This is a part of a continuing series of Q&As with members of the American wine community from across the U.S.
Vintner Magazine will share business and personal insights from Winery Owners, Vintners, Marketing Managers, Sales Directors, QCQA staff and others each month to help you get to know each other better in the industry and learn more to better develop your own brand.
Kim Aliperti, Owner/OM, Billsboro Winery — Geneva, New York
VINTNER: How has your business strategy evolved to help grow and stay competitive?
ALIPERTI: We have very quickly adapted to becoming an online business. We have increased our online marketing and social media spends. We put out more interactive social media posts and have moved to increase our reach, applying for shipping in additional states. We have also instituted a weekly Virtual Tasting Series that we live stream every Saturday at 5:30. It was important to us to maintain our brand personality during this crisis, so we have tried to keep it fun and informal, while portraying valuable technical information about the wines, interspersed with food pairings, recipes, and film clips to watch.
VINTNER: Who is your mentor in the industry and why? What have you learned from them?
ALIPERTI: I am part of a few local industry groups, Finger Lakes Wine Alliance, and The New York Wine Industry Association to name a few that I benefit a great deal from. The FLWA is more of a marketing, branding organization, and I truly admire our current Chair, Bruce Murray of Boundary Breaks Winery. His attention to aesthetics and detail is top notch. He understands that the packaging is as essential at the product (be it what’s in you bottle, the individual tasting room or the region). He has truly helped to raise the bar in the region. I ran into him a while back at a copy shop where I was hoping to have a quick printing of a promotional piece. The cost was more than I had anticipated. I wondered aloud at the possibility of switching it from color to black and white. “Don’t do it,” came the voice behind me, “Your product deserves better than that.” I’ll never forget that piece of advice. Another person who has inspired me in this region is Erica Paolicelli, part owner of Three Brothers Winery and Estates. In addition to all she does for Three Brothers, which is significant, she is also Chair of NYWIA, an industry advocacy group. She works tirelessly for the industry, holding seats on multiple local boards, meeting with legislators, and communicating with the press. I’ve known Erica for over a decade when she first entered the industry, a young woman fresh out of school; her wealth of knowledge about wine and marketing impressed me then. She has only continued to impress as she has increased her areas of expertise to wine policy and implementation at the local and national level.
VINTNER: What idea did you or your team come up with lately that has been a big benefit to how your winery functions?
ALIPERTI: It’s not original, but about two years ago we built a wine club. We spent a lot of time and money on creating a club that was reflective of who we are as a business and we did not skimp on training either. The result has been a 3-tiered club with just under 500 customers in under two years. We call it il Fienile (Italian for barn, our winery is housed in a restored 19th century barn) and it is a nod to my husband’s (our winemaker) history, making wine with his immigrant grandfather and father throughout his childhood growing up in the boroughs of NYC. We have two tiers which allow customers to choose their own wines and one where they are winemaker selected. We have three events annually with access to the winemaker and we keep the time slots small to allow quality interactions. I think our customers appreciate this touch. But I really need to credit our tasting room hosts, who do an amazing job of selling it to the customer.
VINTNER: If you had one business strategy to better the wine industry, what would it be?
ALIPERTI: Think about how you want to be treated as a customer and make that your model. That’s it. We want to be treated well, not made to feel inferior, learn something new, and experience something unique where the value is equal to the cost.
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