Shenandoah Spirits Trail awarded $22,000 grant

Jenna French

To help expand its marketing, the Shenandoah Spirits Trail recently applied for, and was awarded, a $22,000 grant through the Virginia Wine Board.

Jenna French, director of tourism and marketing for Shenandoah County, said that the money will go a long way in getting the Spirits Trail national recognition.

“When we first launched this trail back in September, most of the money we had invested in this trail was strictly for development purposes,” French said. “Designing the collateral material, printing the pocket maps and developing the website, we didn’t have a whole lot of funds to then market. Much of the success of it has been word of mouth. This is really our first opportunity at some cash that’ll enable us to start advertising and promoting the trail outside of just our local audience. We’re really trying to go after an audience from Northern Virginia, throughout the state of Virginia and in the Mid-Atlantic Region.”

French explained that the application process for the grant included finding a minimum of three financial partners and one vineyard with which to partner.

Shenandoah County partnered with tourism committees from Rockingham County, Harrisonburg, Winchester and Frederick County. Cave Ridge Vineyard, Bluestone Vineyard and James Charles Vineyard, already part of the trail, agreed to help with the grant application. The application, French said, was looking for, “What we’re doing to promote the Virginia wine industry, it asked for a detailed marketing plan in terms of how the dollars would be spent, why this initiative was started, who our target market is and ultimately what we hope to achieve with this.”

She said the initial response from the wine board, French said was a thank you for the application “and that we had received the full amount that we applied for, which is a big honor.”

She added, “In going back and forth with them afterwards, they did tell us that they loved the application and that it was a very strong comprehensive plan that was regional based as opposed to a single entity.”

Annette Boyd, director of the Virginia Wine Board’s marketing office, said that the spirits trail application was very appealing to the board.

“It was well written and well thought out,” Boyd said. “There are seven counties working together, and the collaboration and strength in bringing all those various groups together for a common goal was very impressive to the Virginia Wine Board Matching Grant Committee.”

The spirits trail was started in September 2016 as a way to showcase the wineries, craft breweries, cideries and distilleries from Harrisonburg to Frederick County and Winchester. New to 2017, the spirits trail has also expanded to include Warren, Page and Clarke counties.

“We’re really excited about this,” French said. “Without having much money for external marketing, there has been great reception by the public.”

One of the goals of this grant is, French explained, is to make people realize what the Interstate 81 corridor has to offer in terms of different types of spirits and that the best spirits aren’t limited to Northern Virginia.

“We hope that it brings more exposure to the entire Shenandoah Valley wine trail, which actually extends all the way from Clarke County down to Rockbridge County,” French said. “We hear from a lot of our vineyards here in Shenandoah County that people don’t often realize they exist. People travel 66 and don’t realize there’s anything beyond that. Being able to actually market and advertise in the Northern Virginia and D.C.  area will hopefully bring exposure and bring awareness to the product that we have out here.”