McWilliams Mount Pleasant Estate award-winning cellar door

Name: Phil Ryan, chief winemaker

The McWilliams Mount Pleasant Estate is not only renowned for its award-winning wines, but it's also the recent winner of the 2008 Hunter Valley Cellar Door of the Year. Grapegrower & Winemaker asked winery brand communications manager, Bernadette Knight about the keys to McWilliams Mount Pleasant winery cellar door success.

Grapegrower & Winemaker: What do you seek to provide visitors to cellar door that is unique, and how does this tie in with the culture and philosophy of your winery?
MMPW: McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Estate cellar door seeks to provide visitors with the ultimate Hunter Valley experience, showcasing both aged and youthful styles and some of the most awarded wines at their fingertips.

G&W: What are the three key attributes that make your cellar door operations a success and why?
• passion for the Hunter Valley
• well-trained staff
• participation in local and regional activities.

The team at McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Estate is very passionate about the Valley and it shows. Highly trained and ardent about their contribution to the Hunter Valley wine industry, the Mount Pleasant team ensures that all visitors to the winery have the most personal and interactive experience possible. Heavy involvement in local activities which translates into consumer involvement in the region builds a special relationship between McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Estate and its customers. Cellar door manager, Andrew Atkins, said the best tip is to 'treat every visitor as if they are a guest in your own home'.

G&W: How many wines are available for tasting and for sale, at the cellar door and at what price?
MMPW: With more than 30 wines available for tasting at any one time, including some of Australia's most revered aged Hunter Valley Semillon, Mount Pleasant has an array of wines to offer consumers. Vertical tastings across many vintages are a specialty and the cellar door offers a selection of museum wines for tasting, showcasing the regional strength and age-ability of the unique Hunter Valley wine styles. Wines range in price from the quaffable $9.99 to the high-end wines up to $65.

G&W: How do you see cellar door fitting with your overall marketing mix?
MMPW: The McWilliam's Mount Pleasant cellar door is used as a special opportunity to build a relationship with the winery's consumers. With a database of more than 5000 'Friends of Mount Pleasant', this face to face contact with consumers is critical in building ground-swell and support for the wine brand. Cellardoor-only wines and exclusive packages are offered to 'Friends of Mount Pleasant' members in recognition of their support.

G&W: What are the key three things you look for when recruiting cellar door staff?
MMPW: Passion, enthusiasm and drive. We participate in specialist, comprehensive wine training by McWilliam's Academy of Wine, to ensure the highest level of customer service. On-thejob training which includes regular wine tastings, ensures that all members of the team understand each and every vintage.

G&W: Can you explain how you educate visitors to the cellar door about your winery, and about wine in the Hunter Valley?
MMPW: Structured tastings and winery tours are available to visitors to gain a better understanding and develop a closeness to the art of winemaking. Visitors are educated by the McWilliam's Mount Pleasant team on the 80-year history of the winery and some of the great wine discoveries made in the Hunter Valley during that time. A series of pictures taken by legendary photographer, the late Max Dupain, in 1950 are also on display in the winery and catalogue the historical winemaking practices from the middle of last century. These unique images not only provide an incredible pictorial history of the winery to visitors but also the history of the Hunter Valley region.

G&W: Are you part of any winemaking marketing initiatives with wineries in your region. If so, how does joint marketing work to build business for your winery?
MMPW: McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Estate is a member of the Hunter Valley Wine Industry Association which undertakes a number of collective events and marketing to entice visitors to the Valley. The winery and cellar door also participates in many local events such as the annual Semillon and Seafood weekend, The Marrowbone Meander (which unites wineries along Marrowbone Road) and Hunter Uncorked, to further drive tourism for the region. Joint marketing allows us the opportunity to broaden the appeal of an event and expose us to more consumers.

G&W: Can you explain any other marketing initiatives which involve cellar door that you use to attract visitors.
MMPW: The 'Friends of Mount Pleasant' members who are based all over Australia are sent regular communications from us in the form of a seasonal newsletter complete with cellar-door-only offers, event listings and other local information. Many events are held in capital cities across Australia where McWilliam's Mount Pleasant Estate comes to the consumer to showcase the latest and greatest wines from the winery.

G&W: Do you maintain a customer database of all customers? How hard to you push this and how stringent are you about it.
MMPW: Friends of Mount Pleasant can be high-purchasing consumers or simply people with an interest in the Hunter Valley region. The database is used to communicate new release wines, special offers, events (in and outside of Hunter Valley). The database is a lively part of the cellar door strategy and is constantly updated and utilised for niche marketing opportunities.

G&W: What is the best marketing promotion you've conducted, in terms of actual sales results?
MMPW: A co-promotion of two of McWilliam's Mount Pleasant's finest wines, Lovedale Semillon and O'Shea Shiraz, was the most successful for the cellar door. It proves in the end that it is great wine that sells!

This article was first published in the August 2008 issue of Grapegrower & Winemaker. To subscribe to the magazine contact Winetitles on +61 8 8292 0888 or email [email protected]

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