As unemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic continues to rise, some are taking steps to adapt to keep their employees working. Much like the live music industry, the wine tourism and hospitality industry has taken a devastating blow with the closure of California tasting rooms. With little to no tourism possible and even without the possibility for locals to visit tasting rooms, wineries are looking at new ways to engage with their customers.
Jackson Family Wines, owner of the iconic Kendall Jackson brand, saw the trouble on the horizon and quickly took action to keep business operations running. With tasting room and hospitality workers essentially unable to contribute in the ways they normally would, the company engaged employees in a different way, preserving jobs and avoiding layoffs and furloughs. Instead, the company launched an entirely new digital platform to get its products directly to consumers. Employees that worked in tastings rooms were moved to packing, shipping, delivering or cleaning the wine products, and orders were kept in-house.
The result was YourWineStore.com. It’s a seemingly simple concept of e-commerce, but one that’s an important shift for Jackson Family Wines during a period of indefinite uncertainty. On the site, you can peruse all the labels under the Jackson Family Wines umbrella—spanning California and even up into Oregon. Food pairings like cheese or charcuterie can be added with fresh and local vacuum-sealed products added to the order.
The Jackson Family Wines name was built by legendary winemaker and entrepreneur Jess Jackson, who’s flagship Kendall-Jackson launched in Northern California in 1974. The family has carried on the tradition of Jackson’s work, growing both the KJ brand, adding new labels and putting a heavy emphasis on charitable work for sustainability and the environment.
Another way in which JFW engaged its workers in new ways was in how they get their products to the customer. Customers who order through the site can choose curbside pick-up at the Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates, free in-house delivery anywhere in Sonoma or Napa counties, or a flat rate shipping across the country.
The site also offers advice from the company’s vast culinary team of experts on how best to pair the wines at home. In this episode of Rock’N Vino, Carina “Coco” Sterzenbach and Mike DeWald sit down with Jackson Family Wines wine educator Ben Fine and chef de cuisine Tracey Shepos Chenami to do a virtual “unboxing” of one of JFW’s packages of wine and food, and offer tips on how to think about putting together your own wine and food pairing while sheltering in place.