By Evan Dawson, Finger Lakes Editor
Photo by Morgan Dawson Photography
Friday night, three Finger Lakes wineries will release two new vintages of their cooperative wine, Tierce. But if the goal for the wine is still the same — Fox Run Vineyards, Red Newt Cellars, and Anthony Road Wine Company each contributing to a singular expression — the release party will be far different this time around.
The cost per person has been cut from $75 to $25. The menu will feature carefully selected hors d'oeuvres instead of a long and formal dinner. Winemakers will talk about the components and the final product, but there will be plenty of time for attendees to chat and mingle.
Fox Run Vineyards will host the party in the barrel room, with a handful of tickets still available. But marketing director Leslie Kroeger makes an interesting comment, given the overhauled event plans. "We're not making money on this," she says. "Certainly not on the tickets. We hope for Tierce sales, but it's just as important for us to build word-of-mouth and buzz for the wine."
Kroeger is conceding that even with a new focus, this kind of event is not a great source of revenue for the involved parties. She says they've sold about 50 tickets for the 7 p.m. party. Instead of trying to create the perfect formula that generates maximum profit, Kroeger says the Tierce producers have learned lessons from past events.
"If we can use this kind of event to build a reputation and relationships, that's potentially more valuable," she explains. "The old format was a tough sell for many customers. I mean, a four-hour meal in an intimate setting is fantastic for some people, but we wanted to make sure more Tierce fans would attend. We wanted to get as many people there as possible."
Kroeger does not believe there is a simple price limit that customers are willing to pay to attend wine-themed events. After all, Fox Run routinely sells out winemaker dinners in the barrel room at a ticket price of $75.
But Tierce remains a relatively young concept, with the first vintage coming in 2004. Friday night the producers will release the 2007 Tierce, known as Tierce Red because the winemakers chose to make a red blend, along with the 2008 Tierce, another riesling. They expect to continue building a base of interested customers.
Other challenges comes in the growing number of wine-themed events available to customers. More wineries than ever are pairing with local restaurants and farms to offer formal dinners. Most weekends offer some kind of lunch or dinner event, and that's aside from the myriad wine trail events that pair wine with local foods.
We'd love to hear from you: What kind of event convinces you to spend your time and money?