Tips from the Trenches: How to #WBC16

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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 […]

WITS: On changing technology in wine

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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 […]

Bloggers are irrellevant? Really?

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How did we get here AGAIN.  I feel like we’ve had this conversation every year, since the year I began blogging.  Initially, it was a question of bloggers, online writers, whatever you want to call us, being irrelevant because we were the unknown factor.  Then it was an issue of credibility.  Now, it would appear, that a few people have taken it to the opposite extreme, and make a leap to the assumption that we are irrelevant because no one is reading us due to overload. While it may be true that people don’t read wine blogs the way they “used to”, it’s also true that there are a lot more of them out there.  Many of those are noise, and not as impactful as the handful of those who have been writing for more than a year and are a known entity in the blogosphere. According to a post by The Hosemaster of Wine (take this with a grain of salt people, regardless of where it was published), no one reads wine blogs.  No one?  That’s a curious statistic given my analytics and inquiries from interested parties who clearly read my content and ask questions, inquire about engagement, or ask me for ideas or speaking proposals.  The industry is interested and reading wine blogs, because they are seeking ways on how to engage with bloggers; the proof of this is all around us:  at the International Wine Toursim Conference in 2011, I discussed engaging bloggers, and this year at the Wine Tourism Conference, I will again be discussing who wine bloggers are, and how to work with them. I think the key takeaways here are that you need to ensure that your blog and posts are relevant, engaging, and frankly – interesting.  Clearly, people are tuning out copy cat tasting notes, badly done videos, and the like. However, the accusation that wine blogs have turned in to online diaries of what I ate this week is missing the mark.  Wine, in the context of a person’s life, is relevant when paired with life activities.   Which would you rather read?  This Cabernet was tasty.  I had it alone, while sitting at my desk.  Or, this cab went deliciously well with my steak Diane as it brought out the flavors of x, y, and z. Clearly, people DO love a good story and are seeking that information on these blogs.  Which brings me to a great segway — this year at the Wine Bloggers Conference, one of the sessions will be focusing on creating compelling content.  This is a critical skill to have, and if you are finding yourself losing traffic, or not engaging your audience, then you need to be at this conference. For me, I am all about engagement.  I speak at wine related conferences regarding engagement.  I tell people about engagement.  I will also be speaking at the Wine Bloggers Conference about Positioning Your Blog.  This is a great time to rethink what you are writing about and why, and […]

The Wine'd ing up to the Wine Bloggers Conferene

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As I unpack my bags from my adventures in Croatia & Italy at the International Wine Tourism Conference next week, I am often asked why do you do it? Why do you blog? And, more importantly, why do you go to this Wine Bloggers Conference, every year, in the odd locations and the cool, in less flush times and not? Well, I’ll tell you. It started in 2008, at the “Flaming-O” (Flamingo) in Santa Rosa. That was the beginning of a core group of intensely dedicated and passionate wineaux that also loved to write. Back then, six years ago, (holy cripes!) it was a smaller group and the conference was just an experiment. Who were these upstart wine bloggers? Why were we all getting together?  There were no end to the questions, but – we were overwhelmingly well received by the Sonoma County wine and tourism scene. So much so, that many connections I made that first year are now dear friends and colleagues. Several have gone on to more luminous careers in the wine industry. The following year, I was so excited by my developing blog and writing style, and my blossoming friendships, that of course – I returned to the Flamingo or WBC09.  There, divided between Napa and Sonoma, we explored more wine, culture, and the being of a blogger.  Once again, despite Napkin-Gate (you know who you are), it was an educational, hilarious, convivial, liquid weekend of passion and education. In 2010, we were invited to Walla Walla, Washington to explore the eastern Washington terroir. Of course I went, off with anticipation and gusto. What is this W2 wine? How will it taste? Mind you, I first stopped in Portalnd, for the most memorable experience at any WBC to date; The Double Decker Donut Decadence Wine Tour! A select group of blogger brethren hopped on PDX Double Decker, a converted London City Bus, and hit the road to the Willamette, fueled on sugar and caffeine. I will never forget that trip, and we had Part Deux in Carlton this past year. Somewhere in the middle of all of this, before we meandered off to Virginia for WBC11, I had made fast friends with Mary, Doug, Liza, Amy & Joe and more.  As a result, we created our own label of sparkling wine, an effort to embody the sparkling personality of ourselves, and our shared passions. I still have 4 bottles stashed away somehow. Can I smuggle one to Penticton? In Virginia, I met East Coast  that I hadn’t yet had the opportunity to meet, and tasted some…interesting…wine in impossibly hot weather. Yes, there were great Cab Francs and lovely Chards. And then I got food poisoning. The most memorable tweet from that event must have been “Where’s Thea? She’s not tweeting! Is she dead?” To which I replied “No, but I wish I was” as I prayed to the porcelain god for 3 days. Fully recovered and squealing with glee, we headed up to Portland last August for what is […]

What exactly is this wine tourism thing?

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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 […]

Where can wine take YOU?

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I’m sitting here in the lobby of the Flamingo Resort in Santa Rosa, at the 2nd annual Wine Tourism Conference, in Santa Rosa, with fond memories of the Wine Bloggers Conferences of 2008 and 2009. The buzz is certainly different, with industry reps. tour operators, writers, and print media outlets, but the buss is here. Spending a brief morning at the trade show, I saw many faces I knew, but I also saw many faces I didn’t.  Up and coming wine regions that you would not think of were represented, and I was looking forward to learning more about them. All sorts of industry professionals were represented, including tour operators, wineries, tourism associations, PR firms, and of course – those pesky bloggers!  I was looking forward to both getting to know these great group of people ,but also learning what the challenges in the industry are, and how we, as new media representatives can help. Of particular interest to me were the challenges that individual regions have attracting visitors to their wine destinations.  Both on a personal and semi professional level, the topic fascinates me.  Additionally, the age old question of how ot engage with social media and how to utilize new media.  I am a social media freak, and if you have known me since the first Wine Bloggers Conference, you know that I am also a twitterholic.  While some of this has waned in recent years due to professional and personal obligations, it is still a fiery passion. In addition to my social meida addiction, I am passionate about finding out how I can help bring the wine business in to the 21st century uses the tgools of the trade.  These tools include CRM but also include business practices and methodologies that are universal across businesses. So, where can wine take you?  Stay tuned this week and I give you some of my insights, ideas, eye opening moments, and observations from the Wine Tourism Conference. Cheers!  

Dream Big

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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!  

The View from the Top

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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 […]

We interrupt this train of thought…

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I’m still catching up and formulating my thoughts about the Wine Bloggers Conference, but as I do so, I thought I’d share with you another conference that I’m excited about.  Ok actually two conferences! First, in November, I will be attending the Second Annual Wine Tourism Conference, here on my home turf of Santa Rosa.  Last year, 200+ wine tourism professionals, bloggers, and media attended the first conference in Napa.    Due to popular demand the conference is now an annual event, run by our friends at Zephyr Adventures (the folks that brought us the WBC). The Wine Tourism Conference (WineTC) was created, inspired (at least in my opinion and observation) by the International Wine Tourism Conference, to provide hard information about the important and growing industry of wine tourism in your region, as well as the region that conference is held in.  Spawned by the International Wine Tourism Conference (more on that below), the WineTC attracts wineries, wine tourism professionals, wine associations, tour operators, travel agencies, hotels, PR professionals and media who writes about wine and tourism. Please follow on twitter using the hashtag #winetourismconference for all the lastest news! The second upcoming conference that i will be participating in is the 2013 International Wine  Tourism Conference.  This time, the event will take me to Zagreb, Croatia!  I can’t tell you how excited I am to learn about the area and some of the wines of the region.  I look forward to spending a few extra days exploring the region; after all, Croatia is the birthplace of zinfandel. You may remember that in 2011 I travelled to Porto, Portugal to speak at the IWINETC on topics of engaging bloggers (view my slides).  This time, I will be teaming up with my friend and fellow blogger Liza Swift of Brix Chicks to discuss new ways of attracting wine tourists to your hidden gem of a region. The 2013 IWINETC will bring together wine and travel lovers and professionals from around the world to discuss, reflect on and develop their ideas on wine and culinary tourism.  With two days of interactive presentations, demonstartions, and talks, it will also give attendees the opportunity to taste wines fro all over the world, and foucs on the host region of Croatia.  With so many attendees from so many areas, there will be the opportunity to taste many different wines and foods. Much like the WBC, the IWINETC has grown over the last 4 yeras.  In 2011, there wre 175 attendees; 2013 will bring 300+ attendees from over 30 countries.   It will be a unique experience to share, network, and discuss wine tourism and I look forward to sharing more as we get closer to the date! Please follow along on twitter using the hashtag #iwinetc during the events! Both events promise to provide an overview of local wine tourism s well as wine tourism as a while, while providing specific information that you can use, networking opportunities, and a sampling of local wine and food. Stay tuned on more about […]

CRM is not a four letter word

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Wow!  My recent post on the need for CRM in the wine world has really sparked some inspired conversation.  This is an exciting time, as the more people are talking and thinking about CRM for the wine industry, the more educated they can become. Today, Silicon Valley Bank presented their annual State of the Wine Business webinar, which reinforced the need for an integrated CRM solution at even the smallest wine business; the ability to capture, track, manipulate, and analyze data is capital if you are trying to grow a business in this ultra-competitive market. And still, wrapping your heads around the concept of CRM as a communication methodology as well as a technology is a tricky proposition, and even as an experienced professional it is something that takes time and education to accomplish.  As the wine industry is notoriously slow to adopt new tools & technologies, they continue to struggle.  This however, appears to be the year of change.  As markets become younger, and boomers begin to age out of the fine wine market, the GenXers are a huge market force ready to take their place.  With the dot com mentality of the 34-49 year olds, we are better situated financially and more aware of the enabling technologies that can benefit the industry. One of the most important topics of conversation has been why smaller wineries should adopt a CRM philosophy (and therefore a tool), and how it can benefit them.  In addition, the question of what tool to use is key.  To help wade through the milieu, here are some of my thoughts on that. First, do you currently think in a CRM frame of mind?  Keeping in mind that CRM is a mindset as well as a tool, do you understand the full picture of your customer data?  Do you want to?  There are several CRM solutions you can choose from.  But before you even start thinking about what tool to use, you need to be prepared to shift your business practices and thinking in to a CRM frame of mind. CRM need not be a 500 pound gorilla on your back, nor is it a four letter word.  The mere mention of the acronym can draw snark from even the most tech savvy people, and makes small to midsize wineries cringe with fear.  Remember that CRM is a business practice and philosophy first and foremost, and enabling technology second.  You may not be aware that your current solutions architecture (website, ecommerce, emarketing solution) may already have some inherent CRM functions within.  Investigate your existing systems to see what you can leverage.   The important thing is that you find a tool that allows you to view all aspects of your customer data in a single source and that you are not replicating databases across multiple systems.  The impact of having siloed databases can wreak havoc, result in multiple versions of the same customer, mass emailing snafus and general grumpiness from both the customer and your employees who are wrangling the data.   There are solutions for all budgets, from simple and low cost, to complex, customizable and […]

The Lone Ranger no more! **WINNER – The Wine Hiker**

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Rhone baby.  That is the word of the month!  Happy March 1st, and happy Rhoning.  If you haven’t guessed by now, you should have your wine glass packed, and your taste buds ready for a Rhonetastic celebration! On March 24-25th more than 100 producers of American Rhone wines will be on hand in San Frnacisco to pour over 500 wines to delight your taste buds. The Rhone Rangers tasting is the largest gathering of American Rhones in the country, and you and 1999 oif your closest vinopanions will be able to taste some pretty stellar examples of the Rhoney juice. This year, there are several swoon worthy events: Saturday, March 24 Rare Wines – Taste the Unusual  It’s not unusual to be loved by anyone…It’s not unusual to have fun with anyone Oh sorry, Tom Jones just popped in to my head.  But really, when you think about the unusual Rhones, I hear Picpoul to Counoise screaming out.  This seminar will be an indepth tasting and discussion about the whackiest and rarest Rhone wines you can think of.  Bourboulenc anyone? Wine & Swine, A pairing of American Rhones with Bacon – ba-ba-bacon?  And wine?  Say no more.  I mean really.  Wine bloggers are known for their obsession with bacon.  I don’t know why, but somewhere in the bylaws of wine bloggerdom, it states “thou shalt have bacon” and “no bacon shall go untouched”.  And since everything tastes better with bacon, especially chocolate and caramel covered bacon, and with wine, this is going to be an amazing seminar.  Trust me, I’ll be there. Finally on Saturday night… SATURDAY night! SATURDAY night! SATURDAY night! SATURDAY night! Gonna keep on dancin’ to the rock and roll On Saturday night, Saturday night Yes, the Bay City Rollers will be appearing live on stage at the Firehouse! Ok fine, not really, but a girl can dream.  In reality, 17 wineries will be hosting the Winemaker Dinner at the recently renovated and oh so swanky General’s Residence at Fort Mason.  My friends at The Girl & The Fig (drool) will be catering this debauchery laden event, and you can meet & greet those winemakers brave enough pairing their wares with the scrumptious vittles. After diner, a live auction aka Fight Club will be featuring wine, unique wine country experiences and travel packages donated by the host winemakers.  Proceeds from the auction will benefit the Rhone Rangers Scholarship Fund, which provides scholarships to help educate the next generation of American Rhone winemakers. Sunday, March 25 If you have survived Saturday, Sunday’s seminar will be showcasing Love, American Style, aka Syrah.  Cool climate, warm climate, 10% co-fermented with viognier, no viognier, purple die, que syrah syrah.  People do strange things with syrah in there here parts, and you can figure out what you like (or don’t) for yourself. Teeth purple yet?  Well hang on because it’s time for The Grand Tasting.  Over 500 Rhoney wines from American producers will be poured, spilled, swirled, and sniffed at the Grand Tasting.  Food trucks and vendors will be around to […]

¡Viva España!

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Happy February everyone!  I can hardly belive it’s still “winter” here in San Francisco, given that it’s in the mid 70s, and the sun is shining.  Time to get out and enjoy some crisp sparkling delicious Cava! Cava is Spain’s version of sparkling wine, traditionally made from indigenous white varieties – Xarel·lo, Macabeo and Parellada.  Most Cava is made in Catalonia, a region at the north east tip of Spain.  Cava must also be made in the méthode champenoise, whereas sparkling wine made in other (shall we say, less than desirable in my opinion) methods may only be called vinos espumosos (sparkling wines). I am so excited that in 3 short weeks, I will be spend a whirlwind week, learning all about this magical elixer, from the masters of Segura Viudas. Some of the activities I will be participating in are: An Assemblage master class, where we learn about the traditional cava grapes, terroir, region and climate. A blending session, where we will learn to create our own special bubbly blend A cooking class to learn about the regional cuisine Meals paired with the wines of the region A side trip to Priorat, one of my favorite regions.  Did someone say Garnacha?  Monastrell?  Garnacha Blanca?  Pack me a straw! And did I mention, they are rather fond of jamon in Spain? And now, a bit more about my hosts, Segura Viudas: Segura Viudas has developed a reputation as a premium cava producer, with the property dating back to the 11th century.  The brand was born in 1959, and the wines were first released in 1969.  The Ferrer family of Barcelona, who owns brands like Gloria Ferrer and Frexinet, purchased the estate in the 1980s making it a global competitor. I’m looking forward to learning more about cava and the Catalonia region of Spain!  As you might now, I was in Spain & Portugal last year, when I spoke at the International Wine Tourism Conference.  At that time, I took some extra time and explored Madrid, Rioja, and the northern regions, so this will be a great way to round out my Spanish adventure.  I wonder if I can accidentally miss my return flight and get lost in Barcelona? Watch out for tweets and posts from the road!  Can I do this all with just my iPad?  I hope so!

Getting Vertical

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Vertical:  To be upright. Wine does a lot of things to people.  It evokes joy, it livens your tastebuds, it might even make you melancholy.  It can also make you a little Sideways.  When last we saw erstwhile Miles and sidekick Jack in the novel Sideways (and the subsequent movie which while it’s one of my favorite wine movies ever, is not exactly true to the book…ok most movies aren’t but still.  If you haven’t read the book READ THE BOOK!)  Jack was married (perhaps ill advisedly) and Miles was reconnecting with The One – Maya. Now, several years have passed, and Vertical explores Miles’ life after Santa Barbara.  If you remember Sideways, you know that Miles has a troubled relationship with his mother.  Now aging and unwell, Miles has the unwelcome task of caring for her, and helping her move to another state so she can spend her final days with her estranged sister. Miles has tried and failed, and tried again, quit drinking, and is attempting to ride out the success of his now published novel, without much luck.  The demands of his publishes and commitments for press engagements are pushing him in  to a hole as deep as the one he was in when the book wasn’t publishable at all. Bring in Jack, who’s philandering ways and hard drinking habits have now landed him in hot water woith his now ex-wife. Both a buddy road trip story and a bittersweet look at the life of two middle aged best friends, Vertical explores the relationships of two friends, for good or bad, as they muddle through the difficulties of every day life, love, alcohol abuse and aging parents. Vertical is tragically sad in places, and hilariously funny in others, in a way sideways was not.  I find it much more real, honest, and open in looking at the realities of life. I can’t recommend this follow up enough, particularly if you read the book Sideways, and didn’t just watch the movie.  Vertical follow it up with the realities of fame, the perils of life, and how you balance the two. I’m thrilled to announce that Rex will be speaking in person at the 10th Annual Pinot Summit on February 25th in San Francisco.  After hosting a #winechat twitter session a few weeks ago, I find him engaging, self deprecating, humorous and absolutely delightful.  You can follow him on Twitter as well. I hope you can join us for this one of a kind event!  Tickets are $130 for a full day of Pinot tasting, educational seminars, and the Grand Awards.  Alternatively, you can opt for the Grand Awards tasting only. I am trying to do more book reviews now.  I read like someone from Freaks & Geeks, and occasionally I get press copies for review.  This one however, I bought for myself. Happy reading!  

Be a kiwi for the day!

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Rolling gree hills, mountain glaciers, beautiful water ways, hobbits, Elves, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc.  Ah New Zealand! I’m pleased to announce that Feburary 4th is New Zealand Wine Day, in association with Wine Channel TV.  This will be a virtual tasting that you can all participate in, with a llive cooking demonstration as well. Celebrity Winemakers will be tuning in from Chicago, along with a live audience; there will also be some bloggers in attendance in San Francisco, and we want you to taste along! Gather up a group of friend or brave it alone, but please join us online.  Be sure to stock up with a few bottles from our featured wineries at a participating retailer beforehand.  Make sure you register (no charge) in advance, so we know who’s out there – and to keep in touch with all the latest from Gondor.  I mean New Zealand! EVENT LINK  Note: Once you’ve registered for this FREE event we’ll send you everything you need to know about how to access the virtual wine tasting online. You will also be automatically entered to win a Complexity Fine Wine t-shirt and other great Kiwi prizes! To participate, just grab a wine from the list below, and tune in.  If you’re having trouble finding it locally, just use Vinquire or Wine-Searcher, some handy wine location tools.  In SF, The Jug Shop is a great resource. Participating Wineries – some of my faves are on this list! Villa Maria Kumeu River Craggy Range Vinoptima (Gewurtztraminer) Trinity Hill Ata Rangi Escarpment Neudorf Palliser Cloudy Bay Nautilus Saint Clair Seresin Spy Valley (Envoy series) Vavasour Pegasus Bay Amisfield Felton Road Mt Difficulty Quartz Reef Tweet you then!

The missing link

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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 […]