All specializing in public relations, marketing and social media, these American agencies, even the bigger ones, emphasize being lean and flexible. Their clients range from individual wineries to entire wine regions. And seven of these businesses are headed by women.
Which are the best wine and spirits public relations agencies in America?
Coming up with that answer is neither a precise nor an easy task. It begins with the decision not to include international agencies or mega-agencies that promote everything from automobiles to zirconium in addition to a few spirits for luxury-brand houses – good though they may be.
We looked instead at an agency’s size, longevity, clients past and present, the professional experiences we have had with them and – not incidentally – their being recommended by their competitors. Seven of the 10 are headed by women.
It’s also important to give a special nod to petite agencies headed by professionals with strong backgrounds gleaned at larger agencies – the kind of companies that are ideal for beverage producers who want a lot of personal attention. They are listed in brief at the bottom of article.
Here, based on the above criteria, Meininger’s presents its list of the Top 10 wine and spirits PR agencies
in the US.
New York – 8 team members and 8 partners in California, Chicago and Boston. Founded 1996.
“With a collaborative philosophy, out of-the-box thinking and deep industry connections, Teuwen builds strategic and creative programs across media and trade relations,” says CEO Stephanie Teuwen. Recent project: “Alsace Rocks,” a 360 campaign for Wines of Alsace, was rolled out in NYC and Chicago then, after COVID, was seamlessly transitioned to a virtual campaign.
Key Clients: Champagne Laurent Perrier, Cognac (BNIC), Paso Robles Alliance, Ramón Bilbao, Wines of Alsace.
New York – 40 employees. Founded 1992.
While Magrino has significant lifestyle business outside of wine and spirits, it is included because of its significant mainstream wine clientele. Recent project: Currently working on a campaign for Heitz Cellar’s 60th anniversary, which, reports EVP Leigh Ann Ambrosi, includes the launch of its newly built tasting salon and hospitality center in addition to unveiling a special cuvee that has not been produced in nearly 50 years.
Key clients: Whispering Angel, Dalla Valle, Ao Yun, Castello Banfi, Venturini Baldini.
Los Angeles – 10 employees. Founded in 2005.
“We focus on media relations because we believe that positive media coverage is an essential component of any marketing and sales strategy,” says President Katherine Jarvis. “We see ourselves as a ‘Goldilocks’ agency in size – our clients receive senior management strategic planning and work, while benefitting from a team.” Recent project: Prepping for “seeing our Italian clients on this side of the Atlantic sometime soon.”
Key clients: Frank Family, Dalla Terra Winery Direct, Cliff Lede, Inman Family, Gamble Family.
Katherine Jarvis, president of Jarvis Communications
Donna White Communication
New York, Chicago, London and Spain – Team of 10. Founded 2008.
“As a specialist boutique agency, we offer a hands-on veteran team that not only knows the industry but is deeply passionate about it,” founder Donna White says. Recent project: Pro bono collaboration with Coffee for Good, a nonprofit Connecticut coffee shop that employs people with disabilities, in developing marketing strategy and best-practices expertise across many areas of their business.
Key Clients: Arano USA, Cline Family, Gonzalez Byass USA, Mack & Schuhle, Terlato.
Creative Palate Communications
New York and New England – 4 employees plus relations with two sister agencies. Founded 2012.
“We offer an a la carte approach – ‘Everything you need, and nothing you don’t!’ – via modular campaigns and strategies designed to meet a client’s specific goals and budgets,” says principal Jane Kettlewell. Recent project: In 2020, Creative Palate’s programming for Wines of Alentejo was directly responsible for 66 percent of all impressions generated for Alentejo wines.
Key Clients: Wines of Chile, Wines of Alentejo, Champagne Bruno Paillard, Domaine Bousquet, Esporão Group
Jane Kettlewell, principal of Creative Palate Communications
San Francisco – Team of 7. Founded in 2003.
“We are a strategic marketing communications agency, with a diverse international clientele, which focuses on companies with a sustainable philosophy, often, but not exclusively, women led,” says founder Kimberly Charles. Recent project: Noting that it is “passionate about advocating for women in leadership,” but that it is more recently “shifting focus to diversity, equity and inclusion programming,” the agency worked to shape two panels at the Unified Winegrape Symposium.
Key Clients: Conegliano Valdobbiadene Prosecco, Domaine Carneros, Gabriel Glas, Altos las Hormigas, Covenant Wines.
Calhoun & Company
San Francisco – Team of 8. Founded 2003.
With a focus on fine wine and premium spirits, “Team Calhoun is small, so we take on clients as family, are scrappy with sharing our individual strengths across the agency, giving large and small clients equal love,” says owner Katie Calhoun. Recent project: Educated a trade audience on Diora Wines’ San Bernabe Vineyard in the Monterey AVA with a virtual, terroir-driven geology webinar and tasting.
Key Clients: Symington Family, Foley Family, Lodi Grape Commission, O’Neill, Scheid.
Benson Marketing Group
Napa Valley and New York – 9 employees, 6-8 associates. Founded 2000.
“We have a track record of creating the story behind brands and then launching them,” says President Jeremy Benson. “We also tend to work with companies or brands transitioning from low growth to high growth.” Recent project: “Last fall we held a webinar for 30 journalists and Graham Beck of South Africa which resulted in at least a dozen stories, reviews and mentions.”
Key clients: Barton & Guestier, Campari America, Hahn Family Wines, Bread & Butter, Vina Montes.
Colangelo & Partners
New York and San Francisco – 60 employees. Founded 2006.
President and partner Gino Colangelo says, “Built on a strong foundation of nationally recognized media relations work, our agency has grown to encompass trade relations, e-commerce, events, social media and digital marketing. We believe integrated communications is the key to propelling a brand’s story.” Recent project: As a result of 20-month APCOR campaign, “cork's market share jumped to 62 percent, attaining the highest level in over a decade.”
Key Clients: APCOR, Frescobaldi, Maison Marques & Domaines USA, Jackson Family Wines
Gino Colangelo, president and partner of Colangelo & Partners
Balzac Communications & Marketing
Napa Valley, Vancouver (WA), Columbus – 4 employees plus contract specialists. Founded 1991.
“We know our clients’ challenges and opportunities and how to navigate the complex waters of a highly regulated industry to ensure that every marketing dollar is spent well and wisely,” says President Michael Wangbickler. Recent project: Media relations, social media marketing and marketing consulting for blockbuster Wine Future 2021 virtual conference.
Key clients: Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux, David Paige, Localism, Castiel Estate, Pied à Terre.
For producers who believe they would get better attention from a very small, very reliable shop, we recommend researching these agencies: Ten27 Communications, Cuvée & Co., Folsom & Associates, Malm Comm, FeastPR, Studio 707.
So who have we missed? If you’ve had great experience as a client working with a US-based wine and spirits agency, tell us in a couple of sentences who you think should be added to his list.