April 10 is #OpenLocalWine Night: A Q&A With Gina Shay

Last year, as the pandemic year took hold and the world shut down, Lenn Thompson, Gina Shay, and The Cork Report put up the suggestion to hold a simple event, and March 28, 2020, became Open That local Wine night. The success, and the overwhelming support, generated round 2, so #openlocalwine, round 2, took place on May 22, 2020. The idea behind it was simple: get a bottle of local wine (or cider) and open it on the designated night, enjoy it with a nice meal, post a picture of the wine(s) on social media (using the hashtag #openlocalwine), raise a glass to the winemaker that made it, and, most importantly, enjoy the wine.

Now as the pandemic enters its second year, The Cork Report has launched its most ambitious #openlocalwine event. With many of wineries from wine regions across the country and Canada offering special packages for the event, Saturday April 10, 2020, has been designated Open Local Wine night.

We recently had the chance to question Gina Shay from The Cork Report about the event.

You started Open Local Wine almost a year ago when the shutdown was still fairly new. What was the thought process behind starting the Local campaign?

The initial thought was, “How can we help our friends while their tasting rooms are closed and their main source of income, foot traffic, is interrupted?”

How was the first received, and what did you learn from it to add to the second one not that long after the first

The first one was so well-received by consumers that the wineries were asking us when we were going to do another one shortly after the first one. We kept things fairly simple the first time, only asking that wineries jump on board and participate and spread the word to consumers. The second time, we offered our deal page, which allowed wineries to list special wines or discounts to incentivize consumers to participate. It was a lot more work, but it raised quite a bit of money for the wineries involved. However, we also learned which types of deals sold most and which sold the least, so we incorporated that knowledge into the 2021 event.

Were the wineries/winemakers on board from the start, or did they stay out and watch from afar. Did any offer help/comments?

I think wineries were pretty eager to participate because they were frankly quite scared of what the year would bring.

How grassroots with Cork Report followers was it early on, and how has that changed?

Cork Report followers certainly gave us our base of industry and consumers who were willing to get on board, but we shared the event on social media, via email, by word of mouth with friends, colleagues, and family, so it quickly grew into people participating across the country. Since the first #openlocalwine, there have been 27,915 social media interactions containing the hashtag and a social media reach of 996,008 people; it’s grown each time.

The third Open Local is coming. Describe the change in format and how that came to be

We simply took note of trends with each event and incorporated best practices into our “pro tips” for participating wineries. For example, we noticed that last year, the most successful wineries had 2-, 3-, or 4-packs of wine, and they far outsold anyone offering a percentage discount or free piece of swag, so we asked wineries to strongly consider sell the bundled packs this year so they’d get the most out of it. We have also encouraged wineries not to just run the deal on #openlocalwine night (as a handful did last year); most consumers want to buy their wines leading up to the event so that they can have them in hand during the big online party that day. And we give the wineries a month of free advertising, so why wouldn’t you want to take advantage of that?

How wide do you hope to take it? Is there a cutoff for numbers, or come one, come all.

It’s for everyone. There is no cutoff for numbers. Lenn and I don’t need sleep or anything. 🙂

Is there a particular target/region you hope to include or hope gets involved?

Personally, I’d like to see more Washington, BC, and Ontario wineries get involved to really spread the love around the continent, and I’m really digging those regions right now. As a board member of the Michigan Wine Collaborative, I’d also like to see more Michigan wineries involved because whenever we survey our members, they indicate that they want us to spend the majority of our time on marketing. Well, here’s a fun, free marketing program that’s open to everyone!

Do you envision any sort of virtual taste-along or webinar to go along with the event?

There will be several live events happening on April 10th, mostly hosted by individual wineries. Lenn and I have been so wrapped up in the launch that we haven’t decided if we’re going to host anything or just participate in some of the other individual tastings.

Who has joined in, regions, countries (Canada?), states?

Here’s the current list of participating wineries, and there are still about 25 wineries who have signed up but whose deals still need to be vetted, URLs double checked, etc. https://thecorkreport.us/openlocalwine-deals-from-participating-wineries/

How does a winery get involved? Are they all offering packages, any kind of sponsorship?

They simply need to fill out this form and provide an #openlocalwine pack in their e-store: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSfRQ3_RSWQXqKNQPkbFb2LMkbfDHgSzAZF6UJvet2srbEJ_pQ/viewform

Since the whole idea behind this was to drive money to the wineries while their tasting rooms were closed or limited during COVID, asking for sponsorships would have kind of defeated the purpose. This year we launched a tiny merch store with #openlocalwine t-shirts, hoodies, and mugs to help pay for the expenses associated with running the event.

Are people participating encouraged to partake of one of the participating wines, or anything local.

The basic idea is for consumers to open any bottle of local wine and raise a glass to the winery that made it on April 10. The deal page is to make them aware of all of the great local wine around them, or to let them try wines from small family-owned and craft wineries from other emerging wine regions and maybe discover something new. Wine clubs are a huge source of reliable regular income for wineries, so hopefully consumers will discover from our list that they can order directly from places they weren’t previously aware of, find some new favorites, and become wine club members and loyal fans of those wineries.

Is a social media post the way to show participation? Will you have any sort of post event gallery?

Social media posts are the best way, but we’re also tracking websites, blogs, podcasts, videos, forums, and news, because those are all ways to reach consumers. There will probably be some sort of small event gallery, but the idea is to participate live, and people can do that by searching the hashtag #openlocalwine on April 10 to see who’s “at the party.”

What comes next?

Ha! Rest. It’s a lot of work. And focusing on selling barrels at Cadus because the race to harvest 2021 has begun! Budbreak just happened in Carneros, so here we go!

So, Mark April 10. Grab a bottle or more of local wine. Order a package from one of the wineries. Tag it all on #openlocalwine. And most of all, take part and enjoy!


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