NEWS / FEATURES
Standing: (Left to right) Joe Ginet (Plaisance Ranch), Dan Marca (DANCIN), Ashley Campanella (Edenvale), Darius Price (Quady North). Sitting: Ross Allen, RVV President (2Hawk); Ashley Cates, RVV Vice President (Agate Ridge), Dionne Irvine (Irvine & Roberts), Chad Day, RVV Treasurer (RoxyAnn), Barbara Steele (Cowhorn). Not pictured: Eric Weisinger (Weisinger Family Winery), Cal Schmidt (Schmidt Family Vineyards), Laura Naumes (Naumes, Inc). ##Photo by Maureen Battistella

Rebranding the Rogue

New tourism alliance forms to market state’s southernmost region

By Maureen Flanagan Battistella

With the launch this summer of the Rogue Valley Vintners (RVV), Oregon’s southern-most wineries have united and declared their intention to develop a vibrant, research-based, strategic marketing initiative. RVV represents the Rogue Valley AVA, which includes the Applegate Valley AVA and growing areas ranging from Bear Creek to the Upper Rogue.

One of the oldest grapegrowing regions in Oregon, the Rogue Valley AVA is now home to more than 80 wineries, vineyards and tasting rooms. Many have gained national press attention; the region hosts one of the state’s largest wine events.

Registered in April 2018, RVV establishes two main goals: 1) to work collectively to attract travelers to the Rogue Valley, delivering a distinctive wine and culinary experience; and 2) to raise awareness about the value and quality of wines from the Rogue Valley.

Travel Medford, Travel Southern Oregon, the Neuman Hotel Group and Asante Foundation are joining RVV in its efforts. Asante organizes the annual Oregon Wine Experience —formerly known as the World of Wine. Asante’s executive director, Floyd Harmon, helped re-vamp the local festival into a state-wide wine celebration, increasing the visibility of Southern Oregon wines while raising funds for the Children’s Miracle Network and Asante health services. These partners are helping shape a vision of hospitality and tourism with broader and more collective impact than the wineries acting independently.

With new leadership and increased funding — thanks to HB4146 (transient lodging tax) in 2016 — Travel Southern Oregon has re-branded, emerging as a significant marketing and tourism machine. Brad Niva, the group’s executive director of two years, adds a deep understanding in regional recreation tourism and strong marketing skills. Bob Hackett, a 19-year Oregon Shakespeare Festival marketing veteran, is also new to the team.

Travel Southern Oregon receives and channels Oregon State license fees for the Wine Country plates, based on tonnage of grapes grown within the region. As Niva said to Southern Oregon winemakers during a February 2018 wine and culinary tourism strategic visioning workshop, “We have money and we have a plan. Get on board.”

Niva changed Southern Oregon wineries’ conversation from land-use and local regulations to tourism and hospitality. He challenged winemakers to focus on clear, coordinated messaging and to align their brands and their advertising budgets with larger tourism and hospitality initiatives exercised by Travel Oregon, Travel Southern Oregon and local chambers of commerce. A core group of Southern Oregon winery and vineyard owners immediately got to work.  Stakeholders spent countless hours assembling an organizational infrastructure, developing bylaws and building consensus to form RVV.

Ross Allen, owner of 2Hawk Vineyard & Winery, was elected president of the new alliance. Ashley Cates of Agate Ridge serves as vice president and Chad Day of RoxyAnn is treasurer. The nine-member board of directors reflects the geographic diversity of the Rogue Valley AVA, although the Illinois Valley is not represented on the board at this time. RVV will hire administrative staff at a later date, but, for now, is managed by its volunteer board and committees.

RVV has contracted with Scion Advisors, led by Deborah Steinthal, to facilitate strategic planning, and Lookout, headed by Holly Macfee, for brand development and marketing. Both principals have significant experience in the wine, artisan food and tourism industries. Lookout’s clients have included Travel Southern Oregon, Willamette Valley Tourism Association, Oregon Wine Board and a number of Southern Oregon towns.

The RVV initiative expects strategic planning, Phase I of the marketing initiative, in place January 2019. 

The Southern Oregon Winery Association (SOWA) continues to serve in an advocacy role for the Southern Oregon AVA, which includes the Rogue and Umpqua valleys, but has repositioned its earlier marketing mission. The Rogue Valley Winegrowers Association continues to serve as a research and educational body in support of winegrowers and vineyard management, aligned with the Southern Oregon Research and Extension Center and Oregon State University’s College of Agricultural Sciences.

For more information or to join, visit the Rogue Valley Vintners’ website at RVV.wine.

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