Rhône with me!

Published on :

I can’t believe it!  It’s here!  Tomorrow afternoon, I kick off my 2012 Hospiece du Rhône experience with my good friends Amy & Joe Power of Another Wine Blog. This year is a particularly special occassion, in that it is the 20th Anniversary of HdR, and Amy’s bday.  I won’t tell you which one, since I want to live through the weekend but it will be big. This year, Hospice du Rhône, the world’s largest gathering of Rhône variety wines and producers, will celebrate 20 years of all things Rhône.  The events are sold out, which is hardly surprising given the amazing agenda we have lined up, and I’m so excited to be headed down to Paso Robles tomorrow to participate. Fortunately for you latecomers, if you are in Paso Robles on Saturday, there will be 100 Golden Tickets sold at the door to the Grand Tasting.  It is a bit like Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, as yo8u enter the gates to the fairgrounds, and see the throngs of people lined up. For our experience, we are starting with dinner at Artisan, a local restaurant known for it’s wine & food pairings with local ingredients.  Amy, Joe, myself, and our friends from Pithy LIttle Wine Co. will kick off the weekend wiht a dinner fit for Rhône-heads everywhere. Thursday, I will be wandering around Paso with stops at Ranchero Cellars and whereever else the wind blows up.  Thursday evening, a special welcome reception to jump start the event.  A lucky few will be participating in a  Châteauneuf du Pape seminar and pairing dinner, who will have the privilege to taste Châteauneuf-du-Pape wines dating as far back as 1954.  Author of The Châteauneuf-du-Pape Book, Harry Karis along with Vigneron Philippe Cambie will lead the audience through an in-depth look at this historic region of France before delighting in dinner at Paso Robles’ premier French restaurant, Bistro Laurent. Chef Laurent Grangien has carefully prepared a five-course meal for this enchanting evening. Friday will begin with wines from four rock star winemakers hailing from the Priorat region of Spain. Eric Solomon of Eric Solomon Selections will bring to the stage Jose Maria Vicente of Casa Castillo, Daniel Jimenez-Landi of Jimenez-Landi, Bixente Ocafrain of Bodegas Mas Alta and Daphne Glorian-Solomon of Clos I Terrasses. Next, attendees will dive into the stones Walla Walla, Washington with a focused seminar by the ever spirited and knowledgeable Christophe Baron of Cayuse.  Having just hopped a plane home from Barcelona last month, I am especially looking forward to the Priorat seminar. After we are full of Priorat, we head over to the Rosé Lunch, celebrating pink wine.  There will be a huge variety of pinks to choose from, and with the delicious nibbles from the girl & the fig, I might need a nap after!  I seem to recall the Great Pot du Creme caper of a couple of years ago when attendees could not eat enough of the three selections and may or may not have accidentally taken a pot back to their hotel […]

Happy Earth Day!

Published on :

  It’s Earth Day again, that one day when we’re supposed to stop to smell the roses, and celebrate Gaia.  I try to be kind to my planet every day, by taking care of her and recycling, reducing and reusing – since it’s clear to me that she is one pissed off mama. Today, I’m sipping on some green wines, in partnership with Sip Certified.  Sip Certified has spent the last 15 years working with growers and wineries rethink their strategy about sustainability.  Pretty cool stuff! To become Sip Certified, you msut address the entire farm ecosystem, from soil to vine, from bottle to cork. you can learn more HERE. But today, I’m sipping on Riverbench Pinot Noir from Santa Maria Valley. Riverbench Vineyard began in 1973, when it was planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Now, over 30 years later, they are a leading fruit source for the Santa maria Valley.  In 2004 the property was purchased, and the new owners embarked on their own wine adventure, reserving some of the fruit for their own estate wines. The 2010 Estate Pinot  starts out with some bold red fruit on the nose, with ripe strawberries and raspberries on the palate.  Surprisingly, there is some great acidity in this wine; I am constantly looking for more acid in my pinots, and it’s nice to find a southern Central Coast example that has some bright cranberry and bright red fruit along with the rich ripe berry.  There is also a nice spice box hiding in there that gives the wine a kick on the finish.  I am enjoying the allspice and pepper kick. One of the hallmarks of this wine is the silky mouth feel and smooth palate, due to the 96% neutral oak.  with only 4% new French Oak, the flavor of the fruit shine through wihtout being overpowered. At a budget friendly !~$25, this is a Santa Maria wine I will keep my eye on! Enjoy! This wine was provided by Sip Certified, to celebrate Earth Day.

CRM is not a four letter word

Published on :

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 […]

Calçots!

Published on :

There is something unique to Catalonia, something   delicious.  It is the calçot and the tradition of a calçot lunch to go with it! A calçot (left) is member of the onion family, and resembles a cross between a green onion and a leek.  It’s a uniquely Catalan beast, and are mild and sweet. Every Spring, the Catalan celebrate with the tradition of the calçotada  – much like the American tradition of the summer BBQ, where c alçots are grilled over an open flame (in our case over vine cuttings, yum!).  The result is a charbroiled onion, but a sweet delicious delicacy underneath. How does one eat a calçot?  Once they are grilled, you strip them of course!  After barbecuing, It’s a delicate operation, as you grip the bottom of the calçot, and tug gently so the skin pulls off in one long piece.  Then, as Toni is demonstrating, you eat the calçotada in several bites – but in one fell swoop.  Delicious! a romesco sauce is served, and you strip off the charbroiled layer in a magical feat of action.   They can get a little messy however, so as Toni shows us, it helps to have a bib.  Or a cape.  After a full plate of calçot, and several glasses of cava, Toni became…Super Calcot!  The Catalon superhero! Calçots are particularly delicious with brut cava, as the crisp acidity matches perfectly with the sweet greens and the tangy romesco  sauce. Now, go out and make some calçots today!  when you can’t find the real thing, baby leeks, baby green onions or red onions can be substituted.  Broil or grill them until tender.  Enjoy with a glass of cava!  

Mambo Italiano

Published on :

It’s time to get super!  Super Tuscan that is.  Traditionally, wines from Tuscany are Chianti, made from the Sangiovese grape.  These days however, more and more “Super Tuscans” are turning up, making use of the newer plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon and other Bordeaux varietals.  Adding a big, round red to a Sangiovese will give the resulting blend, making a plusher, bigger, more New World style, which is really a crowd pleaser for the average wine drinking. In this case, the Super Tuscan that I tasted was the La Sala Campo All Albero, which was 85% Cab and 15% Sangio, provided by Wine Passionate, a great new website dedicated to value oriented Italian wines. This wine was dry and earthy, with flavors of tobacco and dried plum.  It was chewy and meaty and was great with food. I was also able to taste the 2010 Pandiani Aglianico from Sicily, a great wine for a crazy price ($12).  Aglianico is not a grape I come across frequently, and I was really pleased by this valiue wine. Though to be brought over by the Greeks, Aglianico is a black skinned grape that produces a dark, intense wine.  Fermented in stainless steel tanks instead of barrels, this gives the wine a freshness and bright quality with a lot of great acid.  It’s an easy wine to like, and goes great with any pasta dish. I loved sipping on this and it really opened up over the evening.  Lots of dark red berries, chocolate, Chinese Five Spice, and pepper in here, with a strong anise undercurrent. I love discovering new wines, and now I can add this to my Century Club list, and go out and see other Aglianicos!  The moral of this story, is, be adventurous.  DOn’t be afraid to try something you have never heard of, especially at these prices.  You might be delightfully surprised! Thank you Wine Passionate for providing these wines for me to taste!

Why your wine business needs CRM

Published on :

I work in technology, but my heart is in wine. Every day I see things in the wine business that frustrate me; every day I see how archaic some things can be. The wine industry is notoriously behind the times when it comes to technology, and is even slower to adapt to new methodologies. What are the reasons behind this? Part of it is certainly economic; however part of it is exposure.  As an IT specialist who spends 8-10 hours a day working in CRM and another 12 thinking about CRM and how to integrate with back office systems,  I spend my days working in CRM systems and designing solutions for a wide variety of companies. And yet, while there are a few key players that are opening their eyes to the value of CRM, the wine biz in general is lacking focus in this area. On a daily basis, I see siloed, independent systems for finance, customer service, marketing, and order entry that make up a company’s operations.  Each of these systems is independent from each other, with unique data sets that may or may not replicate to the rest of the systems in use.  In the world of wine, for example, you might have your retail POS, a wine club management tool, and an ecommerce or marketing tool.  Switching between the systems is time consuming and clunky, as you have to periodically update tech data set and ensure that each system has an accurate record of your customer. The need in the rest of the world for an integrated solution to provide the full picture is great. Companies not only need to see the full picture of the customer, but they need to see the full picture of operations.  The methodology behind a CRM culture (and we’re not just talking tools here, but rather a way of doing business), is that you get a full, complete picture of your customer at a glance.  CRM, or Customer Relationship Management, is the art of knowing your customer, and knowing how you can better service them. Yet today, CRM is still a great mystery to many wineries.  Most understand that it would be helpful, but don’t understand exactly why, or how.  If you reframe what CRM is, you will begin to understand how powerful it is.  More than just software, it’s a lifecycle approach to marketing.  A winery that understands this, knows that CRM can help you develop targeted marketing messages to specific customer groups.  A CRM ecosystem can help your customer service reps receive and resolve issues quickly and effectively, maintaining an audit trail.  A CRM order entry system can track your customer likes and dislikes as well as past orders. What does this mean for DTC sales?  Everything.  Imagine the power of a tool, and a mentality, that allows you to report at your fingertips.  What did Jane buy last month?  Are you trying to move more bottles of the 2009 Merlot?   Target your offer to those that have shown a consistent […]

Pulling it all together

Published on :

Now that we have seen the grapes come in and the base wine made, it’s time to pull it all together.  It’s time for the assemblage! Assemblage is the process of choosing which case wine will be blended to make each sparkling wine.  Each base wine can be classified in to different levels of wine, and the process involves several components, including multiple trials and blends.  But first, you need to taste the base wine from which the blended cava will be made. Each primary still wine is made specifically for the purpose of creating cava.  Unlike the table wine, these wines are made with a lower sugar content and a higher overall acidity. First up, the Macabeo cava base, showed lychee and a slightly tropical undertone, with bright acidity, green apple and grapefruit.  It’s easy to see how this can create an excellent cava. Next, we compare the Macabeo cava base with the Macabeo wine base.  IN the wine base, you get a creamy undertone, it’s roudner and softer with more pear flavors followed by citrus. Now on to the Xarel.lo cava base.  This uniquely Spanish wine has a very subtle nose and is bright, lean and tight.  A strong banana scent is followed by bitter lime.  This wine adds more weights and depth to the finished cava. Finally we taste the Xarel.lo wine base.  This was a bit like unfiltered grapefruit juice, stll with that banana flavor and a heavier mouthfeel.  I would call this a pithy wine. Now that we know who the players are, it’s time to play mad scientist with the assemblage!Now we get to the third traditionally cava base, Parellada.  The base wine had a slight spritz, and  was full bodied and had lemon custard flavors with heavy aromatics and floral notes. Gabriel Suberviola, Master Winemaker at Segura Viudas, was on hand to help walk us through the process.  As we found out in the component tasting, each wine contributes its own unique notes, and bringing it all together takes patience and skill.  To maintain a consistent product, winemakers need to be able to replicate a flavor profile year after year, with minor changes to the blend. Gabriel and his team taste up to 200 wines, and they are classified in to specific lines.  Each line will become a different wine.  For our small team of amateur wine blenders, we had to learn how to spot a premier cava in the making in the unusual base wines we tasted.  The winemaking team has years of practice and can tell in one sip, but we needed a bit more time. We started our adventure with four bottles of base wine: Macabeo base wine Xarel.lo base wine Parellada base wine current candidate of test wine, for control purposes Over the next 2 hours, we tediously tried to create the best blend possible, which Gabriel would then be grading them as we ate lunch.  And so it begins.  Never one to play exactly by the rules, I started creating concoctions immediately.  Instead of […]

Extra extra! Weekend fun in SlowNoma

Published on :

Hey check it out! A new and different kind of wine event is hitting the airwaves this weekend in Sonoma Valley. Saturday, May 14 and Sunday, May 15, 2011 Sonoma Valley Reserve will host the newly coined Reserve (which replaced Passport to Sonoma Valley) with a series of themed daytrips that will showcase rare offerings and hidden gems of Sonoma Valley wine destinations, many of which are seldom open to the public. “Our vintners have teamed up to create an upscale event that provides a passport to Sonoma Valley,” said Maureen Cottingham, Sonoma Valley Vintners & Growers Alliance Executive Director, “It would otherwise be impossible for people to visit many of the stops on the daytrips.” The motor coaches seat only thirteen to twenty-four people per vehicle, so the groups are small. Sixty-one wineries are participating in the event featuring the twenty-three unique tours. Examples of some of the tours include: Meet the Winery Rock Star Tour – Behind every benchmark Sonoma Valley winery, there’s a leader whose vision helped create its worldwide reputation. On this tour, participants will meet some of Sonoma Valley’s most charismatic and creative personalities, and taste the wines for which they’ve gained global acclaim. Bridal Tour – Seeking the perfect Sonoma Valley spot for your wedding day? From panoramic views to vineyard vistas, this tour will help find the wedding location of a lifetime. All Access Tour – An exclusive opportunity to gain access to wine destinations rarely open to the public and others that are accessible by appointment only. This tour provides the chance to find those wineries known only by the most experienced Sonoma alley isitors. Food and Wine Pairing Tour – Embark upon a tasting tour unlike any other. Wineries will reveal the complex and magical art of pairing wine with food. Palates will be thrilled with perfect pairings created from the fresh and abundant local foods of Sonoma Valley. I’m personally looking forward to the awesome food that will be paired with the Cannihan 06 & 07 Pinot Noir and Syrah, by gelato fiend and sometimes chef Jason Mancebo. Sip now and sip often! Participating wineries include  Sonoma faves Loxton, Kaz, and Gundlach Bundschu to name a few. Each winery tour takes you to 4 uniquely themed destinations, including lunch.  You could tour some of the small family wineries, or perhaps focus on zin.  You decide! Tickets for Sonoma Valley Reserve are extremely limited and on sale now at $85 for one day or $135 for two days. Sonoma Valley Reserve ticketholders can opt for the $30 round trip transportaiton from Sonoma, Mill Valley orSan Francisco. which frees you up to do the drinking. I’ll see you up there at Cannihan!    

Secrets revealed! Lose weight with wine!

Published on :

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.