Desert Wind Winery Rebrands and Expands Wholesale Market Portfolio
Prosser, Washington, July 20, 2017 – Desert Wind Winery, the Washington-based winery of Fries Family Wines has undergone a rebranding effort to maximize brand exposure in the market and solidify itself as a leading producer from the Wahluke Slope AVA in Washington State. The rebranding consisted of three key elements: a dramatic change in packaging, the expansion of their wholesale portfolio, and the return of the original winemaker.
“The wine industry is constantly in flux; with shifts in the demographics buying wine, varietals that have become trendy, and new producers entering the market, we wanted to cut through some of the noise and solidify ourselves as Washington producers – from the Wahluke Slope, in particular,” said Martin Jones, Director of Sales and Marketing for Fries Family Wines.
Prior to rebranding efforts, the label for Desert Wind wine was iconic in that it was a map of Central Washington, with a die-cut along the Columbia River giving it a distinctive shape. It also featured the founder of Fries Family Wines, Doug Fries who still actively farms all of the family’s vineyards.
The marketing team at Fries Family Wines hired Napa-based design firm, CF Napa to oversee the creation of the new packaging. “CF Napa is an innovative, industry leader for design. Their breadth of knowledge about industry trends and their scope of work led us to choose them for this project,” explained Jones. “Our goal was to breathe freshness into our packaging while still focusing on what we consider our most valuable asset – the Desert Wind Vineyard in the Wahluke Slope.”
“The new Desert Wind package design captures the unique characteristics of the Wahluke Slope AVA known for its desert landscape and windblown sand. The winds in the area lead to smaller leaf size and smaller grape clusters concentrating the flavors and resulting in robust wines,” said David Schuemann, Owner and Creative Principal of CF Napa. “We drew a gestural illustration where the wind melds with the land in a swirl of brush strokes and gold foil “sand” to capture the feel of the arid conditions and the winds that sweep the vineyard,” Schuemann explained.
The new packaging was introduced into the market with the 2015 vintage red wines, and 2016 vintage white wines.
Desert Wind has built their wholesale business on three specific red wines – Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Ruah, the winery’s proprietary red blend. White wines were only produced for the DTC wine program, leaving what the team considered to be a hole to fill in the portfolio. “We actively survey the market and speak with our channel partners. Acknowledging there was a need for a white wine in our wholesale portfolio was the first step in expanding the line,” remarked Jones.
“Red wine grapes, particularly the Bordeaux varietals are the backbone of and grow extremely well in the Wahluke Slope,” explained President of Fries Family Wines and Desert Wind Head Winemaker, Greg Fries. “The terroir there, that is, the climate, soil, approach to farming lends itself to solid, well-structured wines. Even with the prevalence of red wine grapes under vine, certain white wine varietals also thrive and can create something special,” he continued.
The white wine varietal the team felt best reflected the terroir of the AVA and rounded out the wholesale portfolio best was Chardonnay. “Chardonnay is the number 2 varietal in US wine sales in our category, just behind Cab Sauv,” said Jones. “Not only do we want to produce a wine that reflects the terroir and is beautifully crafted, but we want to make smart business decisions. Chardonnay has worked incredibly well in our DTC portfolio, and so we created another distinctive product to round out our wholesale business.”
The 2016 Desert Wind Chardonnay was released in July, 2017.
Original Winemaker Returns
Greg Fries, who was the original Winemaker for both of the family wineries – Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, WA, and Duck Pond Cellars in Dundee, OR took on the role of Director of Winemaking in 2006, allowing for more time to be spent farming the family’s multiple vineyards throughout the Pacific Northwest.
“My family, we’re farmers,” Fries said. “I never walked away from the winemaking side of the business, but I was able to direct more attention to the vineyards where ultimately great wines start.” Fries’ 2005 Ruah was named in Wine Spectator’s ‘The Top 100: Great Values of 2008’ issue. “Coming off of a terrific vintage it was difficult at first to not spend as much time in the cellar, but ultimately it was the best decision, and I still oversaw the winemaking team,” he explained.
With the need for a full-time winemaker dedicated to the rebrand and growth of Desert Wind, Fries returned to his role as Head Winemaker in 2015 but still balances his time between the vineyards and the cellar. “It’s great to be back, really crafting wines that are mine,” exclaimed Fries.
About Fries Family Wines
Fries Family Wines was founded in 1993 by Doug and Jo Ann Fries. The family first planted a 13-acre vineyard in Oregon in 1983, and acquired an additional 540-acres of land in the Wahluke Slope AVA in Washington in 1992. This was followed by further vineyard acquisitions in Oregon. Their first winery venture, Duck Pond Cellars opened on Memorial Day in 1993. In 2001, they launched the Desert Wind brand to showcase the fruit of their Washington vineyards. Today, the family farms over 1,000 acres of vineyards and operates Duck Pond Cellars in Dundee, OR and Desert Wind Winery in Prosser, WA.
About Desert Wind Winery
Desert Wind Winery is a family-owned and operated winery located in Prosser, WA, the “birthplace of Washington Wine”. Prosser is located in the greater Columbia Valley AVA of Washington. For nearly two decades, Desert Wind Winery has produced a variety of handcrafted wines, with a focus on bolder, Bordeaux-style reds, using fruit from the family’s premium vineyard in the Wahluke Slope of WA.