Bees’ Reprieve

My Dad, Jim Reed,  has an organic orchard in the Gorge that grows cherries, peaches, nectarines, plums, apricots, table grapes and one acre of wine grapes.  15 years ago we did something pretty rare in the fruit business -we branded Dad’s fruit so that produce managers and customers knew which cherries or peaches were from our orchard vs just another bin of generic commodity. The name was Columbia Blossom and one of our main symbols was the bee. This kept us to a higher level of quality (we’d throw out fruit that other orchards would be able to sell) but it also allowed us to build up a reputation in the Portland market (we sell to New Seasons & the coops -Food Front & People’s).

This fall we entered a completely new category and released our first ever wine: Bees’ Reprieve.

While our experience in the produce department earned us an initial meeting with the head of the wine department, we still had to pass their quality test as well as to convince each of the sommeliers at the individual stores to add us to their shelves.

Once we passed those steps (some with flying colors and some by the skin of our teeth), we quickly found that we had two other challenges to overcome:  the varietal, Marechal Foch, was virtually unknown and we found that most people in the wine aisle did not recognize our fruit brand (so much for a brand extension case study!)

Luckily we had three elements that helped:

  • The story of the name was interesting to the wine drinkers we spoke with during the tastings.  They liked that we were primarily an orchard and would only ever have one acre of wine grapes each year.
  • We developed an information sheet that we handed out at the in-store tastings. It included facts about the orchard as well as the varietal. People who would otherwise refuse to taste, stopped to read and give it a try.
  • And the front of the bottle is a simple image of a bee which is easily pealed off and reapplied to any window.  We purposely chose to leave off our name or other information (such as a website) in the belief that people would be more likely to place it in their kitchen or car.

Despite the unfamiliarity with the brand or varietal, we were sold out within 2 months and have been invited to return with our next release.