What are Wine Tourists looking for? Findings from a Midwest Wine Tourism Study

by Dennis Grimes on February 17, 2013

Midwest Wine Tourism Study:

Study by Dan McCole, Don Holecek and Anna Popp of  Michigan State University

OK – California is NOT the Midwest but wine tourists and wine lovers are happily everywhere. Californians generally love their fruit forward and sometimes high alcohol California-style wine (Overly simplified: ripe = ripe flavors and high sugar, high-sugar = higher alcohol – it’s all science and art). California produces some 90% of US wine although there are wineries in nearly every state of the USA and wine-grape vineyards in almost every state too.

This study applies to you the wine guest and to you the emerging region winery owner. This study does not apply so much to established wine regions like the world famous Napa or Sonoma Valleys.

See if you find your interests and behaviors as a wine tourist in this study and feel free to share your comments - and if you are a California or global wine tourist, consider or place yourself in a non-European varietal winery and consider your openness to new or unknown wine-grape hybrids.

Before you dismiss a Midwest wine study, please consider what is unique and interesting here – I find both the similarities and dissimilarities germane to serving our Ramona Valley AVA wine guests, and this information also makes me sensitive to the additional challenges that mid-west wineries face in presenting their regional cold-hardy wine-grape hybrids to an American wine consumer largely focused on known and available European wine-grape varietals and wine blends.

California is blessed with a near-ideal wine-grape growing climate or terroir. Contrasting that blessing is a costly over-regulated business climate causing many businesses and residents to bail for business-friendly states and  - yet for our love of wine and our wine-loving customers, we endure that burden and the uncertainties of farming.

Eagles Nest Winery is all about sharing the wine lifestyle in a rich, personal, and unpretentious way. We share wine knowledge, including the growing and winemaking  process, the bottling process, elements of history, science, and art, and finally share the breathtaking views of the Ramona Valley AVA, located in Southern California’s San Diego County foothills.

A recent midwest focused wine tourism study by Dan McCole, Don Holecek and Anna Popp of  Michigan State University presented in February 2013 noted that the number of wineries in the USA increased from 2,000 in 1997 to nearly 8,000 in 2010 – and we can only assume there are even more wineries in 2013 notwithstanding the prolonged economic downturn. But folks refuse to give up the simple pleasures of their wine and beer, and we infer their boutique winery and micro-brewery visits. Data was from the Federal Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) (formerly Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (BATF) – a much cooler less bureaucratic name (humor please!)).

Tasting Room Survey – Key Findings

• Avg. age of respondent: 47
– Most common age group: 51-60 (26%)
– 2nd most common age group: 21-30 (21%)

• First time to winery: 8.5%
– 30% had been to wineries 21+ times
– 23% have visited wineries outside U.S.

• Most common reasons for visiting winery?

– Have a relaxing day out

– Socialize with friends and family

– Purchase wine

– Have a unique experience

– Learn more about wine

Trip/Travel to a Wine Region

• Percentage who traveled 100+ miles to winery:


• How important was winery to decision to travel to the area:

– 68% “Very Important” or “Only Reason”

• Part of overnight trip:

– 65%
– Average nights: 3.5

• Avg. Number of wineries visited per day:

–  2.7 wineries
– 6.1 wineries per entire trip

• During trip, respondents bought an avg. of 7.4 bottles of wine at$16.50/bottle

• Avg. amount spent during trip:

– $780

Overall Wine Consumption

• Drink wine at home almost everyday:

– 19% daily
– 59% one or more times/week

• 43% typically pay $9-$11.99 for wine at home

– 72% willing to pay more for local foods
– 69% for local wines
– 58% for Michigan wines

Cold Hardy Wines

• 65% said they’d tasted wines from cold hardy grapes
– 42% “Liked a Lot”
– 30% “Liked a Little”
– 4% “Disliked” or “Strongly Disliked”

• Most common cold hardy grapes they’d heard of
– Edelweiss (17%)
– Frontenac (16%)
– Marquette (6%)

• More had heard of Snow Bird than
– Brianna
– La Crescent
– St. Pepin
– La Crosse

• 42% hadn’t heard of any cold hardy grape varietals

Another wine tourist study from the 2010 time frame produced the following guest expectations have not changed a lot in the passing years. I can’t recall the source after all these years, but I believe is was also (and possibly intuitively) from a mid-west University…

Main motives for visiting the wineries were:

  • to taste wine,
  • to enjoy the scenery,
  • to have a good time with friends and family,
  • to relax,
  • to support local wine producers, and
  • to taste locally produced foods.

Most of the visitors were:

  • Iowa residents
  • Age 26 to 45
  • College educated
  • Traveling in a party of two or four (mean group size 3.51  (median was 2))
  • 60% female / 40% male
  • Over forty five percent of the visitor household income as $50,000 – $99,999 per year, higher then the median income in Iowa and the federal level.

Back to the Feb 2013 study… the following findings are of interest to winery owners and wine lovers interested in the business of wine.

Preliminary Collaboration Findings

• Wineries collaborate more with each other than with tourism organizations

• Wineries indicated that collaboration with tourism organizations is more important to the success of their winery than collaboration with other wineries

• Wineries felt strongly that collaboration with other wineries was important to the success of the wine region

• The two most likely benefits from winery collaboration:
– ROI on marketing
– Improved visitor experience

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