Barefoot marketing genius says Lodi’s the “un-Napa”

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Randy Arnold gave an interesting presentation about building a wine brand at the first meeting of the Lodi Association of Wineries. [BOB HIGHFILL/THE RECORD

Mike McCay took the microphone and opened the first official meeting of the Lodi Association of Wineries last Thursday at the Lodi Grape Festival grounds.

In his opening remarks, McCay mentioned how pleased he was with the range of Lodi winery owners and winemakers in the audience.

“We have young Lodi, medium Lodi and experienced Lodi here,” said McCay, owner and winemaker at McCay Cellars. “It’s very important for LAW to be a cohesive group.”

LAW was formed last year to give winery owners a voice regarding the San Joaquin County Wine Ordinance. The Wine Ordinance, in part, limits the number of events a winery can hold in a year, as well as the number of guests who can attend, depending on the property size.

“We want to bring value to Lodi wineries,” McCay said. “We all realize Lodi is about to explode. We’ve come a long way and there’s a lot more road to go down.”

LAW also was formed to give wineries an opportunity to exchange ideas and receive education. On Thursday, Randy Arnold, brand ambassador with Barefoot Wine and Bubbly, was the guest speaker and shared some of his knowledge about building a wine brand. Arnold helped Barefoot grow from humble beginnings (Michael Houlihan and Bonnie Harvey started Barefoot in their laundry room in 1985) into the world’s No. 1 wine brand, with a portfolio of 35 different wines and sales in 74 countries on six continents.

In 2016, Barefoot’s sales in the U.S. exceeded $660 million, almost twice that of Sutter Home.

Arnold has been central to Barefoot’s marketing and sales strategies over his 30-plus years with the company. Among its core values is engagement with the community. Arnold has spearheaded events from global beach cleanups to partnering with local nonprofits in order to build brand recognition and customer loyalty. Barefoot has little need for traditional means of advertising.

Arnold said every year, Barefoot donates products to different nonprofit benefits. In the past decade, Barefoot, which was purchased by E&J Gallo in 2005, has raised more than $250 million for nonprofits in North America.

“We want to make the world a better place through wine,” Arnold said. “That’s the basis of how the largest wine brand in the world got established. And we have hundreds and hundreds of causes.”

For the past five years, Arnold has put together “Lodi Insiders Tours” for nonprofits to auction at fundraisers. Recently, the East Bay SPCA fetched $2,000 for one of Arnold’s Lodi tours. Guests usually are taken on a walk in the vineyard and taste wine and cheese with a grape grower. Arnold said he likes bringing guests to Lodi because of the area’s hospitality, history, diversity and affordability. He calls Lodi the “un-Napa.”

“It’s always interesting and we always just have a totally great time,” Arnold said. “They feel they are getting a very unique experience.”

Arnold has seen the Lodi wine scene grow and predicts more growth in the future.

“In five years of doing the Insiders Tours, I’ve seen the amount of people in the wineries increase dramatically,” he said. “The weekends are getting really busy, and it’s fantastic to see because you deserve that attention.”

 

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      Bob Highfill

      Record Sports Editor Bob Highfill is a wine enthusiast and has earned Level 3 certification with the Wine and Spirit Education Trust of London through the Napa Valley Wine Academy. Bob will share some of his experiences from his travels to Lodi and other prime wine locales in his blog and welcomes your suggestions, reviews and wine speak.
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