Frey Ranch and Churchill Vineyards: Building a brand for Nevada’s first commercial estate distillery
With a long-rooted history in Nevada agriculture, the Frey family owns and operates a 1,200-acre farm in Churchill County, Nev., growing wheat, corn, barley, rye, alfalfa and oats. In 2001, the Frey family began creating wines with grapes grown right on Frey Ranch. For more than a decade, Churchill Vineyards Estate Winery has produced high quality white wines such as Gewürztraminers, Semillon Chardonnays and Rieslings in addition to a line of red wines with grapes grown in another region.
In 2013, owner Colby Frey, and his wife, Ashley, set out to build a distillery right on Frey Ranch that would accomplish their dreams of becoming spirit-makers, specifically making vodka, gin and bourbon whiskey. However, while the Churchill Vineyards brand was locally known, the brand – both in name and appearance – didn’t accurately represent the future of Frey Ranch and would not provide the brand with the national notoriety that the products would deserve.
Since the Freys began working with Argentum Partners partner Mike Draper in 2013, he and his firm helped them with brand identity and the initial efforts to market the product locally. However, after growing the brand and gaining notoriety, the challenge became making Frey spirits a staple nationally for craft products. Furthermore, because the Freys were focused on building a world-class operation, the Argentum Partners team focused on garnering the notoriety the brand deserved on a small-budget.
The initial task was branding and the firm immediately held a branding session with key members of Frey Ranch – working to identify core brand characteristics, personality and identifiers. After creating a brand that was not only recognizable but embodied the heart and soul of the products, the Freys began the spirit-making process, distilling vodka in 2014 and gin in 2015. With the brand in place, the public relations team began strategic outreach to consumer and trade media, starting locally and expanding to national media. The team was also able to target key competitions that the spirits should be entered in and, in 2016, Frey Ranch Gin won a double gold medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition, one of the most influential spirits competitions in the world.
Shortly after the Freys took home the top honors for their gin, the public relations team began targeting key national media to tour the ranch and sample the products. Meanwhile, the Freys continued to distill superb spirits, releasing barrel-aged gins and reserve absinthes while barreling several different types of whiskies which are expected to be ready for release in the fall of 2018. They were also able to expand their distilling process due to the popularity of the products and the ranch now features a 4,600 square-foot distillery including a stillroom, tank room, barreling room, tasting room, barrel house and malt house.
As the brand continues to grow into a regionally and nationally recognizable product, the public relations team has garnered several impressive wins for Frey Ranch. The past few years have included tours and write ups from some of the nation’s most respected spirits publications including the Cocktail Enthusiast, Whiskey Advocate, Adventures in Whiskey, Travel Channel’s Booze Traveler and Bar Rescue. The team has also helped seed the product in several markets and Frey spirits are now available in seven different states including Illinois, Georgia and California.