Interviews

How Pam Novak Markets the Iconic CK Mondavi Wine Portfolio

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02/05/2022 Pam Novak, Senior Marketing Director at C. Mondavi & Family, shares what it takes to market an iconic portfolio of wine.

It's no small task taking on an entire portfolio of iconic Mondavi & Family Wines. It takes years of wine industry knowledge, insight, and experience to know how to pivot between lifestyle & luxury brands. The know-how to launch new products that will add excitement to an established portfolio. How to predict trends and get the all-important Millennial group to engage in more wine drinking. Pam Novak brings more than twenty-three years of industry experience to her recently appointed senior marketing director of the CK Mondavi & Family brand. Before that, Novak spent seven years leading the Mondavi group to win the prestigious and coveted Brand Growth Award from the Beverage Information Group, winning the Packaging Award from Beverage Dynamics, and successfully launching Flat Top Hills and French Blue. We caught up with her to find out what it takes to market an iconic portfolio of wine.

Pam Novak, Senior Marketing Director

Can you tell us a little about how you got started in the wine business?

I entered the wine business in 1999 and started at what used to be called Kendall-Jackson Wine Estates (KJWE)— the little boutique winery down the road, we used to joke. I had previously been working in the Silicon Valley in human resources. Still, I wanted to realign my career to better match my interest and degree, a BA in Design with a Marketing minor from San Jose State University. It was at KJWE where I gained core marketing acumen as I was able to work on over 15 different brands during my six years—all with different positioning: from lifestyle to luxury, US, and international brands. From there, I became Brand Manager at Rodney Strong Wine Estates, where I worked for eight and a half years. I was fortunate enough to be part of the Davis Bynum brand acquisition and relaunch and was instrumental in developing their Single Vineyards tier. After fourteen years in Sonoma County, I made the leap over the hill to Napa, where I worked for Clos du Val, leading me to C. Mondavi & Family, where I've been since January 2015. 

What falls under your portfolio in the C. Mondavi & Family?

I oversee our entire portfolio, divided into two categories, Lifestyle (CK Mondavi and Family, Flat Top Hills, French Blue) and Luxury (Charles Krug). We are thrilled to have our new Brand Manager for Lifestyle Brands, Holly Perez, on board.

What are your priorities in terms of marketing for the portfolio of Mondavi Wines? 

Right now, our priorities for our CK Mondavi and Family wine brand are to grow our 750ml business by marketing these new, fun wine styles. The Buttery Chardonnay and Dark Cabernet Sauvignon add excitement to our lineup and give CK Mondavi and Family fans a couple different expressions of classic varietals to broaden their experiences. With wine and food trends becoming more diverse and exciting, these two new wines offer more for the involved, core wine consumer—yet are approachable to new wine drinkers. For those looking for a bit more richness, these wines are ideal. They offer a counter style to our traditional Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon, crafted more lightly and brightly.

Two new Mondavi wines have been released: The Butter Chardonnay and the Dark Cabernet Sauvignon. Can you tell us about these wines and what makes them unique? 

With the Buttery Chardonnay and Dark Cabernet Sauvignon release, we aimed to offer new expressions of these classic varietals. We wanted to make wines with more richness and depth, with deeper flavors—but still maintaining our affordable price point that consumers have come to appreciate and expect. The Buttery Chardonnay sees a significant amount of malolactic fermentation to achieve the buttery flavor, and winemaker Randy Herron has also chosen a very focused and very different oak profile to bring out the notes of butterscotch and brown sugar. It's a rich Chardonnay, and for those who love the buttery style, this wine's profile is right on target. For the Dark Cabernet Sauvignon, Randy chose to use a heavier toast level for the oak and increased the amount of new oak used during the aging process. Both factors create a darker, more nuanced expression with mocha and blackberry flavors, adding complexity and richness from the oak influence.

What does it take to stand out in the wine segment these days?

First and foremost, at any price point, quality is key. What CK Mondavi and Family wine lovers appreciate is that the quality level is very high at the SRP of $6.99 a bottle. The family's dedication and experience in crafting wines with delicious flavors at an affordable price are unparalleled. Quality to price ratio matters for consumers, and we have found a combination that allows CK Mondavi and Family to rise to the top.

What excites you about the wine industry at the moment?

It is a dynamic time to be in the wine industry with so many new flavors, formats, and ways to communicate. There are many changes to keep up with, from Buttery Chardonnay, wine cocktails to cans, IG Reels, TikTok to NFTs. We are looking into many of these trends for our entire portfolio. Our biggest challenge is communicating what's in the bottle and getting the 21- to 30-year-old consumers more involved in drinking wine.

Do you have a current favorite wine? What would you pair it with?

I love a big, bold Cabernet Sauvignon and would pair it with a grilled rack of lamb.

Article by Colleen Thompson, Editor + Writer

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