Hollywood helps Terlato hit the big time

Wine producer's movie exposure proves to be a nice complement to its traditional comms tactics

While the communications team at Terlato Wines International tells plenty of stories about the approximately 60 brands in the company's portfolio, Hollywood may tell the best one.

The 50-plus-year-old company's overall aim in its outreach is to "surround the luxury consumer" and emphasize the "experiential" nature of wine as part of a meal shared with friends and something that helps make an occasion special, says director of communications Phil Rozen.

The high price of Terlato brand wines, including Chimney Rock, Rutherford Hill, and Sanford, means its offerings are not for everyone. But that exclusivity often works to the company's advantage.

The average wine consumer is increasingly interested in - and self-educated about - the story behind wines, such as where and how they are grown, the difference in varieties, and which foods they best accompany. Terlato produces relatively small amounts of wine for each of its brands, a fact it uses as a promotional point in referencing its quality and uniqueness as attributes.

Appearances in major films have also helped reinforce the cachet of Terlato brands. Steve Singerman, PR director, and Rozen both note that it is often the producers of TV shows and movies that request the use of Terlato brands in their projects, as opposed to the other way around.

Notable recent appearances by Terlato brands include Bollinger champagne (which the company imports) in the latest James Bond installment Casino Royale, Chimney Rock in the recent Sex and the City movie, and Sanford in Sideways, the ultimate film for wine lovers.

In the latter case, the 2004 film's screenwriter knew of Sanford's history as a pioneer grower in Santa Barbara County of the rather delicate pinot noir grape, and intentionally wrote the winery into his script. The first winery that the two main characters in the movie visit on their road trip is Sanford. The Paul Giamatti character, Miles Raymond, even provides a brief history of the winery and the grape (and also scolds his friend for chewing gum while tasting the wine).

"That movie certainly did a considerable job of raising awareness of the marvels of pinot noir," Rozen says. "[It] did a great job of helping to grow the knowledge about what it takes to grow the grape and what it tastes like."

Singerman emphasizes that even with the movie exposure, the traditional forms of PR in the wine business are as important to the company as ever. Those tactics include sending samples to writers, arranging meetings between wine writers and wine producers, and holding public tastings featuring wine producers. However, wine producers, as with companies in virtually every other industry, are also embracing online outreach, through blog postings and podcasts.

"We're getting to a point where people are staring to want to learn ever more about wines themselves, so there's a great effort at education that's going on that wasn't there before," Singerman adds. Through all these many online outlets, as well as traditional sources, "we can be a source of information for learning more about fine wine."

Most of the outreach is handled in-house by Terlato, though the company has been working lately with Marina Maher Communications to promote a couple of brands, the new Seven Daughters and Markham.

For both of these brands, as well as many others in the Terlato family, Rozen and Singerman say a lot of outreach increasingly emphasizes the complementary nature of wine and food. With wine writers, in appearances on shows with celebrity chefs like Rachael Ray, or at food and wine festivals, the trend in wine appreciation is toward its use with food.

"[Today] it really is about good wine making food taste better, and vice versa," Rozen says. "This is something that was established in Europe years ago and is now taking a much more predominant role amongst US consumers. As more and more food writers and television personalities integrate wine into their repertoire, we want to be there with them."

At a glance

Company: Terlato Wines International

President and CEO: William Terlato

Headquarters: Lake Bluff, IL

Revenue: The privately owned company's 2006 revenues were $207.4 million.

Comms budget: Undisclosed

Key trade title: Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast

Communications team: Phil Rozen, director of communications; Steve Singerman, director of PR

PR agency: Marina Maher Communications (for the Seven Daughters and Markham brands)

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