From Blogger to wine maker – Thralls scores a home run

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It’s enough to make a make for TV movie, or at least – a great article in the Sunday food section.  You know the story, small town boy, goes to the big city to live a dream and makes it big. In this case, this is the story of a little blogger who could.  When I first met Ed Thralls, he was part of the first handfull of bloggers that were a group, around wine country, figuring out what this social media thing was all about.  Ed was also one of the finalists for the now infamous Murphy-Goode lifestyle (which is another story – for another blogger – who also makes wine.  But more on that later). Interning at Holdredge Wine (who, as it happens, is someone I have known for over 10 years, and also makes world class Pinot Noir) as cellar rat, Ed sucked up as much knowledge about winemaking as he could.  Realizing that he couldn’t possibly leave this wonderful world of delicious Pinot Noir and juice, he made the leap and moved to wine country full time.  While working a full time job in the wine business, he tested, crafted, experimented, and made wine.  Thus, the Thralls Family Wine label was born. These days, Ed has created a line of four distinct, terroir driven Pinot Noirs from around Sonoma and Mendocino counties.  Each wine expresses a different piece of personality that makes Pinot Noir such an amazing wine. First up, the so called entry level 2012 Russian River Pinot Noir.  This juicy, balanced, and bold example is everything I love about Russian River Valley.  Not overblown like so many Russian River Pinots can be these days, the bright cherry, cranberry adn red fruit sing out with bold flavor and juicy fruit.  Using 1/3 new French oak gives this wine those beautiful hints of baking spice, without overwhelming it.  This is a fantastic everyday drinker for $32. Next, moving in to a single vineyard showcase, the 2012 Bucher Vineyard Pinot Noir is one of my favorites.   With a deeper cherry flavor base, Bucher shows more black cherry, dark raspberry, and forest floor than the brighter Russian River.  The nuances of cedar and white pepper on the finish leave you guessing for more after the first sip.  This is a wine that gets better with time, so try it over a couple of days, and see what develops!  $40 Moving further west, the 2012 Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir takes a step away from the bolder 667 and 777 clones of the Russian River bottlings.  Bringing in some bright 115 and 114 froim the cool, foggy Sonoma Coast, this Pinot Noir has alpine strawberries, cranberry, bergamot smokiness and amazing acid.  This wine goes native, using all wild yeast with 10% whole cluster fermentation to give it a bit of a wild thing note.  Yum!  $36 Finally, for the Pinot Noir geeks in the group, the 2012 Roma’s Vineyard Pinot Noir from Anderson Valley is one for the ages.  100% Pommard clone goes in to this unfined and unfiltered […]

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 […]

How to be a good conference attendee

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It’s July 31st.  HOW is it the end of July already?  Eeks.  Must.  Go.  Pack.  I’ll be leaving in 10 days for some pre Wine Bloggers Conference fun, and meandering through Oregon experiencing the best of the Willamette with my friend from Fab OC Wine Chick.  Can we say I cannot wait? But really, the point of my trip to Oregon is to attend the 5th annual Wine Bloggers Conference, where 350+ wine bloggers, food bloggers, travel bloggers, and industry people of all sorts will get together to exchange ideas, get to know each other, and learn from each other.  What a way to spend a weekend! That said, there are a large amount of WBC Virgins attending this year.  Even those that have attended before have been guilty of not following some of these suggestion below, and have left a…lasting impression.  Here are a few things I have learned from my five conferences.  Five years and five conferences, the event has grown and changed – but most of these tips hold true no matter the size. Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Friday to learn who has made the event possible; stop by and say hi!  You never know what relationships might form.  I will be there manning the WBC Scholarship table for the first time (YAY!), so if you’ve ever wondered what we’re about, please come talk to us. Attend the keynotes with Rex Pickett and Randall Graham –  The keynotes are a fascinating way to get to know how the wine community thinks of bloggers, and also, how they became who they are. Attend the breakouts –  There is a lot to learn.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While you need choose which bits are important to you as a blogger, not attending them is just a waste of your time. Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.  Our goodie bags are sure to contain an aluminum water bottle which you can use to fill up at every opportunity. Don’t forget to sleep –  There is nothing worse than a blogger snoring in a session. Enjoy your wine responsibly – no one likes a drunk blogger.  It is embarrassing for others, irresponsible, and sets a bad tone.  Additionally, it is not looked upon favorably by speakers and sponsors when the audience is only half full after a night of partying.  You will miss parts of the conference while sleeping off your hang over!  By all means, enjoy yourself.  I certainly plan to partake.  But if you cannot get your butt int he chair the next morning, please go to Vegas instead. Engage in the spontaneous events – these are the best way to network with your fellow bloggers, writers, and industry professionals.  Going […]

Putting the PLUS in Google

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Recently, while at the 4th Annual Wine Bloggers Conference in Charlottesville, VA – a discussion on wine and technology was moderated by John Meyer who started 9 Clouds, Paul Mabray of Vintank, and Philip James from Lot 18 and Snooth. Part way through the session, which included a lively discussion on flash sale sites like Lot18 and whether harm or help the wine industry, a vibrant discussion (ok fine it was me) erupted about Facebook, Twitter, and various forms of Google.  Currently, the latest hot button platform is Google+.   What is Google+ you ask?  Like it’s predecessors Google Wave and Google Buzz (which are both alive but atrophied), Google+ promises to be the next social media flashmob trigger.  Basically, I call it Twitter on steroids, with a dash of Facebook thrown in for good measure. Essentially, on Google+ you friend up people by adding them to Circles.  Circles are groups of people you are following, and can be defined any way you want.  Social media experts advise creating as many circles as possible, so you can slice and dice your followees and folowers; I might have gone a tad overboard on this but it will shake it self out. Based on your circles, you will have a stream.  Wait, isnt’ that Twitter?  Or Facebook?  Sort of.  The cool thing about Google+ is that you can target your stream, based on circles.  So I can see just my wine circle or just my friend circle in my stream.  This is simliar functionality to twitter lists, but where you get the power of google+ is that you can now target your posts to specific people, and specific circles.  This functionality currently exists in Facebook via Lists, so it’s not news to those of us who like to keep grandma out of my morning rants on The ‘Book. One thing that Google+ is lacking however is the ability to expressly BLOCK peole from reading a post.  This can be helpful if you don’t want someone who might be in a group to see a post.  Say you’re planning a surprise party for Joe, and you want all the Wine Bloggers to plan but dont’ want Joe to know.  you’d hav eto create a new group with everyone except Joe. A feature that that G+ has already proved to add great value and provide content is the Hangout.  This weekend, at the WBC, our illustrious leader Joel Vincent started a Hangout – or group chat room basically – to broadcast WBC news and keynote videos to people not in attendance.  As I was stuck in my room in the depths of some nasty bug, I would have loved to watch via the stream.  It’s my own fault I didn’t know the hangout existed, but bloggers who weren’t’ at WBC were able to watch Eric Asimov’s speech real time, via G+.  Pretty powerful!  Yes you can accomplish this with WebEx or a recorded video, but this allows you to share LIVE data in a real time stream. The only thing that Hangouts don’t do […]

WBC here I come!

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It’s less than 2 weeks before the annual Wine Bloggers Conference, and I’m finally getting a little jazzed with it.  life has been busy these days, with my day job, the WBC Scholarship, and, well, STUFF but I’m looking forward to a few days off spent with my 300 closest friends in the sweaty summer weather in Virginia. As a 4 year veteran, some things that I’ve learned on the road to blogging: Get to know your sponsors.  We have a few hours on Friday to learn who has made the event possible; stop by and say hi!  You never know what relationships might form. Attend the keynotes with Jancis Robinson and Eric Asimov.  These sessions are great kick starters and will get you in to the groove. Go with the flow, don’t get overwhelmed. Be prepared to want to do more than one thing at once have FUN! Don’t be overly structured Spit spit spit.  I can’t emphasize this enough.  Yes, there are moments (dinner, after hours parties) where I don’t spit and enjoy myself, but you are representing bloggers as a whole, and should have some decorum.  It’s a business conference at the core, disguised as a party.  Present yourself accordingly. Don’t forget to sleep! Engage in the “Anti-Conference” spontaneous events; these are the best way to network with your fellow bloggers, writers, and industry professionals. Participate in the Unconference sessions.  These informal discussion panels let you get involved. Have an open mind.  You never know if there are wines you wouldn’t normally try, that you will love! Bring something from home that represents your region, style, and / or personality.  This could be wine, but it could also be food, a book, or a t-shirt. 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 otehr peoples information. Follow the #wbc11 twitter stream.  Make sure you are not protected (my main account is, but I tweet under @luscious_lushes for public consumption).  We want to hear your thoughts! Find time to post a few quick blog posts with your thoughts BEFORE, DRUING, and AFTER the conference.  First impressions are great conversation starters. Spend some time on Friday morning meeting the sponsors.  They are the reason we are all able to attend this event, and they want to know the bloggers are much as we want to know them. Participate, however briefly in the after hours events such as the Other 46 Tasting and the International Wine Night.  While there will undoubtedly be parties at the time time, it’s a great way to get to know other people. Find a party to attend!  This is a great way to get ot know people on a personal level.  Sponsors, wineries, and bloggers all host formal and informal parties during the event. Attend the break outs.  Too many people don’t attend the core of the conference and they miss out.  While You Need […]