Having a winery is about more than making wine for those in the South Sound Wine Trail.
For Shelton's Walter Dacon Wines and the other six wineries on the tour, surviving the recession and even a strong economy boils down to the ability to sell what you're making.
“We're a winery, but in reality, we're an entertainment business,” said Ann Anderson of Walter Dacon. “We can't just make wine, we've got to sell it, and how you do that is through promotion.”
In an effort led by Josh Stottlemyer, owner and winemaker at Stottle Winery in Lacey, Anderson and winemaker husband Lloyd partnered with other South Sound wineries and the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau to create the South Sound Wine Trail in 2011.
Two years later, though, it is paying dividends to winery owners like Stottlemyer.
He was projecting about a 45 percent growth in sales this year, but, in the first quarter of 2013, he was up 63 percent.
“We're quite a bit higher than what we were expecting,” he said. The year before, sales were up 132 percent.
Stottlemyer opened his taste room just months before the first tour in August 2011, which drew an estimated 137 attendees, said George Sharp, executive director of the visitor and convention bureau.
“We've been growing gangbusters,” said Stottlemyer, noting it's hard for him to separate the sales he's received from the tours from his business as a whole.
Sales at Walter Dacon are up about 25 percent on tour weekends, said Ann and Lloyd Anderson.
“It's just been nothing but positive,” said Ann Anderson of the tour's effect on business. “We get a lot of younger people and new people, and they come in, taste through the wines, and buy.”
Madsen Family Cellars has also seen a notable increase in sales during these events.
“It has helped us grow,” said owner Dana Madsen, who opened his taste room in 2005 in Lacey. “Each weekend when we do these tours, our sales skyrocket for the weekend. Each of these weekends is rather special to us, because it brings in lots of people and who would not have otherwise come through our door.”
Madsen said sales nearly triple on tour weekends.
The trail, which stretches through Lacey, Olympia, and Shelton, hosts passport weekends tours twice per year – on the first weekend in March and the second weekend in September.
“People don't think of wineries when we think of the South Sound,” Stottlemyer said.
That, though, part of the reason for the tour.
“When I opened my winery here in Lacey, other wineries in the area and I were surprised to see no one had done this before. Wineries tend to do better in groups because people like to come out and do tours,” Stottlemyer said.
The wineries, which also include Vina Salida, and Northwest Mountain, Scatter Creek, and Medicine Creek wineries, along with the visitor and convention bureau promote and sell a significant portion of their tickets for their tours on deal-a-day websites, like LivingSocial and Groupon.
“They were able to attract through their Groupon and their LivingSocial deals over 600 people per event. Those are people that wouldn't have come here otherwise,” said Sharp.