There are certain things you cannot ignore in business, even if they fall outside your comfort zone. Social media is a big example, and a force that although intimidating, has to be included in a successful business model. When you visit a winery’s twitter account or facebook page and they haven’t added anything in months other than a silly picture, you second guess their brand. This is a facet of business you can no longer choose to ignore.
But an even greater force is growing that the wine industry can’t write off or cold shoulder. In fact it was the group of wine consumers that saw the largest growth in 2012, so why would you ignore them unless you don’t know how to grab their business? I’m talking about the children of the social revolution: the Millenial. This group was born into brand. They crave innovation, and are moved by style driven design. Millenials don’t believe rules were made to be broken, they see “rules” as part of a rigid, archaic system. To the millenial, there ARE no rules, which is why it’s one of the hardest concepts for wineries to work into their branding. Here’s a tip: Keep it real.
Brock Estes, President of Fly Gap Winery, and Adam Nelson, Vice-President, co-authored this article. Being 32 myself, I embody the Gen Y/Millenial characteristics as well, but this pair of winemakers in particular offer unparalleled insights and were willing to share them with our readers who are both wine consumers and industry leaders. Texas Wine and Trail Magazine would like to thank them both for their raw honesty, another strong part of the millenial’s make-up.
Brock Estes, President Fly Gap Winery, Mason, Texas
I’ve recently been asked some very interesting questions in regards to wine drinkers in the late 20’s to 30’s age group. What are my opinions when it comes to marketing, events, and style of labels that this age group responds favorably to? Where do I see the future of Texas wine with this generation’s growing support? These are all intriguing questions, and I do have strong opinions on these topics.
For those of you who don’t know me, I’m now 29 years old. I first became involved in the Texas wine scene in 2006 as an intern working under Winemaker Don Pullam. In 2008 I worked under Jason Englert. Since 2010 I have been in promotion, brand development, and sales alongside my best friend Adam Nelson. We are extremely passionate about wine, and both had aspirations since 2006 to start our own wineries. The DANK brand was created as a segue for him and I to start our own wineries. We operate mostly off sweat equity, and need to generate capital to invest towards our separate projects, mine being Fly Gap Winery, and his being Spiller Mine Vineyards. Both are located in the Fly Gap region of Mason County.
I personally feel that wine should be for everyone, and I especially like the idea of multiple generations drinking the same wine together. That’s why we chose to go with DANK, because it ties in with the Fly Gap Winery vision, “old roots, young spirit.” We are God fearing people that try our best to put him first. We respect our elders, and envy the way our ancestors lived off the land. Nelson and I both would like to live off the land and farm in a style that our ancestors did, but we will be blasting Radiohead while doing it.
DANK wines are private labels and collaborations with other Texas wineries and winemakers to make juice we can sell in the marketplace. So far the DANK art labels have been popular among the Generation Y crowd, and they will continue to get edgier. Yes, we chose to target the Millenial or Gen. Y out the gate because no-one else was, and being a part of the generation we felt it was important. We understand the significance of a wine label; how it can appeal to or miss an entire market, so a lot of variables go into the development of our label to make sure it represents our brand well.
In regards to Marketing, millenial’s are all about social media…You-tube, Facebook, and Twitter. It’s just easier to click on pictures rather than reading a wall of text. We always search for the fastest way to consume information, and if a picture or object sums up a story, then we respond to that better than the story itself. We respond well to comedy, and Millenial’s like logo merchandise, but it has to be cool.
All-in-all, I feel like the millennial generation will have a big impact on the Texas Wine industry when they’re given proper attention. This generation is very interested in wine, and wants to learn more. I think as the younger wine scene develops in Texas; my generation will do what we do best and re-mix it somewhat, using traditional elements to play around with new techniques, ideas, and theories. As members of the Texas wine community, it is our duty to take what we have learned and get this generation up to speed so they can continue improving upon what the pioneers of our Texas Wine industry built – help drive Texas wine further towards being a major competitor.
We want people to want to buy Texas wines, not be sold into buying them. This young generation should not be overlooked, and I am proud to inform, educate the best I can, and supply great products to my peers.
Adam Nelson, Vice President, Fly Gap Winery, Mason Texas
Where do I begin with Mason County? As a kid growing up there, the list would have consisted of what’s not available, what little there is to do and how your everyday life is somehow public knowledge to the rest of the community. Yet, as an adult, I have based my entire life’s plan around getting my family and I back out to Mason Texas.
Since 2006, Brock Estes and myself have been cellar-rats starting with Sandstone Cellars. During our very first harvest we looked at each other and figured “This is our ticket back to the hill country.” This is how we can escape the hustle-bustle and highway noise. Above all, this is what we are to do with the rest of our lives. PUT MASON COUNTY ON THE MAP! Create a destination location. Unlike when we were kids, we now see everything Mason County has to offer. Diverse soil types, countless microclimates, plenty of clean water, rocky, granite and limestone that can be seen with the naked eye.
Texas farmers are figuring out what grape varieties are thriving in certain climates in Texas, especially in the high plains with the wide open skies, hot days and cool nights. Though there are certain French varieties that could do well; Tannat, Moure Vedre, Syrah, Alicante Bouchet (which is all but extinct in France and now thrives in Portugal;) but we are finally branching away from Bourdeaux types that are thin-skinned, which I personally feel it is a breath of fresh air.
Brock and myself are approaching the industry with an open mind. Creating edgy marketing launches and brand building, experimenting with lesser known grape varieties and collaborating with wineries from around Central Texas. We want to see the entire Texas Wine Industry ramp up in a cohesive effort and get the respect we feel it deserves. Mason County is a stepping stone to that goal. I was discussing the other day my feelings on the future of wine in general; “Wine and the culture on which it’s based is like Catholicism. If the Catholic Church did not evolve ever so often, it would eventually die.”
It is for this reason we see the importance in Fly-Gap Winery, DANK, Spiller-mine and Mason County as a whole. We are revolutionizing the industry. Propagating our own fruit, building our own production facility from mostly post consumer material, everything in an attempt to bring the old world methods to the forefront, full swing, into our backyard! We have an old world pallet. I love the grip; barnyard hit’s of earthiness and favorable Brett; it takes aggressive fruit. Brock said to me once in the beginning of all this, “Adam, I’m not only looking to grow all Texas fruit, I’m looking to grow the BEST fruit in Texas!” I have never forgotten that and cannot allow myself to. We constantly remind ourselves that we are not chemists, but we’re not interested in mediocre fruit either.
What we’re realizing is that Touriga grows amazing in Mason County. It is an aggressive fruit native to Portugal. Now, we might be partial, since Brock and myself are obsessed with Portugal wines but non-the-less Touriga and Alicante Bouchet in particular have proven to be contenders. Dan McLaughlin’s, Robert-Clay Vineyards in Streeter, is a good friend and mentor who shares the same passion for viticulture as we do. He knows his stuff and has most recently caught the interest of the San Antonio Express. He is one of very few growing Touriga in Texas, and Brock and I both have clones from that vineyard which we’re looking forward to using.
We are not afraid of risk, and both know that is how evolution of the Texas Wine Industry continues…risks taken by people who care. I feel wine and the methods used to make it are the same way, thus the Fly-Gap’s motto, “Old roots young spirit.” I will end with a quote from Brock who has the vision (keep in mind we are two broke farm boys with little overhead capital!) “If I risk nothing, play it safe and do things the way everyone else is doing them, what are my chances then?”
You can take what I have said with a grain of salt, but instead I hope you take it with a nice, salty cheese and a phenomenal Texas red.
Brock Estes and Adam Nelson invite you to try their DANK wines, which are starting to be carried in some of the hottest restaurants and bars in Texas, including Chef Shawn Cirkiel’s newest restaurant, Parkside, in Austin. Brock and Adam also provide a unique pairing experience on their website: the perfect tunes to enjoy each DANK wine with. They suggest Radiohead’s “All I Need” for the Vox Populi …and I couldn’t agree more.
Article by Leanne Holley, Texas Wine and Trail Magazine
Co-Authored by Brock Estes and Adam Nelson, Fly Gap Winery
Carriers of DANK wines from Fly Gap Winery: