Talk to Jim Pfeiffer for 15 minutes, and the term Renaissance Man comes to mind. Talk to him for 30 minutes, and you’ll probably hear the word "terrior."
Pfeiffer, with his wife Laura, is the brains behind Turtle Run Winery, located in southern Indiana near the Ohio River. For the Pfeiffers, Turtle Run Winery is the realization of a dream that began in 1993. At the time, Pfeiffer was fresh out of college, where he took an eclectic variety of courses, including business, marketing, finance, computer science, physics, botany, and geography. He found the geography and botany courses particularly intriguing, and as a result he began to explore of the world of wine and where it is grown.
The synergy of his college courses set Pfeiffer on a course to find the ideal location in the United States for viniculture—taking into consideration climate, soil, altitude, and myriad other factors. Says Pfeiffer, “We saw that the wine industry was highly fragmented, and we believed that we could create value by selecting the ideal location for producing quality wines. And a winery would give us the opportunity to meld science and marketing in a business of our own.” After a four-year search, Pfeiffer purchased a farm near Corydon, Indiana, and planted his first vines in 1998.
"Terrior"—a French word with no precise English equivalent—drove Pfeiffer’s search. The term embodies all the agrarian and climatological factors that produce good wine grapes, and Pfeiffer found the perfect storm of these factors at what is now Turtle Run Winery. An eager, passionate believer in the science involved, Pfeiffer was even able to convince a local banker that his scheme would produce profits in an area virtually unknown for growing grapes and making wine. The Pfeiffers picked their first grapes in 2000, and opened their winery to the public early in 2001.
“The area near Corydon, Indiana, is quite similar to that in the Burgundy area of France,” Pfeiffer says. “Our limestone and clay is unlike that anywhere else in North America. Our perfect limestone permits water and minerals to flow to the vines, and that enables us to grow grapes that are complex and to produce award-winning wines. In the wine business, site selection is incredibly important. Although many people regard France as one vast vineyard, in fact only five percent of the land is actually suitable for growing the grapes for which the entire country is known. In addition to the right soil, factors for success in wine include weather, altitude—even the slope of the vineyard toward the sun.”
Today, Turtle Run Winery is generally regarded as one of the top wineries in the region, and others noticing the Pfeiffers’ success are developing wineries in the area. Turtle Run Winery has attracted visitors from every state. Weekends at the winery attract musicians and wine lovers from near and far, and Pfeiffer conducts wine classes teaching the subtleties of tasting and pairing with foods. But to sustain his success, Pfeiffer needs broad distribution. Marketing Turtle Run wines on a broader scale is critical.
Successful distribution in the ultra-competitive wine market necessitates gaining shelf space in thousands of wine shops and liquor stores. Comments Pfeiffer: “Both distributors and wine shop owners know that attractive labels are the first step in getting consumers to try a new wine. And subsequent sales of the brand—and thus market share—are driven by consumers who return to the store and can readily identify the bottle and label that they liked.” When Turtle Run wines first began to get distribution, Pfeiffer commissioned a label he felt would be strikingly attractive and would prompt ongoing sales of his wines. The prominent stylized turtle on the label evoked the name of the winery, and the idea of a running turtle was whimsical enough to cause the consumer to recall the wine. “Although the label began to get recognition in the marketplace, I was never quite content with it,” says Pfeiffer.
“I wanted the turtle to literally pop off the label. We experimented with foils and metallic inks, but nothing produced the effect I wanted. I found it difficult to explain to graphic designers what I wanted, and they had trouble executing. Then a print salesman recommended that I attend a presentation by Color- Logic, a graphic design software program specifically intended for metallic printing. My printer thought it was just the ticket to let my labels reach their full potential. So I bought a copy and gave it to my graphic designer. The label design they produced yielded the effect I had been trying to achieve, and after 11 years of frustration, I finally got the look I wanted. Retail customers who see it in the wine shop love the new labels, as do those who visit the winery and buy from us direct.”
Color-Logic fits neatly into Pfeiffer’s plans for marketing his wines and expanding distribution across the Midwest. “Building a brand is always incredibly difficult for a small winery— particularly so for one located in an area not widely known for producing quality wines. As a result, many small wineries add sugar, producing the sweet wines often found outside California. At Turtle Run Winery, we add no sugar, relying on our unique combination of soil and climate to produce grapes that not only do not need sugar, but stand out without it. Applying terrior to the process and putting our wine in an attractive package that stays in the consumer mind is what makes Turtle Run Winery successful in a very competitive market. Color-Logic enables us to truly make our labels sparkle. We are already looking for ways to use some of the other features of the software to further build our brand. After all, our goal is to gain distribution throughout the United States, including Napa, California.”