Luscious Lushes – a wine, food, and travel blog Rotating Header Image

WITS: On changing technology in wine

Earlier this month, I was lucky enough to attend my first WITS – the Wine Industry Technology Symposium.  While i have often wanted to attend, my work obligations prevented it.  Until now.

Why was I so excited about this event?  Primarily because, and if you’ve been reading this blog for some time you know, at long last technology is successfully and measurably crashing in to wine industry.

WITS brings together industry professionals, technology leaders, social media gurus, and people that work with the tools and the people so mentioned.  As a career software professional, with an emphasis on CRM and CRM based ecosystems, I have always championed the use of technology to make you work faster, smarter and more successfully - with less human capital.

Gone (or perhaps while not gone, greatly reduced as people begin to deeply feel the pain of isolated databases) are the days when siloed solutions work for businesses; particularly in the wine industry, having databases of wine club members here, and then a database of DTC customers there, along with trade and media over yonder, is disjointed and confusing in the best of circumstances.  It presents challenges, and what is interesting is that while these challenges are not as unique as the industry would like to believe, many in the adult beverage industry have shied away from technology as a part of the solution to these problems.  Today, in 2014, with the number of technology companies that are customized specifically to the wine industry, this paradigm is shifting.  Small companies are no longer to able to function without a centralized data warehouse and streamlined system of record.

By building a better mousetrap, leveraging existing technology and tools, businesses can uncover more information and truths about their customer behavior that can lead to smarter sales.  But, Social CRM, Social Listening, and Digital marketing are augmentations to existing customer database tools.  And in this case, a customer is a customer – whether we are talking about DTC, trade, a distributor, or the media.  It’s how you handle each type of customer that matters.  It is impossible to build a successful social CRM (sCRM) program on top of a black hole of data; first – build the mousetrap.  Then, build it better.

CRM is, at the most basic level, the tool that you use, to manage the complete cycle of customer information.  This can include anything up to and including wine club orders, online orders, and email marketing tracking, but it doesn’t have to.  Those are all add-ons that augment your core information.

One of the most important factors in today’s market is social CRM (sCRM); as an adjunct to traditional CRM, sCRM allows you to find, track, and respond to what your customers or potential customers are saying about you.  Why?  You might be asking yourself.  Simply put, listening to what is being said about you allows you to be proactive; this can also be a marketing tool.  More importantly, sCRM allows you to engage with your customers are a personal level.  If you haven’t figured it out by now, engagement is king.  If you aren’t’ engaging, you might as well be dead.  How and where you engage can vary (more on that in a later post) but engage you must.

The good news is that today, with tools ranging from as simple as Google alerts and the free version of Hootsuite, to Hootsuite premium and Vintank, all the way up to Radiant6 and more advanced marketing automation platforms, businesses can make engagement easy.  But to do so, you need to be tracking, alerting, and responding to these touchstones.  Customers want you to engage with them and if you don’t – they will drop you like a bad box of wine.  Do you know what your customers are saying about you?  How do you respond?  Just take a look at some prime examples from Twitter and Facebook, in response to Comcast or Frontier Airlines.  Listening is key, but responding is king.

With the use of some tools and human expertise, you can find new paths in to in depth knowledge at your fingertips.  The benefit of a CRM solution in the cloud, or Software as a Service (SaaS) is that they are not one size fits all.  CRM solutions are flexible, customizable, collaborative and unique.  They allow you to integrate multiple tools in a single ecosystem.  The most successful examples combine CRM, marketing automation, digital marketing, and inventory management in a single solution network, but you can start small and build your way up as your business grows.

So ditch the Excel spreadsheets and join the revolution!  Social CRM doesn’t exist in a bubble, but it is the new methodology for businesses.  The tools available to you today can be inexpensive and easy to use (though inflexible), all the way to custom implementations, and all the way in between.  True CRM allows you to manage and build upon your relationships with your customers.  My personal belief is that you need several components that all work together to provide data analysis, tracking, and listening abilities.  What those solutions are, depend on your budget, needs and size.

The progression of CRM through the years, provided by Salesforce.com

For more of my thoughts on CRM in wine, please see:
Why Your Wine Business Needs CRM

CRM Is Not a 4 Letter Word

Still have questions?  Comment here or reach out!

East Bay Vintners Alliance – Urban Wine Xperience

Urban Wine ExperienceWhat are you up to this weekend?  If you’re in or around the San Francisco Bay Area, Saturday is your opportunity to check out the bustling East Bay urban wine scene at Jack London Square.

The East Bay Vintners Alliance hosts the 9th annual Urban Wine Xperience at Jack London Square Ferry Lawn, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday, August 2nd.  Here, more than 20 East Bay urban wineries will pour their wares of red, white, rose and more – along with local food purveyors and live music.  Given the fabulous mid Summer weather, it should be a fantastic day!

The urban winery scene is hot hot hot right now, and Oakland & Alameda have more than 25 wineries, with several more labels being produced in the repurposed warehouses and old factories in the area.  Bringing grapes in from the best wine growing regions in the state, the East Bay Vintner’s Alliance supports local artisans, local restaurants, and local residents by providing a wine country experience ino ur backyards.

Current Alliance President Shauna Rosenblum of Rockwall Wine Company (yes, she’s one of those Rosenblums, and 100% fabulous) calls the Urban Xperience “the ultimate event to explore and discover the incredible array of high-quality and award-winning wines being produced right here in urban places in the East Bay, like Oakland, Berkeley and Alameda.”

Tickets are priced at $35 for wine club members of any participating winery, $45 for advance tickets and $60 at the door. Designated drivers receive discounted tickets at $15. Tickets can be purchased online atwww.brownpapertickets.com/event/667797.

Participating wineries include: Aubin Cellars, Campovida, Carica Wines, Cerruti Cellars, Chouinard Vineyard and Winery, Dashe Cellars, Ehrenberg Cellars, Eno Wines, Irish Monkey Cellars, JC Cellars, Lusu Cellars, Mead Kitchen, Paradox Wines, Periscope Cellars, R&B Cellars, Rock Wall Wine Company, Rosenblum Cellars, Stage Left Cellars, Stomping Girl Wines, Two Mile Wines, Urban Legend and Urbano Cellars. Urban Wine Xperience also provides visitors the chance to taste wines from wineries without tasting rooms or that are otherwise only accessible by appointment.

Enjoy!

 

Rosés of Summer – Tribute to Grace Grenache Rosé

Angela Osbourne is a special woman, with a long history obsession with Grenache.  A native of New Zealand, she now makes her home in the Santa Barbara Wine Country, where she sources unique vineyards for her variations on the beauty that is, Grenache.

You can read more about her story here, and I highly recommend that you get on the mailing list; now!  no, not tomorrow, not later, NOW.  Having known the winemaker for several years, I am consistently entranced by her wines, and have not had one I didn’t fall instantly in love with.

As I was hopping on a random bus for the Friday evening excursions at the Wine Bloggers Conference recently, I was delighted to learn it was the Renegade Rhone bus, and at the second stop, I walked in to Andrew Murray Winery and there was Angela, an A Tribute To Grace.  After holding my summer allocation of Grenache and Rose for several months in order to preserve the precious few bottles I own, I, at first, thought I must be having a Rhône hallucination.  But as luck would have it, Angela was there – live and in person – amongst some of my favorite Rhône varietal producers.

So this week, it is only fitting that I bring you my Rosés of Summer:  A Tribute to Grace 2013 Rose of Grenache.  Make with 100% Grenache, this wine reminds me of a summer’s day in Provence, where the light, pale pinks dominate the landscape.  The Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, which is also where Angela sources some Grenache for red wine, is in the middle of the Sierra Madre Mountains, at 3200′ elevation.

The vineyard is sustainable managed, and while there are 12 varietals planted here, Grenache is only 4% of the total yield; this is somehow unsurprising given that there are less than 10,000 acres of the fruit in California, compared to over 98,000 of Cabernet Sauvignon.  Here, at Santa Barbara Highlands Vineyard, they take Grenache seriously:  4 distinct clones are planted, and only give winemakers have access to fruit from the block this wine is made from.

The whole clusters rested for 24 hours in their skins, given it a just kissed baby’s cheek color; Clone 2 also contributes to the pale rose gold tone, and picking early in the seasons gives this wine an intensity of acid and spice that is perfect ot me.  With watermelon, blood orange, Tuscan melon and raspberry notes, with underlying rosehips and hibiscus.  This wine represents everything I look for in a rose, and makes my little heart go pitter patter.  At $23, get some before it’s going-going-gone!

I purchased this wine myself, although any sips I may have taken in Los Olivos at WBC were entirely provided by the wineries pouring.

Rosés of Summer: Casey Flat Ranch, past and present

In land far away, on a hill steeply above the valley, lies a secret place in Capay Valley called  Casey Flat Ranch.  Located at 2000 feet above sea level in the Vaca Mountains, between Napa Valley and the Central Valley, the area was originally settled in the late 1850s during the Gold Rush.  Now, a new rush is on – both for sustainable organic produce, and wine. The Capay Valley AVA was established in 2002, which is somewhat surprising with only two vineyards:  Casey Flat Ranch and Capay Vineyards.  The 150 square miles of Capay Valley has only 100 acres under vine, with it’s primary resource being agriculture.  The produce from Capay is legendary, and many an urban CSA gets it’s offerings from this area.  While Capay Valley has had wineries since the Gold Rush, the pressure from neighboring Napa all but killed the wine industry out until recently.

Casey Flat Ranch

L – 2nd generation managing partner Alison Morey Garrett R – firecracker, cowgirl, and VP of Sales & Marketing Brenda Bullington

With Casey Flat Ranch being established in 1987 as a Texas Longhorn cattle ranch, vineyards were only added in 2004, initially as an experiment.  Why not?  If Napa could have all that success a mere 22 miles away, why not here?  Lucky for us, this experiment yielded beautiful results!

Casey Flat Ranch

Winemaker Laura Barrett

Focusing on Bordeaux and Rhone varietals, Casey Flat Ranch produces Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah Rose, Viognier, and an Estate Red blend.  It’s sister label, Open Range, produces Sav Blanc and a red blend as well.  Winemaker Laura Barrett is an exciting, young women winemaker, who started her career in New Zealand.  Receiving her Masters in Enology from neaby UC Davis, Laura joined Casey Flat Ranch in 2008. _MG_2116   When you arrive at the base of the mountain, it is clear that you are not in traditional wine country any more.  This is cattle country!  Expecting cowboys to come meandering down the hillside, we were greeted by the 2013 Estate Syrah Rosé instead.  This bright and fresh rosé  is a lovely alternative to pinot noir rose, and is bursting with blood orange, red berry, and fresh, juicy peaches.  It’s got a lushness and fullness of body that just makes my heart go pitter patter!  I love a Syrah rose, and this was no exception.  At $18, it’s a great front porch sipper, and perfect for barbeques. Once at the top of the mountain, at the luxe ranch house, we were eagerly waiting for our lunch, _MG_2163prepared specifically to pair with the wines by Thomas McNaughton, executive chef of SF cult hotspots flour + water, Central Kitchen, and Salumeria.  Swoon! _MG_2179Our first course of a Spring Vegetable Salad was perfectly paired with the 2013 Sav Blanc.  The crisp, tropical refresher with strong floral and herbal notes.  Fermentation is started in tanks, and neutral barrels and stainless steel barrels age the wine sur lie. _MG_2185Next up, King Salmon with the 2013 Viognier.  On a warm day, the light and refreshing Viognier has stone fruit up front, Golden Delicious apples, and beautiful minerality under the fruit.  This was Casey Flat Ranch’s second single varietal bottling, and I think they did a wonderful job with the 50% neutral oak, 50% stainless steel aging on this baby.

_MG_2187We finished our day on the ranch with the 2010 Casey Flat Ranch Red Blend paired with Speck Wrapped Pork Tenderloin.  The red blend is a rich and spicy Bordeaux style blend, but also fun and fresh.  Comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Cab Franc, the dusty baking spice, dark purple fruit, blackberries and plums really accented out the beets & cherries served with the pork.
While I thoroughly enjoyed all of the wines, the rosé of Syrah is my favorite, and deserves your attention and is, indeed, a Rosé of Summer!

Thank you to Casey Flat Ranch and Charles Communications for letting me be your guest at this amazing day!  

HALL Wines: An Art Treasure steeped in Cabernet

It was a bright and warm late spring day when I ventured up to St. Helena to see the new Hall Wines facility and tasting room.  While I had visited before, in 2009, it was shortly after the LEED Certified production facility had opened, and what a difference 4 years can make!

With a focus on sustainability and responsibility, along with diverse culture, Hall has gone to new heights with the new Wine and Art Exploration tasting & tour which gives visitors to the winery a peek in to the passion for art & design that Former Ambassador Kathryn Hall has always expressed.

Hall WinesArriving at the St. Helena property, the first thing you see is “Little Bunny Foo Foo” – a large metal sculpture in the circular drive.  This imposing and  imipressive piece welcomes you in to the parking lot and sets the tone for the day to come.  This is just one of the many stunning pieces of visual art that are on permanent display at Hall.

As we we were welcomed in to the visitors center by a cold glass of Sauvignon Blanc, we were surrounded by the textural art in the tasting room that screams reach out and touch me.  Alas, we were not allowed to do so, but that type of art work that intrigues and inspires imagination is what draws you in and leaves you wanting more.

Wandering around the property, you will see several examples of these large pieces of art work that you can spend your time gazing at and just relaxing.

Completing your tour in the tasting room, your palate is delighted by the focus on Cabernet Sauvignon, which is what Hall focuses on, as well as the WALT Pinot Noirs.  A visit to HALL is a must on any stop in Napa, and you may never want to leave!

The winery also has special programs throughout the year, including the Friday Sunset Cruise – where guests can linger outside after hours, and taste through the wines open from the day, while sitting in the Adirondack chairs by the reflecting pool, eating some delicious appetizers.

Another program is Demystifying Wine & Food, where guests can expand their tasting experience with a guided food and wine experience.

There are many more experiences to choose from, so you should check them all out here.

I can’t possibly pick my favorite wine, since all of the Cabernets are silky, beautiful and luscious, but if you are a Cabernet Lover, you could opt for the  Ultimate Cabernet Collector experience, where guests can enjoy history in a glass, one Cab at a time.

These experiences range from $30 to $100 and reservations are required.

If you are a wine lover, an art lover, and a Cabernet Sauvignon lover, take some time out of your day to stop and relax at HALL WInes in St. Helena.

 

Viva Espana!

catalan-festival-banner

Summer is in full swing, and so is Spain!  Do you like paella?  Dancing?  Wine?

Join Gloria Ferrer at the Catalan Festival on Saturday & Sunday, July 19th & 20th for a party benefiting Sonoma Valley Education Foundation.

Honoring the spirit of the Ferrer family, each day guests can stroll Las Ramblas, recreating Barcelona’s popular main street with the colors, smells and sounds of Spain. Along the way they will sample savory tapas, enjoy paella and cooking demonstrations, and participate in educational seminars, cocktail demonstrations,food & wine pairings and a festive grape stomp.

Along Las Ramblas, stop and state the Gloria Ferrer Carneros sparkling and estate varietal wines, as well as select wines from the Ferrer family’s Spanish wineries.

Live Flaminco music will be playing and you can learn to dance, and admire the artist replica of the Gegants de Mataró made specifically for Gloria Ferrer!

The festival runs each day from noon to 4:00 p.m. and tickets can be purchased HERE for this fabulous benefit event!

 

Live Blogging: RIOS de Chile Carmenere

After tasting the value priced Sav Blanc yesterday, I’m excited to try the Carmenere today.

 

The vineyard is just at the foot of the Andes, and the vines struggle.  The nose on the wine is very spicy and green, which is different than the palate.  The palate has black pepper, earthy and spicy, and would be amazing with east Asian food with a spicy backbone.

Carmenere is a misunderstood grape, and this is a great example that is pure and honest — and is not pure green pepper.  At $12.99, I would buy this every day!

Live Blogging: Vineyard 511 Diamond Mountain Cabernet

The 2010 Vineyard 511 Cab is distinctly Diamond Mountain.  I love hillside fruit, and this is no exception.

Rich and lush, but with a beautiful bright note hiding under the blackberry, this cab has dusty notes of coffee and chocolate.

The tiny production of 160 cases will not last long, so go get this lush gem!

Live Blogging: Garnet Vineyards Monterey Pinot Noir

I happen to be very lucky and I know Alison Crowe well.  She is a vibrant, energetic and influential winemaker as well as blogger.  I am happy to call her a friend.

This $15 pinot, is a fun, fresh and youthful wine made from Central Coast fruit.  As a Santa Barbara County native, Alison was educated at UC Davis and worked her way up through jobs at Chalone and other well known wineries.  She now has her own brand, Garnet and also consults with Saintsbury.

Pinot Noir is the easiest grape to show true expression of the fruit, and Alison loves to play with it.  The Monterey fruit is different than all the other pinots as it’s a classic Central Coast wine, with fresh, savory red fruit.  Crowd pleasing and inexpensive!

Viva la Garnet!

Live Blogging: Consilience Syrah

I have been exposed to Consilience for over 10 years, and it’s been so wonderful to be able to taste the development of these wines.

 

This 2011 Santa Barbara County Syrah is under $30, and is a blend of Tierra Alta and Estelle Syrah, as well as a touch of this and that.

This is juicy and fresh, with cinnamon, clove, and cracked black pepper.  I love syrah and this is yum!