Two weeks from today, the 9th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference kicks off in downtown Lodi. I can’t believe we’ve been running this show for nine years, and that some of us who were there in the beginning, what a long, strange, trip it’s been! Like everything, the blogging and the career have changed a lot over that time period. You may have noticed it’s been pretty quiet around here; things are working in the background, the the Wizard of Oz, changing, moving, growing. One of those things is the Wine Bloggers Conference Scholarship Fund. This passion project takes up an inordinate amount of time, particularly the few months leading up to the conference, and tends to take over. Add on top of the my day job (jobs really), and something suffers. Sadly, it’s this blog. That said, I’m very much looking forward to Lodi, and as you can see from my series on Lodi wines there is a lot to look forward to. As I do every year, I write my advice column to both veteran attendees as well as newbies. There is so much to do, see, and learn at the conference, as well as networking opportunities and camaraderie. Each attendee has a unique perspective, but for me, as a 9 year attendees (one of only 5), Advisory Board Member, Scholarship co-founder and Director, and wine industry worker, this is mine. Practical Wear comfortable shoes. you never know when we’ll be hiking up a hill in a vineyard Wear comfortable business casual / wine country casual clothes with layers. This is not a lawyers convention! It can get chilly at night with fog coming in, so bring a sweater. Wear layers. It is HOT in Lodi during the day, however it can cool off significantly at night due to the Delta breezes, and hotel AC can be brutal. Bring multiple devices. There are often times when a laptop isn’t practical (in the vineyard) and your phone doesn’t have reception. Brnig multiple devices. Bring your own power source. Power packs, instant chargers and mini power strips are all critical. There is often a battle to get a slot in the power wall, so bringing a strip will allow you to share the love. I love this one as it folds, has USB ports and 4 power slots. I also love a great power squid. If you have a MiFi bring it. Wifi resources are taxed beyond belief and are not made for 350 people online all day, with multiple devices. For extra points, give some karma and open your mifi up for others (your billing terms will dictate this, but if you have unlimited or the budget, be kind and share) Bring business cards. Yes it may seem archaic, but it’s the best way to quickly introduce yourself with a memorable item. The stacks of cards collected are reminders when we get home to follow, tweet, and read other peoples information. Hydrate. Lodi is HOT! There will be a lot of wine. Water, water water. If you have […]
As we leap in to 2013, I am gearing up for a year of possibilities; a year of trips; a year of experiences; a year of wine! I am excited to be participating in the 2013 Internatinoal Wine Tourism Confernece, this year in Zagreb, Croatia. As i prepare for that adventure, I am reflecting back on what I have learned about wine tourism over the past 2 years, since I was in Portuagal at the 2011 Wine Tourism Conference. Wine tourism is an ever evolving thing. At it’s core, it is the travel and tourism of people that are seeking destinations orbiting wine and food. But, it is an evolving industry. There is a boom in growth in wine culture, in the US, and internationally. Those who define themselves as wine tourists tend to be more affluent, with a higher level of education and also tend to spread the word about their experiences when they return home. With over 90% of wine tourism happening as an adjunct to visiting friends & family, there is an untapped market that is ripe for the picking. Given that, in my small area, there are over 1000 wineries, with more than 2000 in the state of California, how do you stand out? How do you identify your target audience, and attract them to your business? As a wine tourist myself, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer number of offerings in a small wine region. Selecting which establishments will benefit from my business is always a taxing exercise. When I am alone, I target places I have never been. However, how do I select destinations when I am in a group? What makes you stand out? Being unique and being intriguing is a key factor in this over saturated market. As I plan my trip to Croatia, the state of wine tourism in the US and beyond is in the forefront of my mind. After being piqued by the conversations that occurred at the 2012 Wine tourism Conference in Santa Rosa, I am excited to explore this topic more. While I had already set my discussion topic (with my fellow blogger and co-presenter Liza Swift of BrixChicks) I am infinitely curious about what other people do to attract wine tourists to their regions. I spontaneously broke in to lengthy (geek) discussions while in Portland recently about how their evolving urban wine scene is unique to the area, and different from the Willamette Valley (more on that later). In California, there is so much more to wine tourism than the well known grape producing regions of Napa & Sonoma. There is an entire culture of wine and food that is a large economic part of the state’s bottom line. But, outside of those primary tourism destinations, and perhaps some of the regions made famous in Sideways or Bottle Shock, do you know about the smaller, alternative destinations? Creating a brand identity for an international tourism audience is paramount to success. You don’t want to be foreever […]
Have you been longing to take some time away but just don’t have the time or the budget to travel to a far off destination? Do you see the ads for the luxurious trips to spas, wineries and restaurants and just can’t wait to do them? Yes me too. I’ve been sitting on miles for years, thinking at some point I’d have both the time and the money to go to New Zealand for an extended trip. Remembering my trek across Australia 12 years ago (really? 12 years? Yikes!), and my requisite trip to Europe after…much after…college, I wonder if I’ll ever get the opportunity to truly travel. To me, travel is distinctive of a vacation. To travel is to experience the culture, the region, the food, the wine, the rambling streets of shops. To travel is to get to know the town you are in, for however long you are there. be that a day, a week, or a month, you can get to know the town and it changes your experience. So where am I going with with? With a little creativity and ingenuity, you can plan a staycation or mini break that incorporates these adventures close to home. We all have limitations. It might be the economy, it might be a mortgage, it might be college tuition. Today, over 90% of tourism is based on visiting family and friends. This is especially true as we head out and about, or home, for the holidays. For those of us who live in the 9 county bay area, we are within 1 hour of several major wine tourism destinations. Yes, Napa and Sonoma are two of the most well known, but what about Livermore, Santa Cruz, and the smaller sub-AVAs of Sonoma? throw in a couple hours in the car and you can be in Amador, Calaveras, Mendocino, Anderson Valley, Hopland, Central Coast, Santa Lucia Highlands, or Paso Robles. As I plan my holiday activities, I think about how I can make each of these destinations a stop on my itinerary. Pick a place you’ve never been or haven’t been to recently. Stay for dinner. Many destinations are transformed after the witching hour, which might be 7pm on a Sunday or 9pm on a Saturday. Hang out in the local bar. experience the twon! There is nothing quite like waking up early in Carlton, Oregon and walking down the main street. Yes, the B&B breakfast was amazing, but so was the people watching at 8am as farmers of both vegetables and wine grapes got their day started. Sitting in the plaza in Healdsburg at 8pm on a Sunday is an entirely different experience than sitting there on a busy Saturday. When the day trippers go back to the city, and the families go back to their suburban homes, the locals come out to play. Have a glass of wine in Bergamont Alley, or catch the Friday night music at Garagiste Healdsburg. If you are in Paso Robles, hang out […]
This week marks my 9th Dreamforce, the annual user conference for Salesforce.com. As one of the largest (ok maybe the largest) CRM tool – at it’s core SFDC provides the basic building blocks of a CRM tool. Of course, now, 15 years later, it’s so much more than that. This week promises to be a bit of a crazy one, as usual, filled with great sessions, learning experiences, networking, and dare I say parties. As I get my body ready for the anticipated lack of sleep, and over filled brain, now is a great time to refocus on the fact the wine & CRM are a natural match. The philosophy of Customer Relationship Management is one that has been struggling with in the wine industry. In 2012, only a handful of software companies have solutions that suit the wine industry, but even fewer industry companies are getting the concept of CRM as a tool. That is changing, and the next few years are an exciting time. Why does your wine business need CRM? We all know it’s a tight market out there. How do you plan to sell more wine this year? How do you plan to segment your customer base? Too many times do I get emails from wineries that don’t know my needs or wants. Why aren’t you paying attention to me as your customer? You know I bought 5 cases of pinot last year, so what are you doing with that data/ world of the customer? Keeping in mind that CRM is not a four letter word, many potential customers are scared off by the very concept as a 400 pound gorilla. Putting the technology on the backburner for a minute, the methodology is the first hurdle to overcome to a successfully customer relationship philosophy. Viewing the big picture is, and should be, the end goal of a consumer focused business. As I head off to the conference, now is a great time to share some posts about CRM as well as my interview with Paul Mabray, founder of Vintank, about the future of CRM and technology in the wine industry. Where will the wine industry go from here? How can we help you get there? Get your creative juices flowing and start thinking about CRM! For news from the field, please follow #df12 and my twitter alias! Cheers!
I’ve often said that relationships will get you farther than anything in this world. Whether that is a romantic relationship, a business relationship or a platonic relationship, it is that connection and interaction that forms the road to future endeavors. Recently, at the Wine Bloggers Conference, three winery representatives formed a panel to discuss the winery view of bloggers. Hot on the heels of How Bloggers Influence the Wine World, this session was a lively conversation between the established media, digital media, and three winery employees. Ed Thralls is a wine blogger who is now working at the Windsor family of wineries in social media marketing. Christopher Watkins is the manager of retails sales & hospitality at the Monte Bello tasting room for Ridge Vineyards, and also the author of 4488: A Ridge Blog. Finally, Sasha Kadey is the Director of Marketing for King Estate Winery in Eugene, Oregon and is active in social media. Here, with three very different examples of winery views, as well as bloggers, we discussed how winery work with bloggers, how bloggers can make themselves more visible to wineries, and what they look for in a partnership. These three are some of the biggest fans of social media and bloggers, and work hard to ensure that they are engaged with the blogging community and that bloggers are engaged with them. Bloggers, and digital media in general, has the unique ability to be agile and fast. There are very few mediums as flexible as the online writer has access to. Gone are the days of paper galleys that go for approval, and are they print in large batches. Today, we have the ability to not only write on the fly, but also edit that on the fly. Change your thoughts on a topic, and it is a simple process to edit and add a note to a post after the fact, and call attention to that. Digital media, according to Watkins, affords the writer flexibility and leverage that cannot be accomplished in other environments. Digital writers can maximize, and should maximize the tools they have access to, since they cannot be replicated elsewhere. Thralls, who began his wine career and social media campaign as a blogger himself, now runs the social media marketing efforts or a large winery family of brands. He goes on to state that the relationship with bloggers and writers is different today than it has been with traditional PR and writers. Because of this, it’s necessary to pitch them differently. Gone are the the days of email blasts to the bloggers on his list; bloggers and online media require a different approach and different engagement. Conversely, bloggers who are pitching wineries also need a different tactic. Bloggers should not be intimidated about approaching wineries. As we discussed in the Are Bloggers Influential session, as an online writer, we need to go out and make it happen. But that doesn’t mean that the thousands of wine bloggers should all pitch the same winery or brand […]
When I first saw that Marcy Gordon had tagged me in her 7 links project, I was a bit trepedatious. How would I ever live up to this lofty goal? how would i pick posts that were meaningful, amusing, and that you wanted to read? Acccck! As you may or may not have noticed, this year my blogging has fallen off a cliff and I struggle with both inspiration and motivation to keep on the wagon. some days are better than others. So actually, now that I reflect on it more, I’m really fortunate that Marcy tagged me – because it gives me a built in blog post! Beyond that, I do believe it’s time to pull out my Creative Whack Pack for some new ideas. Now, back to my 7 Links. This project asks bloggers to select seven lnks (posts) from blog posts past that exemplify certain categories. Once i pick my 7 posts, then I get to take 5 bloggers. Though personally I think I am going to tag 7 bloggers since, well, it’s 7 Links! And the nominees are — Most beautiful post: How does one define beauty? It is beautiful writing, or is is beautiful pictures? That’s an interesting one to choose. When I think about it, this post is my most beautiful meal, with the wine and food pairings at Artisan, Paso Robles. Most popular post: According to Google Analytics, in my blog’s nearly five year history, my most popular post was about my local wine bar, Barrique. Most controversial post: Are you certifiable? Why wine bloggers should (or should not) be “certified”. Most helpful post: Google+ through a wine bloggers eyes Post whose success was most surprising: One bad experience a firestorm does create: Hospitalit-eed Off Post that maybe didn’t get the attention it deserved: Why are RSS feeds such a pain? Post most proud of: There are actually two that are really in a tie for me, and they both cover a similar topic. I am passionate on how blogging matters and what it means in the larger scope of things so, feast your ears on this: It just DOES matter! Where is the ever blurring line between bloggers and traditional media? As I looked back on my blog posts, I see a clear theme; the things that matter to me, that inspire me to spout poetic, are the things that you are talking about. What is a blogger? Why do you blog? What is the most controversial wine right now? And then, there is always bacon. I think I might need to bring back my Bacon Fridays theme – where I make one recipe with bacon and pair it with wine – on Fridays (or perhaps Sundays). What do YOU want to hear from me? Inquiring minds want to know! So I now nominate 7 bloggers (and yes, they are all women, because I think we need to support each other more) who I admire and enjoy reading: Liza Swift – Brix Chicks […]
Oh no you say! Not another “do it yourself” urban winery! Ok, I’d have to agree – that was my first reaction when I got the press release about Dogpatch Wine Works. Since Crushpad abandoned their urban winery projects and effectively dumped its consumer based wine program after its move to Napa (and subsequent move to Sonoma Valley), I’ve had a bit of a bad taste in my mouth for community crush projects. But, Dave Gifford’s email intrigued me. A Crushpad alum, Dave knows first hand how to (and frankly, how NOT to) do an urban custom crush operation. Moving in a scant block down from Crushpad’s former headquarters on 3rd Street in San Francisco, Dogpatch now operates a 15,000 square foot urban winery with a missing “to enable wine enthusiasts to realize their passion for all things wine”. I’m hoping that this enthusiasm is somewhat more friendly than Crushpad’s seeming lackadaisical consumer program. As a former Crushpad customer, I got to know them well as I wandered through three winemaking projects with a group of wineaux. If you’re super nice I might let you come over for a tasting of the zin, cab blend, and freshly minted BeezleBubblez! I got to know the team well, and in fact, and pleased to see former head winemaker Mike Zitzlaff joining the Dogpatch crew. While I fully understand the economics of operating a micro winery and custom crush, a good business plan requires you to commit and focus on your core audience. A business bill yourself as a “community based winery”, then you need to be…well, community based. Crushpad’s failing was that they lost focus and weren’t interested in pursing the consumer base. The primary goal was to be a custom crush and attract premier winery partners. That’s fine, but please don’t tell me you care about me and send me an email halfway through the full winemaking cycle that says “oh hey yeah we moved to Napa”. Please note these opinons are NOT AT ALL reflective of any experience with DPWW, simply my observatoins as a disgruntled Crushpad customer. Anyway…back to Dogpatch Wine Works. Taking a note from Crushpad’s premium vineyard plans, DPWW allows you to choose from terrific grapes including – I’m very happy to report – Windsor Oaks Pinot Noir. Hey Julie, you ROCK! As a big fan of Windsor Oaks fruit, this could yield some interesting stuff. Add in the requisite equipment, a bonded winery, and expertise (yeah well ok so I didn’t go to Davis and chemistry isn’t my strong suit so Mike, i NEED you!), you hopefully have – a winery in a box, in a fun urban environment. Some additional vineyard offerings are Sonoma Coast Pinot, Atlas Peak Cab, and Anderson Valley Pinot. Ohh AV pinot? Count me in! All of these seems familiar, and I get a buzz of excitement that the beast is alive. The goal of community based wineries is to allow you, for a fee (well yeah they need to make money) to participate from head to toe in […]
Dateline – Biggest Loser Ranch, Tustin CA Source say Gillian is now force feeding her team red wine. That’s right, that mystery concoction that everyone told you will make you fat, will make you thin! I found this proof on the internet: Reverse-It-All, the secret ingredient in red wine, has been found to increase your endurance as well as cut weight and reduce the risk of diabetes. Reverse-it-all also activates the wonder twin powers, in the form of the longevity gene. Reverse-It-All is only found in the skins of red wine grapes, so I encourage you to use your red and pink wine intake accordingly. After wine diet While skeptics state that you would need to drink hundreds of glasses of red wine in order to reap the benefits of Reverse-It-All, I am here to prove them wrong. According to the renowned Bacon expert, Rick Bakas, “Wine doesn’t make you fat, it makes you lean…..against a wall, a chair, the floor, other people….”. Therefore, I am going to experiment with the Red Wine Diet. The key to this diet is the judicious use of a good red wine. For my first week of dieting, I meandered through Chile, starting with the Viu Manent Secreto Malbec 2006 You can see the full review by clicking through. This Malbec is a chewy wine, that brings notes of smoked meats and leather. Chewing your wine 40 times before swallowing has been shown to fill you up faster. First, you start with this rich red wine. Pour yourself a glass. Sip it slowly, enjoying the full flavors. If you are having trouble picking out taste profiles, pour yourself another glass. Repeat. At NO TIME may you eat real food while on this diet. It is very important that you drink an entire bottle each night, in order to get the correct amounts of Reverse-It-All flowing in your system. If you are having hunger pangs, I would suggest that you try a critter label, such as Pink Goat. The critters on the label are actually steeped in the wine, which should help you get your protein levels stabilized. This wine hails from Chile as well, and is made from the blood of real goats. This will provide you some protein, and help tide you over until you can eat real food again. Alternatively, if you are searching for divine inspiration with your wine diet, try the Montes Cherub Rose of Syrah. This traditional Syrah Rose is refreshing and will help fill you up, while having a cherub sprinkle you with good luck. For the complete details of The Red Wine Diet, please refer to the user guide, which is available on Amazon.com.
Spring, wonderous spring. The rain has left for now, and the wine festivals are upon us. Or are they? Recently, I found that Pinot Days, the San Francisco varietal focused event held at the end of June, will not be offering any trade tickets to this years event. Huh? No trade tickets? To ANYone? While I understand that the definition of “trade” has become blurred recently with bloggers, media, and other supposedly credentialed folks clamoring to take part in free wine, I really think that Pinot Days is missing the boat here. First, the “Trade Requirements” link takes you to a page that says yo must be a legitimate member of one of the following categories: Wine Retail Owner or Buyer Restaurateur Sommelier Wine Distributor Wine Buyer Wine Broker Ok, great. That makes sense. But when you click on Request Trade Tickets, you are rudely informed that San Francisco will not be offering trade tickets at all. To restrict trade tickets to a select few individuals does make economical and logistical sense. This is what Rhone Rangers has started to do, by reviewing each trade request carefully, and making a determination of trade eligibility. Fair enough. If I qualify, i get notified. If i don’t, I make the decision to pay or not pay to attend with the rest of the public. Understandably, the costs and time required to verify legitimate trade members may be more than the actual cost of the ticket, which presents a good reason for not taking the time to review every site individually. Now I appreciate the fact that some of these events have gotten out of control, and every Tom, Dick or Harry, attempts to pass themselves off as trade. However, to eliminate the attendance of restaurants, wine retailers, and traditional media Representatives entirely is to put a big DO NOT ENTER sign on your front door. As a blogger, I am keenly aware that word of mouth is the most powerful marketing tool there is. See my collective rant about Domaine Chandon’s lack of service recently. If I am not exposed to things to talk about, then I guess I won’t be talking about them at all. My focus will be shifted to those wineries I will be visiting at Barrel Tasting this weekend and next, because they WANT me to visit. They practically begged me to visit. Yes, many of the wineries pouring at these events have an elitist attitude and feel that they don’t have to “sell” their wines to the trade. We should know who they are obviously. Clearly, I should be printing the pour list out and running to my local wine shop requesting each and every wine to be stocked. Obviously, I am a little befuddled at that thought process, since this is one of the few single varietal tasting events, and it allows me to explore new areas, new wineries, and new tastes in Pinot which I can then review. Furthermore, I can network with retailers and […]
Yes I know, I started Bacon Fridays, and then promptly dropped it when my time was not my own. I am BACK! BACON is back! One night this week, I got home and was mildly irritated at myself to discover that i really had no food in the house. Fortunately for myself, I had a half open bottle of wine and the basic food groups – pancake mix butter syrup BACON! Sometimes, you just need to have breakfast for dinner! I also found blueberries and bananas in my bag of tricks, so I cooked up a stack of pancakes and some applewood smoked bacon. After pouring myself a glass of Calaveras County Syrah, I added the requisite butter and pure maple syrup to my pancakes. IN the process, the syrup sneaks up on the bacon. The taste sensation that maple syrup drenched bacon provided is, in a word, orgasmic. Add in a smokey, blueberry infused syrah, and I was in love. Pure love. Everyone should have blueberry pancakes, bacon, and syrah for dinner soon! P.S. i recommend the warm climate syrah over a cool climate syrah as it has the fruity smokiness that pairs well with pancakes and bacon. Cool climate syrah is equally delicious for other reasons, and would go well with meaty dishes including bacon. Happy short stack to you! Google
This weekend, I was fortunate enough to find myself in Napa, celebrating Lisa’s(@winedivergirl) housewarming. Since I was staying the night, we had planned to go wine tasting the next day with our friend Brian from The Roger Smith Hotel (@bsimi), who was visiting from New York. When we got going on the rainy winter Sunday, we opted to start with some bubbles, so Lisa took us on over to Domaine Chandon. Now, I know this winery well. I have been there many times. I buy their sparklers int he grocery store – a LOT. As we pulled in to the winery, the river passing through the property was a bit wild, which really should have warned us of the impending visit. As we walked through the retail store, several employees were milling about, did greet us on entry. As we made our way upstairs, we saw that while the tasting bar was hopping, it was not busy. I did see immediately, that there were only 2 employees working the whole bar – which normally would not be surprising, but if you’ve seen this tasting bar, you can easily line up 25 people along the perimeter. Ok fine, so they were short staffed. I thought, no problem, there is an opening at the bar, so we’ll side up and look at the menu, assuming the bartender will come by at some point. And bartender is what they are – Chandon does not offer traditional tastings, but instead offers flights of 2 different sparkling levels, still wines, as well as champagne cocktails. Having decided on our beverages, we tried to flag down one of the two staff members for assistance. NO such luck. We stood. We waited. We waited some more. 15 minutes in to this, we mutually decided to high tail it out of there. Now I know that as an industry rep, a wine blogger, and a hotel beverage manager, we might have high expectations for customers service, but this was just RIDICULOUS. To not even acknowledge our presence with a simple “I’ll be right with you” set me over the edge. What made this experience worse was that as we walked out, the Chatty Cathys in the retail shop didn’t even say goodbye, or why are you leaving, or anything. They just ignored us. Meanwhile, as we headed over to micro winery Elizabeth Spencer, we were fuming. Inside the tiny tasting room, ev erything about our day began to change. We were greeted. We were smiled at. We were talked to. Vanessa INTERACTED with us. Once she found out we were tradespeople, she asked us about what we did. She showed me a very cool iPhone app, and she talked to us about the wines. This experience was so lovely, Lisa even joined the wine club! I bought a bottle of syrah. Oh and the wine was delicious! Feeling redeemed, we even ventured over to Rubicon Estate. Known for it’s outrageous tasting fees but beautiful grounds, we were at […]
There has been an interesting conversation going on for a while now, about how we measure wine bloggers. This question is not without controversy and it sparks a lot of thought. The folks at Vintank, and new powerhouse in the Wine 2.0 world, have even challenged us to create an experiment on how to measure the ROI of social media and blogs. How exactly do we measure a blogger’s success or contribution to the webiverse? That’s the key question that is being asked by many wineries and PR agencies as they strive to determine who they should send samples to, give special treatment to, and dole out perks to. Should we have a Wine Blogger Seal of Approval? Should there be some sort of credential? I am divided on this issue. A credential is a badge of honor. Think of press credentials. You don’t have to necessarily be a good journalist to get one, you just have to be a journalist. That gives you access to crime scenes, events, and trade shows with the expectation that you will do something in return – report on it. On the other hand, certification implies that your blog must meet a certain set of standard criteria in order to gain access to the elite group. This is where i have an problem, as I don’t know how you create a specific set of standards for a group of people that are essentially writing Op/Ed pieces. Yes, there are professional bloggers out there, in the likes of Alder Yarrow of Vinography. However, the vast majority of bloggers are hobbiests with a passion for wine. If i write something that you don’t agree with, does that make me wrong? I hope not. An opinion is an opinion. I don’t have to like the same things you do. The issues that have come up are one of access to a privileged elite of wine. These benefits have been taken advantage of, much like in traditional media. Clearly, a few bad bloggers spoil the merlot. How do we prove our worth to these industry peeps that are we are worthy of the perks? I am all for weeding out the leeches, those that write a post once and expect to get free tastings for 10 or free passes to every event. The question is how do we accomplish this without being exclusionary? The wine industry is finally starting to tune into the importance of the bloggersphere. By placing barriers to access, aren’t we taking one step forward and 2 steps back? Michael Wangblicker of Caveman Wines and Lisa de Bruin of California Wine Life have posted thier ideas on this subject as well. Some of thier suggestions as well as mine are below, with my comments in red. Age of blogs – There is high turnover on blogs. An older blog may indicate that the blogger is here to stay. This might be true, but an old blog might be stale. This needs to be used in […]