Ever see or read something for the first time and say, “Yes! That’s it.”

That was my reaction the first time I saw the Land of Wine and Food television spot produced by the California Travel and Tourism Commission (CTTC) in partnership with the Wine Institute. It made me want to pack up and move to California, and I have lived in what insiders and outsiders call the land of fruits and nuts for more than 30 years.

The spot is an absolutely incredible promotional piece for California wine and food. It elicited an overwhelming yes from me because it does the one thing that has long been lacking for the California industry — generic promotion of California wine. Almonds, table grapes, citrus, raisins ... the list goes on and on of California crops that have successfully been promoted generically. California wine never has.

The television spot features people saying Californians love to grow things; they make magic happen with wine; the fruits of our labor; and Californians care about where their food and wine comes from. It is a feel-good story about California wine and food. Not this Chardonnay versus that Chardonnay. Not my Merlot is better than your Merlot. Not wine snobbery. It is an incredibly inviting promotional piece that concludes with California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger playing on a line he created in the movies. “You’ll be Back,” he says with a big grin.

Every time I have seen the spot, the audience reacts with a pleasing laugh. People who have seen it cannot help but like it. It makes you proud to be a Californian.

This specific wine and food campaign was the brainchild of Tom Klein, proprietor of Rodney Strong Vineyards in Sonoma County, who is both a CTTC commissioner and a board member of the Wine Institute. Being involved in both organizations, he saw the synergy between the two and realized the potential impact of the two groups working together.

“Tom Klein was a great spearhead, because he sits on both boards so he could see this as a great opportunity to work together,” according to Susan Wilcox, vice president of communications and industry relations with the CTTC. Klein has taken the wine grape industry into another realm. Yep, this little TV spot is historic. It is designed to attract tourists to California, but more importantly it puts California wine — all California wine — No. 1 not only on the minds of wine aficionados, but directs California wine to occasional wine drinkers who need to become regular wine drinkers. It is a powerful message.

It is part of a $10 million, five-year campaign into key domestic and international markets. As I recall, the Wine Institute has kicked in about $1.5 million of that. Hate to say this, but that is chump change compared to the millions spent on almonds, raisins, table grapes, and many other California specialty crops. The Wine Institute’s contribution should be at least twice that, if not three times what it has given. If I was the Wine Institute, I’d be a bit embarrassed at such a meager contribution.

There is talk once again of an industry-funded wine grape commission to promote California wine against growing international competition. It will be grower-funded — if it flies. Wineries killed the last attempt at that and want no part of a new one. Go ahead and let the “Big 4” wine conglomerates spend untold millions to kick each other off retailer shelves.

Let the growers step up and do for themselves what wineries will not do for the industry: promote California wine. It is that simple. The Land of Wine and Food television spot proves it can be done, and done extremely well.

email: hcline@farmpress.com