7 Questions for a Master Wine Marketer

Interview with Ian Consoli, Director of Marketing, Tablas Creek Vineyard

Ian Consoli Atop the Ridge at Tablas Creek

Photo by Jeanine Madson Photography

What started as a film short has turned into a full-length feature for Ian Consoli, Tablas Creek Vineyard’s director of marketing. It all started when Ian decided to move back to his hometown of Paso Robles for a quick reset after working in sales and marketing for a decade in Southern California. One day, a friend told him about an opening at the Tablas Creek tasting room. He interviewed and got the job, working every Saturday—and he loved it!

Ian Consoli Headshot

Photo by Heather Daenitz

“Everybody was always so happy,” Ian remarked. “I wasn’t used to that kind of environment. Then I got to go full-time when the marketing position opened up. I worked four days a week in marketing and one day a week in the tasting room.”

With a bachelor’s degree in marketing and business administration from Cal State Fullerton, Ian was able to pursue the career he had always hoped for. Coming up on his five-year anniversary at Tablas Creek, Ian is only one month away from an Executive Wine MBA from Sonoma State. He says he’s working in a career where he hopes to spend the rest of his life.

I met Ian in April during a three-day wine writer’s education tour through Paso Robles. Tablas Creek is a must on such a tour: it’s the first Regenerative Organic Certified™ winery in the US and is considered one of the AVA’s founding wineries, begun in 1989 with a partnership between the Perrin family, proprietors of Château de Beaucastel, and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands.

I sat down with Ian, fresh off his acceptance of the Master Marketer Award from the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, to talk more about his decision to major in wine.

Front Gate at Tablas Creek

Photo by Heather Daenitz

Q1: Ian, thank you for talking to me today. I loved the tour of your winery and wondered what you hope your visitors take away from your tours and tastings.

I hope they feel fully immersed in the Tablas Creek story. Our history and present day are rich with stories of impressive people doing impressive things, and I hope the experience I provide does justice to those people and their actions. It’s a tale of friendship, commitment, and vision. Thanks to that vision, we have been offering and enjoying incredible wines for decades.

Q2: You’ve been in the marketing role at Tablas for nearly five years. What do you consider the most important aspects of that role in helping the business thrive?

Storytelling. I mentioned we have a rich history and an incredible story, but we aren’t the type to rest on our laurels. Every day we find ways to be more thoughtful in every aspect of grape growing, winemaking, and running a business. My most important role is inviting our followers into that world. I ask myself, “How can we be of value to those who support us?” So we share the what and the why behind our many regenerative organic practices, winemaking principles, and business decisions that lower our impact on the planet (like releasing a $95 boxed wine, switching to lighter glass, or any of our other initiatives).

Ian Consoli and Sheep at Tablas Creek

Photo by Jeanine Madson Photography

Q3: Can you describe a day in the life at the winery? In your role specifically?

Ah, a day in the life of a wine marketer. I am happy you ask this question because I recently hired a marketing intern (Nadia), and the process of teaching everything I do forces me to observe my activities through a microscope. Every day is different, typically full of activities that involve coordination with other departments, and they tend to be fun.

Let’s talk about July 5. I started the morning going to a grocery store to gather tasting note ingredients for a photo shoot we were doing that morning. I arrived and did a post on Muscardin, the final Châteauneuf du Pape variety to arrive at Tablas Creek. Then we drove a gator into the middle of the vineyard to find Chamomile for our photo shoot. I had an email request from Madeline Puckette of Wine Folly for some B-roll footage and thank-you emails from wine donations I helped coordinate the previous week. Then a meeting to discuss how we could give a premier tasting experience to employees of a significant wine media outlet coming to town. I updated our website, gathered items for a trademark, finalized a print design for a wine club gift, purchased pens for the tasting room, and started an email to notify our mailing list that we’ll be having an event. Nadia and I completed the shoot and created a new video for our #grapeminute series on YouTube. Throughout the day, I responded to social media comments, answered tasting room hosts’ questions, and explained every decision I made to Nadia.

The next day was quite similar. It takes a lot to be a successful wine marketer, and I enjoy every minute of it.

Q4: How are you involved in the wine industry beyond Tablas Creek? What do you hope for Paso Robles? For the Adelaida District Sub-AVA?

I try to stay very involved, especially where marketing is concerned. In 2020, I recognized a need for a network of other wine marketers in Paso Robles and decided to start a round-table group. We met monthly, over Zoom, with a specific topic to cover. Everyone had an opportunity to share their experience on the subject; we learned from each other and built a network of peers. Toward the end of 2021, our local wine agency, the Paso Robles Wine Country Alliance, recognized the value of the group to its members and requested to take over and make it a member benefit. I happily passed it to them as I recognized that their experience, influence, and budget could help expand this professional network. I’m still actively involved and continue to learn from the greatest marketing minds in the Paso Robles wine industry.

Q5: What advice would you give to someone who’s looking to join or move up in the wine industry?

Regarding marketing positions in the wine industry, I would remind the individual to know that wine marketing is essential. Every winery needs it, but they don’t all have it. If you find yourself at a company you love, and they don’t have a wine marketing position, create it. Also, remember you’re never alone. Empower others to get involved in producing or being a part of content. Marketing is storytelling, and the story of the winery is the story of everyone. Give them a say in the story being told.

Tablas Creek Patio in the Fall

Photo by Heather Daenitz

Q6: What were the benefits of furthering your studies at Sonoma State and how would you advise people who may be choosing a similar program?

In a word, the benefit of my studies is understanding. I now have a well-rounded understanding of every department and everything they have to deal with. This has improved my communication across the board because I know why specific requests come in, I know how to ask the right questions to attain quicker answers, and I see miscommunications for their cause and correct them quickly. I am an all-around better business person, thanks to my studies.

I highly recommend the Wine EMBA program at Sonoma State to anyone thinking of pursuing it. Send me an email, and I would love to share more details of my experience.

Q7: What are you most excited about related to the Paso Robles AVA’s future?

The marketing! I am excited to see more wineries embrace the importance of the marketing role. I am excited to see the abolishment of the hybrid marketing position. No more tasting room manager/marketer or wine club manager/marketer. Professional marketers require dead time to innovate. They will use that dead time to complete tasting room or wine club tasks if they are in a hybrid position. Employing a full-time marketer is worth it, and I believe our region is embracing it.

Thanks, Ian! I hope to visit again soon!

Tablas Creek is a pioneer of California’s Rhone movement. Founded in 1989, it is the culmination of a friendship between two of the international wine community’s leading families dating back to 1967: the Perrin family of Château de Beaucastel and the Haas family of Vineyard Brands. After a four-year search, the partners chose Paso Robles, California, for its many similarities to the southern Rhone and began the lengthy process of importing vine cuttings, building a grapevine nursery, and creating an estate vineyard from scratch. In 2020, they became the first winery in the world to become Regenerative Organic Certified™.

Main Photo: Heather Daenitz
This article was also published at Majoring in Wine. Visit Majoring in Wine to read more interviews like this and see what’s new in wine education.
Marketing is storytelling, and the story of the winery is the story of everyone. —Ian Consoli Click To Tweet

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