscaping wines, food, events and new releases. I guess we’re pretty corporate after all.”
While many Napa wineries’ social media pages are driven by marketing teams, Khaledi manages their Instagram himself. “Usually, I post at around 8:30 a.m. as I’m finishing my first cup of coffee,” he says. “If I make it to two cups of coffee, I’ll continue posting under Instagram Stories. Watch out if I hit a third cup.”
Ultimately, Ashes & Diamonds’ social media presence comes down to people. Khaledi says, “It’s not what you do ‘inside’ Instagram that creates engagement—it’s a byproduct of the relationships you cultivate outside of it.”
This bi-continental, Black-owned winery is inspiring in so many ways. McBride Sisters is owned by Robin and Andréa McBride, who connected in 1999, after not knowing each other in their childhood. After getting to know one another and discovering their mutual passion for wine, they established their brand that makes wine in both Monterey, CA and New Zealand, the sisters’ respective homes.
With a story like that, it’s no surprise that McBride Sisters are a draw for followers on social media. Their skilled promotion of their Black Girl Magic wine label makes customers want to share the wine on their own feeds. With their “old-world style with new-world finesse” branding, McBride Sisters have developed a loyal and highly-engaged following of over 78,000. The photography and graphics they share are so aesthetically pleasing you can’t help but be drawn in, as evidenced by their portable, empowering “She Can” canned wines.
Furthermore, McBride Sisters has done an excellent job leveraging their platform as a Black-owned winery to feature the talented work of other Black professionals in the wine industry. Recently, they celebrated Juneteenth on their Instagram and helped educate followers on the importance of the holiday.
Walsh Family Wine
Like the name suggests, Walsh Family Wine, located in Loudoun County, Virginia, is a small family-owned winery that prides itself on producing fruit grown entirely in Loudoun County.
While their social media audience is still growing (at just over 3,000 currently), their engagement rate per post is above average. Co-owner Sarah Walsh says their strategy is to focus “less around the number of followers and more around the amount of engagement—comments, questions, and feedback from customers.”
Their digital presence exudes authenticity, including behind-the-scenes moments at their tasting room and photos of their family. With their fun tone, there’s an approachability that can get lost in communications from other wineries trying to sell to you.
Additionally, Walsh made an extremely quick and effective pivot to offering weekly virtual wine tastings when the pandemic hit. In March, they launched their “Drinkwell” Virtual Tasting Series, in which they invite special guests to try their wines with them live on social media every Friday evening. They’ve developed a local cult following for their virtual tastings who continue to buy the wines and tune in week after week—a feat not every winery offering digital experiences has achieved.
Perhaps their success in this regard is due to the very loyal follower base Walsh has developed. According to Sarah Walsh, “They are eager to learn, they give us great feedback, and they want to be involved and support what we are doing. It has been more of a two-way street than we would have anticipated—like an ongoing conversation.”
Frank Family Vineyards
Known as a “Napa Valley Icon” and located in Calistoga, CA, Frank Family Vineyards has clearly dedicated time to getting their marketing right, and their social media feeds are no exception. Their team notes, “Excitingly, the Frank Family Marketing department is growing, and we recently brought on a Marketing Associate to better equip the team to meet our company’s growing digital needs.”
They’ve mastered the art of storytelling to their over 26,000 followers. They share a wide variety of content, from staff profiles, to vineyard updates, and virtual wine pairing sessions, and they clearly demonstrate their understanding of best practices on Instagram, like their use of Linktree to drive web traffic.
“We find that simply being ourselves and encouraging two-way communication with our audience has cultivated an online community of invaluable brand advocates,” Marketing Manager Marisa McCann explains.
When it came time to reopen after being closed due to Coronavirus, Frank Family Vineyards decided to share their safety precautions with their audience in the most fun way possible: through a music video parody of “Sweet Caroline.” Their creativity and dedication to marketing with ideas like this garner attention from industry professionals and consumers alike.
As McCann puts it, “First and foremost, wine is meant to be fun, which is important to remember now more than ever.”