WA Wine Commission World Class Value Pass – Is It Really a Value?

The Washington Wine Commission’s “World Class Wine in Our Own Backyard,” does it deliver? I recently receive the press release on the newest WWC (Washington Wine Commission) campaign. “Supported by more than $100,000 in radio, print, online, and mobile advertising, the campaign marks the first advertising and marketing campaign of its kind in the Northwest sponsored by the Washington State Wine Commission.” Exciting! At first glance, I was pumped about the potential. A 60 day focus on value and helping Washington residents discover (or rediscover) the amazing wine in our state. But, does the program deliver all that it could?

First, let me say, I’m a huge fan of the WWC and their efforts. In a recent Skype interview, Ryan Pennington, WWC Senior Communication Manager, shared the program with our readers. I think the program deserves a spin free zone and a hard look at what is being offered to consumers.  Additionally, I’m a little hyper sensitive to how the WWC is going to use the dollars saved by NOT hosting a Taste Washington event in Spokane.

Kudos to the WWC for trying something new. “More than 40 of the participating restaurants are also involved in Seattle Restaurant Week, which takes place from October 17 – 28. These restaurants will offer diners a three-course dinner for only $25, with some also offering three-course lunches for $15. Many “World-Class Wine in Your Own Backyard” participating restaurants will be combining this three-course meal with special offers on Washington wine for World-Class Value Pass holders.” To me there is a blurring of two programs. The Seattle Restaurant Week is great…for people who live in Seattle, but does adding these things into the “Value Pass” program really add value? Is the program geared toward “pass” savings or is it just an awesome promotional awareness of Washington wine?

Here is how the program works. Download the World-Class Value Pass and enjoy BIG savings on Washington wines from September 1 – October 31, 2010. What are the values you’re receiving? If the WWC is spending $100,000 to promote this program, and encourage people to use a “pass,” what are we getting with that pass?


Washington boasts 700+ wineries, yet only 50 are participating in this program. Are economic conditions so good, they don’t need the extra ad revenue? Was there an additional fee to buy in to the program? I would love to hear from some of the wineries. For the most part, the consumer benefit is pretty good with these wineries that are participating. I applaud their efforts to offer free tasting fees, extra % off on bottle or case purchases. At a glance of the offers, the benefit seems to give consumers the “member” prices at most of the participating wineries, even if they are not wine club members. But why only 7% of the total wineries for such a signature program?

Spokane Wine: Because I live in Spokane, I tend to keep a keen eye out for Spokane centric wine offers. Spokane represents with 3 of our 17 wineries (a higher % than at the state level). But, is there extra value offered for holding a “World-Class Value Pass?” Overbluff Cellars is offering 10% off purchases to pass holders. Spokane wineries Barrister and Mountain Dome are offering other very awesome promotions, but a pass is not required.


70 participating restaurants are offering “deals” for pass holders. Sounds exciting. Deals? 10% off a bottle of wine – so, that $6 wholesale bottle of Seven Hands Merlot that you have priced at $30 a bottle, I get to buy for just $27. Okay, okay, I know I’m being cynical. Of the 70+ restaurants on the list, 50+ are participants in the Seattle Restaurant Week. 1) The deals being offered are more of a result of the Seattle Restaurant Week promotion. 2) Clicking through a few of the deals revealed very generic offerings that are a part of the restaurant’s every day offering. One restaurant offers, “Wine all you Want Mondays. Put an end to Monday blues with Wine all you Want. Enjoy 50% off all bottles of wine ordered with dinner. With over 160 choices, ask xxxx or xxx to recommend a bottle.” This is no different than what you could get any given Monday without the pass. Outside the Seattle Restaurant Week, are the 20 other restaurants are supposed to be a broad representation of the other 35% of Washington’s population base in Vancouver, Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, and Spokane?

Spokane Restaurants: A whopping TWO Spokane restaurants are on the list. One offers nothing special apart from their normal offering and the other says they are “featuring” Washington wine flights but makes no mention of any special deal for pass holders. This is a total failure in my opinion. The WWC is not to blame for this, but I would be interested in the recruiting process and “requirements” to play.


Eight retailers are participating in the program. Two are statewide, Albertsons and Safeway. The other six are independent wine shops. Great work to the independents for offering between 10-25% off wines for value pass holders. Two complaints here – Albertsons and Safeway, really – are you kidding me? Albertson’s says they will “offer % off Washington wine in their weekly ads.” They do that anyway. Every week, Albertson’s offers “10% on select Washington wines.” Safeway?! You’re even worse. “Mix and match six wines and you’ll receive 10% off the entire purchase.” Uh, yeah…I can do that with six bottles of Yellow Tail Shiraz every day! Where is the value pass value?

Spokane Retailers: The only participating shop here is Vino! I have to offer props to John Allen and team for offering a pass specific savings of 10% off each Washington wine. My only question here is – where is Rocket Market, Huckleberry’s, Bottles, Wine Styles, Williams Seafood?

So, Is there Value?

World Class Value Pass. Winery value? Yes, at about 40 of the 50 participating Washington wineries, there is specific value pass savings, but that number seems awfully small. Restaurant value? At only about 30% of the restaurants – especially considering the super high 400% mark up at most restaurants. Retailer value? Yes, at the 6 independent shops but absolutely NOT at the two state-wide chains mentioned.

With $100,000 in ad space being purchased, the participants should certainly see some good exposure.  The WWC has a great concept here, I only wish that the participation rates were higher, a more balanced “outside of Seattle” approach was taken, and more specific pass value was offered. Keep moving forward WWC – I hope to see greater things from this program in the future.


I do want to reiterate my support for the program and the effort of the WWC. Venturing out into something new like this is a great effort. I applaud those wineries, restaurants, and merchants for being progressive and lending their support to the program. When / if version two of this rolls out, I hope to see three times the support and involvement with more pass related discounts.


Owner of Nectar Tasting Room in Spokane, WA. (@nectarwine) Publisher of Spokane Wine Magazine (@spowinemag), author, speaker, consultant and internet marketer with Nectar Media (@nectarmedia)

18 comments on “WA Wine Commission World Class Value Pass – Is It Really a Value?

  1. Jamie Lynn Morgan

    I am going to go out on a limb and say there was most likely a buy in amount for those wanting to participate, but not knowing how it works that is just my educated guess.

    With you on the failure of the local Spokane restaurants to offer something of value, but that would go back to their marketing/advertising overall campaign. If they are not creative with a large campaign, what are they doing on a local smaller level? Probably not that much better.

    This is the first push for this new campaign, so there are sure to be bugs and probably a lot of people who didn’t participate sitting on the sidelines waiting to see what will happen. If it is successful this time they may participate next time.

    A suggestion I would have is setting a minimum discount/offering that the participants have to meet. That way, the less than creative can choose the no brainer option, and those that want to stand out can offer something above the minimum.

    Will be interesting to see how it all plays out!


    PS Still a bit peeved myself about them canceling the Taste WA event in Spokane. Had such a good time this year!

  2. merlotman

    When I recieved the email announcing this Promo, thought great lets get more support for our wines. But after seeing the offers and particapation, WOW, forget about it, very lame. AT QFC they have a month long promotion offering 15% off all case sales mix or match even off Ad prices, it goes along with there normal 10% 6 bottles or more. QFC did not join WWC fun promo. Much better deal at QFC

  3. Ryan Pennington

    Hello Josh,

    Thanks for your continued support. Just a couple of points of clarification for you and your readers:

    First, the Commission receives no state tax dollars. We are funded directly by the state’s wineries and wine grape growers, and we are governed by a representative board of winemakers and growers both large and small and from across the state.

    Second, there are no fees for wineries, restaurants or retailers to participate in this campaign, and there are no requirements of any kind for their participation. Notification of this opportunity was sent to wineries, restaurants and retailers across the state, and each participant designed their own offer for this promotion.

    As always, we are more than happy to provide such factual background for you ahead of time, whenever you have questions. I know we share an interest in putting out accurate information.



    1. drinknectar


      Thanks for the clarification. Good to know that it’s not pay to play. As I mentioned in the post, big kudos for trying something new. I continue to stand by my thoughts that I would love to have seen greater participation and more “pass specific value” especially at the restaurant level and statewide retailers.

      Could be like commenter Jamie mentioned that maybe people are on the sidelines waiting to see how this one turns out before jumping in next time. I for one, downloaded my pass just so I could get 10% off at Overbluff and Vino. The other offers sadly are offers that don’t need the pass or don’t pertain to me in Spokane.


  4. Dustin Robertson

    I know you say you weren’t trying to slam the program, but that is exactly how it comes across.

    Couldn’t these questions have been addressed in your interview with Ryan? Granted, they are valid points, but it seems a little petty and backhanded to make this kind of post considering you recently interviewed a high ranking member of the commission.

    Food for thought

    1. drinknectar

      Dustin – thanks for your feedback. Stated several positives about the “program” just calling out the glaringly obvious lack of participation and the lack of “pass specific value” especially at the statewide retailers (Albertsons and Safeway) and some of the restaurants.

      I do think I summed up my position and support nicely here “The WWC has a great concept here, I only wish that the participation rates were higher, a more balanced “outside of Seattle” approach was taken, and more pass specific value was offered. Keep moving forward WWC – I hope to see greater things from this program in the future.”

  5. Scott Greenberg

    As the owner/winemaker at a new micro-winery (we opened in July), this was a good opportunity for some marketing on a state-wide level. I don’t know if it will result in any sales, but maybe a few people will stop by, taste my wines and tell their friends how much they like it :). We’re just trying to get our name out there, and this seemed like a good way to get people into the tasting room who hadn’t heard of us before. I’m also surprised by the relatively few number of wineries in the program, but they must have their reasons.

    1. drinknectar

      Scott – great job for getting on board. As a new micro-winery, I can certainly see your need to spread the word about your wine. I, too, would love to have seen more involvement but I love that the 50 wineries that did get on board, for the most part, offered a pass related discount.


  6. greg Lipsker

    Josh, Though it is not just geared specifically to the WCC’s promotion, just thought I’d mention that Barrister Winery is participating in the “World Class Wine in Your Own Backyard” program together with 10 Spokane restaurants with our continuing Wine and Dine program.

  7. Joe

    Any plans to go outside the state with this? I can spend $100k in a blink of an eye when buying ad real estate for my customers, so I imagine it would take a lot more cash. Good wines, though; folks should know!

  8. Steven

    It’s neither petty nor backhanded to share your thoughts and constructive suggestions. You are appreciated.

  9. Don Julien


    Don’t feel too bad about Spokane representation. In the Wenatchee/Leavenworth/Chelan area, 2 of the 50+ wineries are participating; and one of the two doesn’t have a tasting room.

    Ryan’s reference to the Commission makeup was interesting. I’ve served on many volunteer boards & understand that support & participation in promotions comes with the job. I thought I’d check the Commission members. Big kudos to Woodward Canyon, Chateau Ste Michelle, & DeLille Cellars for participating (especially the really special offers by the latter two). But where are J Bookwalter, Ascentia (Columbia & Covey Run), Upland, Hoodsport, & Sparkman Cellars?

    If the Commissioners don’t participate, why should anyone else?

    1. drinknectar

      Steven and Don thanks for the support.

      Don – that is an interesting observation. The program is a very good idea, if this one shows success, maybe more will be on board next time. I wonder if they considered doing this as PART of Washington Wine Month too. I know many wineries were tapped with provided “deals” in August and now to provide “deals” in Septeber and October, they may feel over “dealed” out…

  10. Gail Puryear

    Give the WWC credit for finally trying to sell wine in one of the largest wine markets in the country – and the only one most Washington wineries have access to.

    If you are questioning why we only give a case discount, the reason is simple. Bottle discounts just don’t move enough product. I could spend 45 minutes with a customer and sell a bottle of Sunset for $7.50. It just doesn’t compute.

    As for participation by wineries, many owners have real jobs, it takes time to log on and create a program, I have to spray the vineyard, rack the wine, order bottles, etc. We get constant requests to update someone else’s website that they have created ‘for us.’ My own website is probably out of date.

    As for the success of the program, ask me when it is over. If I sell a couple of cases at 25% discount (normal discount is 15%), I’ll be happy. It beats standing behind a rented table at an event pouring wine for drunks.

    The Grumpy Winemaker

    1. drinknectar

      Gail, always love your thoughts and comments. Can’t wait to get to Bonair Winery some day to meet you. I think it’s awesome that you’re offering a 25% discount on cases. I hope people realize that is quite a deal (almost 3 bottles free, right). The fact that you’re participating and offering something special is great! More will follow your lead next time.


  11. merlotman

    WOW, we do have a heartbeat! Now thats what I love about Washington wines and there producers PASSION, light a fire under some one And Promote our wines, Thanks everyone

  12. PaulG

    Josh, of course you are entitled to criticize, and you do it very thoughtfully. As for the 10% “discount” – I would go farther. You write “that $6 wholesale bottle of Seven Hands Merlot that you have priced at $30 a bottle, I get to buy for just $27.” OK, now add in tax and 20% tip, it’s back up to $34! Some bargain.


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