TerraVox Wine

TerraVox, Where History and Missouri Wines Meet

Sandra Yerges

Does a story ever end, or does it merely pick up where it left off through tradition? There may be no definitive answer to this question, but TerraVox Owner Jerry Eisterhold has plenty of experience with the latter. Although he established his Missouri winery in 2012, Jerry is reviving the historical labor and native grapes from centuries ago with his wines.

TerraVox’s start was less of a strategic business decision and more of the pursuit of a curiosity that paired well with Jerry’s exhibit design background in the museum industry. Following his mission to take overlooked grape varietals traditionally grown in the Midwest and reintroduce them to today’s public through wines crafted with modern protocols, he began this project. However, the overall unfamiliarity of the fruits made it increasingly difficult to make large strides right away.

“To do what we’re doing, it really makes no economic sense whatsoever,” Jerry admitted. “These grapes have zero brand recognition and less-than-zero, even negative, cultural stereotypes.”

There were approximately 60 uncommon, indigenous varietals harvested at the vineyard early on. From an investigative standpoint, this broad number was helpful in identifying the most promising cultivars. On the other hand, it was quickly discovered that the abundance of grapes did not always translate well into the flavor of the wines. Therefore, the decision to remove 20 varietals from the vineyard was the next best plan for the company.

Having a reduced number of wines was important in the winemaking process, but ever since the beginning of TerraVox, the question as to how people were going to acquaint themselves with these wines lingered.

“We either have to describe these grapes as not being like anything that’s out there, or we have to describe them as being kind of like this, that, or the other thing so that people can have a reference point,” Jerry noted.

All of these unique business elements confirmed the importance of continuing with Jerry’s narrative-focused mission. After all, he shared, “There’s the theory that selling a bottle of wine is 85% story and 15% actual wine.”

Because storytelling would not be effective without marketing, the marketing-centered Value-Added Producer Grant (VAPG) was the first step Jerry took to ensure the public was aware of both the past and present beginnings of TerraVox’s wines. Having a grant writer to start the preliminary work allowed Jerry to embark on this “storytelling exercise” in 2021 when his application was approved.

Before any large decisions were made, there still were conversations yet to be had. With more flexibility in his budget, Jerry looked to a professional marketing consultant for guidance. During one of their exchanges, the consultant indicated that TerraVox’s marketing approach was going to look different than others in the industry. Instead of brainstorming how to stand out, TerraVox was on the right track in how to make a distinct impression on the public.

Leveraging this business quality was a significant part of the next stage of the process: marketing creation. Being that TerraVox wines hold more than just ingredients in every bottle, the historical education the public receives is huge in piquing curiosity and, thus, how likely they would be to make a purchase. Jerry noted that their physical location mixed with the limited space on a website is what led the company’s marketing plan to move toward in-person educational efforts.

Through trial and error, TerraVox’s winery atmosphere has been shaped with customer experiential learning in mind. Of the most successful VAPG-funded event implementations, the common denominator of them all is their personalized nature. Whether it is the online personality quiz to narrow down the perfect wine for purchase or multiple walk-through exhibits to learn about all aspects of the product, each customer can gain something meaningful while visiting the winery.

To reach those who may not have been exposed to these on-site experiences, such as TerraVox’s e-commerce audience, Jerry has found additional outlets to spread the word about the brand’s story and mission. On top of the graphic novel already being drafted, he explained that TerraVox has made its way into the audiovisual industry as well. There have been a few programs produced about the winery, which are only pushing Jerry’s mission to broader audiences.

Even with these successful business implementations, Jerry’s VAPG experience was one that required room for adjustments. There were times when proposals in TerraVox’s application did not translate to what was needed when it came time to implement them. This hurdle was never a problem for the winery, however, as the United States Department of Agriculture was always supportive of the company’s evolving needs. Having direct assistance from the entity that provided the grant was imperative to him reaching his storytelling goal.

“Honing our message and being able to deliver on that message has been the main thing that the grant has afforded us,” Jerry expressed. “We’re literally writing the book and creating a body of knowledge that hopefully others can build on in the future to try to promote these grapes and make people aware of their value.”

Jerry may introduce himself as a business owner and museum designer, but since the origin of his winery, he displayed that being a writer requires more than just paper and a pen. True storytelling is an act that is fueled by a mission and crafted for learning, enjoyment, and, most importantly, bringing individuals together.

If you want to learn more about TerraVox, visit their website at https://terravox.wine.