Wineries: Passports inspire buyers to travel
Promotion offers discounts, prizes for wine lovers
By SEAN ELLIS
The Idaho wine industry hopes a new program is its passport to more business.
The Idaho Wine Passport Program, which began July 1, is an Idaho Wine Commission promotion designed to get Idahoans to visit as many Gem State wineries as possible.
"We're trying to figure out ways to drive people out to the wineries and this is just one way to do that," IWC Executive Director Moya Shatz said.
Joe Schnerr, co-owner of Cinder Wines in Garden City, said the industry welcomes any opportunity to get people more excited about visiting wineries.
"From any winery or small businesses' standpoint, the best transaction we can have, of course, is face to face in our wine-tasting rooms," he said.
The passports cost $30 each and participants will be offered special deals and rewards for visiting wineries. Passports are stamped at each winery and, when completed, their holders are entered into a drawing for a bottle of wine from every participating vineyard.
Deals at participating wineries include 25 percent or $5 off a bottle of wine, $25 off a dinner for two in a winery's steakhouse, and a free melted-bottle cheese platter.
"People love checking things off a list. They love a mission," Shatz said. But "I think the biggest reason people are going to do this is because they want the deal at each winery."
The program is patterned off a similar promotion in Texas that was created three years ago. Bobby Champion, the Texas Department of Agriculture's wine marketing coordinator, said about 500,000 passports have been issued for that state's program.
"Consumers are so engaged and embedded in it, it's taken on a life of its own," he said. "It's certainly been a great thing for the Texas wine industry."
Champion said the program has generated at least 100,000 visits to Texas wineries, which have rated it the most valuable program for reaching consumers.
The IWC hopes to sell 2,000 of the passports, and 20 of Idaho's 40 wineries are participating in the program.
"I think it's a good program," said Roger Williamson, owner of Williamson Orchards and Vineyards near Caldwell. "We're trying to get more people to come out to our vineyards and this is encouraging people to do that."
The 20 participating wineries are mostly concentrated in the Treasure Valley area around Boise, Idaho's largest population center, and some wineries further away aren't joining in the program because they doubt it will help them.
"It's a good idea, but it's a lot better for the Treasure Valley wineries," said Bill Ringert, owner of Cold Springs Winery, which is about 60 miles from Boise. "It's just more convenient for them. They'll get a lot more play out of it than we would."