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WINThe Wine Industry Advisor is an Online Industry Publication featuring news and articles relevant to the wine industry. Our goal is to be a resource for wine businesses and professionals by providing free access to our knowledge base articles, industry press releases, and daily news. We aim to provide you with the information most relevant to you.

Wine Industry Advisor
155 Foss Creek Circle
Healdsburg, CA 95448
(707) 433-2557

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Wine Industry Daughters Celebrate Their Mothers

By Allison Levine

The wine industry has traditionally been a male-dominated industry that has followed a patriarchal line from generation to generation. But women have been working in wine throughout history. They run the business, work in the lab, are the spokesperson, marketer and consummate host at the winery. As we celebrate Mothers’ Day, we honor our mothers who are our rocks and our role models. They are the ones who have always been there for us, have cheered us on and encouraged us. In the four wineries profiled below, daughters reflect on their relationships with their mothers while working together in the wine industry. Trombetta Family Wines While her parents met at Hewlett Packard, Erica Stancliff grew up in wine. Her mother, Rickey Trombetta Stancliff, and her father Roger began making wine in their garage in the 1990s before Rickey began working for Paul Hobbs. With encouragement from Hobbs, Erica went to study at Fresno State and in her senior year, her mother decided to start her own label. Just before she graduated from college, Erica got a call from her mother to come home and harvest her first vintage in 2010 and then return to school. Today, Erica and Rickey run Trombetta Family Wines, producing chardonnay and pinot noir from the Sonoma Coast.

“Starting the business together has been an incredible experience,” Erica expressed. “We are intertwined. We share a business, a hobby [horses] and talk on the phone five times a day. But it was my mother’s guidance that shaped the path for our pinot noir. She was the driving force behind the entire project.” And, while Erica makes the wine, Ricky is “amazing. She does all of the sales and marketing on her own but she also goes out on every single pick, helps with the leafing and cleaning the bins. I am so proud of her.” Erica explained. Familia Martinez Bujanda Marta Santander Martinez Bujanda is the 5th generation in the Familia Martinez Bujanda, founded in 1889. The family business runs along the maternal side of her family. Her grandmother, who is 92 years old, was the only child of a single vineyard owner in Oyon in Rioja La Besa, Spain. She married Marta’s grandfather who became the vineyard manager and believed that the family winery should only work with estate fruit. She spent every weekend in the vineyard while raising her children. Marta’s mother and uncle, the 4th generation in the family, run the family business together which includes four wineries in Spain in Rioja, Rueda and La Mancha – Finca Antigua La Mancha, Finca Montepedroso, Viña Bujanda and Finca Valpiedra.

Pilar Martinez Bujanda, Lauren Rosillo (Director of winemaking), Marta Santander Martinez Bujanda, Carlos Martinez Bujanda

Marta always knew she wanted to work in her family’s business but she did not want to work on the technical side of winemaking. “I am a shy person, but my mother thought I would be good on the commercial side of the business. She did not push me to go into the family business and wanted it to be my own decision, but she always tried to educate me and help me in the best way without pushing,” explained Marta who joined the family business in 2002. “My mother and my grandmother taught me that you have to work hard, hard, hard and I am proud of our family business.” CK Mondavi and Family Sisters Angelina, Alycia, Riana and Giovanna Mondavi started working summer jobs from the vineyard to the cellar to the lab for their family when they were each ten-years old. And at every event their parents Janice and Marc Mondavi would host, they would help serve guests. Looking back, Alycia explained, “I realized they were setting us up with the foundation of a family business and with a solid work ethic.”

While the Mondavi girls grew up in wine, their mother did not. Janice graduated from Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and was recruited by Sutter Home as the Public Relations Hospitality Manager. She met Marc 37 years ago and got involved in the family business overseeing the properties, managing bookkeeping and payroll. “She is the best salesperson we have in the company,” Alycia declared. “She is our mentor from every angle and is one of our best friends. She is the backbone of the family. Our family is driven by our father’s passion and our mother’s strength. She keeps us together and is the heartbeat, and the mediator. She is the sounding board for everyone. Rianna added, “Mom is an active listener and did a great job of teaching us how to listen to people and listen to what they need. It is how we approach business and people.” Today the sisters have two wineries together, Aloft and Dark Matters. Angelina is the consulting winemaker for the two wineries, as well as five other wineries. Alycia is a marketing consultant and oversees the day-to-day operations of Aloft and Dark Matters. Rianna, after working in wine sales for a distributor, lives in Dallas and manages national restaurant account sales for CK Mondavi and Family. Giovanna, the baby of the family, is currently working in finance but cannot imagine not working in the family business one day. Jackson Family Wines Katie and Julia Jackson grew up in the wine industry. Katie first fell in love with the industry after working harvest at one of the family wineries. Julia decided she wanted to work with her family after working harvest in France when she was 21. Both recognized the hard work, passion and camaraderie involved in making a bottle of wine. While their father, Jess Jackson, was an icon in the wine industry, their mother Barbara Banke worked side-by-side with him and has been an influential driving force in the family business. “My mom embodies strong and effective female leadership, and through her example, showed me that our wine industry was accommodating to both men and women leaders. She also taught me a very pragmatic approach to business,” explained Julia. Katie added, “I’ve always admired my mom’s long-term, strategic thinking. She always sees a couple of steps ahead as to what we should do next to be successful long-term, including how we can continue to innovate how we make wine in order to be better environmental stewards. I appreciate how fearless my mom is. She is a natural leader whose take-charge attitude and authority are immediately recognized. She has never been afraid to voice strong opinions or to take a strong stance about something, and I really admire that about her.” They are especially proud of their mom being the first woman to win the “Person of the Year” award from the Wine Enthusiast.

Today Katie is working as the VP of Sustainability and External Affairs for the company and Julia is learning the ropes at the company, including leading a Think Tank focused on enhancing the health and well-being of their employees. They recognize their mother’s signature touches on the family business, including a keen eye for finding great vineyards. “She was the driving vision behind my family’s recent expansion into Oregon’s Willamette Valley as well as making our first wine in South Africa. Her desire to own good quality land is a tremendous inspiration to me,” said Julia. In addition, their mother has made the company’s focus on charitable giving and social equity in the company a priority.

News Archive

Seismic Shift at Big Basin Vineyards: “At the Time, I Didn’t Get the Hype Around Burgundy”
28 April, 2017

Bradley Brown

Owner/Winegrower Bradley Brown of Big Basin Vineyards has been on a long, tumultuous journey as a self-taught winemaker in the middle of an appellation best-known for its eccentric, self-made legends. In that, he has good company, to wit, David Bruce, Jeff Emery, Tony Craig, Jeffrey Patterson and Ryan Beauregard, to name a few. When he decided to pursue wine as a second career in the late 1990s, after a successful dance with high technology, Brown couldn’t have chosen a more obscure spot, deep in the redwoods adjacent to Big Basin Park in Boulder Creek, to plant vines.

At first, he was wholly dedicated to Rhones, sourcing cuttings from one of his best mentors, John Alban, who inspired the robust and dense wines for which he gained immediate notoriety. Those were the days of the high flying, high alcohol, high Parker scoring wines that came to define the Rhones of Paso Robles, and Bradley kept good company among their creators. Syrah was the darling, made massive and tempestuous: no alcohol was deemed too high to defy its inherent gravitas. Grenache was elevated to the bombastic, and GSM blends cemented their place in our collective consciousness. Ah, if only we could have actually enjoyed an entire bottle before passing out.

But that was then, and that now seems so very long ago. The road to one’s style as a winemaker is often paved with torturous side trips that lead to sheer cliffs, from which one must fly like Icarus or carefully retreat. To Brown’s credit, he knows when to sail and when to bail. And he knows how to read a trend.

Fortuitously, he began to shift from the solitary infatuation with Rhones to the allure of Pinot Noir, around 2004, when Jeff Emery of Santa Cruz Mountain Vineyard needed a place to crush after his partner, Ken Burnap, sold the Jarvis Road property in Scotts Valley. Emery ended up crushing at Big Basin Vineyards. Brown became intrigued with the myth of Pinot, and began sourcing fruit from vineyards in Corralitos, including Alfaro, Lester and Woodruff, sources he still uses today. He recently began grafting his estate Syrah over to Pinot Noir, choosing Mount Eden and Swan clones.

At the same time, he was developing, along with John Allen, a trippy, high elevation, limestone-studded vineyard called Coastview, in the Gabilan Mountains, south of Salinas. At first, he wanted Rhones, planting more selections of Syrah, and some Viognier, but eventually added Pinot Noir and god forbid, Chardonnay.

Some will remember Brown’s ardent exclamation in his early days as a winemaker that he would never make Chardonnay. Ever. You know what they say about never: it so rarely ever completes the forward pass. Brown now makes some absolutely stunning Chardonnay: so graceful of spirit, so light on its airy feet that you have a hard time wrapping your head around the fact it’s the same winemaker. But then, he isn’t. He’s changed. Evolved. Grown. And grown up. Fatherhood will do that to you.

Each assistant winemaker he’s had along the way, and he’s had a few, including Ian Brand, Lindsey Otis and currently, Brad Friedman, have influenced his evolution and helped him orient his compass towards his true North, which is grace, purity and balance.

Says Brown, “Two things happened in concert that changed my perspective. 2011 was the coolest vintage on record. You were never going to get things ripe. The Lester Vineyard Pinot (located in Corralitos, a coastal sub-region of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA) that year turned out great. Our estate Syrahs were very interesting: much more savory. I showed the 2011 Lester at WOPN (World of Pinot Noir) to Raj Parr who posted on Delectable that he really loved it. Picking the fruit earlier seemed to amplify the texture, mouthfeel and structure, but also produced more character and integrity. The other thing that happened was a tasting with a friend who is a heart surgeon and a collector of DRCs and Grand Crus. At the time, I didn’t get the hype around Burgundy. We opened up a 1990 Domaine Dujac Bonne Mares Grand Cru: one of the greatest vintages, and a warm year. It blew my mind. It was so ethereal and complex, filled with perfume. It was otherworldly. That experience changed my mind so completely about what Pinot was capable of.”

Consequently, in 2012, he picked all the vineyards earlier and made Pinots that he says, “completely blew my mind!” About that time, he became aware of IPOB (In Pursuit of Balance) and submitted to join. At first, his wines weren’t accepted, but he got in on the second attempt. “It was a big Aha! moment for me,” says Brown. “I was among great company, with great producers and renowned vineyards.”

Another factor that changed his winemaking was the use of whole cluster. He notes that in Burgundy, they use native yeast, as does he, along with abundant whole cluster. Being part of IPOB brought him in contact with other winemakers employing whole cluster to boost the mid-palate and texture in wines picked at lower brix.

“I became increasingly aware of whole cluster, but I was scared of the impact it would have with lower alcohol, higher acid. I worried they would be green and lack structure and color. With whole cluster, I didn’t want tannin or astringency. Starting in 2012, we did some whole cluster and upped it to 75% in 2013 on the Lester Pinot and 40% on the Alfaro Vineyard Pinot (also in the Corralitos area). We liked the whole cluster lots and didn’t find any bitterness. So, we really went for it in 2014, with 100% whole cluster on the Lester and Alfaro Pinots, as well as the Coastview Pinot.”

The Coastview Vineyard in the Gabilan Mountains sits at 2200 ft., above the Salinas Valley, on the eastern side of Highway 101. This warm, sun-drenched microclimate features decomposed granitic and limestone soils, and is capable of producing bigger, brawnier, more tannic wines.

Brown also began employing whole cluster in Syrah, venturing as high as 40% in 2014 with Coastview fruit. “You have to be careful with Grenache, though. The skins and stems are so thick, that 50% whole cluster is max,” he notes.

Equally important in the evolution of the Big Basin style has been the use of oak: much less of it, and much more judicious selection of wood. Says Brown, “In the early days, we tended to use lots of oak, mostly M+. I’ve definitely started to move away, beginning in 2009 and 2010, with a shift to different oak for different varietals. For Pinot, we use mostly M toast. Our goal is transparency. I don’t want to get oak flavors. New barrels can amplify the characters that are already there in the fruit, or by adding a specific oak flavor. We have used 100% new in the past.”

He’s been gradually stepping down the use of new oak, to 1/3 or even 20% new, depending on the vineyard: a seismic shift. Through rigorous testing, Brown and Friedman have isolated a former master cooper from Hermitage who uses only wood from the Alliers Forest. They’ve selected a very tight grain and light long toast, which they feel is ideal, especially for Chardonnay.

Yes, Brown is making Chardonnay, both from the Coastview Vineyard and from Bald Mountain, in the Ben Lomond Mountain AVA, another sub-AVA of the Santa Cruz Mountains. In 2014, Brown used only 20% new on the Coastview Chardonnay. He prefers the mouthfeel and aromatics of used barrels with this fruit. “It’s an amplification,” he says. “We only like certain forests and coopers. We’re not going to use Francois Freres or Taransaud.”

On the gradual ratcheting down of new oak and toast levels, Brown says, “Small shifts can make a big difference. In 2015, we used very minimal oak on the Bald Mountain Chardonnay. Our goal was to accentuate the purity and minerality. It actually didn’t finish ML, so we ended up with a very high acid wine.”

Sometimes people mistake the wine’s inherent spiciness for new oak. “The Alfaro Pinot has huge spice that confuses people. It’s not oak: it’s the wine. The barrel provides a polish early on that amplifies the perfume of the wine.”

For his Syrah program, Brown says the shift from 70% to 80% new down to 10% new, started in 2013 and 2014 when they went to Hogsheads with light long toast for both coopers. He says there is no detection of toast or char on the palate, as the wood does not caramelize, and therefore does not release that telltale vanillin. In 2015, they did just 20% new oak on the Syrahs. “I like the purity of Syrah with minimal oak,” he admits.

With Grenache, he’s even more restrained, preferring 100% neutral oak barriques. In 2015, he used an amphora for Grenache and tried concrete tanks last year in 2016. “I don’t think the fermentation is hugely different,” Brown says. “The thermal mass might impact temps with 3 to 5 ton ferments, but we’re doing very small lots.”

And then, there is oak aging. He’s taken a page out of the Burgundy playbook, preferring to leave Pinot in oak for two winters. “Deux hivers is an affirmation of my style,” he notes. “Some wineries are cutting barrel aging short. If you are using any significant new oak, you need more than a year.”

As for Syrah, Brown notes that 21 months elevage is standard in the Rhone: some might do 18. “Syrah experiences an evolution in barrel, especially our estate fruit,” he says. “It develops a much better finish.” His Santa Cruz Mountains Syrah, though, does only 11 months in oak to produce a fresh and vibrant young wine, that helps keep the price down for distribution.

Brad Friedman

Brad Friedman

Assistant winemaker, Brad Friedman, who has been with Bradley for two years now, has experience at 13 different wineries on five continents. He’s learned a lot about translating terroir to the bottle. “We are all about transparency, across the board. We look for the best way to express sit and vintage.”

Friedman says they are both Aquarians, so they have to keep each other in balance. “We’re both super lofty and up in the air. I’m really trying to level him out. I do lots of the logistics and planning.”

He’s been 100% behind the move to use less wood, arguing that their vineyard sites are so expressive, that even the slightest hint of over-oaking drags down the end result. “We’re at about 25% new oak, and it needs to come down even more, even with these new barrels,” admits Friedman. “I feel like I can see where he’s headed, and I want to get there faster.”

One of the things they did in 2016 was to stop keeping press fractions separated. Instead of putting each press fraction in a separate barrel, they all get settled in tank, resulting in less solids to bind together and ultimately, to less tannic wines. “It also helps them become more complex,” Friedman says. “It also preserves the ‘wholeness’ of the wine.”

Since they don’t rack at all until bottling, some of the wines are sitting on the gross lees for up to 2.5 years. In the past, this has led to what Friedman calls “a sappy sweetness,” even though the wines are bone dry.

Overall, Friedman admits, Brown’s transformation has been amazing to watch. “It’s been extremely challenging for him,” Friedman says, acknowledging that Brown’s new style of winemaking has confused some of the wine critics.

“I get it,” says Friedman, a musician, who pursued music as a major before switching to Biotech. “It’s like a performance where you played every note perfectly and you think you crushed it. And somebody says, ‘That sounded like shit.’ It’s intense to get past that.”

Critics be damned, the Big Basin Vineyards following is very loyal, despite the shift in wine styles. The results are there for the tasting.

Most impressive from the estate in the current offerings is the 2014 Homestead Block Estate Roussanne, a sophisticated, white-gloved wine that exhibits guava and kiwi with a smack of Asian pear.

Beautifully floral, the 2014 Coastview Chardonnay delivers an abundance of apricot, pluot and baked pear, with a raw silk minerality that provides a perfect balance between acid and creaminess.

The 2013 Woodruff Pinot Noir, a hearty, earthy, cinnamon stick and basil scented wine that comes from some of the oldest Pinot vines in the AVA. Native yeast gives it a mysterious surge of mid-palate power that carries to the long finish.

From the nearby Coast Grade vineyard in Bonny Doon, the 2014 Coast Grade Pinot is already phenomenal for such a young wine: it romps like a thoroughbred discovering its speed, filled with racy pomegranate, blueberry and cranberry.

Perhaps Brown’s present philosophy regarding Pinot can be summed up by this statement: “I’m not a big fan of that austere style, but Pinot shouldn’t be ripe and fruity.”

Tasting the current releases, it appears he’s definitely found that “just right” Goldilocks spot, and we hope he’s happy with it. The critics might not “get it,” but right now, his 2014 Pinots and Chardonnays, along with 2012 Syrahs, are in what he calls “the right place at the right time, vis a vis the market trends.”

Observing the tremendous uptick in interest in wine education and sommeliers, Brown notes, “All this wine education and awareness helps people appreciate the Old World styles. Millennials are geeking out on wine. People are digging this kind of thing.”

Friedman adds, “Anyone can make over overripe, extracted wine in 100% new oak. They all taste the same. And frankly, they’re terrible. The industry needs to be set on its ear.”


U.S. Producers Betting on Rosé and Challenging French Dominance
14 April, 2017

Chris Sawyer

“Is it on? Yes, it’s definitely on. Pink is trending; it’s a heavy trending thing, and I don’t see it going away at all,” says sommelier and author Christopher Sawyer, who recently judged in the Rosé Today Wine Competition.

Sawyer has been judging wine competitions for twenty years, and notes that rose being taken seriously by competitions is a very recent development, “The best of show pink is now a category. Seven years ago there probably wasn’t even a pink category in major competitions.”

Rosé Today is only in its fourth year but has continued to grow with a total of 239 entries this year from twelve US states and nine countries. The majority of the entries were from domestic producers showing an increased investment and interest in the category, which is also shown by a stream of new rosés from American brands hitting the market including Bota BoxLa CremaMichael Mondavi Family EstateMeiomiCastle Rock WinerytenshÉnDel Rio Vineyard EstateBlack Ink, and Ferrari-Carano Vineyards.

All of these wineries are bidding to get a share of the growing premium rosé category ($8 and higher), which according to Nielsen has seen over 55% growth for two consecutive years. However, most of that growth has been captured by French producers who dominate the category. French rosé imports outpaced overall premium rosé growth over the past 12 months with an impressive 63.4% increase at an average bottle price of $13.90.*

So, can American producers compete with the French for a bigger share of the rosé boom? Sawyer believes that they can and that the numbers don’t necessarily reflect how domestic rosés are faring in the market.

“A lot of the rosés in America that are super high quality are made by wineries that are super high quality, meaning there’s not much of them from each winery. Top rosé producers in America are usually under 1,000 cases,” Sawyer explains, “that’s why I think the numbers are a little skewed.”

Sawyer believes that when American premium rosés can’t keep up with the French in growth, it’s more a question of supply than quality. This advantage stems from a longer tradition of producing and consuming dry rosés. In France rosé is bigger than both red and white by volume, whereas in the U.S. market premium rosé still only represents 0.6% by volume and 1.1% by value.*

“We’ve found over this past decade that rosés do sell, and you’re finding more limited releases out there. Are all of these great rosés from America selling out? The answer is yes, especially at the high end level,” Sawyer affirms. “As a buyer, the trick is to get these rosés when they come out, you’ve got to get it before they sell out, so I would encourage some of these wineries to begin expanding their production a little bit and put in another 500 cases or even build it past that. You’ll find people that are willing to buy those cases.”

One of the few top selling domestic rose brands in the premium range that have managed to exceed the category growth is Charles Smith’s Charles & Charles Rose made with Syrah from Columbia Valley. And Charles Smith believes that the success is a combination of the flavor profile and the branding.

“Being in the Pacific Northwest with a cool, long growing season helps us develop and deliver really delicious flavor with a fantastic light, pink hue—also seen in my CasaSmith ViNO Rosé,” says Smith. “Likewise, in communicating the language of wine with Charles & Charles, it is emphatically American wine. And the label indicates it’s American wine, locally produced.”

Smith is not afraid to admit that he took inspiration from the success of French rosés. “Absolutely. We take inspiration and cues from where people have been successful before. Not to emulate, but to be inspired and build upon.”

Kim Moore, marketing director at Meiomi, who are launching their first rose this spring is also upbeat about challenging the French dominance of the category.” French producers have certainly paved the way for rosé in the U.S.,” she says, “but there is still a lot of room for producers from all regions to have a seat at the pink table. Domestic producers especially can leverage strong brand recognition and loyalty in the U.S. to bring existing and new consumers into the category. We can also continue building awareness of rosé through advertising, sampling, PR and social media to build market share.”

Meiomi is launching a spring campaign to promote their rosé. The campaign is focused on the core strength of their brand, the taste. “We strongly believe that Meiomi’s unrivaled taste is the cornerstone of this brand and a key ingredient of its success, so we want to communicate that to our consumers in a way that resonates,” says Moore. “Meiomi is also about discovery, so we aim to provide a sensorial glimpse into Meiomi with the ads, from the wine’s rich, silky textures to its full-bodied flavors.”

Though American producers are still trying to catch up to the success of French rosé, existing expertise and variety may prove to be invaluable advantages.

“The different styles we are making here now on the west coast are way more diversified than French producers. We’re working with so many different grape varieties, tempranillo, syrah, grenache, pinot noir,” says Sawyer, “and a lot of the people that are making these rosés are top producers of those red wines as well.”

Bob Ecker, the wine director for the Rose Today Wine Competition, agrees that domestic producers can play a bigger role in the rosé category if they dedicate the resources, lands, and staff to making great rosé wine. “Whereas the French were always doing this, domestic roses were always an afterthought – we have some extra juice, let’s make some pink rosé,” Ecker explains, “but now there are some really great rosés from domestic producers as seen in the Rosé Today competition. The judges were tough, there were many wines that got no medals at all. But there were some 40 gold medals given in the competition and 18 double gold medals. When they tasted very good wines, they awarded them.”

The largest category in the Rosé Today competition was for domestic dry rosé, and it was won by Bonterra’s organic Grenache (74%) based rose blended with smaller amounts of Sangiovese and Nebbiolo with the Provençal style in mind. “As winemaker for Bonterra Organic Vineyards, I strive to impart to each of our wines the balance and quality we’ve become known for – and which is a hallmark of – well-tended organic fruit,” Jeff Cichocki explains. “And while this latest wine is no exception, I like to think it offers something new from Bonterra. I was certainly inspired by the lovely rosés crafted in the South of France; in particular, we really wanted our wine to offer the same pale color and delicate balance of flavor.”

Bonterra has produced 2,000 cases of this rosé, and with a suggested retail price of $15, it competes at the center of the premium rosé category.

“We reviewed international styles extensively before crafting our rosé, with the Provençal style as a key benchmark. What impressed us about these wines was their elegance and restraint. The drier style is both versatile and drinkable, lending itself to multiple consumption occasions – which could allow producers to capture more market share,” says Cichocki. “The success of French rosé in the U.S. is a testament to the demand for this style, and we believe the added benefit of being organically farmed in California will be another appealing feature to our consumers.”

Even though the premium rosé category has been growing rapidly over the last few years, it has been from a very small base and there’s broad agreement that the trend is continuing, even if rosé won’t achieve the level of market penetration it enjoys in France.

“There are still a lot of consumers discovering rosé each year, proving this wine style has a lot of room to grow,” says Moore. “In fact, rosé across certain price segments is currently growing in triple digits (IRI Data Report, 12-week ending 2.9.17). Additionally, we continue to see rosé placed on wine lists—increasingly more than one option listed—which gives consumers a place to experiment and discover a new wine. This is a great opportunity to build a consumer base for retail, where we see the real growth trends.”

Charles Smith concurs. “In the last 10 years people have been more open to trying new things, brought on by things like cooking shows have brought more interesting tastes and flavors into people’s homes. And of course wine goes along with that. Wine has become increasingly popular in the American culture so it only makes sense that something as pleasant and fun to drink as rosé would rise to the top. I don’t see it slowing down. As they say, one friend tells a friend and tells another friend and it keeps going from there.”

Sawyer too connects the rise of rosé to a changing food culture. “American consumers are ready for it, and it’s not just because the wines are of that quality now, but it’s because the food culture has changed, and that is probably the key to all of this. We don’t eat steak and potatoes all the time anymore, we eat definitely fresher foods, we eat salads and the most incredible dishes we’ve ever had now, so when have that pink version of the wines, it gives you so much more of an ability to pair them with what’s really the best thing to be pairing with, high acid, beautiful lavish flavors that are much more expressive when they’re young and fresh and fruity in some ways, but not sweet, and that’s the key.

“There are still sweet rosés, of course, but restaurants and great retailers are not going in that direction, they’re looking for the dry ones, and it’s because they pair so well with the types of cuisine that is now available to us. We’re going into a gourmet landscape that we’ve never had before, and that’s why pink works so well, because they’re really complementing the food we’re now eating.”

* Nielsen retail outlets data, period ending 2/25/2017


New Company Breaks Barriers to Distribution for Small Producers
31 March, 2017

Consolidation continues to make distributors bigger and fewer while the number of producers grow with new small producers enter the market. The vast majority of wineries in the US produce less than 5,000 cases, and they’ve been effectively blocked from three-tier distribution because distributor giants won’t take them on, but that’s about to change.

Liberation Distribution (LibDib) today announced the launch of the first web-based three-tier alcohol distribution platform, and it has the potential to impact distribution in a big way. Now any licensed producer that wants distribution can have it. The catch? No catch, just go signup and start selling, and if you later want to switch to a different distributor, you can leave at-will without paying any fees, or fear of franchise law enforcement.

LibDib Founder and CEO, Cheryl Durzy, knows the pain small producers are feeling first-hand from her years of experience managing wholesales for her family’s 80,000 case winery, Clos LaChance, and it inspired her to create LibDib.

“A year and half ago I was trying to get a wholesaler for a new brand that we were doing,” Durzy relates, “Nobody would take it. I contacted every single wholesaler in New York, and nobody would take it, but with LibDib any winery that wants distribution in states that we cover can have it. A 200 case Oregon winery can have distribution in New York, and they can set it up within an hour.”

Cheryl Durzy, LibDib Founder and CEO

For now, LibDib is only licensed as a distributor in California and New York, but the plan is to expand and cover all 50 states.

Alcohol distribution laws governing New York and California mostly allow for shipping directly between the producer and the retailer, but spirits entering California are subject to an at-rest law requiring them to be shipped to LibDib’s licensed warehouse and then be shipped from there to the retailer by the distributor. “We started in those two states because we’d be able to prove both models, the warehouse model plus the direct shipping model,” Durzy explains, “and the two states represent 25% of consumption.”

For orders placed through their platform LibDib takes care of all the legal obligations in terms of taxes and reporting, as well as invoicing and collections, while the producer handles shipping and the sales and marketing of their brands. For many small brands handling their own sales was something they already had to do, and with LibDib they’re only charged 15%, less than half of what the average distributor takes.

LibDib keeps down their expenses by not carrying any inventory, but shipping everything directly to the retailer as orders are made.

The time is ripe for a web-based three-tier alcohol distribution platform, not just because the technology is available, but because of the market trends. “There’s a new niche in the market, that people want unique items, small production, craft, and traditional wholesalers don’t make money on it, so it’s a perfect opportunity to provide this service for people and allow them to ship direct,” says Durzy.

Unlike the traditional distributors, LibDib doesn’t rely on any one account or popular brand to make their numbers, but by taking a very small cut out of thousands of individual transactions.

This model not only benefits the producer, but also the restaurant, bar, or independent retailer who’s trying to deliver on the customer’s demand for something special. “LibDib also helps small restaurant and small retailers, who can’t make the minimums,” says Durzy. “They can buy two or three cases a month, and that’s all you have to buy. You buy what you want, when you want, and how much you want.”

As an example, a vegan restaurant that wants to offer vegan wines can go to and search for vegan wines, and in one order get a case each from three different small wineries that no one else in their city carries. And if they know a winery has wine that’s not listed, they can contact the winery directly and ask them to list it for sale.

“We encourage direct communication between retailers and makers,” says Durzy. “Wouldn’t it be better to manage your own brand and talk to the restaurants you think want your things, and you can contact them through the platform and make appointment, or send samples and do an online tasting?”

Ultimately LibDib plans to have an extensive online catalog where producers can easily share their brand stories, collateral and product details for retailers to research and buy. And it is up to the producer to decide which products they want to sell where, in what quantity, and at what price.

“Each state you have a different price because of different taxes and cost of shipping,” Durzy explains. “They decide which products they want to put in distribution in that particular state, and then they set their price.”

The platform has a transparent pricing tool that shows the producer what the costs are, so they and set the price according to what they want to pocket. A few companies were invited to try the platform before the launch, and the initial response is very positive.

“Distribution has been the most frustrating aspect of our business,” said Arthur Hartunian, Owner of Napa Valley Distillery. “LibDib is simple, easy to use and allows us to get our products to market efficiently. I’ve been telling every small to mid-sized producer I know that they need to work with LibDib.”

Though Liberation Distribution looks a lot like other web-based market solutions we’ve seen work for other industries like AirBnB and Amazon, it’s different in that it enters a highly regulated market, but it has the potential to make a huge impact, and Durzy is not shy about her ambitions; shooting for a thousand accounts by the end of the year.

“We want to be the best distributor to work with, we want to teach people how to sell, we plan on having a lot of educational webinars, and things like that to educate people on how to be better in the marketplace,” says Durzy. “We want to be the distributor that helps brands grow, not hinder them.

“It’s not just a technology platform, it’s an idea change too, it’s a shift in perspective.”


French Wine Capitalizing on U.S. Drinking Trends
17 March, 2017

Major trends in the U.S. wine market including premiumization, sparkling wine, and rosé play to the strengths of French wine leading to a 14.2% value growth, surpassing runner-up New Zealand at 13.7%, to claim the highest import growth by nation over the past 52 weeks according to Nielsen data*.

Bubbles to the Top

While the Prosecco trend is roaring ahead, grabbing the attention, and pushing the bulk of the growth in the sparkling category with a 23.1% value growth, French Champagne is holding its own at 8.4% growth – slightly below the 8.8% of the overall category, but well ahead of U.S. domestic sparkling, which only managed to grow at 5.3%.

Prosecco captured a 2.2% sparkling category share increase by value over the past 52 weeks, but only 0.1% came out of Champagne’s share, which is still larger than Prosecco’s at 20.1% compared to 18.5%.

So does Champagne need to fear Prosecco? Probably not. While they are the two major players in the sparkling category, Champagne’s average 750ml bottle price sits at $52.35, more than four times the $12.27 average of a bottle of Prosecco, making Prosecco a potential growth funnel for consumers to mature to Champagne’s higher price point as premiumization continues.

The Rosé Revolution

The premium rosé revolution reflected in the 56.6% value growth of the >$7.99 rosé segment over the past year, on the heels of the previous year’s 55.7% growth, is largely a French import phenomenon.

Though the growing premium rosé segment is still only 1.1% of the table wine category (up from 0.7% just one year ago), France is the origin of 78.3% of all U.S. rosé imports, and rosé alone represents 16.8% of the total value of French wine imports with the average price of a French rosé sold in the U.S. coming in at $13.90.

The total annual U.S. premium rosé segment retail sales* amounted to $146,747,201, and when it’s held up against the $110,810,876 worth of French rosé imports, it leaves very little room for anyone else, and with French rosé imports outpacing overall premium rosé growth with an impressive 63.4% increase, that doesn’t appear to be changing.

French Wines in the Growth Zone

Over the past 52 weeks wines priced above $9 captured 2% market share from the lower priced segments bringing it up to 52.9% of the total annual value of the retail table wine market. That’s less than the 2.6% it gained the year before, but still represents a strong premiumization trend and clearly shows where the growth in the wine market is happening.

French Champagne and rosé live in this premium segment, but so does the average bottle of French wine sold in the U.S., which is priced at $12.71 (up $0.33 from a year ago), the highest average bottle price of all imports by nation.

French varietals that are trending down in the U.S. market, Malbec, Merlot, and Syrah are also impacting those wines imported from France, but they represent a very small percentage of French wine imports leaving little trace in the overall strong performance of French wines in the U.S. market, and their continued rosy outlook.

* Nielsen retail outlets data, period ending 2/25/2017


Wine & Weed Symposium 2017: Strange Bedfellows or Opportunity Knocking?
03 March, 2017

By Dawn Dolan

Wine & Weed Symposium LogoGarnering attention from such disparate online news sources such as ForbesThe Emerald Report and Homeschooling Guys, Wine Industry Network’s newest conference, the Wine and Weed Symposium, announced for August, 2017 in Sonoma County, CA, will be the first such pairing of these two industries. One, a tried and true luxury item for millennia, with 170-year old historical roots in California. The other an underground, cash industry coming to the light.  How will this match-up work out?

Acting as MC for the day, Tina Caputo, long-time wine industry writer and editor explains the purpose of this new event. “The wine and marijuana session at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo [December 2016] focused on the tourism side of the cannabis industry. The Wine & Weed Symposium will be much more comprehensive, covering the topic in-depth from many different angles, from understanding regulations to dealing with competition for land and labor. The idea is for both industries to come together for an open discussion, and to identify challenges and opportunities surrounding wine and cannabis.”

An open forum to provide this meeting of industries was the brain-child of George Christie, owner of Wine Industry Network, the sponsor of this unique one-day conference. “We are facing a lot of uncertainty, and wineries don’t really have any one resource to turn to in order to ask all the questions that are currently circulating. We hope to provide a safe environment where the wine industry people walk away feeling like they know more facts about what the future may hold.”

Topics such as legal issues, collaboration opportunities, threats, environmental issues, and labor issues will all be introduced in the day-long symposium. One of the featured speakers, Tawnie Logan, the Executive Director for Sonoma County Growers Alliance, looks forward to the opportunity to address the wine industry. “We want to help with education and understanding the options open to our industries. How can you [wineries] work with the cannabis industry?”  Logan says that the cannabis industry is a cash industry, earning three times as much as the direct-to-consumer wine industry in California, and about 20% of the annual 2016 US wine sales revenue. “It is imperative that the wine industry understand the nuances and how to collaborate with us. The wine industry has had one hundred years to develop, and now gives back to social and environmental causes. We are at year one. We need the wine industry to help bring us in, and show us what responsible industry practices look like.”

Asked what she considers to be the opportunities and the threats that face the wine industry with the implementation of the new laws, Logan replies,” There are many opportunities if the wine industry can get ahead of it. They have the opportunity to work with a new tourist attraction to Sonoma County.  We have wine, food, ocean, biking, and kayaking.  Craft beer tourism is a new menu item for tourists. Not all visitors are wine drinkers. Men are attracted to beer and spirits, and women want wine. But we are seeing a generational shift.  We need to figure out how to incentivize a tourist target market. How many items can they pack into a trip?  If you are over 40 years old, maybe you are angled toward the wineries, and you want to experience the vineyards. Kids in their 20’s want to hit Russian River Brewery and the dispensaries, so it’s a different kind of crowd. If we market this appropriately and make it collaborative, we can all do well.” 

Rebecca Stamey-White, partner at Hinman & Carmichael will be a featured speaker at the Wine & Weed Symposium. She agrees with Logan about partnership opportunities, and says, “I think the risk of competition is being over-blown. It doesn’t have to be an either-or situation; there is room for collaboration, with consumers enjoying both industries at different points in time. For example, the food element is something the wine industry has done really well. Cannabis goes really well with food, so collaboration on the hospitality around food may be a great chance to work together.”

Problems are sure to arise, and one that Logan acknowledges is unique. Due to the hitherto prohibition status of cannabis, this is an industry that is not being newly created, but it is converting into a daylight industry. “Prohibition instigates black market activity,” she says. “The next five years are the most critical years for transitioning out of prohibition.” Many pot farmers don’t have a savvy supply-chain knowledge due to the underground nature of their agricultural product, and Logan notes that, “The level of business experience in the cannabis industry is almost non-existent.” She says they are looking to the wine industry to be a model for them. 

Stamey-White goes further, “The regulatory issues that the cannabis industry is facing are daunting. Unlike the alcohol industry, where licenses are issued at the state level and localities can restrict certain operations but do not issue their own licenses, for the cannabis industry, you have to have a state and a local license, and there may be additional limitations and taxes at the local level. If localities choose to restrict cannabis operations, these businesses won’t be able operate in those communities, even if they would otherwise comply under state law.”

She also notes that banking is an issue, with most banks choosing not to work with cannabis businesses because of the federal illegality. In a February 10, 2017 online article in The Recorder, Cheryl Miller lays out the colossal issue for this industry; banking. Citing Julie Anderson Hill, a professor at the University of Alabama School of Law, Miller writes that Hill reports that attempts to skirt federal restrictions on marijuana banking usually only “work for a short period of time until everyone figures out what’s going on. The trouble here is, you don’t know at what point you’re going to provoke the federal government,” she said. “I can’t tell you where that enforcement line is. In fact, as a lawyer I’m supposed to tell you that marijuana is illegal under federal law.” Miller reports that in the state of Washington, a rigorous and transparent licensing process has led six state-chartered banks and credit unions to accept marijuana-business clients. This may perhaps be the wave of the future for California banking institutions.

Another impediment is the cost of operations of cannabis farming. Stamey-White asserts that is quite high, given the lack of business tax deductions, local and state taxation, and the overall cost of doing business being higher and more complicated in a regulated market. She says that people come to her wanting to get into the cannabis industry. She laughs, “You know the saying how do you make a million dollars in the wine industry? Start with ten million! That is becoming very true for cannabis businesses as well.”

Pointing out another huge impediment, Stamey-White calls out the tax issue. “Cannabis businesses can’t take normal business deductions on their taxes. IRS section 280E states that growers can’t write off business expenses. No other industry has that type of hardship.”

Stamey-White is excited about a full day of discussion of these important issues. “These people are extremely passionate about what they are doing; the plant, their craft, and the medical and lifestyle benefits. In that, it is very similar to the passion found in the wine industry.” 

The Wine & Weed Symposium will take place in Santa Rosa, CA on August 3rd from 9 a.m. – 4 p.m. at the Hyatt Vineyard Creek. 


What Cans Can Do for Wine
17 February, 2017

Cans represent a very small segment of the overall wine category, but it’s growing rapidly, and there are good reasons that key industry players are making moves or at least keeping tabs on it.

Wine industry veteran, Jim Doehring, launched his new in cans only brand, Backpack Wines, in September last year after a period of market research that convinced him the market was ripe for it.

“Total sales in 2016 was up 122% from the year before according to Nielsen; it could become a very significant segment of the market,” says Doehring. “We did a number of focus groups and panels. The majority of the consumers in our focus groups were millennials ages 22 to 35, and the feedback was overwhelmingly positive.”

What sparked the idea of Backpack Wines for Doehring was his own failed picnic adventure with a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc that for lack of a corkscrew and cracked cups ended up less romantic than he’d hoped for. And the reason he primarily surveyed and targeted millennials is their on-the-go lifestyle where the convenience of the can is a great advantage. “It’s for anyone who has an active lifestyle where they’re outside at a picnic or BBQ and just want the convenience,” asserts Doehring.

Wine Market Council research backs up Doering’s insights about millennial’s lifestyle. They are the generation that drinks the least wine at home, but report that 7% of their wine drinking occasions are neither in a home nor on-premise.

Jordan Kivelstadt, CEO and Founder at Free Flow Wines, recently announced that they’re opening up a canning line for wine at their Napa facility, and he agrees with Doehring. “I think what’s held wine back from some of those casual drinking experiences is the fact that you need a glass for every way that wine is served, and for corks you need a corkscrew too.With a can you don’t need any of that, you just pull out the can and drink and I think that’s why beer has been more successful than anything for that outdoor drinking experience.”

In the competition between beer and wine, beer generally performs better in the lower age groups, supposedly before they mature to wine. How much of that advantage can be ascribed to packaging advantages remains to be seen, but the portability, single serve, and less formal format of the can are all aspects that speaks to the young millennial and potentially skews them toward beer.

The Infinite Monkey Theorem is one of the canned wine pioneers, and to owner Ben Parsons the pretense of wine is one thing that’s he tries to shed in competing for the millennial consumer. “From my brand’s perspective, I’m going after that craft beer drinker as well. I’m going after the younger demographic that’s just wants to have fun and not think too hard about the vineyard and all the pretense.”

Parsons and the Infinite Monkey Theorem is featured in the Canning Manufacturers Institute’s campaign about innovative wine brands opening up to cans (video above).

Growing Industry Interest

Sherrie Rosenblatt, Vice President of Marketing and Communications at the Canning Manufacturers Institute, sees a rise in winemakers choosing cans and also flags millennials as the target consumer. “One of the first places we saw this was Sofia’s minis from Francis Ford Coppola Winery, that made the small cans available, targeting millennials who wanted portability and accessibility at casual outings, giving them the beverage choice in a package that was easy for them to transport.”

While recognizing that cans are a nascent segment, Kivelstadt believes that the conversation around cans is changing and that the industry is excited about it. “A number of our existing customers have expressed interest, and at Unified the response was extremely strong,” says Kivelstadt. “Because of our partnership with Ball, people went to the Ball booth to learn about cans, and then Ball said, ‘go see the guys at Free Flow Wines; they’re launching a canning line,’ and that combination has been very very powerful.”

Jordan Kivelstadt

Doehring agrees, “just being in the industry and chatting with people, they’re taking a very serious look at cans. A few years ago there was almost nothing on the market, now you can go into convenience stores and see eight or ten selections, and granted that’s not a lot compared to bottles, but we know they’re coming.”

The canned wine and single serve market segment has been maturing in recent years, but one reason that it has not seen a huge number of new brands might be the barriers of entry that make it hard for small and mid-sized brands to test the segment without a huge commitment.

“What I believe has held canning back from becoming more prevalent in the wine industry is that there hasn’t been an option like what we’re offering,” says Kivelstadt. “You had the option of guys in Modesto, huge minimums, high loss rates, no expertise in wine, or these mobile canners who just don’t have the quality control to the level that Free Flow does. Or the speed or efficiency, so the costs are so much higher. So what we want to do is break that middle ground, we want to provide high speed, high quality line that allows wineries that are interested to get in.”

The minimums for custom printing cans are usually a container, which is 110,000 cans per SKU or 5,000 cases. Kivelstadt explains that Free Flow Wines has invested in a sleever that will allow them to put a custom branded shrink wrap on blank cans, called “brights”, so that brands can enter the segment with a smaller commitment and still use the full canvas of the can for their branding. “They’re amazing,” he says, “unless you really look hard, it looks like it’s printed on the can.”

Does Quality Wine Fit in a Can?

There are some constraints on what wine can go in a can. Wines with a very high acidity, ph below 3, can dissolve the interior liner and make contact with the aluminum, and copper in the wine beyond 0.2 parts per million risks being extracted from the solutions and boring into the aluminum. Also, the can is an inert environment, so wines must be made ready to drink, but this doesn’t mean it can’t hold quality wines.

“There’s a number of new packaging options on the market, and people will always take a look at them and wonder,” says Doehring. “That was something we needed to overcome right away, and what we decided to do was create a good quality product in a can. That was our way to address their concerns.”

The SMRP for a four pack of 250ml Backpack Wines is $19.99, the 750ml bottle equivalent of $15, which fits within Kivelstadt’s price points expectations for canned wines. “I really don’t see this getting above $20 retail per bottle anytime in the near future. Maybe I’m wrong, I’d like to be wrong, I think premiumization is where the industry is going, but I’m thinking a lot of wines between $12 and $18 a bottle.”

Because the 250ml can isn’t a legal standard of fill and therefore must be sold in four-packs as opposed to the 375, which can be sold single-serve, Kivelstadt expects the canned wine market to segment based on can size. “I think the 250ml segment is going to move toward the lower end of the market,” says Kivelstadt. “And I think the 375ml can, which I will give Underwood a tremendous amount of props for leading that charge on, will become sort of the premium end of the segment.”

Sustainability Benefits

Convenience is at the top of the list when explaining why cans appeal to millennials, but the sustainability benefits are something that speaks to both millennial sensibilities and many wineries.

“It’s amazing to see how environmental concerns play into the millennial mindset more than any other generation,” says Doehring, “It’s something that we definitely think about, and we know our consumers think about.”

Aluminum cans are infinitely recyclable, and according to the Canning Manufacturers Institute have a 67% recycling rate, which is higher than any other beverage container. It also has significant shipping benefits; where a palette space that takes 56 cases of bottled wine can hold 100 cases of cans.

“At Free Flow, we’re all about environmental stewardship and alternative packaging,” says Kivelstadt. “Kegs were a first step, and we’ve taken 15 million pounds of trash out of landfills so far with kegs. This is now another opportunity to continue that commitment to quality and sustainability. We’ve always been focused on the on-premise, which still is about 20% of the overall industry, so this gives us an opportunity to enter the other 80% and offer what we think is a high quality sustainable package.”


Free or Discounted Wine Tasting Options Vanishing in Sonoma County
03 February, 2017

Industry Follows Napa’s Lead in Charging Premium Prices for ‘High End’ Experiences

By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

Back in what might be described as the good old days, consumers could waltz into any given tasting room on any given day in Sonoma County and enjoy several samples of locally produced, high quality wine at no cost.

In fact, Sonoma County prided itself on that freewheeling, open door policy as a way to be distinguished from nearby Napa Valley, which was quickly earning a reputation for elite wine tasting experiences at premium prices.

Those days are now pretty much a thing of the past as Sonoma County follows its famous neighbor’s lead and wineries throughout the region move steadily toward fee for tasting, seated tasting experiences and, increasingly, tasting by appointment only.

Beth Costa, the Executive Director of Sonoma County Wine Road, a marketing organization for the local wine industry, remembers back about twenty years ago when she was working for Kendall Jackson and the winery first decided to change its no-fee tasting room practices.

“It was two dollars per person then and the guest got to keep the glass,” Costa recalls. “And yet, it killed the staff to have to charge for it. They were resistant; they wanted to be hospitable. Things have definitely changed.”

Costa argues that consumers themselves are driving the shift by demanding more from their winery visits than casual conversation and a few free sips.

“People’s tastes have changed,” she attests. “People want to meet the winemaker, learn about viticulture, they want to be educated. People want an experience.”

Tammy Boatright, the President/Founder of VingDirect, a national, direct to consumer wine marketing firm operating in Sonoma County since 2008, could not agree more.

“We don’t have one region we work with anymore that doesn’t charge tasting fees,” Boatright declares. “What we’ve seen in the industry is that as fees go up, sales and conversion rates go up as well. It’s Marketing 101. People value what they pay for; they do not value what they get for free.”

Costa points out that the increasing popularity of Sonoma County wines has brought droves of tourists into the area, which makes crowd control an issue and strengthens the case for wineries to have more restrictive policies, including fees for service.

“It’s funny, you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone,” Costa notes ruefully. “You advertise your beautiful grounds and pretty soon you have busloads of people showing up to use your private picnic facilities. It becomes really hard to manage.”

There are still some wineries in Sonoma County that have maintained no-fee tasting options for their guests.

Korbel Champagne Cellars in the Russian River Valley is one of them. Visitors to Korbel can take a 30 to 45 minute facility tour, followed by a complimentary, sparkling wine tasting at the winery’s bar, with no reservations required.

In an email response to questions, Marge Healy, Korbel’s, VP of Communications writes, “We want our visitors to feel like our guests and therefore we don’t charge for touring or tasting.  That said we want everyone to be able to experience the magic of Korbel. Korbel did not get to where it is without the support of our loyal fans. This is our way of giving back.”

While Korbel does offer several other private tour and tasting options that require pre-planning and payment, the company intends to keep free tours and tastings on the menu for now. According to Healy, “To my knowledge, I do not see our policy changing anytime soon.”

But Korbel may be one of the exceptions.

Carla Jeffries is the General Manger of Thumbprint Cellars, which operates a busy tasting room in the heart Healdsburg, where there are dozens of wineries within walking distance of the downtown square.

Jeffries says the industry is definitely moving away from complimentary tastings or VISA signature type discounts because guests devalue the experience, and the tasting room staff works hard to deliver a visit worth remembering.

“To really understand that person in front of you takes finesse, it takes time,” Jeffries explains. “And from the customer’s perspective, they’re thinking ‘wow, they really want to know about me.’ I think the industry is moving toward giving people what they want, because there’s value in that and people are willing to pay for it.”

Jim Morris is the Director of Business and Hospitality for Flanagan Wines, a winery that was located in Bennett Valley for more than a decade before moving operations and a new tasting room to Healdsburg last December.

Flanagan Wines offers tasting by appointment only and charges $40 per person. That fee is waived if the customer purchases three bottles of wine, which range in price from about $50 to $150 per bottle.

Morris says the decision to structure the tasting room this way comes from a desire to create a more high-end experience for guests that “reflects our brand from top to bottom.”

“There are 442 plus wineries in Sonoma County alone,” Morris claims. “How do you stand out with 442 wineries? You better have a compelling story and you better be able to tell it well. We can’t (do that) in a crowded tasting room.”

Morris describes Flanagan Wines as delivering “very intimate, one-on-one tastings” that will often include a cheese pairing from local producers that helps to showcase the diversity of Sonoma County agricultural commodities. He says Flanagan Wines is also partnering with other like-minded wineries and lodging businesses in an attempt to create a complete hospitality package for his guests.

So far, the formula seems to be working.

Morris asserts that since the tasting room opened at the end of last year, he has only had to charge about a dozen tasting fees because visitors have responded so positively through purchases and wine club enrollments.

“Our wines are not inexpensive,” he acknowledges. “If you’re going to charge a lot of money, the value better be there.”

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DTC Symposium Delivers Good News and Advice for Direct to Consumer Wine
20 January, 2017

By Dawn Dolan

Playing to a sold-out 500 seat audience, the two-day Direct to Consumer Wine Symposium struck a new high point for its ten-year lifetime. Hitting such topics as global marketing, white-glove VIP treatment, why statistics matter to your winery sales, and an uplifting state-of-the -DTC union, the conference was a winner among attendees.

The state of the DTC address by Ken Nowlin of SOVOS, owners of Ship Compliant, was a happy one for the wine industry, with some areas shifting spots, but all doing quite well. Cracking the 5 million case mark in 2016, sales also set a new high at over $2 billion. Sonoma County was the focus of his praise, with their price per bottle moving up even as supply increased, something not normally found.

Day one of the conference included a variety of sponsor sessions and feature talks, one on creating the best DTC team and DTC happenings outside of California. Highlights included keynote speaker Lulie Halstead, of the London-based Wine Intelligence, a marketing, branding and research firm, marking global trends in the wine industry.

Halstead broke wine consumer trends down into parcels of We, You, and Us, to help understand how consumers think about products, with the concepts of effortless, instant, and individual as what needs to be focused on for marketing and delivering goods.

When asked what the biggest take away for the day should be for the attendees, Halstead replied, “Think about what you are offering from your consumer’s perspective, instead of your own. Take yourself outside of your viewpoint. Think about how you feel when you are reacting to other companies marketing to you.”

In her address, Halstead emphasized that it is about making the consumer feel special, either for choosing your product, or choosing your brand. “What are you doing to make your product and service more individualized,” she asked, “what are you doing as part of your local community to gain their respect?”

Keynote speaker Drew Huening, digital marketing master to the stars (Google, Facebook, Amazon) spoke to the many without large marketing budgets, explaining how to utilize an often-untapped resource: Facebook analytics. “Facebook analytic tools are as easy to use as Facebook is,” Drew said. “They are newer, and more user-friendly than Google Analytics, which are now ten years old.”

While going through how to use segmentation of lists and loading them into Facebook analytics, he was asked how you convince a rather slow-moving and suspicious industry to put their jealously guarded data base of names into Facebook? He explained that Facebook uses encryption just like online banking platforms use, and that people shouldn’t be worried about abuses. “The last thing Facebook wants to do is to alienate all the small businesses that are buying ads,” he quips. “Small business ads pay for much of how Facebook operates.”

Afternoon sessions included Reservations Revealed, a discussion for wineries using a reservations system, or wanting to do so. Before the session, Sandra Hess, Founder of DTC Wine Workshops, laid out its objective, “Wine consumers of all ages want more high touch tasting experiences and events. Winery teams are exploring whether or not reservation management tools are a good fit to keep up with consumer demand. In this lively discussion, industry specialists will share best practices for leveraging reservation management tools to better stay connected with club members in between visits and to also attract new audiences with advance reservations. Attendees will learn the dos and don’ts for setting up tasting experiences that require reservations.”

In the Leveraging Metrics session, Tammy Boatright of VingDirect, one of this year’s panelists, told the packed room that using metrics translates into the three AAA’s: Audience, Activity and Avenue, “It’s all about creating the right offer, at the right time, to the right people.”

In a private interview, Boatright elaborated on how important it is that wineries and their tasting rooms only track information that they are going to use, “Do they need to know how many people also bought a cheese plate while they tasted? If there is not an actionable result going to come of it, don’t track it. Your staff is already busy enough. Track things that will make a difference to your sales goals.”

During the White Glove Service panel, which had experts in that market talking about their experiences, panelist Chloe Tyer of Plumpjack sparked interest with her comment, “Set your environment; don’t let your employees set it, or you won’t like the results.” This led into a discussion for the need to train employees on how you want them to act, talk, and present your brand, with interviewing and hiring for the right fit; the front-end piece of successful high-end service that companies often ignore. Many tips were given, but the overall theme was stated most succinctly by panelist David Dodrow of Copper Peak Logistics, “Deliver on your promise.”

The Symposium also included a small trade show with a focus on products to help with DTC sales, which was pertinent and manageable. FedEx was doing private shipping consultations, VingDirect talking about the benefit of their performance tracker, Sandra Hess showed off her complement of consultants, and the POS and telemarketing groups were teaching interested parties how they can help improve sales.

Comments about the symposium complimented the fantastic array of useful talks, with take-aways that attendees were excited to put into practice. Although a pricey conference, the laser-focus on direct-to-consumer issues is impossible to get anywhere else, and so for most, a cost well spent.


New Website Provides ‘One Stop Shop’ for Grape and Bulk Wine Transactions
10 January, 2017

by Elizabeth Hans McCrone

You wouldn’t necessarily identify Atlanta, GA as the hub of wine industry technology activities, but that’s exactly where Justin Charbonneau launched his brainchild, GrapeConnect; a relatively new website that provides grape and bulk wine buyers and sellers the opportunity do business together online, for free.

Charbonneau came upon the idea after his parents relocated to northern Georgia and befriended owners of a local winery who were looking to source grapes from out-of-state while their young vineyard became established.

Their frustration with locating available grapes, as well as growers willing to ship them, spurred Charbonneau to do research on how grape and bulk wine transactions happened online.

“The more I looked, the less I seemed to find,” Charbonneau reports.

The discovery intrigued Charbonneau and prompted him to, as he says, “get a landing page up and see if it resonates for people,” which is just what he did last June.

Since then, GrapeConnect has grown by leaps and bounds, changing and developing week-to-week as users provide regular feedback to the site developers.

“It’s in a constant state of flux as we keep on learning,” Charbonneau confirms. “We’re very responsive to feedback; I think that’s one of the most important things.”

In its current state, GrapeConnect works like this:

Sellers register (for free) on the site by providing basic information about themselves and their business. They are then directed to a Dashboard where they are able to post a listing of any and all grapes, juices, bulk wines and shiners available. Sellers are encouraged to share the metrics buyers care most about, including minimum order quantities, deposit requirements and states they are willing to ship to.

Buyers are then able to navigate through those listings to find the products they are interested in and submit a confidential bid to the seller through GrapeConnect’s Private Bid Tool. The seller may accept, reject or counter their offer through the same online function. Alternatively, if the terms of the listing are agreeable, buyers can launch right into a deal by initiating a ‘Deal Proposal.’ Buyers can register (also at no cost) any time prior to or during the deal-proposal process.

“We have the ability to facilitate negotiations,” Charbonneau says. “If they’re actually ready to push forward on a deal, they can go forward with that process.”

Charbonneau notes that his software is programmed to create a solo Deal Manager that “spits out” the actual terms of the agreement as the details of the terms are being worked out between the buyer and seller. He emphasizes that whenever anything happens in the Deal Manager, both parties are notified.

“The idea is to deliver transparency and convenience,” Charbonneau explains. “In line with being a one-stop-shop to search for what’s available, we want to be the one-stop shop to do the deal.”

Charbonneau notes that GrapeConnect does not currently facilitate actual financial transactions; those happen directly between the site users. He does clarify that sellers may indicate how they would like to be paid when invoicing and buyers are able to put in federal tracking numbers or other relevant information necessary to complete the transactions. All financial and other information is protected by a secure website, backed up daily and encrypted with “the highest level of SSL (Secured Socket Layer).”

To date, Charbonneau reports that there have been about $20 million of listing value posted to GrapeConnect, a sure sign that he’s onto something that may have been lacking in traditional wine industry business practices for some time.

“People do a lot of handshake, local agreements with sources they’ve used for a long time,” Charbonneau points out. “Relationships are important; we get that and want to build the technology around them. But if you have grapes or bulk wine that you want to buy or sell, you should be able to go to one place for that, even if you have a handful of sources you usually work with.”

For his part, Charbonneau believes the time it takes to create a listing for potential buyers, is time well invested.

“We’ve helped to connect lots of buyers and sellers, kind of like an ad hoc free broker,” Charbonneau describes. “We want to add value to the industry by creating a place where people can find all the information they need … enough data, enough economic factors to help them make their decisions about grape pricing … in one spot.

“Our goal is to make people lives a little bit easier with what they’re already doing.”


The Sparkling Winemakers’ Choice for a New Year’s Toast
26 December, 2016

We asked a few sparkling winemakers to share their wine recommendations for celebrating the new year, one of their own wines, and one from another winery that they enjoy. We hope you’ll find something new and exciting in their recommendations that can start your new year off with a great sparkling experience.

Tondi Bolkan, Winemaker for Francis Ford Coppola Winery

The wine brands I work on our the wines of our Sofia brand. These include our Sofia BdB, Sofia Mini, Sofia Rose, and Sofia Riesling and Chardonnay. Sparkling wines are fun to work on with my co-workers and share with my family & friends year round, not just around the holidays. There’s always a reason to celebrate.

But as we close 2016 and get into holiday party mode, New Year’s Eve is definitely THE best party to host. As the designated party hostess, I am always on alert for potential mess makers.  So to toast the New Year, I like serving and drinking our Sofia Minis. Our Sofia Minis are our sparkling white wine blend in a can. By the time midnight rolls around, there’s always the chance of one guest reaching their limit. With the can, I never have to worry about a spilled can either staining my rugs red or wine glasses breaking on the floor. Safety first!  

Our Sofia BdB is a sparkling white wine made with Pinot Blanc, Riesling, and Muscat varietals.  These grapes provide a wine profile that is more fruit forward, floral, with a touch of tartness.  Sometimes, I like to trade in the crispness for a slight creamier weight. So my second recommendation would be Gloria Ferrer’s Carneros Cuvee. I really love the ripe tropical fruit and round mid-palate topped with smells of yeast & lees. My husband knows what to pick up when we run low on the bubbles!

Gilles Martin, Winemaker at Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery

Sparkling Pointe Vineyards & Winery, located on the North Fork of Long Island, NY, specializes in the exclusive production of Méthode Champenoise sparkling wines by esteemed Winemaker Gilles Martin. Here are Gilles’ recommendations for sparkling wine to pop open this New Year’s Eve.

Gilles recommends Sparkling Pointe’s tete de cuvée, the 2007 Brut Seduction. This mature sparkler is aged inside the bottle on the lees for over 8 years making it Sparkling Pointe’s oldest wine. This wine is of a deep gold color with notes of brioche and toasty almonds and pairs seductively with local shellfish and lobster. Gilles loves this wine because 2007 was a fantastic vintage. With the nice, dry weather on the North Fork, he was able to achieve a perfect balance in the vineyards between ripened fruit and balanced acidity. Gilles believes that the North Fork terroir provides perfect conditions for producing sparkling wine because the maritime climate allows for a perfect balance of fruit and acidity.

Another sparkling wine that Gilles likes to enjoy when not indulging in his own creations is from the region where he grew up and honed his skills as a winemaker: Champagne, France. This past May, Gilles visited the houses of Champagne and was very impressed by the 2006 Amour de Deutz.  He enjoyed a glass with Jean Marc LaLlier, a descendant of the founder of Deutz, and the Vintners of Sparkling Pointe, Tom & Cynthia Rosicki, and will forever cherish this memory and the Champagne that added to this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Penny Gadd-Coster, Winemaker for Rack & Riddle

Wines perfect for New Year’s Eve and beyond!

Rack & Riddle Blanc de Blanc –  One of the first Blanc de Blancs we made from two incredible vineyards. The flavors in the base wine were so beautiful we decided to set some of the wine aside from our Brut blend to make this wine and it has become a favorite of the team. This is a crisp clean sparkling wine with aromas of apple, peach and tropical notes. On the palate the wine shows lively acidity and smooth fine mouse. The extended aging with this wine brings a finish that is long and luscious with tropical notes. This north coast blanc de blanc allows us to create sparkling wines that truly reflect the best North Coast Chardonnay has to offer and will not break the budget. This wine will be a hit with all of your family and bring a sparkle to your New year gatherings.

Breathless Rose –  Making Rose is special and one of the most fun wines to make and to share. It is always a great privilege to be able to work with great fruit. This wine is a blend of Carneros Pinot Noir and North Coast Chardonnay with a dash of Pinot Meunier. The brut Rose has a creamy mousse and round mouth, with flavors of strawberry, cream and spice. The finish is crisp with bright fresh fruit. Just the color will make your New Year’s celebration extra special.

My recommendation for another wine would be the Inman Family OGV Pinot Noir. Kathleen Inman lets the grapes take command allowing natural fermentation and hands off winemaking, meaning no use of tannins or enzymes for color or flavor enhancement. The wine shows the love and respect she has for the land and the grapes that grow on it. Beautiful cherry fruit flavor with a touch of earth along with nice oak balance- the perfect food wine but also a great wine to bring in the New year with friends and family.

Paul Ahvenainen, Director of Winemaking F. Korbel & Bros.

Even though I drink plenty of bubbly throughout the year, the holiday season is special. For me, it just wouldn’t be the holiday’s without a few glasses of Korbel Natural. The bright acidity, dry finish and laser-like focus on Russian River Valley fruit works on so many levels. The red fruit of the Pinot Noir and green apple flavors of Chardonnay when combined with the bright acidity helps support rich foods like artisanal cheeses and pate’s, while also serving as a bright counterpoint to the sweeter things we encounter this time of year. Or, best of all, just enjoy a glass by itself as a refreshing aperitif.

Another of my long time favorites is the Roederer Estate Brut, Anderson Valley. Roederer Estate makes several other cuvees, some with more age and complexity. However, I personally keep coming back to the non-vintage Brut because it too is so focused on the fruit. In this case, it’s the Anderson Valley and a blend that is just a bit more focused on the Chardonnay part of the blend.  Arnaud Weyrich clearly understands the flavors he is working with and keeps this wine tightly focused in a good direction.

McPrice Myers, Co-Winemaker of Myers-Deovlet

The 2013 Myers-Deovlet Santa Barbara County Blanc de Blanc Extra Brut, would be a great choice for the Holidays. This is our inaugural release. I’ve partnered with Ryan Deovlet, of Deovlet Wines, to produce a sparkling wine that represents our passion for great grower champagne.  100% Chardonnay coming from four revered Santa Barbara County sites, that showcases the citrus fruit and floral qualities of the vintage. It performs well as and aperitif and has plenty of richness to handle most holiday fare.

I also recommend Marie Courtin 2012 Extra Brut Efflorescence. 100% Pinot Noir made in a Blanc de Noir style with no dosage at bottling,  You will know this is the real deal as soon as you put your nose in the glass. It has striking  aromatics of red fruit, chalk, bread dough and mint.  The palate has incredible balance and the vibrant finish continues to grow with every sip.  If you want to geek out or just have a great experience don’t miss out on grabbing one of these beauties.


Free Flow Wines Sparkles with Innovation on Tap and Beyond the Keg
09 December, 2016

Free Flow Wines saw the rising popularity of sparkling wines and the category’s particular challenges for delivering an optimal by the glass experience as an opportunity to expand the portfolio of services they offer, and their innovative work to create a sparkling keg program for wineries was recognized with a 2016 WINnovation Award.


Jordan Kivelstadt, Founder & CEO and Dan Donahoe, Founder & Chairman

“We had a lot of restaurants asking about sparking,” says Jordan Kivelstadt CEO and Founder at Free Flow Wines. “We’ve obviously been growing with still wines and been having a lot of success there. Sparkling on tap seemed like a logical extension, and we had wineries willing to play with it, so we came together and made it happen.”

Free Flow Wines uses a state of the art in-line carbonation system rather than the more traditional Charmat method and has also developed a set of draft dispense protocols for restaurant operators to ensure a perfect pour every time, with no foam and plenty of sparkle.

The wines are not full champagne level sparkling but in the frizzante range, which still requires three to four times the pressure of a normal beer keg and presented challenges for the perfect pour. Foaming at dispense known as flash point became a big issue, and temperature became an even bigger issue.

free-flow-wine-on-tap“The hardest part about it wasn’t getting the sparkling wine into the keg, it was getting it out of the keg at the restaurant. So we worked closely with our equipment partners and accounts to make sure they could successfully dispense the wine,” says Kivelstadt. “It was just working through that and finding the optimum balance, and that’s what we did.”

The Snooze Restaurants which offers mimosas and other sparkling wine on tap drinks as part of their brunch menu was one of the piloting partners, and now the Marriott and other have joined in offering sparkling wine on tap from Free Flow Wines.

Kivelstadt, however, is not content with the growth yet. “Next year wine on tap will represent about 1% of U.S. wine on premise consumption; our goal is 10% in ten years.”

Next year, Free Flow Wines will be launching a brand new sales and marketing effort focused on increasing the category to attain this goal, but they’re already working to help all their stakeholders be successful in the category.

“We started something we’re loosely calling the Free Flow Institute,” Kivelstadt explains, “it includes a quarterly state of the market report for our customers, where I host a live webinar and walk them through what’s happening in the marketplace and where we’re seeing innovation and trends.”

Free Flow Wines also offers monthly sales training webinars that they encourage everyone in the industry from restaurateurs to winery and distributor sales reps to join in, ask questions, and learn about how they can help continue to drive the category forward.

Even though they’ve been the standard bearer for wine on tap, their vision goes beyond wine on tap and relies on a company culture of innovation. Says Kivelstadt: “Our vision is to continue to drive innovative alternative packaging that improves sustainability and quality in the wine industry.


“To foster a culture where no idea is a bad idea, the first thing is to never say ‘no’ – at least initially. Then you’re constantly pushing people to innovate, pushing people to challenge themselves, and that’s really a big deal for us.”

That core vision and culture is driving Free Flow Wines to think beyond the keg. “You’ll see Free Flow do something next year that will extend our presence in alternative packaging and focus on our core aspects of innovation, sustainability, and quality,” says Kivelstadt.

The company is uniquely placed in the wine industry working with on-premise operators, wineries, and distributors. They listen to the feedback, find out what’s working and what’s not, and then pair that with solutions, develop ideas, and work with their partners to make them a reality.

“Being successful in innovation is about making sure you look at it from every angle. It’s that culture of innovation that encourages people to think outside the box, and then challenges them on those ideas, but doesn’t sink them,” Kivelstadt explains.

“We get asked all the time for off-premise solutions, and again just continuing to push really hard on innovation; we are exploring something that we think is in alignment with our core mission and a great off premise solution.”


A Scary Invention
28 November, 2016

He is president of Hot Foot America, inventor of the WINnovation Award winning Fright Kite, and has worked with bird control for decades excluding birds from crush pads, tasting rooms, barns, window ledges and other commercial structures. However, says Roger Snow: “In the wine industry people always said, ‘what do you have to keep the birds out of the vineyards?’” Now he has an answer.

The company has a history and culture of innovation starting 40 years ago with the development and patenting of the Hot Foot bird repellent gel and continuing with sprays, shock tracks, and netting systems to prevent bird damage.

The idea for the Falcon Crop Protection’s Fright Kite first occurred to Snow after speaking with a falconeer and seeing how effective the natural predators were. However, he also noted the high cost and the return of pest birds after the imminent threat had disappeared.


“When those falcons came out, the birds just disappeared,” says Snow. “So that was the spark that ignited my thinking, maybe you can put up something that looks close enough to the real thing, something that you can leave out there to scare the pest birds.”

Snow and his team started a research and development program with the objective of bringing this product to market and testing it for effectiveness. Having never worked with kites before, they found a small local manufacturer with a good business record, who also had experience producing helikites for military use.

“We told him what we were looking for, and he was willing to work with us.” says Snow. “Our goal was to create something that would scare the birds, that would stay up there all the time, so you wouldn’t have to go out there every day and mess around with it, and something that would be affordable and work.”

They started experimenting and testing a helikite, which is a helium filled balloon, but it was problematic. Because helium changes density with air temperature, the helikite would fly really well during the day, but then in the afternoon the temperature would drop and the balloon would shrink and sink down and get stuck between the vines.

“The next morning the balloon would fill up again, but of course the flight line would be tangled up in all the vines, and you’d have to run out and clear it; no one wanted to do that,” Snow explains. “Experimenting with helium was a good idea, but it fell flat. That left kites as the only option to get something up there.

“From my days as a kid I remember we used to fly box kites, which were really good for stability. So we wanted to get a combination of the box kite and the delta kite that would go up in the air very easily in a light wind, but dash around to mimic the movements of the falcon. We ruined a few before we finally came up with something that worked.”

To get the kite high up high in the air and make it visible to birds from a long distance, they attached 35 feet of flight line to a 42 foot telescoping aluminum pole getting the kite up to approximately 70 feet in the air. To create the appearance of a pack of falcons hunting together they placed a shorter pole in the vineyard with a kite hovering closer to the vines, imitating a falcon ready to swoop.


The pole system is easily moved from vineyard to vineyard by just one person, so the kite is able to follow varietals that are ripening at different times. The kite has the ability to self-launch with as little as 2mph wind and withstand up to 35mph withstanding field conditions and requires virtually no maintenance.

“There’s still a bit of work to be done on the poles, and once we’ve finished that, we hope to apply for a patent,” says Snow, “but what we’ve got is certainly good enough to give us the results and know that the system works.”

Over the course of the entire 2016 growing season field trials were run at five different vineyards ranging from Paso Robles to Healdsburg and in size from 2 to 50 acres. At the end of the harvest the results were astounding. In almost every case there was absolutely minimal damage to grapes, and 95%-100% of pest birds were repelled.

“The kite has a shape and color that pest birds recognize from the Peregrine Falcon; it darts and dives in a random pattern just like a real hunting falcon and even has wing movements like a real bird,” says Snow. “We call it the Fright Kite, because it gives the birds a hell of a fright.”


Harvest Recap and Look Ahead for 2017: Anticipated Changes in Vineyard Contracts, Bulk & Grape Market
11 November, 2016

By Dawn Dolan

clements-brian-hs“We have good sellers and good buyers in the North Bay,” Brian Clements states firmly. “The North Bay region provides premium grapes, and the luxury category of $10 per bottle and higher is selling very well, across all varietal categories.”

But, this is farming after all, and as Clements says, “We can’t control what the weather does in any given growing season. We had three big [crop] years in a row, and then the size of the last crop was inadequate to what the market needed for this premium-level category.”

A Vice President and Partner at Turrentine Brokerage, Clements manages Turrentine’s grape brokerage team, and is the go-to for industry information on crop yields, grape market conditions, and contracts. He is quoted frequently in business journals and local press, and will be leading the five-person panel discussion into the perplexing arena of grape contracts at the WIN Expo 2016, Harvest Recap and Look Ahead for 2017: Anticipated Changes in Vineyard Contracts, Bulk & Grape Market.

He would like the panel to discuss how the labor situation may impede progress in this area. “Labor was a big issue in 2016, and will continue, with rising costs and availability of labor a major issue. This may mean considering more mechanization at all stages: pruning, leaf pulling, harvesting.”

Grape growers with all sizes of vineyards will be represented, Clements assures. “We have Chris Boland, of Boland Vineyard Management on the panel. He’s a younger, up and coming guy who is well-like by the wineries. He is farming several hundred acres in total, with most of what he farms and sells being small vineyards. Steve Sangiacomo is a larger farmer who provides grapes to many, many wineries.

“The winemaker from St. Francis, Chris Louton, will be talking about what the wine consumer is looking for these days. The consumer taste swings over time, and so does what wine writers are liking in any given moment.”

As far as grape contracts go, Clements notes that “Grape prices have peaked in the North Bay. The market has become a seller’s market, and it is likely to stay that way going into 2017. We continue to see multi-year contracts being signed. Planting contracts are becoming fashionable again, to keep up with the increase in luxury wine sales.”


This entails the grower and the winery entering into a long term contract to purchase grapes from a vineyard that the grower will develop. Particularly if the grower will be borrowing money to develop the vineyard, it is usually necessary for the grower and the winery to have a pre-plant contract.

Clements says that he is already hearing next year’s market talked about, and is seeing contracting being done now for the 2017 harvest. John Mackie, the lawyer on the panel, will be bringing legal clarity to questions about what can be done with the development and execution of these grape contracts.

Despite the time constraints, Clements promises that he will lead the discussion into, “…all aspects of contracting; labor, growing season, market, all aspects of the 2016 harvest, what it takes to get grapes to a winery, heat, rain, and mildew at harvest.” He will include some “problematic topics and not shy away from some of the difficult themes that growers are concerned about,” he expresses. “I hope that people can take away something of interest to talk about.”

North Coast Wine Industry Expo: Harvest Recap and Look Ahead for 2017: Anticipated Changes in Vineyard Contracts, Bulk & Grape Market


Wines Millennials Want: Five Stand-Out Qualities Millennials Are Looking For
28 October, 2016

Expert Editorial

If you want a sense of the enormous influence of millennials, just take a look at the stats. Millennials, the largest generation in America, are expected to spend 200 billion dollars in 2017. They account for 11.6 million households with kids, and they are the most ethnically and racially diverse American generation. Add some context to those numbers — more wine, beer, and spirits options exist now than ever before — and you come up with a positive yet daunting outlook. Millennials are eager to spend their money on wine brands they believe in, but they’re also our most spontaneous and engaged generation.

So, if you want your brand to make it into millennials’ carts, you’ll need to understand their wine-buying habits. Millennials have massive buying power, and yet they often confound retailers. Here are five important qualities every wine brand should consider when marketing to millennials.

Wine as story. Millennials are looking for stories that begin with clean ingredients and end with quality products. Based on Watershed’s proprietary research, 84 percent of millennials believe they can digest a brand’s entire story at first glance. Now, more than ever before, consumer decision making is compressed. Packaging should be optimized for the
glance-and-buy generation with BIG, bold letters. Wines that find success with millennials communicate simplicity and transparency.

Wine as relationship. Millennials may be spontaneous buyers and quick-decision makers, but they’re also looking to build relationships with the products they buy. According to our study, millennials trust brands that make promises and commit to them. Young consumers want to treat brands like old friends. A personal relationship doesn’t end after hanging up the phone, and a brand doesn’t end at the close of an article or advertisement. Maintaining relationships with millennials should be approached with the same care that goes into developing a great product.

Wine as recommendation. In addition to brands, millennials establish trust with preferred media outlets. In contrast, our study uncovered that 84 percent of millennials distrust traditional advertising. Many even go so far as to choosing a product because it’s not advertised. The fact is: a millennial is more likely to purchase wine recommended by a blogger, podcast, or magazine they already follow than a print or digital ad.

Wine as lifestyle. Many millennials rely on media outlets to help curate an entire lifestyle. It is important to respect the relationship of trust consumers have with their media sources. A wine must reflect the person who drinks it. Packaging should communicate mission, and once you find your brand’s true north, you’ll be able to operate within a set of buyer values. Conviction is key to gaining millennial engagement.

Wine as reputation. Millennials believe established, big brands can communicate authenticity right alongside their smaller counterparts. Consistency can make or break brand trust. The top five most mentioned food and beverage brands when asked about authenticity in our study were Trader Joe’s, Coca-Cola, KIND Bars, Honest Tea, and Starbucks. One 23 YO female research subject described Bota Box Wine as “authentic” based on its consistency and reputation: “It talks about its environmentally-friendly packaging and the way that they use technology to keep wine fresh and are not ashamed to be boxed wine, which allows them to come in at a lower price point but still be of high quality.”

While winemakers can’t simply check off boxes to build an authentic retail brand, there is a way to approach this consumer group with confidence. Millennials, often called the “Tinder generation,” are split-second decision makers who want your full brand to come across on the first impression. Wine brands that deliver on their promises, as long as those promises are clearly communicated, should expect more engagement on the shelf.

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Lisa DonougheExpert Editorial

by Lisa Donoughe

Lisa Donoughe is the Founder of Watershed Communications, a brand strategy firm specializing in the new food and drink economy. She has more than 30 years of experience telling distinct stories and building brand equity. For more information about Watershed and their proprietary research, visit

Millennials on How Their Generation Engages with Wine
14 October, 2016

Jessica Altieri

Jessica Altieri

The millennial consumer continues to rise in prominence for the wine industry, but being able to identify the important trends and mediums to connect, engage, and build loyalty with them is a challenge for traditional wine marketers.

“It’s not a game.  It’s not a fad. It’s business. Millennials are about to move into their prime spending years,” Jessica Alteri, CEO of Wine Channel TV flatly states. “Investing in talent that knows how to use the right technology and fuel engagement with Millennials will be key to the success of wineries in the future.”

Altieri is a Certified Sommelier, a California Wine Appellation Specialist, and listed as a pioneer in the world of digital wine lifestyle entertainment, having created the world’s first digital wine lifestyle network, Wine Channel TV.

“The wine industry has traditionally been, let’s say, a little behind in embracing the internet,” Altieri says. “Millennials buy and drink wine in big numbers, but how do they buy, and why do they buy certain brands?”

That question will be the focus of the WIN Expo session: Insights into the Millennial Mind: Tapping into their $1.3 Trillion Spending Powerwhich Altieri will be moderating.

“Millennials, as we know, are embracing technology fast,” Altieri elaborates. “So the question is: How do you talk to them? How do you engage with them? Do you have any idea what the best medium is today? These are topics she will be focusing on during the session.”

George Christie, president of Wine Industry Network (WIN) who produces the North Coast Wine Industry Expo emphasizes that this panel will be composed entirely of actual millennials.


“Marketing to Millennials is something people talk about and want to explore, but it’s usually non-millennials doing the talking. We wanted actual millennials to share how this group consumes information? What works for them versus what doesn’t? What kind of brands resonate with them? These are things the wine industry needs to understand to be more effective in their marketing,” Christie states.

“The millennial consumers are there waiting for you to grab their attention and show them what you have to offer,” says Altieri, who hopes to lead the discussion toward what is the best way to get their attention. “Millennials are changing the way the retail world works. Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram are accelerating engagement and activation to buy with live, user-generated content.”

Christie adds to this, “They rely on peer recommendations and personal experience.  They don’t want to be told.  It’s all about the authenticity and passion for the product, not about glamour. Fortunately for the wine industry, the kind of people that successfully own or work at wineries do it because they love it. If it was about the money, they’d be in Silicon Valley, not Sonoma Valley!”

While you can’t teach authenticity, Christie designed the session to convey the identification of key trends and mediums you need to know about to connect, engage, build loyalty, and share your winery’s story with the millennial audience.

North Coast Wine Industry Expo: Insights into the Millennial Mind: Tapping into their $1.3 Trillion Spending Power


Bakery Succeeds with Wine Industry Marketing Strategy
04 October, 2016

La Brea Bakery takes a page out of the wine industry’s playbook with their new La Brea Bakery Reserve line of farm designated breads and asks the consumer to taste the terroir of Big Sky Country, Montana and their heirloom grains.

So can you taste the difference? Yes you can, but as vintners know, it’s not just about tasty high quality bread or wine, it’s also about the story and the experience.

Andrew Blok, the brand manager for the La Brea Bakery Reserve line, is not afraid to admit that he draws heavily on his wine industry background, which includes a degree in viticulture and oenology from UC Davis, years of experience working at North Coast wineries, and an MBA in wine business from Sonoma State University.

“I’m taking what I know. Wine has laid the foundation over the last thirty, forty years of educating consumers,” says Blok, “so I’m looking for that consumer, who’s interested in that little bit more thoughtful bottle of wine.”

Andrew Blok

Andrew Blok

The name, Reserve, and the package emulates how wine is presented to the consumer including place of grain origin, genus of wheat, and pairing suggestions. La Brea Bakery Reserve launched in select markets in May, and Blok expresses his excitement with the consumer response so far.

“People continue to say, ‘I’ve never thought about a loaf of bread that way,’ and we’re just really excited that you can take something as ancient and important as bread and create that light bulb moment for people.”

Blok explains how regular bread in a sense is like bulk wine; it goes through the commodity channels where flour is flour and a grape is a grape no matter where it’s grown, and how in bread flavor is usually thought of as the inclusion of an additional component like garlic, olive oil, rosemary, or perhaps rye, but not terroir or genus.

“While you can make a lot of great bread that way, and La Brea Bakery makes incredible breads across the country every single day,” says Blok, “this provided an opportunity to be a little more thoughtful and just understand that loaf of bread a little bit more.”

La Brea Bakery Reserve front“Terroir is one of those funny things,” Blok continues. “There’s a lot of science involved, but there’s a little bit of magic too. When we went up to visit the farm in Montana, the farmer, Dean, was incredibly knowledgeable about his land and what he’s doing. High elevation farming and lower rainfall. It’s not deep clay soil, there’s a little bit more sand and gravel content in there, which helps to stress the wheats.

“But you wouldn’t even have to know any of that to just step out on the farm and know that there’s something special going on there. We call it a transformative experience.”

The parallels to the wine industry are clear. This is exactly the kind of experience that wineries are trying to share when they invite customers into the vineyards and winery, but perhaps it is helpful to remember that wine is not the only product that can do this.

“Following farm-to-table, we keep seeing across the industry, and I think this mimics wine; people want to know where their food comes from,” Blok asserts. “Is it sustainably grown, responsibly harvested, and of the highest quality?”

La Brea Bakery Reserve backThe wine industry has largely embraced the farm-to-table trend and incorporated it into the winery experience with food pairings and winemaker dinners, but another part of the heightened consumer engagement, the rise of craft beverages, has been seen as a threat to wine’s market share.

However, this overarching consumer trend to engage more with their foods is in part a testament to the wine industry’s success in shaping a consumer segment, and having more products be ambassadors of this approach could grow the segment for all authentic and thoughtful food and beverage producers.

“I think there could be opportunities for the wine industry to continuing to find new ways to educate people,” says Blok. “Something we’re doing from a retail perspective, is trying to be a little more thoughtful about how we approach the whole store. Instead of just saying, we’re in the bakery, it’s what we do, and it’s what we know.

“What we’ve been finding as we looked to educate beyond our department into cheese and wine and really create ambassadors across the store, you end up being more successful.

“Instead of just focusing in on the wine buyer, partner with the bakery manager, so he knows when he’s selling a French loaf that would go great with a California Chardonnay, or an Italian round, that’s a perfect Pinot Grigio pairing. I think there’s an opportunity to really look beyond your category and really create ambassadors throughout the store.”

Each of the three breads in the La Brea Bakery Reserve lines comes with a wine pairing suggestion, which borrows the familiar wine tasting trope in the consumer’s mind to help create the new way of thinking about bread, but also generously directs the consumer back to the wine aile to complete their experience.

La Brea Bakery Reserve Loafs

Sauvignon Blanc with PAIN DE CAMPAGNE: This is a classic Pain de Campagne with a pure, distinct flavor. A thin crispy crust and a chewy crumb contain sweet, nutty notes followed by balanced sourness, making for a complex and exciting loaf.

Cotes du Rhone with STRUAN loaf: Complex and diverse grains provide incredible texture and flavors that are complemented perfectly with subtle acid from the pre-ferment and ancient grain notes. The loaf has incredible texture from the toasted sesame seed topping.

Champagne with FORTUNA loaf: This loaf has levels of texture from the diverse grain mix, including a crispy crust and a mixed crumb from the sprouted wheat berries. Sweet and sour pre-ferments balance each other perfectly, with a tangy note from the sprouted berry and subtle, natural sweetness from raisin juice.


Running Winery Associations from the East Coast to the West Coast: Meet Morgen McLaughlin
16 September, 2016

by Allison Levine

Morgen_McLaughlin_300x300Running a wine association takes a tireless multi-tasker. The job is a combination of strategy, business development, marketing, finance and politics. It takes understanding the needs of the association, as well as the community as a whole. It is about managing the desires of a diverse group, from large producers to small producers.

Morgen McLaughlin knows this all too well. She has spent time on both coasts running wine associations, first working with the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association in Upstate New York and now on the west coast as the Executive Director of the Santa Barbara Vintners Association.

McLaughlin was raised in Connecticut, not exactly in wine country. But, in 1978, when she was six years old, her parents started a winery and vineyard on the family property. With a farm on the property, a winery was a value add to their lifestyle. From that point on, she grew up riding tractors and working harvest and all associated wine activities. In response, McLaughlin had no interest in working in the wine industry. “I wanted to do the opposite,” she explained. “I wanted to get off the farm and get away from family so I went to school in Boston and studied to be high school English teacher.”

Upon graduation, McLaughlin moved back to the family farm and winery for the summer. It was only supposed to be a transition period as she no longer wanted to be a teacher and was considering applying to business school. Her parents were living full time on their property in Colorado so McLaughlin was in charge of the farm, including the vineyards. Here was a city girl living on a farm doing things she had never done before, like plowing the fields. As the summer passed, McLaughlin realized that she was not going to start graduate school that fall. Living in a house with no central heating, she was suddenly chopping wood for the two wood stoves. She got a little help from Nate, an old family friend who was living across the street on another farm. Nate had helped plant her family’s vineyard when he was a teenager and started helping McLaughlin with some of the farm chores.

As the seasons changed, McLaughlin was more involved in the vineyard. It was during pruning that she said her passion for wine was born. Three years later, McLaughlin and Nate got married at the vineyard and they proceeded to have three boys, expand the winery, build a tasting room, manage an event space and run a catering business. With viticultural challenges, the estate vineyard was planted to hybrid grapes so they began purchasing chardonnay, cabernet franc and merlot from Long Island and riesling from the Finger Lakes to produce 2500 cases of wine each year.

It was in Connecticut that McLaughlin honed the skills that would later come in handy when running wine associations. She began by working on creating the Connecticut Wine Trail with highway signs, a website and an email list. She was also dealing with weather, land-use issues and family dynamics. She and Nate bought an old farmhouse off of the property that they restored in 2006 and McLaughlin started looking for a job outside of the family business to expand her resume.

After nine months of interviews with marketing companies, McLaughlin sent her resume to the Finger Lakes for a position leading their wine tourism organization. Having traveled to the area for conferences and to buy grapes, she was familiar with the region. She got the job and spent the next six-and-a-half years commuting between Corning, New York and Connecticut, where her family was.

The tourism marketing organization was founded by Corning Enterprises, the economic development arm for Corning Inc. that was created to improve the image of the area in order to improve their employee recruitment to upstate New York. A research company hired by Corning Enterprises found that wine was the draw and the tourism marketing organization was named the Finger Lakes Wine Country Tourism Marketing Association. Focusing on tourism with wine at the center and including hotels, restaurants, museums and tour companies, the organization would be able to target a more affluent customer. With a background in wine, McLaughlin was the perfect person for the job.

Building Finger Lakes Wine Country

FLX WineWhen McLaughlin began working with Finger Lakes Wine Country in 2006, life was a shifting into the digital sphere. With a budget that she could spend on advertising, instead of print, radio and television, she moved to online content generation and social media. With a new public relations strategy, including desk-side appointments a few times per year in New York city, McLaughlin was able to overcome the perception of Finger Lakes wines at that time.

McLaughlin recalled one time as she sat with the assistant editor of Town and Country Magazine pitching the Finger Lakes as a perfect place for destination weddings. The woman questioned why any of her readers would want to get married in the Finger Lakes when the wines were not good. McLaughlin responded that she “smiled and told her it is because we have some of the most amazing wines in the world and are just getting started.” From there McLaughlin shifted from promoting the wines in general to focusing specifically on the riesling produced in the Finger Lakes. “No one else in the United States could compete with us with regards to riesling. We had the potential to be a top tier region so we had to start to move the needle so that a Town and Country Magazine reader would be interested in coming to the region.”

McLaughlin also convinced the wineries to submit samples and would do big drop-offs toWine Spectator for review. She explained that points really mattered at that time and the wines ranged from scores in the low 80s to 91 and 92 points. “You can see a wave of improvement from vintage to vintage and can see the growth of the area with people coming in. It was about telling the story and we had the raw ingredients. It was a matter of packaging and selling.” And that is what McLaughlin did. The Finger Lakes has received numerous accolades, including being named a Top 10 Worldwide Wine Destination by Wine Enthusiast and a Top Wine Destination in the U.S. by

Heading West

Santa Barbara VintnersAfter more than six years of commuting between Connecticut and Upstate New York, it was wearing on McLaughlin. Her husband did not want to move the family to Upstate New York and the three boys were getting older and needed her around more. McLaughlin began looking for a new position that would be in a location that would work for her family. She was offered the job in 2013 with the Santa Barbara Vintners Association and the family happily agreed to move west.

The Santa Barbara Vintners Association was founded in 1983 and, as an outsider, McLaughlin saw a lot of similarities with the Finger Lakes. She was familiar with California wines but not with Santa Barbara wines. There had been the “Sideways phenomenon” but people on the east coast did not know the movie took place in Santa Barbara. McLaughlin came to the region with fresh eyes and with the perspective of an east coast wine consumer. She saw the opportunity for a story that needed to be told better and had fresh ideas to try. “I was excited to focus on wine in Santa Barbara. It was an established region but lesser known.” But the association in Santa Barbara was also quite different from the Finger Lakes. In the Finger Lakes, the focus of the association was on wine tourism but in Santa Barbara it is a wine association, exclusively focused on wine.

In the three years that McLaughlin has been in Santa Barbara, she has seen a return to consumer interest in higher-end wines, particularly pinot noir. There is also a new sense of discovery for chardonnay. Although Santa Barbara is still a small region and less known, it is well-positioned as one of the regions for this sense of rediscovery. McLaughlin is also working very closely with the local tourism office to encourage people to think of Santa Barbara for its wine, along with its beaches and luxury lifestyle.

While targeting the marketing and messaging of Santa Barbara wines to the consumer, McLaughlin is also focusing on better communication between the region and appointed and elected officials. “There is a disconnect amongst people. There is an idea that you can grow and make wine but not sell it. If wineries cannot sell their product, then you are putting the sustainability of your region in jeopardy. We need to do a better job communicating the nuance and complexity of growing and selling wine.”

Present and Future Challenges of the Job

With more than a decade working within wine associations on both coasts, McLaughlin sees the challenges ahead. In many way, she says, “Santa Barbara County, and California as a whole, is starting to regulate itself out of the wine business. The biggest obstacle we have is that we as a region are handcuffed in trying new ideas for wine experiences.” In the Finger Lakes, McLaughlin explained, wineries could be very entrepreneurial and creative and could try different things. “If you wanted to build something, you got a building permit. If you wanted to serve food, you went to the health department to get a food permit. We did not have to go to the county planning commission and spend years in the approval process.” Unfortunately, in Santa Barbara, they are limited in being able to bring forth creativity and improve upon the wine experience.

California is also dealing with climate issues that are shifting the industry. “The water issue makes it increasingly challenging to grow and over the next twenty years dry farming, new rootstock and other requirements will be needed. Municipalities need to figure out their water policies, who has access and how to monitor it. We need to prepare for a worst case scenario.” And, McLaughlin continued, “climate issues put places like Michigan, Ontario BC, Upstate New York and Idaho in possible positions to take some of the sun away from California as the next big areas.”

“In 1994 when I started my career in the wine business there were 922 wineries in California and 850 wineries in the other 49 states. Twenty years later (2014) there are 4,285 wineries in California and 6,132 in the other states,” said McLaughlin. “And this trend of more winery growth outside California will continue.” There is increased wine consumption across the United States and wine is produced in every state. With this interest in wine and a movement to support local business and agriculture, people will explore what is in their backyards. “With so many regions competing for the wine tourist, if you are not improving your product offering and presenting new hotels and restaurants, you become antiquated and it is hard to compete.”

With all of this competition also comes a shift happening in the industry. Wine tourism as a whole cannot stay in its own bubble. There is a convergence with other alcoholic beverages such as craft beer and distilled spirits, as well as the legalization of marijuana. “Regions that can start connecting all of the dots will be at an advantage,” McLaughlin believes. As she juggles the various responsibilities of running a wine association, McLaughlin is one of the people who is connecting those dots.


Bakery Succeeds with Wine Industry Marketing Strategy
16 September, 2016


La Brea Bakery ReserveLa Brea Bakery takes a page out of the wine industry’s playbook with their new La Brea Bakery Reserve line of farm designated breads and asks the consumer to taste the terroir of Big Sky Country, Montana and their heirloom grains.

So can you taste the difference? Yes you can, but as vintners know, it’s not just about tasty high quality bread or wine, it’s also about the story and the experience.

Andrew Blok, the brand manager for the La Brea Bakery Reserve line, is not afraid to admit that he draws heavily on his wine industry background, which includes a degree in viticulture and oenology from UC Davis, years of experience working at North Coast wineries, and an MBA in wine business from Sonoma State University.

“I’m taking what I know. Wine has laid the foundation over the last thirty, forty years of educating consumers,” says Blok, “so I’m looking for that consumer, who’s interested in that little bit more thoughtful bottle of wine.”

Andrew Blok

Andrew Blok

The name, Reserve, and the package emulates how wine is presented to the consumer including place of grain origin, genus of wheat, and pairing suggestions. La Brea Bakery Reserve launched in select markets in May, and Blok expresses his excitement with the consumer response so far.

“People continue to say, ‘I’ve never thought about a loaf of bread that way,’ and we’re just really excited that you can take something as ancient and important as bread and create that light bulb moment for people.”

Blok explains how regular bread in a sense is like bulk wine; it goes through the commodity channels where flour is flour and a grape is a grape no matter where it’s grown, and how in bread flavor is usually thought of as the inclusion of an additional component like garlic, olive oil, rosemary, or perhaps rye, but not terroir or genus.

“While you can make a lot of great bread that way, and La Brea Bakery makes incredible breads across the country every single day,” says Blok, “this provided an opportunity to be a little more thoughtful and just understand that loaf of bread a little bit more.”

La Brea Bakery Reserve front“Terroir is one of those funny things,” Blok continues. “There’s a lot of science involved, but there’s a little bit of magic too. When we went up to visit the farm in Montana, the farmer, Dean, was incredibly knowledgeable about his land and what he’s doing. High elevation farming and lower rainfall. It’s not deep clay soil, there’s a little bit more sand and gravel content in there, which helps to stress the wheats.

“But you wouldn’t even have to know any of that to just step out on the farm and know that there’s something special going on there. We call it a transformative experience.”

The parallels to the wine industry are clear. This is exactly the kind of experience that wineries are trying to share when they invite customers into the vineyards and winery, but perhaps it is helpful to remember that wine is not the only product that can do this.

“Following farm-to-table, we keep seeing across the industry, and I think this mimics wine; people want to know where their food comes from,” Blok asserts. “Is it sustainably grown, responsibly harvested, and of the highest quality?”

La Brea Bakery Reserve backThe wine industry has largely embraced the farm-to-table trend and incorporated it into the winery experience with food pairings and winemaker dinners, but another part of the heightened consumer engagement, the rise of craft beverages, has been seen as a threat to wine’s market share.

However, this overarching consumer trend to engage more with their foods is in part a testament to the wine industry’s success in shaping a consumer segment, and having more products be ambassadors of this approach could grow the segment for all authentic and thoughtful food and beverage producers.

“I think there could be opportunities for the wine industry to continuing to find new ways to educate people,” says Blok. “Something we’re doing from a retail perspective, is trying to be a little more thoughtful about how we approach the whole store. Instead of just saying, we’re in the bakery, it’s what we do, and it’s what we know.

“What we’ve been finding as we looked to educate beyond our department into cheese and wine and really create ambassadors across the store, you end up being more successful.

“Instead of just focusing in on the wine buyer, partner with the bakery manager, so he knows when he’s selling a French loaf that would go great with a California Chardonnay, or an Italian round, that’s a perfect Pinot Grigio pairing. I think there’s an opportunity to really look beyond your category and really create ambassadors throughout the store.”

Each of the three breads in the La Brea Bakery Reserve lines comes with a wine pairing suggestion, which borrows the familiar wine tasting trope in the consumer’s mind to help create the new way of thinking about bread, but also generously directs the consumer back to the wine aile to complete their experience.

La Brea Bakery Reserve Loafs

Sauvignon Blanc with PAIN DE CAMPAGNE: This is a classic Pain de Campagne with a pure, distinct flavor. A thin crispy crust and a chewy crumb contain sweet, nutty notes followed by balanced sourness, making for a complex and exciting loaf.

Cotes du Rhone with STRUAN loaf: Complex and diverse grains provide incredible texture and flavors that are complemented perfectly with subtle acid from the pre-ferment and ancient grain notes. The loaf has incredible texture from the toasted sesame seed topping.

Champagne with FORTUNA loaf: This loaf has levels of texture from the diverse grain mix, including a crispy crust and a mixed crumb from the sprouted wheat berries. Sweet and sour pre-ferments balance each other perfectly, with a tangy note from the sprouted berry and subtle, natural sweetness from raisin juice.


Next Generation Santa Cruz Mountains: Carrying On Paul Draper’s Legacy
06 September, 2016

You know time is flying when the 40th Anniversary of the Judgment of Paris is being celebrated right and left. That auspicious event which forever forged the legacy of Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon as the Hollywood Super Couple of the Grape World, took place in 1976.

Eric Baugher and Paul Draper

Eric Baugher & Paul Draper

Just a few years prior to that, in 1969, Paul Draper, a philosopher with no formal winemaking training, joined Ridge. He would go on to become one of the most famous names in all of winedom, producing the #2 California Cabernet in the Judgment of Paris, which pitted his famed 1971 Monte Bello Ridge Cabernet against four top Bordeaux (Number 1 in the overall ranking was the 1973 Stag’s Leap Cab, followed by 1970 Chateau Mouton-Rothschild (#2), 1970 Chateau Montrose (#3) and 1970 Chateau Haut-Brion (#4).

A re-enactment of the Judgment in 2006, 30 years later, proved the very same 1971 Monte Bello Ridge Cab the clear winner over all the other original submissions, by a very large margin. In between, Draper kept producing winner after winner, continuously raising the profile of this piece of dirt, and with it, the entire Santa Cruz Mountains AVA (which was not even formed until 1981), as a place of prodigious and consistent winegrowing provenance.

Quote Drape SCMDraper recently announced his retirement after 46 vintages, turning over the keys of the kingdom to a new group of winemakers in the Santa Cruz Mountains, eager to make their mark, yet cognizant of the enormous footsteps left by his departure, not to mention the pressure of sustaining that larger-than-life legacy.

Wine Industry Advisor asked some of the next generation of winemakers to share what Draper meant to them and how his legacy informed their winemaking. Even from those who had never met the man, we heard the following: Set a high benchmark for the region. Responsible for the new world’s greatest wines. Established Monte Bello as the best real wine brand in the world. Humble and gracious. Brought a thoughtfulness and philosophical approach to winemaking that showed the world that world-class wines were coming from our region. A thinker, not just in winemaking, but everything. He is one of the most brilliant minds of our time, a true intellect.

What follows are thoughts and postulation from some of the next generation of Santa Cruz Mountains winemakers who are carrying forward the torch passed on by one of the industry’s greatest luminaries as he enjoys life on the other side of the sorting table.

Eric Baugher, Ridge’s current Director of Winemaking, has had the distinct privilege of working beside the man: neither one of them formally studied enology or viticulture. Of all the winemakers interviewed, he knows Draper best, and shares these thoughts.

“As a philosopher turned winemaker, he approached making wine as an artist rather than technologist. This was quite unique at the time, when most of California’s winemakers were enologists trained in an academic setting with heavy reliance on chemistry.

“Paul showed a great passion for understanding nature and balance, applying it to vineyard and winemaking practices, which then shine through in the wines. In those early years in the Santa Cruz Mountains, most producers had very little viticulture and winemaking experience, and most of the wines were variable in quality year-to-year. He was able to bring a higher level of disciplined winemaking that resulted in greater wine quality, consistency and age-ability.”

Says Ryan Beauregard of Beauregard Vineyards: “Paul is the Grandfather of the region in my eyes. He is the one that proved to the world that Santa Cruz Mountains can make some of the best wines in the world. I am very thankful for his pioneering.”

John Benedetti

John Benedetti

John Benedetti of Sante Arcangeli adds: “When I was first getting started— volunteering as a cellar rat at Heart O’ The Mountain and making barrels on the side for myself—I was their canary in the indigenous yeast coal mine. They were following a very conservative UC Davis textbook approach at the time, and I was wanting to go native with my own wines, so that’s what I did.

“I was reading articles on the subject of native fermentation that Paul Draper had written, and interviews he had given on the subject. I was impressed by how eloquent and thoughtful his approach was, and by how generous he was with his findings. I think his wines have always showcased that elegance and intellect.”

Adam Comartin of Comartin Cellars (formerly assistant winemaker at Testarossa), acknowledges the legacy: “He has managed to keep Ridge and the Santa Cruz Mountains (SCM) appellation at the pinnacle of quality at an international level. He set the bar for consistency in SCM wine. To me, Paul has given winemakers confidence to pursue their own style or goals, which sometimes can be compromised by trends or reliance on scores. In addition, he has left us an example of how you can be a minimalistic and terroir driven winemaker, while still embracing technology and further challenging quality through experimentation.”

Nathan Kandler, winemaker for Thomas Fogarty Winery, founded in 1981, has walked both in the footsteps of Paul Draper and Michael Martella, who has been at it for over 30 years at Fogarty, established in 1981. “In the 1960s, the Santa Cruz Mountains was the back woods. It’s pretty remarkable how Paul set the bar so high for an estate wine and site expression.”

Olivia Teutchel

Olivia Teutchel

Olivia Teutschel, winemaker at Bargetto, notes: “He has brought relevance and legacy to this region. The consistent quality of his wines has made SCMs a recognizable name in the global wine world.”

Nicole Walsh of Ser (also winemaker for 16 years at Bonny Doon), never met Draper, but his influence is palpable: “I applaud Paul’s commitment to pre-industrial winemaking as they like to call it, or minimal intervention, more natural winemaking. He has made consistent, high quality wine that I, for one, strive to emulate.”

We then asked about their winemaking approaches, what they were doing to change the perception of the region and what they thought the region should be known for. Their answers show a convergence of talent and effort. This is a group Paul will certainly be proud to watch in his golden years.

How Has Your Approach to Winemaking Changed in the Last Five to Ten Years?

Eric Baugher: “Very little has changed in my winemaking approach in the last 10 years. It certainly has from my earliest years at Ridge. I’ve developed a greater sensitivity to tannins, focusing more on that during fermentation, to avoid over-extraction and imbalance. In the vineyard, working closely with our highly knowledgeable and experienced viticulture team, to make the call on when to harvest as the grapes reach peak flavor with ripe tannins, and lower alcohol potentials. Going forward, it will be very much the same. The disciplined winemaking will continue.”

Ryan Beauregard: “Starting in 2010, my wines went 100% native yeast. I was first influenced this way because of Ridge. I also used American Oak in the beginning because of Ridge. However, I switched to French Oak in 2013.”

John Benedetti: “When I started out, I wanted to go all native, all the time. But in recent years I have come to like the results I get from a mixture of native and inoculated fermentations. I no longer have a hard-and-fast doctrine that I follow— instead I follow a more fluid program that allows me to adapt to the vineyard’s needs, with a less-is-more approach to additives being a core principle behind my fluid approach.”

Adam Comartin

Adam Comartin

Adam Comartin: “My vision of winemaking has always been BALANCE; Balance of fruit, acid, oak, and ripeness. Over the last 5 years, I have had the benefit of experiencing and learning more techniques to consistently achieve my style and balance in the wines. Looking forward, I plan to experiment more with different vineyards/sites, specifically within SCM, and try new experimentations in the cellar to keep pushing the quality envelope.”

Nathan Kandler (Fogarty): “If we can learn anything from Paul, he paid attention to site. His focus was incredible. I’m listening to each site. It takes a long time to learn, and every year adds a new chapter.”

Olivia Teutchel (Bargetto): “After graduating with a degree in Enology, I found my goals have shifted from focusing on chemistry to focusing on the vineyard. I got used to looking at the numbers and expecting certain things from year to year. I have grown to learn that you can’t always depend on the numbers and that each vintage is different and that’s how it should be.”

Nicole Walsh (Ser): “I think there was a big change in the way I approached winemaking that started around 2007. I was managing Randall’s estate vineyard and making the wine from the estate. I was utilizing organic and biodynamic farming practices and wanted to make sure that the resulting wine allowed the expression of the site.

“I used only indigenous yeasts, and followed no ‘recipe’ as I had in the past. I had such a connection with the fruit I had been caring for and was using more intuition and sensory analysis to make winemaking decisions. Since that time I have continued to learn and have become more scientific with the wild yeast cultures, cold soaking, etc., but have maintained my commitment to the same “pre-industrial” practice of winemaking.”

How Do You See The Next Generation Changing the Perception of the Region?

Eric Baugher: “What makes this region so special is that it is comprised of only small producers. The large commercial/conglomerate wineries have stayed out of this region and haven’t tarnished its image. The yields are low, the difficulty of raising a crop is high, and the real estate is insanely expensive. This keeps the big producer out and allows the region to be made up of many small, mostly family, operations that can specialize in the many different grape varieties that can tolerate the cool climate of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and make some of California’s most interesting wines.”

Ryan Beauregard

Ryan Beauregard

Ryan Beauregard: “The quality bar has been raised significantly in recent years. Wine is not just wine. It is a jewel. Next generation winemakers are more interested in recognition than financial gains: they are focused on terroir and old world techniques.”

John Benedetti: “My hope is that we will raise both the quality and, more importantly, the consistency bar and put forward a larger core group of focused producers who are consistentlyshowcasing the same high quality that Ridge Monte Bello and Mount Eden Chardonnay have showcased for years. I feel like there is a handful of producers here now who are working on producing those kinds of wines consistently, which is really exciting. There has been a re-focusing among a core group of producers here that is very encouraging.”

Adam Comartin: “I think the new group of SCM winemakers brings a new level of education and experience to the region. Our experience outside the appellation, both technically and stylistically, will help elevate the quality of the vineyards and the wines. Most important, with more talented winemakers, our appellation will have more examples of the quality and consistency the region can offer. I think consistency is the key word here…I feel confident that the new generation will bring a level of consistency to the AVA that has not been seen.

Rather than having a few shining stars (Draper at Ridge, Jeffrey Patterson at Mount Eden), there will be many stars collectively showcasing the diverse vineyards of SCM.

Lastly, our new generation of winemakers is more socially engaged and in the market promoting the appellation and wines, which gives a broader, more personal view of the region.”

Nathan Kandler

Nathan Kandler

Nathan Kandler: “It’s a challenge when you’re not the new kid on the block anymore (Fogarty was founded in 1981): it’s so counter to California culture. How do we stay relevant, on the cutting edge of style, without being a slave to fashion? We focus on appellate blends, but also spotlight distinct vineyards.”

Olivia Teutchel: “New winemakers might try different varietals, styles and blends. I also think more sub-AVAs will form as the region develops and more vineyards are planted.”

What Should the Region Be Known For?

Eric Baugher: “We are not Napa or Sonoma, and we are certainly not Central Coast…we are the Santa Cruz Mountains, one of Earth’s most distinctive cool-climate mountainous winegrowing regions. The landscape is rugged, thick forest, rocky outcroppings, ocean views, resulting in low yields that produce graceful, yet powerfully complex wines. “

Ryan Beauregard: “West side Pinot and Chard equivalently. I don’t think that Pinot is the shining star for SCM: Chardonnay is neck-and-neck. Cabernet from the East Side or higher elevation West Side: Beauregard Ranch is one of those sites. I think our Cab rivals Monte Bello.”

John Benedetti: “I’d say Chardonnay makes up the largest portion of my cellar from this area because I feel we have some very distinctive chardonnay vineyards here, especially in the Ben Lomond Mountain sub-AVA. I’m a fan of a few local Pinots: Fogarty, Beauregard and Windy Oaks. You will also see some Cab/Cab blends from Beauregard Ranch and Ridge in my cellar.”

Adam Comartin: “Diversity. Our vineyards and wines are small production, artistic and very limited. As for varietals, I think Chardonnay, Pinot then Cab. As a varietal, Chardonnay seems to be the most expressive and consistent in the many diverse micro regions, climates and soils of SCM. Pinot Noir is a close second, but seems to be more limited on where it can achieve the highest level of quality. Cab Sauv has proven to be exceptional, but only in very selective vineyards.”

Nathan Kandler: “As I travel across the country, I am convinced Chardonnay may be the thing we do—not better—but different, in a very distinctive way.”

Olivia Teutchel: “This region produces some wonderful Pinot, Chardonnay and Cabernet wines, as well as a lot of other great wines. I think the focus should be on the region and not just on the varieties we produce.”

Nicole Walsh: “I think the region should be known for Pinot and Bordeaux blends. I am not sure there are enough producers making varietal Cabernet? I see a very distinctive flavor profile from the region for those varietals, and I think there are enough quality producers that there is a good representation of the area.”

While each winemaker has, like Draper did, their own style, approach and varietal focus, it is clear they all have embraced—or are learning to—three of his lifelong lessons: 1. Pay attention to the site. 2. Don’t get caught up in trend-chasing. 3. Be disciplined in your approach, because discipline is the mother of consistency.

It is entirely possible—indeed, most plausible—that in the hands of the next generation, the best days of the Santa Cruz Mountains AVA are about to dawn anew. We know Paul Draper will be cheering them on.


Wine Intolerance
19 August, 2016

Expert Editorial

You may know it as wine allergy, wine intolerance, wine sensitivity, red wine headache, white wine headache, asian flush – what is the origin of this problem? There are a lot of opinions, and there is some controversy about the issue. Sulfite comes up frequently, but very few people are sulfite sensitive enough for this to be an issue. Tannins and histamine have been blamed. Biogenic amines, too. Who is right? What are the triggers for this problem of wine intolerance?

Wine intolerance is a much different issue than hangover – the suffering we experience from being indiscrete about the amount of ethanol we consume! Wine intolerance reactions can be severe for some people consuming as little as a couple of ounces of wine.

Wine Intolerance Symptoms

Coming to Understand Wine Intolerance

Over ten years ago a patient asked me if I could help her be able to drink wine again.

She loved drinking wine, especially whites, but had given up on it. A few years prior she started experiencing a piercing headache, foggy-headedness and fatigue after a glass of wine – or less. And, she would wake up exhausted and sore and achy the next morning.

This seemed such an interesting puzzle and sent me studying about how wine is metabolized.

After a few weeks of research I suggested a four week clinical trial of very precisely targeted vitamin and mineral formula to determine if that would improve her wine tolerance. After a few weeks she was able to joyously savor her Gewürztraminer and “buttery” Chardonnays!

The next time the issue of wine intolerance came up in a new patient history I was excited to see this patient see the same wonderful results. But, when she used the same vitamin and mineral formula…nothing – no relief – at all!

Eventually I was able to figure out the puzzle of this patients’ wine triggers, too. Over time the triggers for wine intolerance became apparent. And, the results kept getting more predictable as I kept fine-tuning the formula.

These triggers as it turns out are naturally occurring compounds in wine that come from the grape itself or are produced during fermentation and aging – sulfites, phenolic compounds (tannins), aldehydes, prostaglandins, histamines, tyramine, and miscellaneous congeners (fusel oils, methanol, acetone).

I observed the unique pattern of symptoms each person who has wine intolerance experiences depends on the combination and degree of sensitivity to these compounds of that individual.

Wine Intolerance Triggers

The Wine Intolerance-Food and Environmental Sensitivity Connection

As I was treating people for their wine sensitivity they would tell me that they weren’t getting a headache for the rest of the day after riding the elevator at work with someone wearing too much perfume, that having to do laundry in their “moldy” basement wasn’t making them feel exhausted and achy all over, that they weren’t getting headaches after being around an air freshener, or new carpet or paint, that they could eat food that had MSG or other food additives and they wouldn’t get foggy-headed or spacey, that they could “eat that food that would always give them trouble” and not have trouble.

It turns out that the triggering compounds in wine that can make you suffer are in the food you eat and the air you breathe! It doesn’t matter if you drink, eat, or breathe these compounds – if you don’t metabolize them effectively, you’ll suffer.

If you’re sensitive to histamine you will react to histamine whether you drink wine or eat foods that are high in histamine. And, the “gut” problems from histamine intolerance are commonly diagnosed as Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The problem can trigger headaches, anxiety, hives, rashes, eczema, insomnia, extreme fatigue, dizziness…

If you’re sensitive to phenols – the family of compounds that include tannins – you’ll experience a number of reactions that are often misdiagnosed as fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome.

It’s Not A Mystery – It’s Genetics!

You will be sensitive to histamine if you don’t have enough of the enzymes that break down histamine – diamine oxidase (DAO) and/or histamine N-methyltransferase (HNMT).

You will be sensitive to phenolic compounds if you don’t have enough phenol-sulfotransferase (PST) to break them down.

The same is true for all of these compounds – not having enough of the enzymes to break them down and render them harmless means trouble for you. Level and activity of enzymes responsible for metabolizing and making these compounds innocuous is influenced by genetics. The genetic predispositions to being sensitive to these compounds can be tested and the nutritional biochemistry of these enzyme systems is known.

Targeted clinical nutrition can support these systems, up level enzyme activity, and improve wine tolerance. A small clinical observational study of people who had quit drinking wine altogether due to the severity of their reactions was quite promising. Eighty-five percent of participants were able to drink two 5 oz glasses of wine without headache (the primary inclusionary criterion) after six weeks of targeted clinical nutrition.

How Common Is Wine Intolerance?

A German study from 2012 concluded that approximately 9% of women and 5% of men have this problem.1 In my opinion, the problem appears to be more common in the US – probably somewhere around 12% in women and 8% in men – due to the higher baseline exposure to man-made chemicals from food and the environment in the US.


1 Wigand, P., Blettner, M., Saloga, J. & Decker, H., 2012, Prevalence of wine intolerance: results of a survey from Mainz, Germany, Deutsches Ärzteblatt international, 109(25), pp. 437-44.


Mark ForceExpert Editorial
by Mark Force, Vinami

Mark Force is a chiropractic physician from the wonderful wine country of Ashland, Oregon. Dr. Force has practiced clinical nutrition, developed and run clinical studies for nutritional formulas, published in peer-reviewed journals, edited and contributed chapters to reference books for the physician, and taught functional medicine focused diagnostic and therapeutic methods to physicians of all disciplines for over 30 years.

Dr. Force has recently developed a patent-pending nutritional formula for eliminating wine intolerance/sensitivity, Vinami (

40 Years Later Pinot Noir Joins Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in Besting French Rivals
08 August, 2016

Domaine SereneOn the 40th anniversary of the ‘Judgement of Paris,’ the United States has once again proven the best place to grow classic French varieties is not always in France. Oregon Pinot Noir has shaken expectations with the announcement that Domaine Serene’s 2012 Winery Hill Vineyardgrabbed the coveted Platinum Best of Show for Pinot Noir over £15 at the 2016 Decanter World Wine Awards (DWWA). The wine from the Dundee Hills AVA in Oregon’s Willamette Valley beat out 6 grand cru and 26 premier cru Burgundian Pinot Noir.

The competition began with more than 16,000 wines. A panel of 240 of the world’s most renowned wine experts, including 69 Masters of Wine and 26 Master Sommeliers conducted the blind judging. Less than 2% of all international medal winners were from the United States; and only 5 out of the total 539 gold and platinum medal-winners were American.Domaine Serene took home a total of eight medals from the competition, including one silver medal and six bronze medals, the most of any American winery.

Ryan Harris, President at Domaine Serene and their Burgundy winery Château de la Crée, foresees even greater recognition of Oregon as a world class Pinot Noir producer. The more people who experience Oregon wine, the better, and this level of recognition increases Oregon’s global reach. “Once they taste, the wines will speak for themselves,” predicts Harris. Harris once placed Oregon Pinot Noir on a continuum between California Pinot Noir and red Burgundy. He now believes that Oregon Pinot Noir can rise above both regions.

Winery Hill Vineyard, Domaine Serene

Oregon Pinot Noir is positioned, according to Harris, to offer the ripe fruit characteristics commonly seen in sunny climates such as California, combined with the complex, terroir-driven characteristics for which Burgundy is famous. “The best of both in a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir in a style that Erik Kramer [Director of Winemaking and Viticulture], calls Oregundian.’”

Domaine Serene’s path to success is based on a focus on quality that includes care for the land, meticulous winemaking, teamwork from the top down, and the tenacity to follow advice on a selective basis.

Quality begins in the vineyard and the story of Domaine Serene begins with site selection in the late 1980’s. Harris explains, “When founders Ken and Grace Evenstad purchased their first 42 acres in Dundee Hills they were told grapes would not ripen above 600 feet elevation.” Winery Hill Estate is one of the highest vineyards sites in Dundee Hills, stretching from 775-930 feet. Ken Evenstad often says, “The enemy of the unknown is the known.” The reason people thought grapes would not ripen above 600 feet is because nobody had done it before. The standard at the time was to push for high yields from vineyards. The Evenstads’ goal was to maximize quality, not quantity, so the elevation works in their favor. In fact Domaine Serene employed a classic Burgundian vineyard technique and dropped fruit limiting the crop to two tons per acre insuring concentrated flavors plus phenolic and sugar ripeness. The well established, dry farmed vines root deeply absorbing just enough water to keep the plant health, but the fruit concentrated. The volcanic jory soils for which the “red hills” of Dundee are nicknamed, are said to produce red fruit scented wines with a sophisticated integration of tannins and acid. All of these factors produced extremely well balanced fruit in the dry, concentrated vintage of 2012.

Domaine Serene’s most valuable asset is their vineyards which are LIVE certified sustainable. Domaine Serene is being placed into a dynasty trust so it will never be sold, but will stay with the family and must be sustained for future generations. According to Harris, vineyard decisions are made based on a 200 year impact plan. Of the 750 acres owned by Domaine Serene, only 250 are planted to vines to maintain natural habitat and balance.

Ken and Grace Grape Sorting

The careful winemaking process begins with hand picking. Pinot Noir is a very thin skinned grape. Gentle handling prevents bruising the fruit and premature breakage of the skins that can be detrimental to quality. Hand harvest is followed by hand sorting. “Ken and Grace are on their feet for hours working the sorting line,” shares Harris. The Evenstads work harvest both in Oregon and Burgundy, lending their 27 years of experience to train the teams and ensure that only the best and ripest fruit passes through to fermentation. This is one of the most important and difficult steps of the process because a few bad clusters can have a large negative impact on wine quality.

Processing takes place in Domaine Serene’s five level gravity flow winery. The gravity flow facility eliminates the need for a pump which Ryan explains can adversely affect the quality of the wine.

Each block of Domaine Serene fruit is fermented separately. Sometimes there are 250 small lot fermentation vessels active at once. This meticulous attention to detail ensures that the winemaking team has the best individual components at their disposal to blend in the end. Harris explains, “Once blended, wines can never be un-blended. It’s like a chef keeping all ingredients separate until she composes her dish on a plate.”

Domaine Serene Winemaking Team

Under Kramer’s leadership, the team practices what they call “drinking and thinking.” This means the winemaking team tastes all of the individual barrels regularly so they can understand their evolution. The blending process is highly involved and takes about a year. Careful thought is applied to how the blended wines may develop and how each component may enhance the finished wine.

Unlike many directing winemakers, Kramer does not have the pressure of travelling to represent the winery. This freedom from travel allows him to be present for all aspects of the winemaking process. Instead the important customer and trade interface is handled by a very experienced sales team and the principles of the winery Ken and Grace Evenstad and Harris.

Specific techniques used for the winning wine included cold soaking the grapes for ten days to extract flavor, tannin and color nuances – aspects that Harris says were noticed by the judging panel. The winning wine was barrel aged 16 months in French Oak, 57% of which was new, with an additional 18 months of bottle age before release.

Harris credits the success of this wine and others to the stellar winemaking team and the involvement of the Evenstads. “Diversity, breadth of knowledge and experience make this Domaine Serene’s strongest winemaking team in 27 years.”

“At Domaine Serene there is no ego, just collaboration, focus on quality and attention on the future,” said Harris. The business philosophy at Domaine Serene is “continuous improvement. ”According to Harris, after a little celebration of this great accolade fromDecanter the team basically said, “This is great. What next?” The “next” category includes building a “visitor experience” opening May 2017, building a Chardonnay only winery, and launching a series of sparkling wines in 2018.


Heat Damage & Fine Wine
22 July, 2016

Fine wine does not take kindly to overheating or to freezing, yet fine wines are often shipped around the world with less care than cartons of lettuce. Winemakers devote great care to every step in the creation of their product in both the vineyard and in the winery, but transport and storage conditions can ruin wine before it ever reaches the consumer. Historically, the topic of temperature conditions has been neglected — a dark secret everyone knew was lurking but no one wanted to discuss, much less address.

Wine demands a cool, relatively humid, relatively constant environment. For centuries fine wine was stored in natural underground caves that protected the wine from light, vibrations, and spikes in temperature. The natural underground cave temperature was between 13°C and 15°C.  Except for the claret trade between Bordeaux and England, 99% of wine was consumed within 20 kilometers of its production.

Today, wine is a multi-billion dollar item in global trade. Routinely shipped between five major continents, wine is exposed to a wide variety of environmental challenges. Importers concerned about over-heating often request the container be placed below decks on the ship. However, compliance is far from 100%. Climate controlled, or “reefer” containers can be used to minimize concerns about over-heating or freezing wine. But reefer containers add cost, and thus are often avoided.

Over the past 15 years in particular, as the world trade in wine has tripled, the task of maintaining ideal conditions during the voyage from winery to consumer has become increasingly challenging. Sometimes the reefer container loses power or is not actually plugged in. More frequently, temperature challenges appear on the “shoulders” of an ocean voyage; spikes occur during the transport and consolidation before an ocean voyage, as well as upon arrival in the importing country. Dock strikes, long waits for customs, and non-refrigerated trucks compound the challenge once the ship arrives. While passing through the Panama Canal, the ship’s captain must be able to see each side of the canal. This means that sometimes containers are unloaded and left on the side of the Panama Canal for another ship to pick up the following week. Stories abound.

Wine Shipments 25C

What is the impact of current conditions in the global wine distribution channel? Wine gets cooked. Everybody agrees. Nobody knows exactly how big the problem is. We have heard estimates between five and twenty-five percent of the wine coming into North America is flawed by temperature problems. The truth probably lies somewhere in between.

In his Wine Buyer’s Guide No. 7, Robert Parker made the following sobering observation: “Tragically, far too many wines are still damaged by poor transportation and storage and it is the consumer who suffers…It is a frightening thought, but I have no doubt that a sizable percentage (between 10 and 25%) of the wines sold in America have been damaged because of exposure to extremes of heat.

Furthermore, the damage is not always obvious. If the temperature spiked to 40°C and then dropped quickly, while the wine bottle might leak, and the cork might push a bit, the wine is not necessarily damaged. Conversely, the bottle might heat to 30°C for a day or two and cook the wine, without the cork pushing or wine leaking.  No one had studied this question in any detail.

In order to make a judgment about when a wine becomes “cooked” we needed a scientific baseline.  eProvenance conducted extensive research with industry renowned ETS Laboratories in St. Helena, California. They cooked five different wines at different temperatures and professional tasters noticed the difference in the taste and aroma of the wine after the wine had been subjected to just 30°C heat (86°F) for a total of just over two days. eProvenance then developed a patented monitoring system and a proprietary algorithm that allows us to quantify the damage to wines during transport and storage and assign an eProvenance Score. Based on millions of data points collected by eProvenance during thousands of shipments around the world, the implications of these statistics are startling — more than one in three wines (as much as $1.6 billion in wine) encounters poor conditions during transport and storage. Even short DTC shipments can experience dramatic and damaging temperature swings.

DTC Temp Stats

How can this damage be prevented? Maintaining wine quality all the way to the end consumer requires best practices throughout the journey by all members of the distribution channel. It’s been said you can’t change what you can’t measure. Monitoring conditions in the distribution channel yields measurements that shed light on problem areas as well as success stories. When the resulting observations and analysis are shared with members of the channel, corrections and improvements can be made where needed and good practices can be acknowledged and reinforced.

Of late, it has become clear that monitoring yields several important benefits. As members of the channel see the results, their wine handling improves and wine quality is protected far more consistently. When consumers learn their wine has been monitored, they are reassured about the quality and impressed by the dedication of the winery to that quality promise. In fact, they generally become more loyal repeat customers. When there is a clear record of provenance, the value of the wine increases.  In the same way that buyers will pay a premium for ex-château wine, they will generally pay for the assurance of quality. Monitoring deliver new marketing insights and reveal gray market activity where it exists.

Over time, we hope monitoring will bring about industry-wide awareness and a new commitment to improving conditions and protecting wine quality.

Expert Editorial - by Eric E. Vogt, CEO, eProvenance

A serious business venture (over a billion dollars in wine experiences improper storage temperatures during transport), assuring proper care of fine wine is also a personal quest for eProvenance founder, Eric E. Vogt. Knighted as Chevalier de l’Ordre du Mérite Agricole by the French government for advancing the understanding of the wines, winemakers, and wine culture of Bordeaux, Vogt combined his business background and personal passion to launch this effort to improve the handling of fine wine across global distribution channels. eProvenance has designed an innovative, patented system for monitoring and analyzing the temperature, humidity and geolocation of this precious cargo. Our proprietary algorithm results in the eProvenance Score, which clearly indicates whether a shipment has been damaged, not just whether it has experienced problematic temperature conditions. Working with leading wine producers, importers, distributors and transporters, eProvenance helps create “cold chains” to protect fine wine, similar to those used for food and pharmaceuticals.

Top Somms Advise Vintners on How to Get on Their Wine Lists
08 July, 2016

Sommeliers and wine directors see and taste a lot of wines. What gets their attention? What’s the best way to get attention? We asked them. They were not shy.

Jeremy DennisJeremy Dennis of Dio Deka in Los Gatos says, “Sometimes, I have particular needs. Random reps will come in and fill gaps. I work with over 100 wine contacts from a range of distributors, some on a day-to-day basis. Other times, I will take a wine that just strikes me. I love wines with big acidity that are age worthy. I lean towards old world Burgundies that offer the right combination of style and price.”

His primary advice to wineries is to find a distributor who will represent you well. Often, smaller is better. “Choose someone who understands you and what you do. Someone who will be positive and aggressive about presenting your wines. Someone who believes in your brand. If I see a winery twice a year, that’s a good thing.”

The Dio Deka wine list is sufficiently large that he has the latitude to include names for cachet only, but he’s interested in new discoveries. His advice is simple:

“Be true to yourself. Be sure of your vision. Don’t try to please the masses! If it’s an authentic product, they will come!”

Mark BrightHimself a winemaker, at the tutelage of Ryan Beauregard in the Santa Cruz Mountains, Mark Bright of Saison (San Francisco), has been in the business for 13 years, even though he looks barely old enough to vote, let alone drink. The Chicago native turned San Franciscan is a Rajat Parr disciple and learned much from this Master Somm who has influenced the careers of so many.

Says Bright of what he learned from Parr, “The most important is to never stop the search for amazing wines. There are so many fantastic regions and terroirs to explore. Keep an open mind.”

His advice to those who want to get on his list, “We do lots of tastings as a group with my sommelier team. Just produce pure, balanced and tasty juice. “

John LancasterJohn Lancaster has been compiling the wine list at San Francisco’s reveredBoulevard for 19 years now. He’s also a winemaker trying to get his wines placed on other people’s lists.

He says that the whole game has changed tremendously since he started. “Frankly, it’s the hardest that it’s ever been!  I think the best days in the wine business are behind me. It’s so competitive now. People don’t have time to see everyone anymore. A few years ago, every account wanted to see me. Now, nobody returns phone calls!”

Nowadays, he says, business is done via email. “I set up appointments: I don’t like cattle calls – I think it’s rude! I respect people’s stories, and I want to hear them.”

Of his selection process, he says, “Sometimes I have a need, like a Gruner Veltliner between $38 and $45. Sometimes I taste something, and it blows me away, and I say, ‘I have to have this wine whether we need it or not!”

He counsels other winemakers to spend as much time thinking about the sales piece, the marketing strategy, as about the wines themselves. Says Lancaster, “Have a plan from the git-go. It’s harder than you think. Talk to others when you’re just getting started, before you even put wine in the bottle!”

Chris Sawyer

Sommelier/author, Chris Sawyer, says the most important criteria in selecting a wine for a list is, “Does this wine work with the food on my menu?” He notes that the traditionally simple wines of 20 years ago no longer cut the mustard, literally. “They can’t cope with today’s food. I try to find deep wines vs. shallow wines. We’ve moved away from comfort food and those wines no longer have a place in top restaurants.”

Such cuisine complexity requires wines that pair with fine cuisine Says Sawyer, “Wines that were meant to go with comfort food where each bite tastes predictably the same no longer work with the diversified plate where every bite is different. Food comes first. The best food wines do not overpower: they have finesse.”

This leads to an obvious point that can’t be overstated: Winemakers should always look at the restaurant’s menu and wine list before they even pick up the phone to schedule an appointment to taste. Even better, they should eat at the restaurant and let the food guide the selections they ultimately decide to present to the wine buyer.

Although sommelier James La Mar is trading in his Somm cup to work for a winery, La Mar has had a stellar career in the Bay Area at darlings including The Woodside Pub and Madera.

While developing the wine list at Chez TJ, La Mar learned from then Sales Director, Matt Ryan of Big Basin Vineyards, that when selling a wine that’s good, be generous and don’t be a geek. “Be true to yourself, be authentic. Be completely committed to your story and you will be successful.”

Erika Szot, who took over from La Mar at Chez TJ, creates pairings for 10 and 16 course menus nightly. She says, “There is a buyer out there for everything. It is our duty to give people what they want.”

Erika Szot

Of her quest to expand the list, she says, “We have a fairly large list, but we’re looking to build a well-balanced one that is more thorough. We’d like to increase our verticals. Pairings are fun with verticals, because you can work with the vintage differences to play with the tannins and acid to tune with the food. Rosés are interesting: they are highly pairable, and consumers love them.  I like that you can play around with them, and that they are so many different styles. We are always looking for single vineyard Pinots, and for aromatic whites like Riesling, that pair well with food. And Champagne.”

Her advice to wineries is to email her and introduce themselves. “We pride ourselves on travelling around and meeting with up and coming wineries. James (La Mar) took on several new Santa Cruz Mountains producers early on, which was genius. We look for new discoveries. I look forward to hearing your story.”

Paul Mekis 600Director of Wine for Madera (Rosewood Resort, Menlo Park), Paul Mekis was tasked with building the list from scratch.  From the time he began in 2009 until the present, the list has grown from 600 to 2300 selections. The philosophy that guided him was fairly straightforward.

“I try to find a balance between well recognized wines that customers are familiar with as well as new discoveries from up-and-coming vineyards around the world. Generally, I enjoy offering an assortment of wines that range in style and price point, yet compliment the menu offerings,” says Mekis.

Asked what advice he would give a winery who would like to get their wine on his list, Mekis says, “I recommend scheduling an appointment with me. I love finding a new, upstart winery that makes excellent, well-balanced wines that aren’t manipulated and taste like the grape varietal. For me, it’s all in a strong terroir that offers a sense of place.”

Nobody denies it’s a highly competitive world of wine out there. It takes tenacity as much as kismet to land on the right lists. From Jim Rollston of Manresa, come these pearls of wisdom: “Make the best wine you can, reflecting your vision about what is unique in your wine versus the rest of the world’s wines. I may or may not see the same things you see in your wines, but if you feel you have made a benchmark wine for the region, then you have succeeded no matter the placement on one restaurant’s wine list!”


Her Side of the Story: Notes from Women Winemakers of Napa
24 June, 2016

Having many years in the wine industry, and settled into their high-profile work in the Napa Valley, these women comment on being a woman in the industry, and why gender isn’t the defining factor. Commenting are veterans Heidi Barrett of Barrett Wines, Calistoga, Elizabeth Vianna of Chimney Rock Winery, Stag’s Leap District, Cathy Corison of Corison Winery, St. Helena, and new mom Helen Keplinger of Keplinger Wines, Napa.

Is there something characteristic about wines made by women? If so what?

Heidi Barrett

Heidi Barrett

H.B. I think it’s very individual. Big wines are made by women, and delicate, silky, and elegant wines are made by men too. It take a certain personality type instead of gender. The job is to serve up delicious juice every year. I’ve thought about it a lot, and it keeps coming up. Are men or women better tasters? We have our specialties for tasting components, and the idea may be that women have more taste buds per mm, so they may have a biological advantage. But I’d love to get to the point where I just talk about why I’m a good winemaker, and not a woman.

E.V. Not that’s particularly associated with being a woman. A winemaker that makes masculine wines or feminine wines…this is a more stylistic thing than a gender thing. Women have an innate ability for multitasking, which helps in winemaking.

C.C. Women make all different styles of wine from all over the world. If we bring anything special to the table, it’s attention to detail. Women have had to be better.

H.K. I tend to think of wines and their makers more on an individual basis. Certainly wines made with heart are a reflection of their makers, and capture some of their personality in the wine. And thank goodness – it’s such an intriguing piece of a wine’s story.

What are the main obstacles for women who want to become winemakers?

Elizabeth Vianna

Elizabeth Vianna

H.B. At little wineries it is strength…you have to be really fit. You do a lot of shoveling, tractor work, operating equipment, and moving heavy barrels…one needs to be strong and healthy. Employers may look at smaller, petite women as being the weak link. In the old days, when you came aboard you were being sized up by the guys to make sure you could pull your own weight. We’re smart and capable, but in that particular job you are only as good as the weakest link. Or, you could end up with just a desk job in a large corporate structure and never have to move barrels!

E.V. For anybody who is getting into it now, the challenge is the scarcity of jobs. Now people stay put (in a winemaking job). It is less about gender, and more about the availability of jobs. Thelma Long, Celia Welch, and Cathy Corison all pioneered for us. They made it clear that women belonged here in this industry and established that women were a part of winemaking. In Napa, the scarcity of jobs is the obstacle. The good news is there are a lot of developing regions that new winemakers can explore: Washington, Oregon, and the Central Coast.

C.C. There aren’t any real ones. Winemaking, like many pursuits, was long largely a man’s world. It’s been a pleasant surprise to see how quickly that has broken down in my lifetime. Slowly, our society is learning how to integrate work and family life. It’s a challenging juggle.

H.K. I think there are far fewer obstacles now than there used to be. However, although there are many women in this industry, there are still many more men. Relationships are key to getting connected to jobs, vineyards, and opportunities, and there are still men who are more likely to hire other men or who are more comfortable working with other men. Starting out, it can be hard to forge the relationships that will be key in helping achieve what you desire in your career, but those relationships, once made, tend to go the distance.

Can you share a breakthrough experience or lesson?

Cathy Corison

Cathy Corison

H.B. The lesson I learned was how to make it work for me. If I proved that I was a hard worker, then I would be part of the team. Dive right in. Volunteer for the hard stuff. It never crossed my mind that I couldn’t do it. Working in Germany and Australia, women weren’t the norm in the cellar, so we had to work harder to prove ourselves.

E.V. Most gratifying has been the ability to mentor people. I get emails or calls, not just women, but young men as well. One of the greatest things we can do is inspire and empower young women to go for it. I was unaware that people would call and write. It’s very rewarding.

C.C. When I studied winemaking in the mid-1970’s, Viticulture and Enology were separate departments in different buildings. Though I wasn’t required to take a single viticulture class, I took them all. During my early winemaking career, the vineyard manager grew the grapes and the winemaker made the wines. The intersection was the moment when grapes samples arrived in the laboratory for analysis, leading up to a picking decision. From the start of my own project, thirty years ago, I have always spent most of my time and energy out in the vineyard. I can’t make a wine any better than the grapes that come in the door.

H.K. When I applied for my first real internship, I sent out 30 resumes and cover letters. I had only three replies. Luckily, one of them was Heidi Barrett, who hired me, became a good friend and a great mentor. She was my foot in the door, and she helped me get my start in the form of two great jobs. I now practice her generosity with my own interns, providing guidance and connections to people and jobs to help them get their start, so they can take it where it leads them.

What duties do you have as the winemaker that you never thought you’d have to do?

Helen Keplinger

Helen Keplinger

H.B. The sales aspect is something you don’t think about or train for. Then suddenly you have to meet with people, do interviews, talk with the press; it can add a lot of excitement to the ag business! If you create something, and are artistic, sometimes people want to know about you. It happens in the wine business, and with celebrity chefs and rock bands.

E.V. Something that Davis didn’t prepare us for was the sales. You have to be articulate, and able to communicate with very different kinds of groups. Sommeliers, distributors, and the general public. It’s probably not uncommon for us scientist-types to be a little more inward than outward. However, often we [winemakers] become the public face of the winery with all what that entails.

C.C. I never dreamed I would own my own vineyards and winery. A little bit of business training would have been a good idea.

H.K. I think the amount of cleaning was a shock when I first started out. [Now] it’s long been second nature, and is just a part of the job.

What is your favorite varietal to work with & why?

H.B. Cabernet. I love making Cab. I get to make all sorts of fun stuff, but it’s [Cab] still king for the red grapes. You can make it in different styles, and it’s age-worthy. Like a time capsule that you can take away.

E.V. Cabernet. I got into wine because I love Cabernet. It’s the “King of Grapes” for a reason. I wanted to make it, and I wanted to drink it as a consumer. It’s so versatile. It grows well in climates that are cool, warm—it’s a sturdy little grape. I’m a die-hard Cabernet lover.

C.C. I just love wine, so I drink widely, but I’ve spent my entire adult life specializing in Cabernet Sauvignon. Forty-one years ago, this month, when I graduated from college, bent on making wine, Napa Valley was one of the only winegrowing scenes and certainly the best known. I piled everything I owned in my VW bug and was in Napa within two days. I make Cabernet because I believe that Napa Valley can make Cabernet as well, or better, than anywhere else in the world.

What varietal would you characterize yourself as?

C.C. If I could be a grape, I’d be a Barolo. Very serious and tenacious, with a long view.

H.K. Right now I’d choose to be a Barolo from Piemonte – they’re so pensive, honest, humble, transparent, beautiful, and take time to truly unfold. We were just there in November, and the landscape, people, wines, food made such an indelible impression. Wines in which to lose yourself; simple food made magnificent by the incredible quality of the ingredients.

What do you never get asked but would love to comment on?

H.B. I like to be interviewed because I’m among the best at what I do, not because I’m a women. Eventually, no one will even consider gender. Individual merits will be important instead of gender. I look forward to that change. For now, if it helps the progress, then that is why we still talk about it. If we can continue and give someone a hand up or encourage and inspire, then that matters.

E.V. One of the things that drives me a bit crazy is the term “winemaker”. It conveys the idea that the winemaker makes the wine. In most wineries, it’s a team effort and a collective process. Wine is only as good as every single person who puts their hand to it. At Chimney Rock it is six people plus the ranch hands, as well as our ownership that gives us the support to do what you need to do. Not just one person.


How Does a Small, Family Owned Sonoma County Winery Become the Official Wine Partner of a World Class Sporting Event?
10 June, 2016

Kim Stare Wallace

Kim Stare Wallace

Passion and authenticity is the answer. This weekend the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series comes to Chicago for the second qualifying race on US waters. The first took place on the Hudson in New York City last month and lined up 35,000 fans along the pier and on hospitality boats.

One of those fans was Kim Stare Wallace, but she was not just there as an excited sailing fan, she was there as CEO of Dry Creek Vineyard, the official wine of the events in New York and Chicago.

“To be selected by the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup World Series Races as their official wine partner is a huge honor for us,” says Wallace, “It’s a culmination of our years and years of involvement in various regattas and sponsorships of sailors. It’s really quite an honor, we’re very excited.”

The America’s Cup is a series of dynamic yachting regattas representing the pinnacle of world-class yacht racing with the best sailors in the world competing for the oldest trophy in international sport, and during the New York and Chicago events Dry Creek Vineyard wines will be exclusively poured in the event’s hospitality areas and spectator boats.

The race authority could have selected any brand, a mass marketed or international brand, but they chose Dry Creek Vineyard, a small, family owned Sonoma County winery. “The allure for them is the authenticity of our brand,” says Wallace, “the authenticity of our wines, the quality, obviously, of the wines, but especially the fact that we truly are passionate about sailing. It’s not just a marketing gimmick.”

Dry Creek Vineyard Fume Blanc 1983Dry Creek Vineyard has long been associated with sailing. David Stare, Wallace’s father and founder of the winery, is a sailor, and she grew up sailing with him on the San Francisco Bay. In 1977 Stare sponsored the first sailing team at Sonoma State University, and in 1982 the sailing ship theme first appeared on their wine labels. Since then, Sonoma County artist Michael Surles has provided the nautical paintings for the labels, and the wine has become known as the Wine for Sailors.

The passion for sailing is clear, not just from their history, but when Wallace speaks about sailing and the excitement of the race. “Sailing at this level is a whole different kind of sailing than what I’m accustomed to and that recreational sailors are accustomed to. With sailing there are two things; first you have the element of teamwork and secondly you have the element of mother nature, which is somewhat unpredictable,” explains Wallace. “So not only does the crew have to be expert sailors, but they also have to be expert tacticians, navigators, meteorologists. You have to be an expert of so many facets, the wind direction, the changing wind, the tide, the currents, et cetera.”

“These are the rockstars of the sailing world, and I’ve had the privilege of meeting many of the top sailors, and what I’ve always asked them is how did you start sailing? Well, they all started the same way that most of us do as a kid; learning on a lake or a pond or perhaps an ocean, but in very calm waters. They all learned the same way; I find that quite fascinating.”

Dry Creek Vineyard Fume Blanc 2012The first America’s Cup was originally won by the New York Yacht Club in 1851 in Great Britain around the Isle of Wight, and the American’s successfully defended the Cup for over 150 years. The regattas in New York and Chicago play a part in determining the seeding of the Louis Vuitton America’s Cup Qualifiers in Bermuda in 2017.

In Chicago Wallace will not only be enjoying the race but overseeing a number of VIP hospitality venues throughout the fan village, pouring her wines, and providing hospitality to distributors, customers, and fans. “It should be a great deal of fun,” says Wallace, “I have never met a sailor that isn’t a fun chap. They’re fun, adventurous, confident risk-takers, and they love the outdoors, and I absolutely would love it if Team USA won.”


Move over, Harassment!
02 June, 2016

Expert Editorial

Move over, Harassment! Discrimination and retaliation have officially muscled their way into anti-harassment policies. Consider them equal opportunities in the workplace now.

The changes to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act that went into effect on April 1, 2016, requiring all employers to have a policy preventing harassment, discrimination, and retaliation, also set new standards for mandatory sexual harassment prevention training. Although many employers already have written anti-harassment policies in place, these new rules require the policy meet an even higher standard. Employers will most likely need to update their policies to make sure they meet the new requirements of the amendments to FEHA.

The Fair Employment and Housing Act (FEHA) applies to all California employers  and prohibits harassment in employment based on race, religion, color, national origin, ancestry, physical or mental disability, medical condition, genetic information, marital status, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, gender expression, age, sexual orientation, and military and veteran status.

The new FEHA amendments also add to the already lengthy list of compliance requirements for sexual harassment prevention training, which has been required under AB 1825 in California since 2005. Employers with 50 or more employees are required to provide sexual harassment prevention training to all supervisors and managers. “50 or more employees” includes part-time and temporary employees, and independent contractors. The training must meet very specific criteria and needs to be provided within six months after the hiring or promotion of a new supervisor, as well as every two years for ALL supervisors and managers.

The new regulations also clarify that audio, video, and computer training are “supplemental” and those modalities alone cannot be relied upon to meet the training requirement under AB 1825. Employers choosing to use web-based or e-learning training options must now meet additional criteria such as having a “qualified expert” available to answer questions, interactive participation among the attendees, and training on the employer’s particular harassment and reporting procedures.  A copy of the webinar must be kept as well as all questions and answers submitted to the trainer. The additional burden with web-based and e-learning tools is an indication that in-person training may be the preferred to harassment prevention training.

Farm labor contractors have other training requirements related to harassment prevention, as outlined in California Senate Bill 1087.

With these amendments in effect, it is a good time for California employers to review their policies, record keeping, and training procedures to ensure compliance. Starting off on the right foot by ensuring compliance now may likely save on problems later that could require a lot more time, effort, and money to correct.


Casi JewettExpert Editorial

by Casi Jewett

Casi Jewett, Associate at The Personnel Perspective, has a Masters in Organizational Development from Sonoma State University and has two senior-level professional certifications in Human Resources. She works with employers on compliance matters, employee relations issues, organizational design, management training and facilitation, and implementation of HRIS systems. Learn more about her work or call (707) 576-7653.

Packing: The Window to Your Wine’s Soul
17 May, 2016

Think taste is the main determiner of repeat wine purchases? Studies consistently show that non-expert wine drinkers are far more likely to remember the design and color of a wine’s packaging than the taste of the product itself.

A 2005 German study found that packaging and brand were the biggest influences on a consumer’s liking for a wine. In the case of certain Champagnes, “the expectation created by packaging and labeling information” accounted for 70 percent of a consumer’s positive perception.

Packaging Trends for 2016

Some hot-off-the-wine-press research and recent statistics drive home the importance of wine packaging in influencing purchasing decisions. Two groups in particular — millennials and women — are catalyzing huge sea changes in the wine industry.

At the Wine Market Council’s March 2016 Consumer Research Conference, attendees learned:

  • As of Jan. 1, 2016, every millennial is now of legal drinking age.
  • There are more millennial wine drinkers in the U.S. than baby boomers, (36 percent versus 34 percent).
  • Although baby boomers remain the largest total-volume wine-consuming generation because more of them are “high-frequency” wine drinkers (38 percent vs. 30 percent) — millennials are rapidly closing that gap with each year.

Marketing departments across all industries are scrambling to decode the buying triggers that most influence millennials, including the wine industry. What is the most attractive and innovative packaging solution for retail sales environments?

Millennials aren’t impressed by a shelf-talker bragging about a wine critic’s numerical score. They’re interested in a wine’s backstory and yearn to form a personal connection with the producer. Millennials value eco-conscious products, and alternative packaging is evolving to meet this demand as demonstrated by many box wine producers that employ environmentally friendly materials.

Women and Packaging

The latest 2016 Wine Market Council and Nielsen data on women who drink wine showed:

  • Women account for 57 percent of wine volume in the U.S.
  • Women are more likely to buy a wine they’ve never tried before based on the label when browsing.
  • Female wine drinkers rated “traditional, classic and sophisticated” labels more intriguing than other types of labels.

Although women tend to associate wine in boxes, Tetra Paks and cans with lower quality, this is changing fast as evidenced by the strongest growth seen in sales of 3-liter boxes and Tetras. Surprisingly, even premium wine drinkers are open to boxed wine now, accounting for 44 percent of the growth.

Color My Wine World

Making a lasting consumer impression by employing the psychology of color is key.

Simple packaging and colors like black, gray, white and cream are usually associated with upscale, higher value wines. Bright colors and funky logos are generally associated with lower-priced, lesser-quality wines. Blue is not typically connected with food, while green carries natural world connotations.

Veteran label designer Bob Johnson believes that along with a great packaging design and color, the typeface and paper quality matter, too. However, a complicated label can actually discourage a shopper from buying a wine.

Make It Memorable

Take a look down any retail wine aisle and observe the big change in wine packaging. Bottles have made room for boxes, bags and cans. Eye-catching point of purchase (POP) floor displays proudly proclaim a winery’s distinctive personality through the use of multi-tiered stands with fully customized inserts and pockets. Customers are instantly able to recognize their favorite brand across a crowded wine store floor.

Customized carrying cases feature high-quality graphics and easy-to-read educational print, providing not only a highly effective marketing tool but also quenching the millennials’ thirst for information. Recreation-friendly wine comes in lightweight and waterproof or recyclable corrugated cardboard containers that slip easily into a backpack. The Wine Market Council reports that 85 percent of millennials are willing to purchase an unfamiliar brand as long as it provides them with information, authenticity, convenience and eco-friendly, portable adventure.

Some cutting-edge winemakers are adding bar codes using RFID technology to their labels. Point your smartphone to the label, and enjoy videos of the vineyards while the winemaker shares production facts and food pairing tips. Domaine Bourillon-Dorléans includes a scratch-and-sniff sticker on the label that releases the smell of the flora surrounding the grapevines. Could a scratch-and-sniff corrugated cardboard POP display be the next popular trend?

Russel VelargaExpert Editorial
by Russel Velarga, PakFactory

Russel Velarga is Sales and Marketing Director ofPakFactory, a leading packaging company that provides premium custom packaging products and services. Russel holds a strong belief that successful packaging leads to a successful product.

Eastern Winemakers See Potential for Premium Terroir Driven Hybrid Wines
29 April, 2016

On the west coast, hybrid grapes may hardly make a din in winemaking conversations, being chiefly used in the production of table wines and eating grapes. However, on the east coast where winemaking is an entirely different reality, hybrid grapes represent much more to many of its winemakers up and down the country’s eastern reaches.

Traditionally, hybrids were grown for high yields, ripeness and disease-resistance, but increasing numbers of winemakers are making wines from these cultivars that exceed the confines of the “table wine” category and challenge the idea of where great wine can be made. Inarguably, hybrids are here to stay, but as the discussion about their propagation shifts from which varieties give its growers the highest yields and transitions into discussions of wine quality, new questions are raised including whether hybrid grapes can display that wonderfully idiosyncratic French term, “terroir”, like their vinifera counterparts, or do these crossings come at a price that their terroir identity is lost.

For New Jersey winemaker and proprietor, Jim Quarella of Bellview Winery in Landisville, the question of whether hybrids manifest terroir can only be addressed if the grapes are being grown properly. If the vines are high cordon-trellised, they haven’t produced the same quality fruit as with vertical shoot positioning, he asserts. Backing his beliefs are the vineyard tests he performed over the years to know for sure, but as part of the local winemaking community, he’s quick to share his findings with others.

“Any discussion about terroir can only take place if the best possible fruit is being grown in the vineyard,” Jim says. He is so confident about the existence of terroir in hybrid wine he’s among a small group of winemakers in the Outer Coastal Plain AVA of southern New Jersey that led the charge to create a unique red blend called, “Coeur d’Est”, or in English, “Heart of the East” that must include 30% of the hybrid grape, Chambourcin. He hopes that people can taste the terroir that’s unique to his AVA but is also enjoyable and ageable.

In lockstep with these sentiments about producing the best possible fruit from hybrid cultivars is University of Maryland Professor and Extension Specialist of Viticulture and Small Fruit, Dr. Joseph Fiola, who recently gave a seminar at the Eastern Winery Exposition on March 9th in Lancaster, PA discussing his trials with the hybrid, Chardonel.

One of the most poignant takeaways – albeit obvious for those whom already practice it – was the necessity of tending to hybrid grape varieties with the same regard as vitis vinifera in order to produce the best wines. Not surprisingly, tasting his wines that afternoon left little doubt about the positive benefits. Dr. Fiola did share that in his visits to some vineyards and wineries it was clear some of these hybrid grape varieties more closely resembled a wine that was a “workhorse” in terms of total yields but wasn’t fashioned to be a fine wine producing grapevine.

The idea of terroir among hybrid grapes is very intriguing to many winemakers including Mike Sammons II, a consulting oenologist with his own practice called Mercenary Wine. Having done horizontal tastings of Chambourcin, he firmly believes terroir exists, but it’s the impact of the growing season on hybrids that he knows is incomplete; another hybrid like Baco Noir could be the best variety to grow instead of Chambourcin he may discover down the road, but that’s why he hopes more tests are being done by others equally as curious.

Mike’s first Chambourcin harvest at Plagido’s Winery, an operation in Hammonton, New Jersey, took place only last year, but he looks forward to seeing how his wines’ unique terroir manifests itself, and how it may contribute to the debate on New Jersey’s own distinct terroir.

There’s even some specific literature on the subject concerning hybrids cultivation and its regional styles, and one of the best books has to be Stephen Casscles’ “Grapes of the Hudson Valley,” in which the grape growing winemaker-cum-author shares what he’s learned in the field. For example, he’s chronicled from his tastings that a grape like Chambourcin takes on a more southern Rhone-like style with softer tannins and more supple fruit when produced in Virginia, but in the Hudson Valley, the grape tends to express itself with higher tartaric acid levels and is a bit leaner, comparatively.

These regional differences are his terroir: the hydrology of the soil, mineral composition, latitude, all are intrinsically part of any wine’s identity, Stephen affirms. Most interestingly, his work identifies that particular hybrid cultivars are better-suited to display terroir than others; Chancellor and Ravat 51 (a.k.a. Vignoles), being deeply flavored wines aren’t as keen barometers of a regional style as Vidal Blanc, Baco Noir, Seyval Blanc and others.

Richard Leahy, the Eastern Winery Exposition organizer and author of “Beyond Jefferson’s Vines,” sees things a little differently regarding the topic. He states that on a purely scientific level, all grapes – both hybrids and vitis vinifera – will manifest different metabolites (e.g. brix and acids) when grown in varying climates, something more akin to a snapshot than the classical understanding of terroir over substantial periods of time.

However, on the east coast where hybrid varieties are a tent pole of the local industry, there hasn’t been enough focus on quality production with a terroir focus in mind he believes. Be that as it may, some growing areas are ahead of the curve and embrace a particular hybrid grape. For instance, Richard goes on to say, “In the Allentown area [Pennsylvania] they have a Chambourcin Trail […] since it does so well there. […] In Indiana, they’ve made Traminette the state grape, but there’s a difference between “growing well”, being popular, and terroir.”

There is much agreement among the mid-Atlantic winemaking regions about hybrid grapes’ ability to capture site- and region-specific terroir, but the discussion has many nuanced opinions. Trial locations are being planted, new grape varieties continue to be tested, and many winemaking experiments are being conducted.

To some in the field, it has the feel of the next unexplored wine frontier, but terroir discussion is evidently still in its preliminary stages, though with each passing harvest east coast winemakers are steps closer to understanding the climactic challenges better. Perhaps, like grapes in a vineyard before harvest, the possibilities of terroir-focused hybrid variety propagation will yield very captivating results.


Maintaining Authenticity in an Era of Acquisitions
15 April, 2016

Few would argue with the premise that millennials have shifted market forces in new and exciting ways for the craft beer, wine, spirits and now cider industries.

There is a shared understanding that younger drinkers seek out beverage brands that appeal to their creative and experimental interests, that have fascinating stories behind them, and that resonate with their notions of transparency and authenticity.

And, while enduring brand loyalty may not characterize this generation the way it has for those preceding it, millennials do become attached to products whose history begins with, say, a brew in somebody’s college dorm or gin first distilled using discarded machinery on a family farm.

But what happens when these appealing, homegrown brands mature? When their success, largely driven by millennial consumption, attracts the interests of corporate businesses keen to tap into what is becoming an increasingly lucrative market share?

Greg Hall speaking at USBevX

Greg Hall speaking at USBevX

This was precisely the situation facing Greg Hall, son of the founder of the Chicago-based Goose Island Beer Co., in 2011 during discussions with Anheuser-Busch, and he spoke about it at the U.S. Beverage Industry Expo, “What’s the End Game for your Business: Growth, Independence or Acquisition,” in Washington D.C. in February.

Hall’s father Jon started Goose Island Beer Co. in 1988 as a single brewpub, long before Chicagoans were exposed to the craft beer revolution. The pub’s homegrown brew quickly became a local favorite and the company grew rapidly. Greg Hall joined the family business in 1991 at age 22, and served as Brewmaster of the enterprise for twenty years.

He says that in 2011, the company’s success was at a tipping point.

“We got to the point as an urban brewery that we were city-locked,” Hall explains. “We couldn’t expand anymore and we couldn’t keep up with demand. We wanted to find a partner to help us build another brewery. We looked, but none were suitable.”

Enter Anheuser-Busch Inc. (ABI), one of Goose Island’s distributors. Rather than partner on a new brewery, ABI offered to purchase a majority of the company’s stake, which would give them a controlling interest in the business. In exchange, Goose Island Beer Co. could expand beyond its wildest dreams.

It was an offer the Halls would not refuse.

“We figured that the investors would give us the resources to grow, more access to the beers we would always run out of and give drinkers access to the beer they loved,” Hall recalls. “It was a win, win, win, all across the board.”

But not everyone saw it that way.

“When it was announced, employees freaked out,” Hall admits. “It’s natural to want to say, nothing is going to change, but that’s false. Craft beer and cider … things change every year, no matter what.

USBevX-2017-Logo-with-date“We told them things are going to change. We’ll have access to new markets, more barrels for our barrel program, more benefits for employees … it’s going to be a good thing.”

Hall concedes that the sale of Goose Island Beer Co. to ABI created some negative ripples within the consumer and retail markets as well.

“We’ve lost some drinkers; some bars don’t sell Goose Island anymore,” Hall acknowledges. “But they’ve been replaced by so many other people who are now exposed to Goose Island … every new market we go into we think, ‘that’s fantastic.’”

Goose Island beers are now widely distributed throughout the United States and, since 2006, within in the United Kingdom as well. In addition, the sale allowed Hall to focus on other endeavors, like the successful creation of Virtue Cider in western Michigan.

Jeff Menashe is the CEO of Demeter Group, a company described as “financial advisors to and investors in high-growth, culturally relevant consumer brands.”

It’s part of Menashe’s job help investors identify companies poised for expansion and advise the founders and managers of other companies eager to realize greater profitability for their hard-earned work – i.e., ready to sell.

“We find people and others find us because they’re interested in a collaboration with high-growth, profitable brands in beverage alcohol,” Menashe states. “We’re agnostic about whether they’re looking to do an actual transaction.”

That said, Demeter Group helped facilitate the relatively recent sales of Seghesio Winery to Crimson Wine Group, J Vineyards to E&J Gallo Winery, and Benziger Family Winery to The Wine Group.

All three Sonoma County, CA wineries had been family-owned for decades and built from the ground up prior to the buyouts.

The question is, will such sales to large corporate interests fundamentally alter the successful identity of the wineries, especially among millennials who favor smaller, iconic brands?

Menashe says the buyers have already taken this into account.

“A lot of bigger wine companies cannot innovate quickly enough (to accommodate a changing market), so they’re looking to add a company like J Vineyards, which carries a premium $20 – $40 sparkling wine that’s interesting to millennials,” Menashe asserts.

Menashe suggests that more and more corporate buyers are opting to keep the existing structure of the companies they purchase intact in order to maximize brand stability and facilitate consumer loyalty.

“Benziger has more family members involved in the business now than when (The Wine Group) acquired it,” Menashe attests. “To help facilitate the brand … The Wine Group has learned that to keep it special, the front of the house will stay the same.”

Menashe believes that keeping the original owners visibly connected is a more recent practice that evolved from years of experience.

“We’re seeing more agreements that encourage ongoing involvement,” Menashe observes. “That’s changed over the last decade. It’s not as much tied to (the original owners) running the business, it’s more about freeing them up to focus on production and the evangelical part of the brand, as brand ambassadors. It’s making sure the company stays on the trajectory the founders put it on.”

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Benefits of Moderate Wine Drinking
01 April, 2016

Expert Editorial

There are numerous studies in the peer-reviewed scientific literature that conclude moderate alcohol consumption leads to increased lifespan. A recent paper from the Journal of Study on Alcohol and Drugs headed by Tim Stockwell, a psychology professor at the University of Victoria in Canada and the director of the Center for Addictions Research of BC, questions this conclusion.

Dr. Stockwell, indeed, has discovered a common thread of poor experimental design in his review and meta-analysis of 87 previous studies considering the relationship between alcohol consumption and all-cause mortality. It is a brilliant paper.

Dr. Stockwell in summation, “We can’t rule out that alcohol isn’t still preventing heart disease, but it’s balanced by the extent to which it’s causing cancers and other problems. There’s no safe level of drinking.” So, is Dr. Stockwell’s stand right? Is it time to join the teetotalers of the world in an enlightened quest for better health?

No. Dr. Stockwell has extrapolated his conclusions beyond the reach of his research.

Long lifespan alone is a poor measure of a life well lived. There are other and, arguably, more important measures for quality of life. Maintaining mental and physical abilities that allow independent living free of chronic and degenerative diseases is a more inclusive measure for quality of life (increased rectangularization of the survival curve).

Does moderate wine drinking promote this particular measure? Yes, and moderation is the key. Or, as Epicurus taught, “Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance.”

Too little oxygen is bad and too much oxygen will damage your lungs (pulmonary oxygen toxicity). Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables have strong support for lowering your risk for cancers and too much will cause hypothyroidism. Too little zinc will impair immune function and too much zinc will….. impair immune function. Upregulating mitochondrial function increases cellular energy, but, also, increases cellular oxidation that promotes cellular aging and genetic mutation.

The moral – maintaining life is an incredibly complex balance between antagonistic cellular functions.

The most common health related issues that diminish rectangularization of the survival curve  are cardiovascular disease (arteriosclerosis, hypertension), type II diabetes (metabolic syndrome), clotting disorders (stroke, thrombophlebitis) cognitive decline, cancer, osteoporosis, and loss of muscle mass and strength.

Study participants consuming wine regularly and moderately over time have shown lab test changes toward significantly higher HDL/LDL ratio and lower levels of C-reactive protein (inflammatory marker), fibrinogen factor VII, and plasminogen activator inhibitor. This translates to less risk for arterial disease and abnormal blood clotting that could trigger heart attacks, strokes, or thrombophlebitis.

Wine has been shown to be a promotor of nitric oxide (NO) release in the arterial endothelium under the influence of wine polyphenols and NO is associated with improved arterial wall elasticity, decrease arteriosclerosis, and blood pressure regulation. Interestingly, a four week intervention of wine consumption showed improved blood pressure relative to placebo controls.

A study published in March of this year in the Annals of Internal Medicine of normally abstinent adults with type II diabetes divided into a group that drank a daily glass of wine and a group that drank mineral water for two years showed a daily glass of wine improved glucose and lipid profiles.

Alcohol is undoubtedly mildly neurotoxic – alcoholism has long been associated with brain damage – and alcohol abuse is a risk factor for a number of different cancers. So is wine actually a fit for a healthy lifestyle?

Paradoxically, it would seem, wine is neuroprotective, also. Glycation is an inflammatory process promoted by type II diabetes that is strongly associated with dementias, including Alzheimer’s Disease, and wine has been shown to improve blood sugar regulation. Wine has also been shown to improve diabetic neuropathy and prevent the development of the abnormal brain proteins (amyloid beta-protein) associated with dementias. The wine polyphenol resveratrol has shown significant protection from hypoxia and chemical toxins of brain neurons.

Resveratrol has been shown to modulate biochemistry involved in multiple stages of carcinogenesis, generally. Wine polyphenols have shown protective effects for breast, colon, prostate, and pancreatic cancers, specifically.

Alas, wine won’t help your muscle mass or bone density. Wine is wonderful, but you need exercise, too!

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Mark ForceExpert Editorial
by Mark Force, Vinami

Mark Force is a chiropractic physician from the wonderful wine country of Ashland, Oregon. Dr. Force has practiced clinical nutrition, developed and run clinical studies for nutritional formulas, published in peer-reviewed journals, edited and contributed chapters to reference books for the physician, and taught functional medicine focused diagnostic and therapeutic methods to physicians of all disciplines for over 30 years.

Dr. Force has recently developed a patent-pending nutritional formula for eliminating wine intolerance/sensitivity, Vinami (


Six Exhibitors for the Small Grower at Unified
18 March, 2016

Unified Floor 2014In the weeks leading up to the Unified Wine & Grape Symposium, friends asked me if I were going. For my business, I wanted to go for up-to-date industry information. As a newly minted wine grape grower, having just sold my first commercial harvest in the fall of 2015, and as a seasoned home winemaker, I also wanted to go as a learning expedition, but I was concerned about what Unified could offer me personally. I decided that I would go to acquire knowledge for my main business, and hope that for my own grower interests, some vendors would speak with me if I said I only had 1000 vines.

As a micro-grower, I have different challenges than the big guys. I have no big orders to place (and no economies of scale, I fear!), so I don’t constitute a goodly chunk of revenue for whomever will do business with me. Sometimes I take leftovers if a large vineyard has ordered too much of something. Sometimes I split the expense of a pricey item with another small grower neighbor. Often I need to borrow something from grower-friends with bigger operations. Who knew a 5-foot weed-shearing implement (curtesy of Pourroy Vineyards) that cuts off weeds an inch below the surface, pulled by my 32-hp John Deere, could make such a difference in weed mitigation? Wow!

Setting out I felt uncertain of what I might find in the vendor section. My self-imposed task was simple; find out who was there of interest to a small grower, and if those vendors would give me the time of day.

GrippleNear the door I entered was the Gripple vendor, who seemed very friendly. He took the time to explain his product to me with a product demonstration (I like that you can back off the gripple down the wire with the little tool…handy if you mess up a bit on placement!), and told me where I could get them. Gripples are indispensable little devices which link one trellising wire around the other side of the post and to the other trellis wire. They can be tightened yearly if wires sag. Developed in the 80’s, this little beauty replaced the tedious, oft-poor job of binding to ends of a wire together tightly enough that the tension of a whole row of grapes wouldn’t pull it out.

After gripples I had to hunt a bit, but then I found a French product company who makes decomposing ties for the vineyard. They are a pleasant, unobtrusive tan color (also in green). How awesome. The company is called Exbanor from Lisieux, France, with a sales rep out of Pennsylvania. Since I hate looking at green plastic tape in the winter when all the leaves are gone, and then there is the cutting it off and picking it up at various stages of the vine’s growth and stability, I jumped on this stuff. Their representative, Michael Schmidt, was pleasant, demonstrating the plier tool for me with the tape. I don’t need the tool for my little plot, but fortunately they were selling the tape right there, so I bought a roll for $17.

IrrometerThen I talked to the people at Irrometer, who make soil moisture indicators. They explained how to set the stand-alone indicators at the correct depth for either vines, or my fruit trees, which was useful information. Even my small vineyard has a few soil differences between the low and high areas and clay patch, so that could be very useful.

Also in that same arena were Spectrum Technologies, Inc, who make complete sensor station systems measuring moisture, temperature, solar light, wind speed, pressure, etc. that hook into the web via satellite. They are geared towards mildew & pest reduction, and seemed mostly for larger vineyards. However, they did show me a stand-alone unit for small vineyards, which was intriguing, and Bridget, whom I spoke with, even followed up with me by email, which I considered highly professional.

Probably other small vineyard owners are also home winemakers, and my winemaker and consultant side interest was piqued by the friendly ReCoop Barrels people, out of Sebastopol, CA. Not only do they re-coop (shaved and re-toasted as well, of course) used barrels for large wineries, they sell re-cooped barrels at a reasonable price. With the price of a new (full-sized) French oak barrel approaching $1000, many large wineries essentially “rent” barrels from the cooperages. Small family wineries (or home winemakers!) that can’t afford new French oak may find this a reasonable alternative.

Oak Infusion SpiralNearby was Oak Infusion Spiral, offering oak spirals in a great size for the five-gallon glass carboys that we homebrew folks (and professionals alike) often need but seem hard to find. Out of Minnesota, they had great choices and gave tips on length of use, which Len Napolitano, sales manager, discussed with me. One of the only vendors giving away something useful (no more candy bars, please!), I appreciated their willingness to chat with me, offering up a sample and catalogue.

I skipped any financial services booths, and probably missed some vendors even though I felt I was being methodical. But all in all, I was pleased to find that after all, there was something for the small farmer at Unified.


A Look Inside Jean-Charles Boisset’s Dream
04 March, 2016


“This place represents a dream I’ve had forever,” says Jean-Charles Boisset introducing his media guests to the newJCB Tasting Salon and Atelier in Yountville. Boisset sketches and designs all the places of the JCB Collection himself, and his character shines through in each unique experience.

The opulence of 17th century French court tastes are represented in rich color with leopard prints, curved table legs, and crystal chandelier conveying Boisset’s fascination with history and luxury lifestyle.

Boisset is French, but this is not about francophilia. “I think I was born American; I was raised with American values,” says Boisset, “and I’ve been the biggest promoter of American wine.” It is about celebrating history and culture, both French and American, and about the very American idea of having a dream and living it.

The Graceful JCB No3, a Pinot Noir blend from Burgundy and Russian River Valley, is the embodiment of that Franco-American adventure. Boisset admits that it was a challenge to find the right vineyards that would work together for the blend, which in no way diminishes the achievement.

The JCB Collection as a whole is a mix of French and American wines, and with the new atelier takes that idea a step further offering the best luxury food brands from around the world in one place.

Ham sample

“Atelier is a place where you craft,” says Boisset, “here we have 1,200 products, 200 brands from people who craft.” The quality of the curated products is essential to the concept with just two or three of each thing, as is having a knowledgeable staff that can educate the visitors and communicate the luxury wine living experience that Boisset wants to create and share.

History, education, and French opulence might not sound fun, but merged in Boisset style, humor and entertainment is essential to the experience. “Most people just want to enjoy wine,” says Boisset, and the tasting lounge is designed to be an inspirational journey and lounge for people to enjoy the wine in new and different ways.

Mixed in with the wine, jewelry, art and luxury goods on display are curious and wacky things like, an interactive digital wine tasting table, strewn ceiling mirrors, as well as an S&M display case. And during the visit Boisset decided that the characteristic red JCB socks on display in the surrealist room (he was of course also wearing a pair himself), needed to be turned upside down.

Unfortunately, not everyone who visits the JCB Tasting Salon and Atelier will be able to have Boisset as their host with his wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm, but they will still be able to experience his character. Boisset is the JCB Collection. He’s not the winemaker, but he stylized the wine, selected the mix of wines from the regions he loves, curated the food and the art, and created the unique tasting experience.

See pictures from the JCB Tasting Salon and Atelier

Will Marijuana Be the Next Great Wine Industry Disruptor?
22 February, 2016

by Dawn Dolan

Weed vs WineThe biggest disruption to the American wine industry was Prohibition, which shut down some eighty percent of existing wineries in the period 1920-33. After the repeal, it took over 60 years for the number of U.S wineries to reach 1920 levels.

At the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium, one of the panels discussed historic and emerging disruptions to the wine industry. “The Power of Market Disruption: A Deep Dive into Wine Consumption Trends” provoked many exclamations and comments. The panel of four included Gilian Handelman from Jackson Family Wines, Joshua Greene from Wine & Spirits Magazine, Alice Feiring, author and journalist, and Tegan Passalacqua of Turley Cellars, and were perhaps only missing a broker or distributor’s point of view for this topic.

The disruptions facing the industry today are unlikely to be as fatal as Prohibition, but the panel pointed to marijuana, home winemaking, China, climate change, and tap & keg wine as potential challenges for the wine industry.

Perhaps the biggest unknown disruptor at this point, with California being on the brink of legalization, is the issue of marijuana. This topic exploded the audience into non-stop questioning and theorizing, and most of the other disruptor topics only received a cursory statement or two.

The question for the wine industry is whether marijuana consumption could replace any portion of wine (alcohol) consumption. The panel mentioned that there were statistics coming in from Colorado suggesting that the number of DUI’s has gone down since legalizing pot, perhaps pointing to a decreased consumption of alcohol. Complete statistics were not presented by the panel.

However, comparing statistics from the Colorado Department of Transportation, the National Highway Safety Administration, as well as the drunk driving statistics on the state of Colorado from, one can see that overall drunk driving incidences, as a percentage of total fatalities, tapered off in Colorado prior to the legalization of marijuana. It appears loosely correlated to the economic crisis in 2007-2008, when the percentages fell to the mid-thirties, compared to the high 50% range they were seeing in the early 1990’s.

Since legalization, traffic stops citing marijuana use have doubled. It is hard to extrapolate wine purchase and consumption from this data. However CBS-Colorado news agency posted that for 2014, the first year in which marijuana was legally for sale in retail establishments, “Colorado saw a sales increase last year in all three tax classes of alcohol. Beer was up 1.1 percent, liquor was up 3 percent, and wine was up 1.3 percent.”

Given just one year of statistics, no particular trend can be noted concerning Colorado’s wine consumption, although the statistics are initially reassuring to wineries marketing their wines in Colorado. Many of those in the Unified audience did not think that marijuana legalization would impact wine sales, citing a “different user base”. However the panel was clear in presenting that collectively, they appeared to consider this a genuine threat.

As various audience members pointed out, California has a rich and historic culture steeped in wine: wine growing, winemaking, wine history, and the highest total wine consumption in the US. (Shockingly, there are seven states that have a higher per capita consumption of wine than California, but it is made up for by the sheer number of Californians).

However, there is also a pot-culture here, and it remains to be seen if marijuana will be a worrisome disruptor of wine sales and wine consumption, and if so, which market segment is likely to suffer the greatest impact.

An audience member seated nearby mentioned under his breath that if it becomes a viable cash crop, it may not be far-fetched to see low-producing vineyards pulled out in favor of a new cash crop, complete with appellation labels. Oaksterdam University, founded in 2007 in a neighborhood of Oakland, CA, may become a front-runner in American education with cannabis horticulture being a newly minted area of study. Those sentiments are perhaps not as far-fetched as once thought?


G Ink Capabilities Showcased with Wintersun Labels and Capsules
08 February, 2016

G3 Enterprises are continuing to develop their G Ink technologies and have displayed label and capsule designs utilizing the bichromic, thermochromic, and photochromic features of their inks at the Unified Wine and Grape Symposium for the last two years.

This year, G3 Enterprises partnered with Affinity Creative Group, a San Francisco Bay Area strategic branding and package design firm, to create a concept wine bottle from scratch. The agency then created new package designs that clearly demonstrate how G Ink can support and enhance a wine brand’s expression on the shelf and in the consumer’s home environment.

“We worked with G3 Enterprises as if they were one of our winery clients, engaging us to develop a new brand,” explained Ed Rice, Director of Strategy at Affinity Creative Group. “We collaborated closely with G3 Enterprises to generate a name that would sound like a real winery brand name, while also suggesting the various effects made possible by the different G-ink options. The Affinity design team then went to work, developing a series of wine package (the cap and label works together as a complete package) for the new Wintersun brand, that would be aesthetically pleasing, relevant to the category and provide a compelling showcase for G Ink capabilities.”

Wintersun G Ink 920

For example, the Wintersun Sauvignon Blanc package was designed to be printed with Thermochromic G Ink, which is temperature sensitive and changes color when the wine is chilled and ready to drink.

“We did extensive measurements on wine packaged in glass bottles,” said John Cunningham, Director of Innovation at G3 Enterprises, “to be certain that the label and wine temperatures are very closely aligned during the chilling process, allowing the thermochromic ink to accurately indicate when the wine is at the recommended temperature to consume.”

The Wintersun Rose package features photochromic ink and changes when exposed to UV or Sunlight, and the Wintersun Red Blend utilizes the bichromic G Ink, which shifts distinctly in color and hue, helping to catch the eye when the bottle is viewed from different angles on the shelf and in the hand.

“Our past G Ink designs were unconventional,” said Cunningham, “and we decided, this year, we would showcase our technology in a more subtle way, showing that it could be used to augment an established brand’s image.”

“Our goal in creating the Wintersun brand and packaging systems was to show designers, marketers and winery owners how G Ink may be integrated into their existing or new labels and capsules. We found that just subtle use of one or more of the ink effects could go a long way to enhance shelf appeal and attract consumer attention,” said Ed Rice. “In fact, one of our clients noticed the Wintersun bottles on display in our office, and asked us to explore using G inks on their project, to see if they might be a good fit for their brand.”

See the video demonstration of the Wintersun packaging

Trendspotting: Wine Label Design 2016
18 January, 2016

by Christopher Hayes, Forthright Strategic Design

As millennial wine drinkers continue to trade up in price and quality, the number of imaginative, non-heritage brands are on the rise as well. These new brands build their personalities on metaphors, sensations and just plain attitude. Personality-driven brands are no longer the sole domain of the $10 and under price point. What all these non-heritage brands employ are imaginative names supported by impactful and unexpected visuals. The following are trend categories into which the majority of new brands seem to fall:

Sophisticated Horror

These dark and foreboding personalities are showing up in mass market brands like Carnivor, and in premium-priced offerings like The Prisoner. This trend has grown directly out of the black and red label explosion that began about five years ago with brands like Noble Vines 337 and Apothic Red.


Occult & Mysticism

Borrowing from the imagery of Freemasonry and the occult, this category leverages the current interest in secret societies such as the Illuminati. On a recent trip to our local grocery store, we counted no less than three different brands whose label depicted illustrations of “The Evil Eye.”


Vintage Poster Typography

Leveraging the visual language of Early American advertising, this category relies on dynamically drawn display typography rather than an identifiable illustration as the  base for its personality. This use of Victorian Era typographic embellishments on wine labels appears to have grown directly out of its use in the craft spirits category.


Single Color Etchings

Etchings on wine labels are no way new, but as of late there has been an explosion of one-color labels utilizing single-color etchings, woodcuts or illustrations. A hand-drawn illustration screams authentic and hand-crafted –and given the current interest in all things artisan, it’s easy to see why their use is on the rise.


Brown Labels & Copper Foil

Brown labels with copper foiling. In recent years, rich, dark brown has become hugely popular amongst luxury brands in the fashion world. Not surprisingly, dark brown is finding its way onto wine labels. For an eternity, the only acceptable execution of foil on a wine label was either silver or gold. Reminiscent of the copper stills popular in the craft cocktail bars, copper is the new metallic quality-queue that’s showing up all over.


The common thread running through all the above-mentioned trends might be best described as a “fictional authenticity.” With these brands, like works of literary fiction, the audience knows in advance they are about experience a product of someone’s imagination. When well executed, the personalities of these non-heritage brands allow wine drinkers to suspend their disbelief and take them to places they have never been before.


Christpher HayesExpert Editorial

by Christopher Hayes, Forthright Strategic Design

Christopher Hayes is the Principal and Creative Director ofForthright Strategic Design, a San Francisco branding and design firm that specializes in creating innovation brands for the wine and spirits industry.

Wine Premiumization Trend Builds Through Thanksgiving
30 December, 2015

The latest off-premise report from Nielsen indicates that the premium wine segment continues to perform well with consumers trading up for the holidays compared to last year.

“When looking at the wine data, specifically dollar growth rates across the 4, 13 and 52 week periods, we see that the 4 week generally has higher growth. That’s impressive as these data include Thanksgiving, which is always a major wine holiday,” Says Brian Lechner, Vice President – Group Client Director at Nielsen.

While the dollar volume for table wine is up 5% over the previous year total, the 4 week period ending December 5th, which includes Thanksgiving and the weeks leading up to it saw a 6.2% increase compared to the same period last year. This while the volume growth for the same periods were only 1.7% and 2.9% respectively.

The continuing drive towards premiumization can also be seen in the data for the $20+ segment, which saw a 9.5% dollar volume increase over the year and an impressive 12.9% boost over the same 4 week period. The strong performance also yielded this segment the top gains by volume in the 4 week period with 15.9% growth compared to the same period last year.

“This shows that premiumization continues to be a solid and sustained trend in the wine category that isn’t showing signs of abating, which is great news for the business,” says Lechner.

Nielsen 12-5-15 D1


A Toast to Father & Daughter Winemaking Teams
16 December, 2015

There’s a new generation in wine. Fathers and Sons working together is nothing new and certainly not exclusive to the wine industry, but women are increasingly breaking into wine, and some of them come from within established wine families.

Just in time for the holidays, we’d like to share some heartwarming stories about fathers and daughters that are making a difference in the wine business. Let’s meet Marc Mondavi and his daughters, Alycia and Angelina from Aloft Wines, along with Chuck Wagner and his daughter Jenny (Caymus and Emmolo), Kurt Schoeneman and his daughter, Sara, her husband Guy Pacurar and their daughter, Ella (Fathers & Daughters).

The Mondavi’s: A Lofty New Chapter in a Long Storied History

Mondavi photo - Marc Peter and Alycia

The Mondavi family has been making wine for over 70 years in the Napa Valley. With the purchase of 25 acres on Howell Mountain, Marc Mondavi created a new boutique brand called “Aloft,” focusing on premium single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon. Jim Barbour manages the property and Thomas Rivers Brown makes the wine. Since 2008, they’ve made 300 – 450 cases. Marc asked his daughter, Alycia to join the team and manage the brand in 2008.

We wondered about the unique family dynamics of both the father-daughter relationship and the sister-sister relationship. We asked her what make this project fun and what makes it challenging. 

Alycia Mondavi: Working together as a family has its advantages and its challenges.  Each of us brings to the table different strengths to produce the best wines we possibly can.  Although we have our occasional debates, we work well together knowing how to brainstorm off each other’s ideas, play with new concepts, or simply push each other’s buttons.  In the end we are always thrilled with outcome.

How do you divide up roles and responsibilities?

AM: The roles for Aloft have been divided based on strengths we each can offer.  My father Marc, had the vision of the brand and offers his years of managerial skills as well as his industry connections.  Marc knew Aloft needed a winemaker that understood Howell Mountain fruit and could make a wine that best showcased our Cold Springs property.  My sister Angelina, currently Assistant Winemaker for Hundred Acre, is brought in regularly to taste the wine as well as partner with my father and Thomas to create our Aloft Premiere Napa Valley 5 case Lot each year.  After Thomas bottles Aloft, I step in to manage packaging, marketing, and sales.

Has the experience brought you closer together as a family?

AM: We have always been a close family, however, Aloft has definitely taught us how to work together effectively.  With similar business goals, we constantly strive to better each other and work on the bigger picture.

Is there something unique that you feel your wine brings to the world?

AM: Although a small project, Aloft is the vision of family collaboration.  My father, sister and I have learned under the tutelage of Father and Grandfather Peter Mondavi Sr. Soon to be 101, Peter Sr. has taught each of us the foundation of the family business and even further, the foundation of the wine industry.  Aloft is the result of nurturing our life lessons and a nod to tradition.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share from working with your father/sister that other people might learn from?

AM: Listen!  Have healthy debates, but listening will help to strengthen any team.

The Wagners: A Family Brimming with Talent and Brands

Wagner Family WineMost have heard of Caymus, Meoimi and Belle Glos, names that make frequent appearances on wine lists and in wine shops everywhere, thanks to the efforts of Patriarch, Chuck Wagner, who started the brand in 1972 along with his father Charlie. Later, Chuck’s sons, Joe (Belle Glos) and Charlie (Mer Soleil and SILVER), became significant forces in the wine world with their own brands. It was inevitable that his daughter, Jenny, too, would have her own stage.

We asked Jenny Wagner to tell us the back story behind Emmolo. 

Jenny Wagner: Emmolo started with my Mom’s side of the family – it’s my Mom’s maiden name. The Emmolos came from Sicily to the Napa Valley in 1923, purchasing property in Rutherford and starting a rootstock nursery called Emmolo Nursery. My grandfather, Frank Emmolo, managed the business from the 1950s to the early 2000’s, being the main purveyor of quality rootstocks in Napa Valley during that time. My Mom, Cheryl Emmolo, started the Emmolo wine brand in 1994, producing Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from our Emmolo family vineyards in Rutherford and Oak Knoll.

By 2011, I had been working under the winemaking team at Caymus, and my Mom was ready to hand over the reigns at Emmolo. The timing was right. I re-launched Emmolo as part of Wagner Family of Wine and have continued making Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc from my grandparent’s vineyards. I learned how to make wine from hands-on experience working alongside my dad and brothers, just as they had done, and I’m still learning and trying out new ways of doing things both in the vineyards and the winery to make the best wine I possibly can.

What are some of the unique family dynamics of the father-daughter relationship? 

JW: I start out most days having a home cooked breakfast at my dad’s house. During that time we chat about my work for the day, and I can take some time to ask my dad any questions I might have, whether it be about production or marketing. It’s not all work talk – we always take a few minutes to play a game of cards before I head out the door! I love working with family. I feel fortunate to have my family as resources and role models when it comes to wine making. I take every opportunity I can to learn from my dad. We have a great relationship! My brothers and I each are responsible for our own wines and varieties, keeping some lighthearted competition, but we are all on our own page and not competing directly.

How do you divide up roles and responsibilities?

JW: We are all responsible for our own wines and varieties. I make Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc under Emmolo, Charlie makes Chardonnays under Mer Soleil, and Joey makes Pinot Noirs under Belle Glos. Before bottling I like to have my dad and brothers taste my final blends to get their feedback. We are not collectively working on one single project together, which makes it easy to keep our roles and responsibilities separate.

How has the experience of being in the same business brought you closer together as a family?

JW: Seeing each other around the winery almost every day keeps us all close. We jokingly give each other a hard time once in a while, but we are all there to support each other. When working the market, we all represent each others’ wines as part of the Wagner Family of Wine. I think we all feel fortunate that our forefathers ended up in the beautiful Napa Valley and made wine for many generations. Our goal is to continue the family business for generations to come.

Is there something unique that you feel your wines and Emmolo label brings to the world?

JW: My goal is to make unique wines, different from other Napa Valley Merlots and Sauvignon Blancs. As far as Merlot, I strive to make a concentrated, rich, ripe style that is not what people typically expect from a California merlot. I love Sancerres from the Loire Valley – those wines inspire me to make Sauvignon Blanc that is minerality-driven, has bright acidity, crisp, light, and non-herbaceous. I hope that people enjoy the Emmolo wines as being unique from other producers.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share from working with your father?

JW: The importance of listening. I have learned so much from my dad just by listening to him and taking in his wealth of knowledge when it comes to farming vines and winemaking. Aside from farming and winemaking, my dad loves genealogy. He loves learning stories about our first ancestors that settled in the Napa Valley in 1857. I have also learned to take pride in our pioneering ancestors who farmed the land that we farm today and are the reason why we are here in the Napa Valley. My dad has always been a hands-on farmer and winemaker without any professional training. He has passed down that innovative thinking to me and my brothers. We take that to heart and aren’t afraid to try new experiments that can’t be found in a book.

Every time I hop in my dad’s truck and we take a ride around the vineyards I listen and learn…

We asked Chuck Wagner to add his perspective.

Chuck Wagner

What are some of the unique family dynamics of the father-daughter relationship? 

CW: I get to see my adult kids more than most people because we work together. That’s a blessing. Jenny comes over almost every day for breakfast and we get to spend time together before work starts and get the chance to talk about work or anything really. The challenge is knowing when to give advice and when to back off and give my kids their space. I worked with my parents for many years when we started Caymus and got to know them as co-workers. When I’m working with my kids, I try to remember how my parents treated me and helped me get started. They were always supportive of me and I try to be supportive of my kids in the same way.

How do you divide up roles and responsibilities?

CW: Everyone has their own wine brand, runs their own company and makes their own decisions. This gives us the benefits of being close, but not too close. We have the chance to support each other and we find we get the most out of working as a family this way.

How has the experience of being in the same business brought you closer together as a family?

CW: Sheer proximity helps us keep close. Jenny probably didn’t mention this, but we share an office and sit about 6 feet from one another. She’s a very new mom, so we’re fixing up the room next door to our office for a nursery for my grandson.  That’s about as close as it gets.

And we all have the same goal – making great wine. We’re competitive with each other in a healthy way, but we all have each others’ back and help each other out. Because we run a business together – we have the same employees, equipment, offices – our future is connected.

Is there something unique that you feel your wines and Emmolo label bring to the world?

CW: I do believe that Caymus has created a signature style of Cabernet Sauvignon. Our climate is second to none for the development and ripening of Cabernet grapes. These unique conditions have led us away from the Bordeaux style, which is generally known for using grapes that are less ripe and for having harsher tannins and sharper acidity. I’m very excited about what Jenny is creating with Emmolo. Both her wines are making their mark – and her Merlot especially is a seriously good wine that I would even call great.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share from working with your daughter that other people might learn from?

CW: It’s great for me to see Jenny’s enthusiasm for farming and winemaking and her fresh perspective on the wine world. I’ve learned that daughters seem to listen more than sons. The boys want to do it their own way, but Jenny will ask me for advice and listen to it.

As a father, seeing Jenny’s work ethic, dedication, and sheer will to make a great wine makes me proud. I work with her and see those qualities day in and day out.  Jenny and her brothers are determined to forge their own paths and work hard at it.  Encouraging that independence is paying off in seeing them start to have their own success.

A Multi-Generational Label: Fathers & Daughters Wines, Anderson Valley

EllaG&SinQuad-eThough a relative newcomer in the world of wine, Fathers & Daughters proprietor, Guy Pacurar (who owns Brewery Gulch Inn) and his wife Sarah, daughter of Ferrington Vineyard owner/grower Kurt Schoeneman, have a solid foundation in their vineyard source. Ferrington Vineyard in Anderson Valley has long been providing premium Pinot to producers like Williams Seylem. When Guy and Sarah’s daughter, Ella, was born on July 23, 2012, they decided to create a special label. With Ella in a backpack, they rose at 4AM to pick grapes for their first vintage of Pinot. Says Pacurar, “We’re embarking on a multi-generational adventure, exploring three of the best things in life: Fathers, daughters and wine.”

We asked about the dynamics of this multi-generational father-daughter project.

Guy Pacurar: Sarah helped her dad find the vineyard in 1996. While Kurt developed Ferrington, it was Sarah who helped bring a family wine crafted from the Ferrington grapes to market. Sarah’s skills at marketing blend well with Kurt’s business acumen.

What makes it challenging?

GP: Each of the Fathers & Daughters involved are dynamic individuals with differing perspectives. Blending the different perspectives into a unified approach is probably the biggest challenge, but has also yielded the greatest result.

Is there something unique that you feel your wines bring to the world?

GP: When we came together to decide on a name for the brand, the collaboration of fathers and daughters made the choice apparent. We had no idea at the time how much that name would resonate with people. When we first poured at the Anderson Valley Pinot Festival, and then LA Winefest, fathers and daughters alike were drawn to our table because of the name and the memories of their relationships that it triggered.

Is there an observation or discovery that you would like to share?

GP: The value of incorporating different perspectives creates a greater end result.

The fingerprints of each of us are all over our wine. Much like wine, relationships mature and evolve over time, and the relationship between a father and daughter, like the fruit from the Ferrington vineyard, is both singular and special. This collaboration is a labor of love with the ultimate goal being the production of small quantities of fine wine and the creation of a legacy business that can be passed down through the generations.

While Ella seems more interested in her yellow sandals, yellow Porsche Matchbox car and her embroidered beanbag pillow than the vineyard at present, one figures that with her parents and grandparents vibrant interest in food, wine and hospitality, she will one day proudly pick and then pour, the wine that bears her name, “Ella’s Reserve” Pinot Noir.


Awards Recognize Importance of Wine Industry Innovators
02 December, 2015

Great wine is often the perfect blend of art and science. Winemakers clearly provide the art and deservedly, receive most of the credit. However, much of the science comes from the collaboration between wineries that are trying to make better wine, growing higher quality grapes and operating more efficiently, and the suppliers that provide the products and services needed to do so. While those companies or schools are rarely talked about in the magazines or wine bars, they are very much an integral player in the quality evolution taking place in the wine industry.

Wine Industry Network is proud to recognize five wine industry suppliers that have contributed to the progress of wine quality, sustainability, and marketing with their innovations. The WINnovation Awards were created to recognize companies or educational institutions for their achievement and their contribution. They represent the vanguard of innovation that is essential for the advancement and prosperity of our wine industry.

This year’s WINnovation winners are:

BlueMorphUV LLC

Alex Farren, CEO BlueMorph UV

Alex Farren, CEO BlueMorph UV

BlueMorph UV addresses two of the biggest challenges facing the industry, sustainability and water conservation. This new Ultraviolet (UV) sanitation product sanitizes tanks without the use of water or chemicals. Additionally, it requires a fraction of the man hours compared with traditional methods. The BlueMorph UV works by sliding the UV light emitter into the tank or keg and choosing a preprogrammed emission length based on the size of the tank to ensure a thorough sanitation. Exposure to the UV light effectively kills molds and bacteria in the tank. The BlueMorph UV is manufactured by Tom Beard and the first commercial full size BlueMorph UV unit was recently delivered to Jackson Family Wines.

Fruition Sciences Inc

Fruition Sciences

Virginie Scoarnec, Director of Sales & Marketing at Fruition Sciences

Fruition Sciences provides a powerful analytic tool for monitoring and diagnosing vineyard performances. It draws on data from labs, climate sensors, maps, and cutting-edge sap flow sensors installed directly on the vine to measure in real time and continuously the vine transpiration. This holistic plant-based approach helps the winegrower determine the needs, the response to practices, and to reduce waste while producing the best possible grapes.

G3 Enterprises – Zipz Single Serve Package

Art Massolo, President Zipz Global, and Tom Gallo, Vice President of Strategic Development - G3 Enterprises

Art Massolo, President Zipz Global, and Tom Gallo, Vice President of Strategic Development – G3 Enterprises

G3 Enterprises partnered with Zipz to bring the Zipz Single Serve Package to the wine industry. Consumer habits are evolving and the demand for a single-serve wine package, allowing flexibility, and convenience for the consumer, continues to grow. Investors saw this potential and jumped at it when the concept was first presented on Shark Tank in 2014. Since then Zipz and G3 have developed the next generation of high quality single serve packages and now the advanced bottling line ensures that premium wines stay fresh in eco-friendly PET with patented CleanWrap™ technology ensuring the lowest Total Package Oxygen possible. With Zips wineries have a single serve path to the consumer they can be confident will deliver the wine with the same  quality it was made.

Nomacorc – NomaSense PolyScan B200

Last year we recognized Nomacorc for their innovative Select Bio closure, but their pioneering work in oxygen management has also led them into measuring and managing oxygen levels pre- and post-bottling. The NomaSense PolyScan B200 analyzes the phenolic profile of a wine, from an electrochemical measurement of all the oxidizable compounds, and it can be applied directly in the winery, without sample preparation. This ability to measure phenolics at a routine level is crucial in the optimization of winemaking practices with the final aim of improving wine quality.

Vintage 99 Label – iQdio

Brian Lloyd, Director of Sales & Marketing - Vintage 99 Label

Brian Lloyd, Director of Sales & Marketing – Vintage 99 Label

Faced with massive competition for attention on the wall of wine, what can be done to stand out to the consumer? The new interactive wine labels, iQdio, from Vintage 99 Label allow the consumer to access information about a specific wine directly from their smartphone without having to download an app or navigate a website. Video and audio messages from the winemaker, or tasting and food paring suggestions enhance the consumer’s shopping and drinking experience, and at the same time an online dashboard tracks and provides real-time feedback and marketing analytics to help the brand manager optimize the message. iQdio bridges the gap between traditional wine labels and the next generation of wine drinkers, by engaging them with technology and brand identity.


Wine Industry Has Yet to Embrace Full Potential of Social Media Marketing
13 November, 2015

brito-michael_hsThere’s little doubt that social media marketing has become a cornerstone of modern-day communications and has revolutionized the way companies across the globe now do business. But if you ask some experts about the wine industry’s utilization of contemporary media platforms, many will opine privately and publicly that there’s lots of room for improvement.

Take Michael Brito, for instance. He’s the Head of Social Strategy for WCG, a global company offering comprehensive marketing and communication services to clients in healthcare, consumer products, entertainment and technology.

It’s Brito’s role to provide strategic guidance to his company’s clients by assisting them with content and message development, social media engagement and paid media outlet placement in order to successfully reach their stated target audiences.

As a result, he spends a lot of his professional time on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram and more.

When queried about how well he perceives the wine industry is doing in terms of adopting social media into basic outreach and sales strategies, Brito replies bluntly.

“Not very well at all.”

“If I’m tweeting publicly,” he explains, “or posting photos on Instagram, if I’m Mondavi or even a smaller winery, why isn’t anyone responding?” Brito asks. “Why am I not getting an invitation to visit your winery, or even an acknowledgement? I see it as a missed opportunity.”

Brito notes that, “everything we say online is public data.” He’s surprised that the wine industry as a whole isn’t accessing those data more effectively to reach their target audiences who regularly “check in” on Facebook during winery visits or post photos of themselves enjoying a glass of red wine in a scenic vineyard.

“Wine is a social beverage,” Brito argues. “It goes well with social media. If I’m a winery … I want to target every person who has mentioned wine in this zip code, tell them about our wine, invite them to events, performances, include them in winemaking seminars … I don’t see that happening.”

Brito is passionate about using data and analytics to, as he says, “deliver content at the right time, in the right way to the right customer.” He calls the concept “audience architecture.”

“When a winery can understand who their audience is – and not just about wine – but what other clusters of interests do they care about, they can begin to ask, how do we align our message in a way that’s consistent with our business and what our target audience is interested in?”

Brito will be bringing his insights to the North Coast Expo on December 3rd in Santa Rosa, CA during a conference session entitled “Brands, Big Lessons: Applying Marketing and Social Media Strategies Used Outside the Wine Industry.


He will be joined by fellow panelists Chuck Herman and Jessica Williams.

Herman is the Global Digital Analytics Manager for Intel. In his role, Herman provides strategic counsel to clients on a variety of topics that include digital analytics, measurement, online reputation, social media, investor relations and crisis communications.

Williams is the Global Innovation and Marketing Analytics Leader for VISA. She designs and executes digital and social marketing programs to enhance brand equity, achieve revenue initiatives, differentiate products, and drive effective marketing, communications, and business strategies.

Paul Mabray, the Chief Strategy Officer for VinTank, will moderate the session. Mabry is responsible for VinTank’s overall vision, strategic direction and product development. His 20 years of experience in the field have positioned him to play a key role in connecting emerging technologies for the wine industry.

For more information and conference registration, go to:


Dogfish Head Brings Successful “Off-Centered” Approach to Launch of New Spirits Line
30 October, 2015

Dogfish Head's Frankenstill

Dogfish Head’s Frankenstill

Dogfish Head, one of the nation’s largest, most successful craft breweries, is poised for a major expansion next month with the launch of its new, 100 percent “scratch-made” spirits line.

The Milton, Delaware-based company has enjoyed tremendous popularity with its self-described “off-centered” beers and ales since company president Sam Calagione founded it in June of 1995 in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware.

Then called Dogfish Head’s Brewings and Eats, the company’s first batch of Shelter Pale Ale was reportedly crafted in three small kegs fueled by propane burners. Paired with eats from the restaurant’s wood-fired grill, the reputation of the beer and the establishment grew rapidly.

In the summer of 2002, the company moved production up the road to Milton, DE into a new, 100,000 square foot facility to accommodate customer demand. At the same time, Calagione, who, according to Dogfish Head’s Distillery Manager James Montero “has a history of following his entrepreneurial instincts,” began experimenting with spirits as well.

“He actually cobbled together some farm equipment and fashioned it into a distilling unit,” Montero recounts. “We call it the Frankenstill. Dogfish Head has been using it for 12 years.”

Montero says the Frankenstill has been churning out a limited line of gins, rums and vodkas ever since, which are about to hit prime time. Production is being moved out of the Rehoboth pub into the new, custom-designed distillery in Milton, DE. He notes that the Frankenstill will not be retired; rather it will continue to be used for research and development, small batches.

Head Distiller Graham Hamblett

Head Distiller Graham Hamblett

Under the direction of head distiller Graham Hamblett, Dogfish Head will debut Dogfish Head Analog Vodka™, Compelling Gin™ and Whole Leaf Gin™. The spirits will be distilled in two, state-of-the-art 500-gallon copper stripping stills and a 250-gallon copper vodka column, sourced from Vendome Copper & Brass Works, a fourth-generation custom fabricator based out of Louisville, KY.

“You can make spirits from almost any type of raw material, we have chosen to start with the same ingredients that go into our beer,” says Hamblett. “In our process, everything starts in its rawest form, from scratch, and we will use the best ingredients available. We use a batch distillation approach through each stage. It’s a bit more work than other approaches, but it allows me to closely monitor and control each step of the distillation process.”

Montero says Dogfish Head will be targeting two primary consumer groups with its new spirits line. He describes them as “our core beer drinkers” and “those spirit drinkers not as familiar with the Dogfish brand or who don’t like beer. Dogfish Head will now have something to offer them.”

Dogfish Head Distillery

New Dogfish Head Distillery

Reflecting on Dogfish Head’s brewing and more recent distilling successes, Montero notes that, “The journey of discovery for craft beer has been going on for 20 years. Dogfish Head’s expansion gives us the opportunity to talk to these types of consumers. It’s early yet in this journey. People are just starting to spend more time thinking about the spirits they put in their craft cocktails.”

Montero acknowledges that Dogfish Head is not alone in riding the relatively recent trend into craft distilling. Claiming that there are between 80-100 new distilleries per year in the U.S. and two new craft breweries per day, he notes that there is “a lot of new liquid entering the market.”

“Dogfish is not new,” he points out. “We have a 20 year history for how this category gets big and grows … It’s important to have brand and product distinction … making the investment to bring your story to life, to stand out on the shelves.”

“As the competitive market heats up, you have to be thoughtful and focused about what you do best,” Montero goes on to say. “That’s what we’re about – doing things consistently with the Dogfish Head brand.”


Cabernet Outgrows Chardonnay Off-Premise Sales in Long Term Projection
19 October, 2015

Cab v ChaOver the last year the volume of Cabernet Sauvignon sold off-premise grew 4.8% compared to a 0.7% growth for Chardonnay, which has been the biggest varietal wine for decades, but may now have a serious threat to its dominance.

“If Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay continues to grow at the current rates, Cabernet will be the biggest variety in 3 years,” says Brian Lechner,Vice President – Group Client Director at Nielsen.

He attributes the advantage of Cabernet to a shift in generational behavior. Whereas Generation X wine drinkers tended to enter the category with white wines, Millennials are more likely to enter in the red wine category.

Growing Trends

Consumers continue to spend more on wine and more per bottle. Nielsen’s off-premise report shows a 4.5% growth in dollars spend on wine over the last year compared to the year before, but the trend is even stronger over the last quarter, a 5.7% growth, and the last month, 6.5%.

While volumes have grown as well, 1.5% by year, 2% by quarter, and 2.2% by month, the numbers are trailing dollars spend indicating that consumers are trading up. The price segment performance tells the same story with wines $9 and up showing significant growth with the biggest margins in the $15 to $19.99 segment, which grew 15.3% year over year.

Another category seeing continued growth is blended red wine with a 9% annual dollar value growth and 4.1% volume growth. Lechner says that the category has been identified by many as a segment with growth opportunity, and a high number of new SKUs have entered the market adding to this segment’s proliferation.

Categories in Decline

The three biggest varietal losers in annual dollar value decline.

  • Syrah -10.9%
  • White Zinfandel -6.2%
  • Merlot -3%

The decline of Australian wines in the U.S. Market is continuing, but may let up. While the category has dropped -5.5% in value year over year, the decline in the last quarter was only -2.7%, and a comparison between the drop in value and volume over the last month shows a steeper drop in volume -3.8% versus value -2.9%, which means that higher end brands are doing better than their lower end competitors.

Nielsen Wine B 9-12-15


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A Crowdfunded Winemaker’s Story
02 October, 2015

By Dawn Dolan

Katy Michaud is delighted to be the first winemaker from Washington selected to make a vintage, but just how does one get to be a winemaker for the crowdfunding wine platform?

According to Michaud, it can happen in a few ways.’s Angel investors can make a request, and if there’s enough interest to support a particular winemaker, they will ask that winemaker if he or she can work on a project for them. If you are a high-profile winemaker, and your wines are well known and loved, you may also get asked directly from to make a particular wine or vintage.

Katy Michaud

Lastly, Michaud said, that scouts for solid, up and coming winemakers that they feel their Angels would enjoy having on board. This last method is how she was asked to make wine for the organization. “I got a call asking if I’d be interested in being their first Washington winemaker. I’d seen people talking about on Facebook, so I tried to understand it as a company and it seemed really cool.”

Once she agreed, Michaud received a request to make a 2014 Columbia Valley Riesling. With her winemaking contacts and experience at Pacific Rim Wines, Washington’s second largest producer of wines, she was able to work out some vineyard lots in tanks that fit the taste profile she was shooting for.

“I was initially asked for 2,500 cases. A few months later they wanted to increase that number to 5,000.” Fortunately, given her access to many small lots of juice, Michaud was able to taste through samples and match the Riesling profile she’d already selected for presentation to

Her first release generated a high level of interest from the Angel community, with 82% of first time tasters saying they would purchase the Riesling again. Michaud was then asked to produce a 2015 vintage, and for this round, the request came in time for her to select vineyards before harvest. “Last year I needed a baseline to start with, so I created a Riesling with the residual sugar and acidity that most people want to see.”

Although the Angels did not get to weigh in on the initial offering, Michaud interacts with them frequently on the website. “It is a big job responding and engaging with them as the Angels are all very passionate about wine,” said Michaud, “There are times when ten or twenty people are chiming in with their real-time metric, and I try to always keep this in mind. By using the international federation sweetness scale, people can understand better about where it [the wine] falls.” (The International Riesling Foundation has aRiesling Taste Profile scale, used on millions of wine bottles in the U.S.) Michaud plans to keep the wine similar stylistically for the 2015 vintage, but reduce the residual sugar slightly, thanks to feedback from the Angels.

Katy Michaud Riesling

Angels, regardless of their level of experience with wine, can respond to the winemaker in a semi-anonymous way. Michaud feels that the anonymity lends a level of freedom in their comments, without the extremes of either tip-toeing around questions or comments, or the flip side of posturing that can happen when people talk together from the winemaking world.

The ownership of the wine is somewhat undefined to Michaud. She feels that she owns the style of the wine, and even the direction of the package and labeling, but ultimately, the Angels own the wine as they “own” the company, and they paid for the grapes.

Michaud was happy to work on the artistic direction of the label as this was her first stint with the process of complete creative label development. In her opinion, the label and the wine go hand-in-hand in expressing the character and style of the wine. She was looking for a package that represented the wine, with clean lines, no rounded corners, and without being too fussy. “I’m not whimsical,” Michaud says, “so like the clean expression of Riesling, the label design had to be crisp.”

Michaud has now been asked to make a white wine for the second consecutive year, and she speculates whether there is interest from the Angels to make something wackier, or whether to stick to a more mainstream wine. “I have the ability to pitch different wines to see if they’d like me to make something else for them.” At some point she may submit samples of different wine varietals and styles to see if they make the cut. Angels should stay tuned to see what else might be in this winemaker’s future.

Katy Michaud Washington Riesling 2014

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Beverage Diversification Key to Success in Competitive Marketplace
20 September, 2015

By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

Cross Beverage BrandsThere’s little doubt that the alcohol beverage industry is shifting. Consider this:

  • Tasting room menus in upstate New York are as likely to offer craft beer samples as Riesling or Cabernet Franc these days.
  • A well-established vineyard in Ohio became the first in the state to add a craft brewery to its operations, resulting in exponential growth.
  • In northern California, a Sebastopol winery brewed its first batch of craft cider in 2014 and now can’t keep up with the demand.

If these stories are any indication of what’s driving current alcohol beverage consumption, wineries that heed the call to diversification may be the ones positioning themselves for future success.

Take Chris Condos of Horse & Plow, an organic, biodynamic winery in northern California, for example.

Condos and his wife Suzanne, both winemakers, began their company in 2008 with a commitment to sustainability and to high quality, hand crafted wines. They started out with a modest production of 600 cases, which has grown to more than 4500 annually. They’ve enjoyed their achievements and pride themselves on sourcing organically grown grapes from Sonoma, Mendocino and Napa counties.

The couple was in for a real surprise when they purchased a 75-year old Gravenstein apple orchard in the Sebastopol area in 2012 and decided to try their collective hands at cider making.

“It started out as a little home, fun project that we could do out of our barn,” Chris recalls. “Our first commercial vintage was in 2014. It was crazy how successful it was.”

According to Condos, “demand is way outpacing the supply for cider, especially micro-ciders.” Horse & Plow made 500 cases last year; they will double their production this season. But Condos doesn’t see the recent popularity of cider interfering or competing with his wine business. Indeed, he’s optimistic about the overall concept of diversification.

“No, I don’t think people are giving up wine for cider,” Condos attests. “I think more people are branching out from beer to cider… cider and beer are linked up.”

“Diversity is a great thing on the agriculture side,” he goes on to say. “It’s a benefit to have apples and grapes instead of the monoculture of just vineyards or just apple orchards … the more people that are making cider the better. The competitiveness will only help the industry to produce better ciders.”

In the northern foothills of the Catskills Mountains near Charlottesville New York, the KyMar Farm Distillery has begun its own version of branching out, not from wine, but into it.

Quote Winery Got BeerThe company, which makes apple brandy, apple brandy liqueur and a sorghum-based spirit, has been distilling since 2011. According to co-founder and distiller Ken Wortz, when KyMar Farms went full-time and opened a tasting room, the need for beverage alternatives became obvious.

“It became important to have at least a couple of wines on the menu,” Wortz says, “so we could attract, say, a husband and wife, one who likes wine and one who likes spirits.”

Wortz and his team set about bringing in some Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes from New York’s Niagara region to address the issue. The results have been distinctly positive.

“It’s perfect,” he affirms. “We honestly do have something for every palate and taste.”

Like Condos, Wortz is encouraged by the growth of craft brewing industry and the nationwide implications that it has for his business.

“The current numbers show that craft brewing accounts for 15 to16 percent of all beer sales,” Wortz testifies. “The craft brewing industry is driving people toward acceptance to try other products. Craft distilling is less than five years old, really. Give it another 15 years. It would be nice to see craft distilling take that much of the market share.”

Market share is also on the mind of Tony Debevc Jr., the Managing Partner and Head Brewer at Cellar Rats Brewery in Madison, Ohio.

Cellar Rats Brewery is an offshoot of Debonne Vineyards, a winery that has been in Debevc’s family since 1916. Debonne boasts that it is the first winery in Ohio to add a brewery to its operations, which it did in 2008. Debevc, who is also VP of Operations at Debonne Vineyards, says the brewing was his idea.

“Beer was something I wanted to do,” Debevc admits. “You can only get so creative with a Chardonnay or Cabernet. With beer, you can get it done in 28 days and there’s so much variety … wine barrels, fruit barrels, different kinds of hops. … Every brewer across the United States is like an artist. It’s like their own rendition of a painting.”

Debevc notes that the addition of 10 craft beers to the 23 wines on the menu has fueled the family business in a big way.

“We have people who come to visit the winery and say ‘let’s just stay here. They’ve got beer.’ It hasn’t taken a hit on wine sales … it’s really gotten to where one goes with the other.”

Debevc does express concern about what he calls the “bursting of the craft beer bubble.” Citing a market that’s currently saturated with artisan beers, Debevc worries about shelf space competition for his company’s off-premise sales.

“If that sku isn’t making the average numbers for that (shelf) spot, you’re out and another guy is in,” Debevc warns. “With craft beer there’s zero customer loyalty. It’s getting cut throat because there are so many options.”

If the New York State Liquor Authority’s (SLA) numbers are correct, they bear out Debevc’s assessment that craft brewing across all categories is on the rise, creating more consumer options – and competition – than ever before.

The SLA reports that since 2011:

  • Farm wineries in New York have grown by 60 percent.
  • The number of micro-breweries has grown by nearly 200 percent
  • Cider producers have increased seven-fold, from 5 to 35.
  • Farm distilleries have increased from 10 to 78.

Jim Trezise, President of the New York Wine and Grape Foundation, recently submitted a paper to a wine marketing conference panel outlining his beliefs that such competition should be perceived as good, rather than threatening, for business.

In the document (emphasis his) he sums it up this way: “Consumers, especially Millennials, like to havechoices in the beverages they drink, not only among brands within a category, but across categories.

“Some tourists visiting winery tasting rooms simply do not like wine, but they do like beer, spirits or cider, so giving them options can increase tourist traffic and revenue.

“On policy issues, 90% of the time the four categories are in agreement and can present a much strongerunited front than just one (like wine).

We can choose to either expend negative energy trying to minimize the opportunities for our “competition” or pool positive energy creating a bigger pie for everyone.”

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Jackson Family Wine Buys BlueMorph Waterless Tank Sanitation System
18 September, 2015

BluemorphWednesday morning Tom Beard Companydelivered the first commercial BlueMorph UV sanitation unit to Jackson Family Wines in Windsor CA,  and Co-Founder and Alex Farren, CEO ofBlueMorph, was on site to hand it over the to an excited JFW team.

Over the past year Jackson Family Wines have been testing a prototype of the BlueMorph, a cutting edge technology especially designed to use ultraviolet light for tank sanitation, reducing or eliminating the use of water, power, and chemicals.

“At Jackson Family Wines, we are always looking for ways to make our high quality wines with the smallest possible environmental footprint,” said Julien Gervreau, Senior Sustainability Manager at JFW. “Water conservation is a key initiative for us, and finding a technology like BlueMorph that achieves the highest level of tank sanitation without using a drop of water to do so is a major step forward for the industry.”

Exposure to the UV light effectively kills molds and bacteria in the tank, and the BlueMorph works by sliding a 40 pound UV light emitter panel through the door at the bottom of the tank and choosing a preprogrammed emission length based on the size of the tank to ensure a thorough sanitation.

A 55 gallon tank cleans in as little as 6 minutes, while a hundred thousand gallon steel tank takes well over an hour, but with no water usage and very little labor and power.

After an initial demonstration, Cellar Master Dan Bothelo immediately started training his team on the use of the BlueMorph, including how to determine which program to use and the basic safety precautions when dealing with ultraviolet light.

The BlueMorph patented technology is manufactured by Tom Beard Company, and they will be bringing a unit to display at the North Coast Wine Industry Expo where Mark Theis, winemaker for Kendall Jackson will be part of the panel on Conservation, the New Innovation, discussing the BlueMorph and other conservation innovations.

See more photos of BlueMorph at Jackson Family Wines

How to Get a ‘Get’: Cultivating the Media by Not Asking for Anything
04 September, 2015

“I haven’t been able to taste (Your Winery Client’s Names Here) but would be happy to if they are willing to send samples.”

PR quoteSo came those magic words from a prominent blogger who I had been cultivating for a couple of years; and he asked me “If they are willing to send samples.” (Underlining is me). However, using the verb “cultivating” is not the right word – it suggests disingenuousness, doesn’t it? Admittedly I was engaging in the watering, feeding, and stroking of a member of the wine media, who I was trying to get to write something about my clients.

But I’m aware that the preceding paragraph is fraught with opening the sausage factory door and allowing a peek inside baseball (excuse the mixed metaphor), but the care and engaging with the wine press is nothing more than relationship-building. It is no more than a tool which a PR flack has to have in their quiver if one is to even have a chance to get a client’s wines in front of the media. But there are ways to do put your name and face and those of your client’s in front of a writer.

The only strategy – and this is imperative – is to do it with genuine, real, and honest engagement. Otherwise, frivolous attempts to flatter will be regarded as just that, bullshit. Writers and journalists know when they’re being being hoodwinked; it’s what they’re trained to do. Their radar – among the better ones (and those are the ones who have any gravitas that will mean anything to your client’s brand) – is as keen as a NSA wonk’s.

Fortunately, I come to PR as a journalist and so I know what is a real story, and I know when I’m being massaged for a message. Thus, you’ve gotta have a real winery story, a genuinely different story, and the pudding has got to be in the bottle. Otherwise, don’t bother.

One way to forge a relationship with a media member is to comment on a piece they’ve just written or posted to their site. But you’ve got to do it with sincerity and with a substantive statement that moves the conversation forward.

Or send a personal email praising the article, perhaps even making suggestions regarding tangential information, or even telling the writer that you don’t agree with what she or he wrote. If done in a respectful, genuous manner, it’ll connect.

But remember, and this is key: Never, ever ask for anything in any of these missives. Writers are always – and I mean always – getting hit upon to write about this wine and that. It will almost never get you anywhere.

The request from above (no, not that above) to receive samples from my client came unexpectedly – or serendipitously, if you will. Of course, it was a wonderful “get” from out of the blue. It’s also no guarantee that said writer will like the wines and therefore, not write about them. That’s OK. At least the winery and you are on that blogger’s radar.

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Positive Wine Industry Survey Results, but PR Efforts Still Needed
21 August, 2015


Survey results released by Sonoma State’s Wine Business Institute last week ran contrary to the impression given by several recent stories about the wine industry clashing with locals about vineyard and winery development.

In the survey of North Coast residents (Napa, Sonoma, and Lake Counties) 88% responded with either very positive (46%) or positive (42%) impressions of wineries impact on the quality of life in their county. However, the results don’t surprise the local wine industry associations.

“This survey confirms what I have been hearing as part of our own community engagement – the great majority of those polled support our industry, value our economic contributions and applaud our efforts to maintain the region’s agricultural heritage,” said Karissa Kruse, president of the Sonoma County Winegrowers.

In Napa, which scored the highest among the counties on the economic importance of the wine industry (76%) and the responsiveness of the industry to community concerns (63%), the vintners were pleased with the survey results as well.

“We find it very encouraging news that 88% of North Bay residents think wineries have a positive impact on the quality of life in their county and that 84% think the wine business is important in terms of economic impact in our communities,” said Patsy McGaughy, Communications Director Napa Valley Vintners. “Although we’ve seen similar positive impressions in community polls we’ve done, it is especially good to hear right now when there is such heightened concern in over winery development.”

Survey Impact by CountyWhile Lake County residents had a similar overall positive view of the wine industry, they ranked it lower both on economic importance (26%) and concerns of traffic and congestion (17%) than Napa and Sonoma County residents.

“Lake County’s wine industry, while small by many comparisons, is enjoying an exciting time of growth. This survey underscores the positive perceptions in the public’s eye about our industry and can serve as sign posts as we move into the future,” said Terry Dereniuk, Executive Director Lake County Winery Association.

Dereniuk stressed two key take-aways for Lake County, “One is the importance to the industry of communicating its value and impact on the Lake County economy, in terms of dollars and jobs that the industry generates, the ambience that it creates in the County, and its impact on tourism. The second thing that it reminded me of is the need to continue to listen to concerns that people bring forward and to work together to find common ground and workable solutions.”

Though the survey results largely show that the wine industry has managed to maintain good neighbor relations, they are not blind to the concerns of the community. “We remain committed to our sustainability efforts and working collaboratively with our local community to preserve the values, culture and agriculture landscape of Sonoma County,” said Kruse.

“We have also heard before and we do share our community’s concerns over traffic congestion, water use and responsible growth and development and we’re actively working on solutions to address these issues in Napa County,” said McGaughy. “For example, we helped fund the recent NCTPA traffic study that showed that most traffic problems (75% or more) in Napa County are caused by commuters or those driving through the valley on their way to another county to work.”

The NCTPA survey contradicted the common belief that tourists were to blame for congestion on Napa roads, but failed to dispel the misimpression. In Napa 63% of respondents still thought that wine businesses contributed a great deal to traffic and congestion.

“There is some degree of misinformation about the Napa Valley wine industry, and we see a bit of that reflected in this study – most Napa County residents don’t know that only 9% of Napa County is planted to grapes or that 95% of our local wineries are family-owned,” said McGaughy. McGauphy encourages locals to visit and come to their community events to learn more.

In fact, the charge by critics that the industry is dominated by “Big Wine” seem to be one that has some traction with residents 13% of whom think the industry mostly consists of large corporate business, opposed to 35% who thought most were small to medium-sized businesses. The remaining 46% believed there were roughly equal percentages of both.

More hard data, reports, and surveys on the impact of the industry may become a necessary tool for the wine industry in maintaining a good reputation in their communities in the face of their opponents’ criticisms, but getting the message out remains a challenge.

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Beer and Cider Marketers Understand Consumers Better Than Their Wine Counterparts
10 August, 2015

by Alan Goldfarb

Cidre not CiderIt was in the early '90s that the wine industry was falling all over itself in the horrified belief that it was going to lose an entire generation of 'Xers', who were not going to drink wine ever. Somehow, those 20 and 30 year olds came to wine as never before — as they matured. Those same demons once again, are knockin' at wine's door, and it's called beer and cider; and this time, maybe that door may not open.

That's because, beer and cider marketeers have figured out a way to open that portal for themselves, by selling their products as though they were wine. That is, cutesy critter branding has given way to edgy, anachronistic-seeming labeling that is trading heavily on constructs such as 'local' and 'craft'. Don't be surprised if a bittersweet chocolate-infused kale beer becomes the next-big-thing. Wait a moment: I'm told it already is.

Marketing like this has led the Dutch bank Rabobank to conclude: "Cider might be consumed more like beer, but the wine industry needs to come to terms with the fact that cider is not solely a threat to the beer category."

One only has to look at what's coming across our radar. Eric Asimov in the Times wrote a glowing half-page piece on something called Gose an heretofore obscure beer-type he had in Austin, the capital of hipsterdom. Or look at the idyllic full-page ad on what Stella Artois (a Budweiser brand) is calling 'Cidre', which sits alongside — a shuttlecock. Which leads one to assume that badminton will soon be a hip thing. Oh, they're telling me it already is.

Or read what Tom Wark, the PR veteran who reps some in the cider/beer industries, wrote via email: "It has always been the case that the number of beer drinkers in the U.S., outnumber the wine drinkers. And the key reason for this is that on an ounce-by-ounce basis, the vast majority of beers are less expensive than … wine. Additionally, because wine can be so expensive (and beer not so much), wine put out an air of elitism that turns off some."

'Elitism'. That notion has been attached to wine forever like a barnacle on a whale; and whether or not it's true, it doesn't matter. It may be a bubbameister (old wives tale), but it has stuck; and it's inherent to the product, no matter how hard wine tries to shed that yoke.

And it pisses me off.

I'm a wine guy and for nearly a half-century I've believed that wine needs no embellishments, no paraphernalia, and no gimmickry. If by striving to pair wine with food makes me an elitist, so what. I see the same ideas being promulgated as the beer and cider folks zealously promote their drink.

Consider: The Brewers Association has put out a 'Craft Beer and Food Pairing Chart.'

Consider: On a site called The Cyder(cq) Market, there's an article that states that cider should be thought of, in the same way a great wine or beer goes with certain dishes so too great cider finds a fervent following

When I suggest to Wark that another reason why beer appeals to a wider constituency is that a vast majority don't really understand wine he writes, "Yes, people do understand beer better than wine. It's not just that they THINK they understand it better, they really do. One reason for that is that wine is a more complicated drink with a far longer history of serious appreciation. Unlike beer, wine takes very seriously the issue of the difference in its ingredients and the place where those ingredients were grown.

"It all means that appreciating wine represents far more of a commitment than appreciating beer. Beer lovers may bristle at that idea but it's 100% true."

In the end, I think it is wine lovers who bristle. That's because that's what we do when younger generations, don't give a fig about wine and its perceived idiosyncrasies and lore. After all, to many, cider and beer are just drinks and another vehicle with which to get buzzed. The beer and cider marketers know this better than do wine folk.

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Alcohol Beverage Segments Finding Common Ground in Legislation and Marketplace
20 July, 2015

National Conference to Address New Market Realities in ‘Cross Industry Dialogue’

By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

WineAmericaAs millennial consumption continues to drive marketplace innovation and all sectors of the alcohol beverage industry are projected to rise, wine, beer, cider and spirits segments may be finding increasing reasons to work together for their proverbial common good.

A case in point is legislation recently introduced by Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) that would amend the current federal excise tax structure for all beverage alcohol.

The bill, S. 1562, is called “The Craft Beverage Reform and Modernization Act of 2015.” Key components of the legislation include consolidating a number of provisions in existing beer, cider and distilled spirits bills into one proposal and incorporating a change in the tax credit structure for all wineries, large and small. The bill also excludes aging periods for beer, wine, and distilled spirits from the production period, which could have beneficial effects on capitalization rules, particularly for distilleries.

Michael Kaiser, the Director of Public Affairs at WineAmerica, explains that under the bill’s provisions, all American wineries would receive a $1 per gallon tax credit on the first 30,000 gallons of wine produced and that small producers – defined as those making less than 2 million gallons of wine per year – are eligible for another 90 cent per gallon tax credit on wine up to 100,000 gallons.

Kaiser notes that certain aspects of the bill point to strength in numbers from a legislative standpoint.

“There were four different excise tax proposals out there, two for beer, one for spirits and one for cider,” Kaiser says. “Consolidating all of the bills together allows for a united front from those commodities on the legislation, and increases the chance for passage. The Brewers Association and the Beer Institute both supporting this legislation is quite impressive.”

beer-instituteAccording to the Beer Institute, a national trade organization representing beer brewers, importers and suppliers, the legislation provides much needed, comprehensive reform. The Institute reports that the Wyden proposal, and its counterpart in the House of Representatives (H.R. 2903):

Reduces the federal excise tax to $3.50 per barrel on the first 60,000 barrels for domestic brewersproducing fewer than 2 million barrels annually.

Reduces the federal excise tax to $16 per barrel on the first six million barrels for all other brewers and all beer importers.

Keeps the excise tax at the current $18 per barrel rate for barrelage over 6 million.

“This legislation is yet another critical step forward in addressing beer excise tax reform in a way that benefits everyone,” states Jim McGreevy, president and CEO of the Beer Institute. “It’s a great day when the entire brewing industry can support a solution to address an issue that has plagued us for too long. I’m excited to work jointly with the Brewer’s Association to reform the regressive federal tax on beer.”

Andrew Faulkner is Editor of Distiller Magazine, a publication of the American Distilling Institute. He reports that craft distilling is currently experiencing a 50 percent annual growth rate. Faulkner agrees that alcohol beverage groups could benefit by cooperation, noting that they are experiencing the same type of exponential changes in the marketplace, and have been for some time.

US Association Cider Makers“It’s important to see that if you take the curve of growth in family wineries since Prohibition, craft brewing since the 1960’s and craft distilling since the 1980’s … the curves are all identical,” Faulkner declares. “It’s the same trajectory upwards.”

That upward trajectory is perhaps most notable with the recent explosion in the American cider category. David Cordtz, a former winemaker turned Cider Master, says the cider market has jumped between 80 and 100 percent per year since 2012 and credits millennial consumption for much of that growth.

“Retail sales went from $150 million in 2011 to $1.1 billion in 2014,” Cordtz confirms. “Studies have been done … showing that volume in the cider category is driven by millennials; 50 percent men and 50 percent women.”

Cordtz, the founder and CEO of Sonoma Cider, also sits on the Board of the U.S. Association of Cider Makers. He opines that in such a dynamic and shifting marketplace, all alcohol beverage producers have lessons to learn from one another.

“I’ve always been amazed at how uninterested wine people are about cider,” Cordtz says wryly. “It is apple wine. From a flavor and stylistic perspective, it’s as good as some very fine wine out there. The wine industry could benefit from looking out of the box a little bit.”

Cordtz would like to see more cooperation between beverage producers on multiple levels.

“Working together is an awesome idea,” he attests. “Right now we’re divided and everybody is funding their own little (legislative) effort. If you could bring it all together it could be pretty powerful, just from that standpoint alone.”

USBevExpo_Logo-StackedGeorge Christie, President of the Wine Industry Network (WIN) and producer of the North Coast Wine Industry Expo, is in the process of launching a national beverage conference early next year to address many such issues. USBevX 2016, which isslated for February 16-18 in Washington, DC, is designed to bring together leaders and policy makers from the beer, wine, cider and spirits categories for a “cross industry dialogue.”

Christie says the motivation for the conference comes from an urgent need for beverage businesses to acknowledge how rapidly the competitive landscape is evolving into what he calls “the new normal.”

“While there are obvious differences between the products, primarily in production and taxation, they actually have a lot more in common than not, particularly with regard to the consumers they share,” Christie points out. “If you’re a winery, your competitive set is not just composed of other wineries anymore. If you want to remain successful, you better be paying attention to what else is going on in the beer, cider and craft spirits segments as well.”

According to Christie, the conference will be featuring topics and speakers to specifically address the changing business environment from a more holistic perspective that creates an ongoing conversation.

“Category leaders gathering on an annual basis to share learnings, best practices and to address common challenges just makes good business sense,” Christie says. “Our goal for USBevX 2016 is to help make that happen.”

For more USBevX2016 information and registration go to:  

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Her Side of the Story: Lessons & Insights from Central Coast Women Winemakers
06 July, 2015

By Laura Ness

Anna Marie dos Remedios

Anna Marie dos Remedios

While their ranks are steadily growing, women winemakers are still relatively rare in California, with about 10% of the total. One region where they are especially strong in numbers, though, is the Central Coast. We put some questions to four of them, including Anna Marie dos Remedios of Idle Hour in Carmel Valley, Sabrine Rodems of Wrath and Scratch in the Santa Lucia Highlands, Olivia Teutschel of Bargetto in Santa Cruz and Nicole Walsh of Bonny Doon and Ser, also in Santa Cruz.

  1.  What are the main obstacles for women who want to become winemakers?

AMDR:  To be honest, I do not feel that being a woman creates obstacles for us as winemakers, except maybe in the close-minded few who make the comment that we shouldn’t be driving forklifts or be pulling hoses, etc. I believe those men would be sexist no matter what we are doing. I think it takes a strong personality to persevere in this field: the work is tough, it takes all your capital to make it happen and it is so easy to fail, so the stress is real. Those are challenges any winemaker faces.

SR: I have always been in “physical” male-dominated jobs, first as a stagehand and now as a winemaker.  The biggest obstacle for men and women is putting yourself out there.  Saying, “this is what I know, and this is what I don’t know”, and being open minded and open to learning new things.  I learned how to be an electrician from “doing”….take the thermostat apart (make sure the breaker is off first!), but take it apart and compare it to one that works.  What is wrong?  And then also knowing when you need to call an electrician.

OT: Women have to prove themselves in the workplace mentally and physically more than men.  The cellar can be a very “manly” place, where brawn is very important to accomplish daily tasks.  It’s hard to gain experience in the cellar if some of the tasks are always dished out to the physically stronger men.  Mentally, women tend to be more emotional about things that are stressful (and harvest is stressful!).  I have a harder time relaxing than my male coworkers.  That could just be my personality, but in general I think women show those emotions more freely.

NW: Some of the main obstacles for women who want to become winemakers are physically related.  Cellar work requires heavy lifting!  It also requires a mechanical mind to fix pumps, change oil on compressors, fix glycol leaks, etc.   I think the stereotype of women might prevent them from getting a job in some situations.  If the winery is small and they don’t have a budget for extra people, I would bet they would want a man around for “fixing things” and moving heavy stuff.  A related example, this coming from another woman winemaker I know, recently commented to me that she didn’t want to have just a bunch of women working in the cellar this Fall.  I had to agree with her that we wanted some strong men around, as chauvinist as that sounds.  That said, I know I have become rather strong over the years and can fix my share of equipment.  However, it took time for these skills to develop.

  1.  Can you share a breakthrough experience or lesson?
Nicole Walsh

Nicole Walsh

AMDR: Over a decade ago, I was talking with a friend/mentor about white wines, when he shared a tank sample with me and I realized that I needed to know everything I could about this white wine, because it would be the first white wine I considered making: Viognier. A month later, I found myself flying in a plane to Condrieu to taste and learn.

SR: My breakthrough experiences have been in the past few years when people ask me my opinion and I actually feel like they are listening and care about the answer.  I think at some point you realize, “wow, I do know this stuff!”

OT: I will never forget my first harvest job interview.  I dressed up nicely, like I would for any interview.  When I arrived, the assistant winemaker (dressed casually and sweating through his baseball cap), took one look at me and explained how hard it is to work in the cellar during harvest.  He also mentioned that they’ve hired women in the past and some have quit before the harvest was over because they couldn’t handle the workload.  This immediately scared me; I had no experience in cellar work and was not even sure I wanted to be a winemaker.  I like a challenge so I took the job anyway.  From that day forward, I felt as if each day I was proving myself to that assistant winemaker and my other coworkers.  This experience truly helped me grow and taught me how to work hard in the cellar next to my male peers.  This first job in the cellar also sparked my interest in winemaking as a career.

NW: Since I started Ser, I believe a consistent lesson I am learning is to have confidence and faith in myself and in what I can accomplish.  I remember the weeks before I was about to open my wines for people for the first time, I couldn’t sleep and was a total wreck.  I was so worried and had thoughts and discussions with my husband to just bulk the wine out and forget the whole thing.  I remember pouring at my first tasting at Pinot Paradise in the spring of 2014 and having such positive feedback. It was an incredible feeling.  I am my worst critic and I’ve learned a lot of lessons since.

  1.  Is there something characteristic about wines made by women? If so what?
Sabrine Rodems

Sabrine Rodems

AMDR:  This may sound corny, but I would have to say, aromatics. I think women winemakers allow wines to ferment and age with less manipulation, resulting in wines of more restraint and more honest aromatics. When I say honest, I mean specific to the place and variety, not vanilla or toasty oak, or creamy butter, some of the flavors of manipulation. We all have expectations for what each variety brings to the table in terms of flavor, body and aromatics. I think women winemakers may make up 10% of the total number of winemakers in the state but have been more influential because of the quality of the wines produced comparatively speaking.

SR: I don’t think there is one characteristic.  I just think women are more intuitive when it comes to flavor and texture of wine.  We know when we like it and what we like about it.  I wish there were more female wine critics, because I think the vocabulary would become more interesting.

OT: I would have to say women winemakers tend to pay extra attention to detail.  I believe winemaking is all about details.  I’m not sure exactly how a wine’s characteristics change because of this attention, but I imagine these wines carry these details in their aromas, color, structure, flavor and finish.  I think this extra care and attention could potentially make for a more focused and clean wine.

NW: To be honest, I don’t know that I’ve tasted that many wines (perhaps unknowingly) made by women.  I know that I notice a big difference in the wines I am making for Ser and the wines I make for Bonny Doon.  I believe there is something transferred to wine by its maker, whether that is their intention or vision for the wine.  It is hard to express, but I notice a delicate texture with my wines.  A feminine quality or refinement that has been a consistent theme with my Ser wines.

  1.  Who is the woman winemaker you most admire?

AMDR: Cathy Corison. She has stuck to her guns and made her wines her way with subtlety and restraint despite their power, against the tide in Napa Valley. Now, with rising support for the “new California” style of restraint in wines, Corison’s wines are getting the acclaim they deserve.

SR: Carole Meredith was a professor of mine at UC Davis, and she and her husband make Lagier-Meredith.  I think Carole is a very no-nonsense, no-bullshit kind of a person, and I am like that too, so she gives me confidence to continue telling it like it is.  I am very non-marketing.  I think wine consumers can see right through most of the BS and it just makes the wine industry look aloof.  We need to restrategize about this angle because the industry and wine reviewers are ostracizing our own consumers.  People have more information at their fingertips, so when you try to tell them you “pick at 24.5” when the alcohol is 15%, you have some ‘splain’in’ to do.

OT: Kathryn Kennedy.  She was not only one of the first female winemakers in the California wine industry, but also one of the first in the Santa Cruz Mountains.  Her legacy lives on in her impressive success story and distinctive Cabernets.

NW: Lalou Bize-Leroy.  I was amazed by her wine and I love that she is given credit for building DRC into one of the most sought after wines of Burgundy.  After she was ousted from the company, she has made a name for herself especially among the best Biodynamic producers and leading Burgundy producers.  I, too, believe in Biodynamic farming, but until I can have my own vineyard, it is not that easy to come by BD vineyards to source from.

  1.  What’s the most annoying question people frequently ask you?
Olivia Teutschel

Olivia Teutschel

AMDR: “WHICH WINE IS YOUR FAVORITE?” Seriously it’s the most popular question I get in the tasting room. It usually takes me a moment to not answer sarcastically when I respond that I wouldn’t bottle a wine I didn’t love. I usually make a joke that the wines are my kids and that I love some more than others. I think people can relate to that. I try to explain that I believe wines change often and evolve so I try not to have that kind of expectation when tasting. I prefer to experience that “AHA” moment where I’m pleasantly surprised after tasting a wine I haven’t tried in awhile. That’s my joy in wine.

SR: I really don’t think there are annoying questions. What I don’t like is when people don’t taste wines because they “don’t like Chardonnay”, or “don’t like Pinot Noir.” People should be open to tasting.  They can always spit it out.  If you are paying for a tasting, taste everything!

OT: “Which wine is your wine?”  My first harvest as winemaker was 2014, but I also feel very connected to many 2013 wines that are being blending and bottled now.  I don’t believe the wines will dramatically change now that I am winemaker.  The winemakers before me have done well.  I plan to do the same and hope the vintages ahead treat me well!  Also, it’s really hard to name something as mine when it is really a team effort to produce wine; I’m very lucky to have dedicated and hardworking teammates in the cellar.

NW: What I have found frustrating at events is that it takes a lot of work to connect with people and get them to understand that this is my winery, that I make the wine, everything.  If I am pouring with my sales rep, Henning, they assume it is his winery.  He loves to introduce me, but sometimes we don’t get the chance.

  1.  If you were to use a wine type to describe yourself…what type would you be? Why?

AMDR: Cote Rotie, of the old feminine style, more grace and elegance than power. New Cote Rotie wines are aged in 100% new French Oak, powerful and structured and much more masculine. I think the old school Cote Rotie, structured from the granitic soils, took some softening from Viognier to make the wines approachable. It took time to see the beauty in them. I can be too structured sometimes in my personality, with high expectations for doing things so specifically. With experience, I’ve been able to soften my approach and expectations. It has just taken time to reach this stage in my career and my wines.

SR: Stemmy and edgy.

OT: Probably a Santa Cruz Mountain-style Pinot Noir.  People like to see me as delicate and feminine but in reality I’m not really either of those things, just like many Santa Cruz Mountain Pinot Noirs. 😉

NW: My favorite wine in the world is Barolo. I love Nebbiolo and I suppose I would like to describe myself with some of the same characteristics of these wines.  The wine appears delicate (typically light in color), have sensual aromatics, but also have surprising tannins, structure and strength.  In the best I’ve had the pleasure of tasting, there is an inner joy that is expressed along with a bright, lively nature.

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The Value of a Wine Education
15 June, 2015

Ray Johnson WINnovation

Ray Johnson accepts a 2014 WINnovation Award on behalf of the Sonoma State Wine Business Institute

“Wine education won’t necessarily sell wine, but it gives you a reference to sell wine.”

So says Rick Toyota, the Director of Hospitality and Sales at Francis Ford Coppola Winery in Geyserville, California.

Toyota is discussing the relatively recent emergence of degree and certificate programs offered to prepare people for a variety of skilled positions within the complex world of wine. Navigating the options can be difficult, according to the experts, but potentially advantageous.

Toyota is a Certified Wine Educator and has completed the Advanced Level Exam through the Court of Master Sommeliers. He’s is a firm believer in the value of a wine education.

“I felt it was important for my credibility as a wine professional,” Toyota attests. “Even that first level (exam) was recognized by the industry … it played a role with my first wine job … because it showed that I had some level of wine background.”

Toyota’s passion for wine and wine education is reflected in his current position. He’s created an annual 20-week study program for company staff interested in expanding their knowledge about wine. He believes a more global perspective is critical to effective wine sales.

“For example, a California versus an Australian Shiraz – very different styles,” Toyota explains. “If someone is interested in an Australian-style Shiraz and comes into our winery, it may be a Bordeaux blend I show that person, not a California Syrah. It’s that background of understanding that I think is important.”

David Glancy is the founder of the San Francisco Wine School, an organization he launched in 2011 to provide, as his website states “world-class wine education and professional development for successful careers in the wine industry.”

Glancy himself is a Master Sommelier and Certified Wine Educator. He said his inspiration for creating the San Francisco Wine School came, in part, from his own experience trying to obtain an education.

“Everything was sort of self-study, frustrating,” Glancy admits. “I took a class here and there just to have a deadline … My path shaped what I saw was needed: an easier, better and more direct way to get there.”

Glancy proceeded to design a flexible itinerary to ready his students for credentialed testing through the prestigious Court of Master Sommeliers. Through the work, Glancy discovered that not everyone pursuing wine education has a master sommelier goal in mind.

“There were people who were never going to do that,” he notes. “They wanted to open a wine bar, become a wine writer … there are so many different career paths. I wanted to create different options to help people … something more tailored to their (individual) career goals.”

San Francisco Wine School currently offers multiple classes and workshops that take anywhere from several weeks to several months to complete. They cover a wide range of interest levels in the areas of hospitality, retail, distribution, journalism, marketing/PR, consulting, education and more.

The school’s instructors are all certified through four major credentialing bodies, including; Master Sommelier Diplomas from Court of Master Sommeliers; Diploma in Wine & Spirits from Wine & Spirits Education Trust (WSET); Certified Wine Educators from Society of Wine Educators; Master of Wine from Institute of Masters of Wine.

The Wine Industry Sales Education (WISE) Academy was co-founded by Lesley Berglund in 2008 to address, according to its website “an urgent need for well-educated, direct marketing proficient staff, managers and leaders in all aspects related to consumer direct sales programs.”

Berglund had been working with wine-related businesses since 1991 when she realized that a deficit in direct to consumer (DTC) sales education existed.

“In one week I got 10 different calls from 10 different wineries looking for new DTC people,” Berglund testifies. “Strangely, the old people were still in the job. Clearly, the need outstripped the labor pool.”

Berglund responded by creating a host of different certification programs in direct to consumer education, as well as a leadership program to help shape DTC strategic thinking skills. Five of the WISE certificates are for tasting room, wine club, sales and data management professionals, four are leadership certificates in those areas and another five are workshops designed for managers covering people management, finance, budgeting, DTC metrics and public speaking.

Berglund says the WISE Academy is both well-known and well-respected industry wide.

“We are starting to see wineries that know and work with WISE … have it in their job ads; “WISE certified preferred,” Berglund attests. “Some wineries use WISE as a benefit for employees. For those with personal experience with WISE, (the certification) means a lot.”

Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute offers graduate and undergraduate degrees, as well as shorter certificate programs centered exclusively on wine business practices.

Ray Johnson, the institute’s director, claims that “we’ve become a global leader in wine business research and education” and says the program is the only one of its kind in North America.

“When you look at geography, you see that we’re seated in this triangle of Napa, Sonoma and San Francisco,” Johnson says. “That’s a hub of a lot of wine industry success in California.”

The beauty of Sonoma State’s program, according to Johnson, is that participants are being taught by industry professionals and professors who have built successful brands over time, which can then translate into fantastic networking opportunities outside the classroom.

“Students study with us, and then they become connected and form a network of colleagues they can rely on,” Johnson confirms. “They can form their own advisory program; their own problem solving team. It’s pretty incredible to have that kind of brain trust around you.”

George Hamel, of Hamel Family Wines is a true believer in Sonoma State’s program. Not only did he obtain an MBA there, but he also sits on the institute’s board of directors and has hired several of the program’s graduates for positions in his own business, Hamel Family Wines.

“In general terms, my dad and I think we know the characteristics that make a business successful,” Hamel states, “but the wine industry is a different beast. It’s great to have the Wine Business Institute to provide a formal education as a foundation to use as we build Hamel Family Wines.”

Hamel has recently hired an Operations Manager, a Wine Ambassador, and a Hospitality/Marketing intern who were educated through Sonoma State’s program.

“I’m confident in these individuals and their education to immediately apply their skillset to the position they were hired for and immediately contribute,” he affirms.

Anisya Fritz, co-proprietor of Lynmar Estate in the Russian River Valley, teaches a course on wine business entrepreneurship through the Wine Business Institute. While she is a huge supporter of Sonoma State’s program, she’s more cautious about wine education generally, pointing out that many courses of study are relatively new and unproven.

“My experience has found that whether you have a wine education or not is not necessarily related to success,” Fritz notes. “It depends on the role. A person with a wine business education or a wine tasting certificate tells me they’re interested in the industry. Does it mean they have the skills for the job? No.”

Fritz believes, as she says, “that practice based learning is necessary to create professionals, even with an education.”  She also thinks it’s incumbent on the industry itself to do a better job of developing staff and bringing people up through the ranks.

“It’s important for wineries to have good, entry-level training programs for people coming into the industry,” Fritz opines. “There’s no real defined career path in the wine industry. You have to find your own way to navigate.”

Without doubt, wine education is a big plus if you’re trying to carve a career path in the wine industry, and there are several programs recognized and valued by the industry. However, with the wide variety of jobs in the industry, there’s no substitute for immersion, so come prepared and be ready to continue learning in this evolving beverage business.

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Wine PR: Doing Due Diligence Thru the Blogosphere Miasma
03 June, 2015

What is a flack to do? When winewriters are dropping off the face of the Earth faster than icebergs, to whom does a winery publicist turn to get PR/accolades/reviews when the writer pool is evaporating?

Why, just last week, Bill St. John – one of the country’s most important wine columnists – in an email, announced that the Chicago Tribune– one of the country’s last remaining important papers – has cut his longtime column?

Or take the tale of woe of Gail Appleson, the wine writer for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch – when I asked her last week to meet with one of my clients, who was making a market trip to her hometown – who told me her paper cut her column down to 250 words; and has limited her to write about wines under $15 “although on rare occasions, I can go up to $25.”

“Now, the section is edited by someone who handles a bunch of other areas and isn’t particularly interested in wine.”

Well, perhaps Ms. Appleson’s new editor is more interested in beer and/or cocktails. Either way, 250 words is tantamount to saying hello and goodbye in the same breathe; and effectively turns wine to water.

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Craft; a Term in Controversy
18 May, 2015

GrumpyVodkaLabelGoing into the Craft Beverage Expo held last week at the Santa Clara Convention Center, my curiosity was piqued by the very use of the term, “craft”. How can it be applied to companies that have reached the size and scope of Firestone, and in the same breath be used on a tiny brand like Bootstrap Brewing in Niwot, CO? It seems this is a rather universally held curiosity: it was a lively topic during the opening remarks at the Expo during Thursday morning’s presentation featuring Paul Evers, President and Chief Creative Director of tbd agency (sic), and it resonated with everyone interviewed for this story. Controversy

Even lawyers who don’t like to weigh in on controversial topics were happy to give their personal impressions of what this term actually means, or, perhaps more importantly, what they would like it to mean.

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Sonoma’s First Barrel Auction – They Did It Their Way
08 May, 2015

IMG_0055It is about 6:00 p.m. on Friday May 1. Less than 32 hours ago I began a whirlwind 2 days in the company of some of the world’s most recognized sommeliers, press, vintners, and winemakers as the Sonoma County Vintners (SOCO) presented its First Barrel Auction. The event mirrors in its concept and goals what Napa refers to as “Premiere Napa” by offering retailers and distributors from around the world an opportunity to bid on lots offered by the region’s vintners – in Sonoma County, usually 5, 10, or 20 cases per lot. Funds received do not go to the wineries, which donate the goods, but to the Sonoma County Vintners Trade Group, which uses much of the money for operations and promoting Sonoma wines – all to the good. And this year they raised nearly a half million dollars.

Read the full story by Monty Preiser on the Wine Industry Advisor

Making Wine on Shaky Ground: Industry Looks for Answers to Seismic Safety in the Cellar
27 April, 2015

The 6.0 earthquake that shook Napa Valley in the wee hours of the morning last August did a lot more than rattle nerves and break a few bottles of fine wine. In addition to taking the life of at least one person and injuring more than a hundred others, the trembler knocked out power to thousands of homes, cost millions in damages and prompted President Obama to declare the area a federal disaster zone.1

The seriousness of that event and the potential for an even more devastating quake down the line has prompted industry leaders to seek more innovative methods of protecting their personnel and financial investments in the cellar. According to those grappling with the problem, the solutions aren’t exactly easy – or inexpensive.

Mike Blom is the owner of Napa Barrel Care, a 20,000 barrel storage facility located in the heart of the Napa Valley. To say that his company suffered major damages during last year’s quake would be an understatement.

“It shut down our ability to operate,” Blom admits. “We went into triage mode. Some barrels were fully intact, some were damaged, and some couldn’t be salvaged. We had to figure out how to put Humpty Dumpty back together again.”

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Do I really need Over the Vine Water for Frost Protection?
20 April, 2015

expert-editorialIf you are in an area that has limited (or maybe zero) water available for frost protection, is there anything that you can do to mitigate the frost risk to your vineyard? In some areas, such as Mendocino county or Pope Valley for example, the conventional wisdom is that water is the only effective method to protect against frost. But is that true?

Well, the answer is…maybe. To clarify, first we must understand the frost risks and how different methods protect and then choose the correct tools to deal with the problem.

The blunt fact is that areas such as Pope Valley or Mendocino County simply are not suited to growing wine grapes. It gets too cold, too early. Plants are genetically predetermined to come out of dormancy at a particular time and if that time is prior to when the region would normally experience its last winter storm of the season (called advection freeze), then that crop or variety is not suited to growing there. The judicious advice is to plant crops and varieties that come out of dormancy after the time the region normally experiences its last winter storm event. When economics make it viable to overcome the occasional deep freeze such as it is in these areas then extraordinary measures might be appropriate and financially beneficial, and after all isn’t that what it’s all about?

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Industry Entrepreneur Paul Mabray Reflects on W2O’s Acquisition of VinTank
30 March, 2015

Paul Mabray

Paul Mabray

Paul Mabray’s mantra for the wine industry has consistently been “in a world with infinite wine choices, the only differentiator is service.”

That mantra, which led to the creation of VinTank, a social media management platform that has revolutionized the way wineries interact with their customers, will now be applied to companies and industries far outside the relatively narrow bandwidth of wine.

W2O Group, an independent network of marketing, communications, research and development firms, announced that it has acquired VinTank to “to enable and enhance its technology-enabled client service offerings,” according to a press release made public Monday. W2O Group’s network includes WCG, Twist, BrewLife and W2O Ventures. The company has 11 offices in the United States and Europe.

For Mabray, the acquisition of the enterprise he co-founded with colleague James Jory is beyond exciting; it’s an extension of his self-made, dream come true.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Why Counteroffers Do Not Work
30 March, 2015

WIN Jobs green

Mitroff Consulting & Associates is a WIN Jobs partner

“Buying” an employee back when they try to resign, a counteroffer, rarely works out, even in the short run. Ninety-eight percent of the time, the employee leaves within six months to a year and a half, and often with more acrimony than the first attempt.

Counteroffers rarely work out because:

  1. Management makes a counteroffer to solve an immediate problem. You got caught off guard. Management had to do something quickly. Later, when the      realization comes to mind you were “blackmailed”, held up by an employee who was unhappy and leaving, and you were taken advantaged of, this will cause resentment.
  2. The trusted relationship between management and employee is broken – it is not the same anymore. In essence, the employee fired management and/or the company or they at least tried to do so. No one likes to be fired.

Read the full article by Mitroff Consulting on the Wine Industry Advisor

Picking the Right Dance Partner for Your Product Distribution
25 March, 2015


As a winery, distillery, or brewer there will come a time when you will outgrow the trunk of your delivery car. There will be many sleepless nights thinking about the fact that you have a beverage that you believe in but have no idea how to share that passion with the rest of the world. There will come a time when you will get, what I call, Distributor Freak!

I have said many times before, either at my time in private consulting or as CEO of Sam’s Wines in Chicago, that the key to success is not just the product, but a combination of the product, the distribution, and the timing. We at @rosenretail believe this to be 100% true, and the three above “buzz words”; product, distribution, timing, are the difference between being another vodka or Tito’s. Picking your distribution partner, whether it is for wine, liquor, or beer will be the key to your success.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Survey Shows Vineyard Planting Trends Down for California, Up for Washington State
23 March, 2015

2015 new plantingsA recently completed benchmarking survey indicates that replanting and new vineyard plantings are slightly down for California in 2014 and up by five percent or more for Washington State, with those trends expected to prevail for both wine regions well into the 2015 planting season and beyond.

The 2015 Winery and Grower Benchmarking Survey, conducted by Moss Adams, LLP, Farm Credit and Turrentine Brokerage, looked at yields per acre, spot market grape prices, planting trends and participant observed future trends throughout California and the Pacific Northwest for both 2014 and 2015. It also examined a number of significant winery issues related to pricing, production and overallindustry operations.

According to its authors, the study was done at the end of last season to assess the “post-harvest mindset” going into the New Year from both grower and winery perspectives.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Winemakers Share Best Practices and Equipment That Contribute to Efficiency in the Cellar
09 March, 2015

The first quarter is arguably one of the busiest periods in the annual cycle for winemakers and their cellar teams. But it is also an exciting opportunity to put the newest cellar tools and training to the test. During these crucial months, winemakers are engaged in the complicated practices of overseeing the progress of the current vintage, as well as readying earlier vintages for further production and bottling.

“February is a busy month,” confirms Matt Crafton, Winemaker at Chateau Montelena in the Napa Valley. “It’s the first accurate snapshot about how everything came together during the last harvest … the first time to get that retrospective. It’s a time of year I look forward to.”

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Marketing a Brand in the Contemporary Marketplace Calls for Innovative Strategies
02 February, 2015

brandmarketing qEver since Prohibition was repealed by the 21stAmendment in 1933, alcohol sales have been dominated by a 3-tier distribution system that’s created both huge profits and big headaches for those involved in the adult beverage industry.

But that tried-and true paradigm could be shifting.

In 2015, producers, distributors and retailers alike are grappling with new market realities that are calling into question traditional models, especially as market consolidation grows for outlet giants like Costco and millennials on smart phones dance their way into the drinking years.

“There are only so many livers out there,” quips Brian D. Rosen, owner of the Rosen Retailer Method, a recognized authority on sales and marketing techniques across all sectors of the alcohol beverage industry.

“There’s an overabundance of competition and an under abundance of new drinkers,” he explains. “New products are being created everyday; sports drinks, power drinks with alcohol, near beer … and millennials are indifferent to brand loyalty. They hop ship all the time.”

Read the full article by Elizabeth Hans McCrone on the Wine Industry Advisor.

5 Major Trends in the Adult Beverage Industry
14 January, 2015

expert-editorialHappy New Year! 2015 is here, and while most of the country is gripped by an evil wind chill, we still, regardless, must turn our attention back to alcohol beverage sales and look ahead, plan forward, and create a business model that will carry us this current year.

For most of my retail clients 2014 ended flat to moderately up. I work with a large chain in Southern Florida, and their results seem to be symbolic of three tier system beverage players through America. We are happy to have made it out alive! That sentiment seems to echo the majority of suppliers, retailers, brands, and distributors alike.

Let’s close the book on 2014, gladly, and look to 2015 and see what Rosen Retail thinks will be the 5 major trends in the adult beverage industry for the year.

Read the full expert editorial by Brian Rosen on the Wine Industry Advisor.

And the best wine retailer in America is?
10 November, 2014

expert-editorialIn my travels and lectures I am often asked, and by often I mean many times a day, who I feel the best retailer in US is, and should distributor X and supplier Y sell their wines/ spirits/crafts there?

I would pay attention wineries, suppliers, and distributors. There is going to be a public backlash when the independent grocer and wine retailers continue to suffer from attrition. US consumers want choice, and that choice is being taken away as distributors cut sales forces and focus on high revenue stores. That prom queen focus will eventually kill the small retailer as they will not have access to goods, pricing, and new releases.

Drum roll please… in my opinion, the best retailer of wine in America is Trader Joe’s.

Read the full article by Brian D Rosen on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Ignorance of the Endangered Species Act Could be Costly for Vineyards and Wineries
24 October, 2014

Diane Kindermann

When President Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act (ESA) into law on December 28, 1973, it must have been hard to predict how the legislation would impact agricultural practices decades into the future.

At the time, Nixon declared that conservation efforts aimed at preventing the extinction of species were inadequate and that the ESA “… grants the Government both the authority to make early identification of endangered species and the means to act quickly and thoroughly to save them from extinction.” (

More than forty years later, the wine industry is still grappling with what, exactly, the law means and how it affects their ability to do business.

“It affects land use and animals, sediment in creeks, spawning beds, stream flows and fish … as well as endangered plants and the need to preserve or mitigate. It’s a big liability,” states Nick Frey, Public Relations and Brand Ambassador for Balletto Vineyards.

Frey notes that while both wineries and vineyard owners are subject to ESA regulation, it’s growers that need to be particularly alert to what the Act means to vineyard operations – and not only at the federal level.

“In order to plant a vineyard in Sonoma County, you need to have a permit, and that means coordinating with a number of agencies, locally and from the state,” Frey contends. “Those agencies can offer habitat conservation plans that cost millions of dollars and take years to implement, which just isn’t feasible … It can be really difficult to work through the morass.”

In order to help industry professionals make sense of such regulatory complexities, the Wine Industry Network (WIN) is devoting a conference session to this topic at the upcoming North Coast Wine Industry Expo called  “Wine and the Endangered Species Act (ESA): Avoid Pitfalls and Successfully Navigate Current Policy.”

Frey, also the former President of the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission, will be the session moderator. Dianne Kindermann Henderson, attorney partner with Abbott & Kindermann, is one of the panelists.

“The federal and state ESAs prohibit and tightly regulate otherwise legal land uses such as farming and development, with no compensation for loss of that use,” Kindermann Henderson attests. “It’s important to know about the ESAs because they are punitive in nature and fines can be attached for violations. It’s also important (to know about them) if you want to provide protected habitat on your property.”

Kindermann Henderson, who has been practicing in the area of environmental land use and real estate law since 1989, says one of the topics she plans to focus on during the conference session is the importance of handling an onsite visit from a government agency.

“I intend to give specific tips on how you and your staff should handle a site visit with a regulator within the several different contexts in which these site visits arise,” explains Kindermann Henderson. “I will also provide guidance on how to prepare a simple, internal, regulatory response policy document/checklist that can be used to prepare yourself and your employees for such a visit.”

NCWIE Session 4

Wine and the Endangered Species Act (ESA): Avoid Pitfalls and Successfully Navigate Current Policy. December 4. 2014, Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Kindermann Henderson and Frey will be joined by Peter J. Kiel, partner at Ellison, Schneider & Harris L.L.P.; Ted P. Winfield, Ph.D., who is Sole Proprietor of Ted Winfield & Associates; and Tony Linegar, Agricultural Commissioner/Sealer of Weights and Measures for Sonoma County.

Kiel will examine the ESA from a legal perspective and provide insight into the specifics of what vineyard and winery owners need to be aware of.

Winfield, who holds a Ph.D. in biology and is a wine industry consultant on environmental issues, will address compliance with the Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and other environmental statues.

Linegar will address regulatory compliance issues based on his experience as current Chair for the Agricultural Commissioner and Sealers Association’s Food and Resource Protection Committee and a previous term on the State Board of Directors of Agricultural Commissioners.

For his part, Nick Frey can’t stress enough how important it is for industry professionals to arm themselves with plenty of information about environmental regulation at all government levels.

Noting that violation penalties can range between $25,000 – $50,000 per incident, Frey warns that, “Growers (and wineries) need to be informed, because if you’re not informed and you make a mistake, it could be very costly.”

For information and conference registration go to:

- By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

Wineries See Challenges and Opportunities in Expanding Market for Beer, Cider, and Distilled Spirits
10 October, 2014

By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

Alex Villicana

Alex Villicana, Villicana Winery & Re:Find Distillery

A recent article in the business section of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat has depicted the California wine industry wringing its hands over the defection of millennial drinkers into the alluring fields of craft beer, hard cider and fancy cocktails.

While statistics and studies might corroborate this trend, many in the wine business view the millennial movement as an opportunity to expand their own enterprises, rather than a foregone conclusion of doom and gloom for wine.

Take Alex Villicana, owner of the Villicana Wineryin Paso Robles, CA for example. Incidentally, Villicana is also the proprietor of Re:Find Distillery, a handcrafted spirits company that, literally, has its roots in wine.

In 1991, Alex and his wife Monica began on a journey to what became their successful Villicana Winery, a feat they managed through sheer willpower and a fierce passion for the industry.

“I didn’t get the memo that said you needed to have a fortune to get started in the wine business,” laughs Villicana. “For years it was just us – or a volunteer running things, like a sister or brother or our parents.”

Their hard work paid off, however, and several years ago the Villicanas found themselves in a position to look for ways to expand the business. Their search happened to coincide with the initial wave of renewed interest in artisan, distilled spirits, especially among younger adults.

The brainchild for their business growth centered on saignée, the free-run juice from red wine grapes that is often discarded before fermentation or used to make rosé.  It occurred to the sustainability-minded Villicanas that the juice had a higher calling  – and that it could actually be utilized to make distilled spirits.

“We realized that 30 percent of the raw material for our wine was going to waste,” Villicana says. “I thought, man, that’s fantastic juice!”

The result? In 2011, the two became owners of the first, licensed distillery in Paso Robles. And, their handcrafted Re:Find vodka and gin are selling like hotcakes.

“It was definitely a stretch for us,” Villicana admits. “We were going out on a limb. As it turns out, we sold (our vodka and gin) as fast as we could put it in a bottle.”

NCWIE 2014 session 3

Pet Projects in the Cellar: Wineries Explore Beer, Cider and Distilled Spirits as Additional Revenue Channels. December 4. 2014, Sonoma County Fairgrounds

Alex Villicana will be sharing the details of his inspirational story at the upcoming 2014 North Coast Wine Industry Expo, where he is a featured speaker on a panel titled “Pet Projects in the Cellar: Wineries Explore Beer, Cider and Distilled Spirits as Additional Revenue Sources.”

Villicana will be joined by Jim Crooks, Master Blender at Firestone BarrelWorks, who will explain how his brewing team’s experiments grew into a valuable extension of the Firestone Walker brand and Paul Scotto, co-founder of Pacific Coast Ciders, who works in tandem with his brother to develop a dedicated line of handcrafted, hard ciders.

Alyssa Rapp, founder and CEO of Bottlenotes, Inc.,one of the leading, interactive media companies in the U.S. for the wine and craft beer industries, will moderate the panel. Bottlenotes is dedicated to educating and entertaining consumers via email newsletters, large-scale interactive events, social media platforms and video content. Rapp was named in Inc. Magazine’s “30 Under 30” coolest entrepreneurs in America and one of the wine industry’s 100 most influential people by in both 2012 and 2013.

Rapp says she has immediate plans to incorporate more of what she calls “the cocktail culture” into her business model, especially as it relates to female consumers.

“We know our audience doesn’t just drink wine,” Rapp says. “Wine consumers are 70 percent female, to 30 percent male. But from our own internal Daily Sip records, we see that nearly 70 percent of women who drink are also intrigued by and frequently enjoy spirits and cocktails.”

Rapp is impressed that the 2014 North Coast Wine Industry Expo is dedicating one of its premiere conference sessions to a comprehensive, best-practices discussion that can be shared across all beverage categories.

“The fact that (the Wine Industry Network) was clever and wise enough to put together this session says to me they have a finger on that pulse,” Rapp notes.

Visit the North Coast Wine Industry Expo for more conference information and registration.

DTC and Retailers, “Pay the Fine” and Keep Shipping
26 September, 2014

OpinionHello wine lovers, retailers, wineries and DTC advocates. I awoke this morning to find a disturbing article on about interstate commerce, wine shipping, freedom and our ability to control our own destiny. Maybe that is too much drama, but while the article is fact based, the situation is slanted and otherwise stifling of free commerce.

When I was CEO of Sam’s Wines and Spirits of Chicago, we shipped almost $8M worth of alcohol beverage annually. We were the first to use the web as an ECOMM tool and used the gross margin opportunity to our benefit. We had a full-fledged shipping department, with picking and packing teams, and UPS/FedEx had full understanding of that we did. The carriers gladly took our money.

Read the full editorial by Brian D. Rosen on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Constellation Pilots Innovative BioFiltro Wastewater Treatment System
19 September, 2014

Constellation plans to put millions of earthworms to work in 2015. Don’t worry, they won’t be making the wine, they’ll be cleaning the wastewater from winery operations.

BioFiltro is currently running a trial of their BIDA® System at Constellation Brands’ winery in Madera, California, and if all goes as expected, a new BioFiltro installation with a capacity of 1,000,000 gallons per day will be operational in the near future.

“We’ve installed a small trial system at the winery to run for 6 months,” says Sanjar Taromi, Chief Marketing Officer of BioFiltro, “it’s a chance for Constellation to ensure that the system can achieve their goal of at least 80% reduction in BOD (Biochemical Oxygen Demand). So far the results match our typical rate of 90% to 95% reduction in BOD.”

“The BioFiltro team is very innovative and understands the variability of winery operations, which has made our partnership thus far very productive,” says Wendy Garcia, Manager of Environmental Engineering Services for Constellation.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Winemakers Use Art to Attract an Audience for Wine
12 September, 2014

Imagery_2010_Tempranillo_FArt and wine have always had a natural affinity. Art openings are characterized by lavish wine receptions and hors ‘d oeuvres. Tasting rooms are filled with intriguing artistic items that tempt customers into purchases beyond a favorite bottle. Fine art and fine wine are often sold to well-heeled bidders at the same high-powered auctions.

The common denominator is a customer base that appreciates both; a fact not lost on marketing strategists for either enterprise.

Take Fine Art America (FAA) and Naked Wines, for example.

Fine Art America is an online marketplace representing more than 250,000 artists and photographers from around the globe. The company provides print on demand services to its customers, converting digital images into multiple formats, including canvas, framed, acrylic and metal prints as well as posters and greeting cards. The artists set the price for their work and incur no costs for joining FAA. Visitors to the website are estimated at a whopping 7.5 million a month.

Read the full article by Elizabeth Hans McCrone on the Wine Industry Advisor.

The Benefits of Choosing Custom Crush as Your First Wine Venture
29 August, 2014

Penny Gadd CosterIt’s no secret the time commitment and financial investment of starting up one’s own wine brand is daunting. The list of investments needed is a long one: expensive equipment, overhead for the building including light, water, and insurance; not to mention employees, fruit costs, supplies, etc. After crunching these costs, you may realize the area where funds should really be focused—in marketing your new wine—will be eaten up before your first bottle is produced.

But owning a winery is a dream many hold, and creating a special wine, whatever the intent—for the traditional winery, for personal enjoyment, for widespread distribution, as a marketing/branding effort for your non-winery business, for a special event such as a wedding—should not be out of reach. I have two words for you: custom crush.

The milieu of “legacy” wineries—those who have passed their operations down from generation to generation—dominating the winemaking scene, is now being challenged by new business models, as the promulgation of custom crush has eased the burden of start-up costs and allowed “newbies” onto the scene. Or perhaps you’re a winemaker with many, many years of expertise. You’re by no means a dilettante—you simply don’t have the liquidity to start an entire winemaking operation!

Read the full Expert Editorial by Penny Gadd-Coster of Rack & Riddle.

How do we get the retailer to buy and sell our wines?
11 August, 2014

Brian Rosen QuoteI have been on the road for most of the summer; Napa, NYC, Colorado, Europe, and the budding metropolis of St. Louis, MO.  All of it has been work related, and all of it has been in our beloved alcoholic beverage industry. The beauty of being a guy that fixes businesses in the alcoholic beverage space is that there is no shortage of things that need fixing. We look at archaic laws, misinformation, and basic lack of broad based knowledge, and there is plenty to keep my team and me busy.  Whether I am working for the globes biggest brewery in STL or a small importer in NYC, one thing never ceases to amaze and astonish me.

Our whole business, the entire alcoholic beverage business relies on ONE single thing for success. Without this one item, this seemingly simple act happening, we all fail, and I am working at the local car wash, where my utterance of the phrase, “do you want a wax” will come to personify my existence.

Read the full Expert Editorial by Brian Rosen on the Wine Industry Advisor.

New Rodney Strong Winery Installation Optimized for Quality and Economy
28 July, 2014

Last year the old 11,500 square foot warehouse behind the main Rodney Strong Winery building was used exclusively for storage, but today it’s a state of the art winemaking facility nearly ready for harvest. Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld has meticulously researched and designed the details of the project that will be the home of a new high end Bordeaux varietal brand from Rodney Strong.

The centerpiece of the winery are the impressive square La Garde tanks; when all of them are installed, there will be fifty one 6,000 gallon tanks and six smaller tanks, all custom designed for the winery.

“We went through more than two dozen design changes before they were finalized,” explains Seidenfeld, “the square design increases the space efficiency by 28% and it could have been even more, but I didn’t want to sacrifice fermentation kinetics.”

Read the full story on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Direct to Consumer Sales Fails to Lift the Wine Industry
16 July, 2014

My team and I just returned from a few days in Napa, CA. For those not in the business Napa is glamorous and sexy and romantic. For those of us that are in the business this can be as exciting as a week in Des Moines. I was giving a keynote speech for the Wine Industry Technology Symposium on the nature of retail within the three-tier system and overall health of the industry.

As luck would have it, the day’s speeches were delayed because USA was in a World Cup battle. That battle, that USA would eventually lose, caused me to sit in on a few speeches that I would not normally hear, one of which was the Direct to Consumer movement in California. I sat there for at least an hour, and after hearing the experts spin this yarn, I can tell you with 100% certainty that the DTC movement is not what you think it is and will not provide the added revenue that wineries around the globe are seeking.

Read the full story on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Wine, beer, & spirits groups find more, not less, benefit in sharing their stories
18 June, 2014

Most who enjoy adult beverages don’t confine themselves to one particular type of drink. A craft beer or hard cider on a hot day, cocktails on Friday evening with friends and a fine wine with dinner at a good restaurant all have their place in contemporary lifestyles.

That said, do the makers and distributors of these products find themselves competing with one another for the same market share or struggling to define themselves as the one consistent beverage of choice?

United Beverage Industry

Not so, according to industry experts who are tracking trends and working to establish best practices in an increasingly crowded marketplace. It appears that as competition becomes stiffer, wine, beer, spirits, and now hard cider groups are finding more, not less, benefit in sharing their stories.

Consider the fact that the recent Craft Beverage Expo in San Jose, Calif. drew 1,300 attendees and 160 exhibitors to its inaugural event.

Read the full story on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Top 5 Things Wine Industry Candidates Really Want in a New Opportunity
20 May, 2014

Some of the questions I’m asked most often by my clients are “What are top candidates looking for these days?” and “How can we stay competitive in attracting great people in today’s job market? “ The truth is that wine industry candidates are looking for so much more than compensation and benefits when considering a career change.

The wine industry continues to grow, and the competition is heating up on hiring top talent. Many employers are forced to ‘up the ante’ when it comes to providing a full range of options to prospective employees.  At Recruiting Associates Network we have found that candidates within the wine industry are looking for these top 5 criteria when pursuing new opportunities:

Read the Full Article by Margaret Baez from Recruiting Associates Network on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Is Your Winery's Innovation and Uniqueness Being Recognized?
14 May, 2014

The Wine Industry Advisor is interested in hearing about new and unique ways that vineyards and wineries operate. Have you found an interesting marketing niche, are you experimenting with cutting edge equipment or packaging, or perhaps you're tinkering with beer or spirits projects to complement your wine production?

We want to hear your stories, so that we can share them with your peers in the industry and welcome press releases sent to the Every Thursday edition of the Afternoon Brief, a free industry newsletter features a vineyard and winery section dedicated to telling stories of what goes on on the ground and in the cellars. We hope you'll share your story.

Can a Cement Suitcase make the Yakima Valley go Sideways?
30 April, 2014

Will the Cement Suitcase movie be the Sideways of Washington and the Yakima Valley? 10 years later the Santa Ynez Valley is still celebrating Miles and Jack’s journey, and Cement Suitcase has some of the same traits that could inspire visitors and wine drinkers to take an extra look at Washington’s Yakima Valley.

Cement Suitcase lives up to what would probably be the first requirement of pulling a Sideways; it is a good movie in its own right with a unique character driven story. The protagonist, Franklin, is the best wine tasting room salesman in the Yakima Valley, but he is suffering with an existential crisis.

Read the full article and watch the trailer on the Wine Industry Advisor.


How to Survive an OSHA Audit
09 April, 2014

Hello. I’m from OSHA and I am here to conduct an inspection. 

Few greetings are more inclined to cause one to cringe unless of course it’s one from the IRS.

Wineries and Growers are prime businesses for a formal visit from CAL/OSHA to determine whether they are complying with CAL/OSHA standards.

There are many specific regulations particular to the work performed by winery and growers employees as well as many general rules and regulations that must be adhered to..  Additionally, CAL/OSHA may conduct a “sweep” in our area verifying compliance with the Heat Injury Prevention Program requirements [§3395. Heat Illness Prevention].

As you may know, it is the responsibility of CAL/OSHA to enforce workplace safety regulations.  It is the responsibility of every employer to ensure their employees (this includes contractors and sub-contractors) have a “reasonably safe workplace”.  The following information is a summary of a visit from a CAL/OSHA Compliance Officer (CO).  For more information or assistance with your safety and compliance programs, contact us at:

by Paul Andersen OSHA Compliance Services

Read the full articles on Wine Industry Advisor

Beyond the Wine Aroma Wheel: ‘Wine Aroma Matrix’ pairs Olfactory with Vision
02 April, 2014

The Wine Aroma Matrix, WA-trix for short, represents an innovative new type of aroma chart that groups wine aromas by the color of the substance that is responsible for creating the aroma. All of the black fruit aromas are found grouped together on the same color row. Similarly, the listings of red fruit aromas and brown spice aromas are shown on their corresponding color rows. As structured the Wine Aroma Matrix uses both our olfactory and visual senses to help identify wine aromas. In contrast wine aroma wheel based on an outline structure only engages the olfactory sense in support of aroma identification.

WA-Trix, Wine Aroma Matrix

The Fruit & Floral matrix above shows wine aromas listed on color rows where the color corresponds to the color of the fruit or flower that created the aroma. Click on image for larger view.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Wine Industry Revolutionary, Ben Parsons; Breaks with Tradition and Pushes Boundaries of the Law
31 March, 2014

It’s no real surprise that Ben Parsons would be the chief instigator in a movement to change Colorado’s beverage distribution laws. Parsons is an unconventional winemaker any way you bottle it. Of course, if you were Ben Parson, you might notbottle it.  You’d can it – or keg it.

Parsons is the founder of the Infinite Monkey Theorem (IMT), an urban Colorado winery that he founded in 2008 in a Quonset hut in downtown Denver. In addition to almost single-handedly advancing Colorado’s emerging wine industry, the Australian-trained winemaker is making headlines by trying to transform laws that currently prohibit repackaging out-of-state, bulk wine.

Parsons has been an innovator in unconventional wine packaging since 2011, when he first launched his company’s line of red, white and rosé wine – in a can.

“At the time, there was only one other winery, Francis Ford Coppola, in California doing it,” Parsons said recently. “I figured putting wine into a can would work here (in Colorado). We have a lot of outdoor activity; skiing, hiking … it’s a product you can pack in, pack out, that’s infinitely recyclable.”

To debut his product line, Parsons organized a huge party inside the historic Smuggler Mine in Aspen. Old, mining awl carts were lined with plastic, filled with ice and loaded up with cans of IMT’s Backalley Moscato for culinary and industry aficionados to sample. The Food & Wine Classic in Aspen later heralded the event as one of the year’s “best parties” – and Wine Spectator subsequently awarded Parson’s wine 86 out of 100 points.

“It was the highest scored can of wine ever,” quips Parsons.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

How to Repurpose Every Piece of Content You Produce and Make Your Marketing Budget Stretch Further
19 March, 2014

By Michele Peterson

Sally is a wife, mother, daughter, marketing director, runner, baseball team mom, and board member for two community non-profit organizations. She wears a lot of hats, and sometimes she feels stretched pretty thin.

But every one of Sally’s roles is important to her, so she finds a way to make it all work.

The same is true for your marketing. Like Sally, your marketing probably takes different forms and wears many hats … and each of the components of your marketing strategy is important, just as Sally’s different life roles are important to her.

Like Sally, your marketing budget may be stretched pretty thin. So you need to maximize — and optimize — your efforts.

One way to do this is to repurpose each piece of content you produce and make it work for other components in your overall marketing strategy. Let me explain …

Take a Marketing Piece From One Channel and Use It In Another

Repurpose Content Illustration

For example, let’s assume that you have a blog for your business. (If you don’t, you should. But I’ll cover that topic in another article …) So you invest time and resources to research, write, illustrate, and publish an article for your blog.

Now you have a valuable piece of content — an asset that you want to get maximum ROI on. So use it!

In addition to your blog, use it in your newsletter, in your email marketing, in your social media marketing …

Do a video summary of the article, create a presentation slide show, gather a series of articles together and publish a book …

Print the article and use it in your tasting room, your office, and in your sales presentations …

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor.


Adapted Space Technology Promises Huge Benefits for Wineries and Breweries
10 March, 2014

Advanced bio-technology can significantly reduce the cost of water treatment for wineries and make them more sustainable by reducing their energy consumption.

Matt Silver, CEO Cambrian Innovation, Unified 2014

Matt Silver, CEO Cambrian Innovation, Unified 2014

According to Matt Silver PhD., CEO of Cambrian Innovation, wineries need to re-envision their wastewater from a burden to a resource. Wineries are required to treat their wastewater, but instead of bubbling the organic matter into the atmosphere through aeration ponds, the EcoVolt from Cambrian Innovation transforms the organic matter into energy that can be used in the winery. Asked to put it simply, Matt says that “wastewater goes in, the microorganisms eat the organic matter, and what comes out is methane gas and clean water.”

Matt’s background is in aerospace and systems engineering, and his team first developed the bioelectric technology behind the EcoVolt with a NASA grant to demonstrate that it could work for life support in space, before applying the technology to the needs of the wine and beer industries. After 15 months of successful field trials at Clos du Bois, Cambrian Innovation signed installation contracts with Lagunitas Brewery and Bear Republic Brewery. The company also introduced the EcoVolt to many grape growers at this year’s Unified Wine & Grape Symposium in Sacramento.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Investing in Brand Identity
24 February, 2014

A brand becomes stronger when you narrow the focus.” 

– Al Ries and Laura Ries The 22 Immutable laws of Branding

Reasons to invest in or upgrade your brand identity

A strong brand identity presents any company – regardless of size – with a recognizable image that can help to position it for success. An identity helps to manage perceptions of that company while separating it from the competition. The brand identity will help build brand equity through increased brand recognition, awareness and customer loyalty.

Strategic brand identity works across diverse audiences to build awareness and generate loyalty and companies that capitalize on every opportunity to communicate their company’s brand value build a precious asset.

A brand identity begins with self-knowledge and builds on that in five steps:

  1. We know who we are
  2. Core messages
  3. Targeted messages
  4. Look and feel
  5. Logo

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

5 Unified Exhibitors You Should Have Visited
10 February, 2014

Randox Food Diagnostics

Randox offered an excellent opportunity for wineries looking to expand their wine analysis capacity. They brought in their fully automated RX Monaco and offered on site demonstrations of its testing capabilities. The RX Monaco can perform 170 analyses per hour with results beginning in less than 13 minutes, so you could drop off your wine for testing and return later for results. The test menu includes: acetic acid, copper, ammonia, ethanol, glucose/fructose, iron, lactic acid, malic acid, potassium, total antioxidant status (TAS) and total SO2. Available this June will be Citric Acid and NOPA. The RX Monaco is a top notch and cost effective wine analyzer worth testing out.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor

Passion In The Tasting Room – How To Inspire It In Your Staff and In Your Customers
24 January, 2014

By Sue Straight

DTC Wine CoachWine inspires passion, or it should, anyway. Any wine lover will tell you about lovely, wine-drenched conversations that they have enjoyed with colleagues, friends and loved ones. In my wine circles, we have solved the world’s problems many times over glasses (OK, bottles) of wine.

Now, let’s talk about passion (or lack thereof) in the tasting room – how many times have you visited a tasting room (or maybe even in your own tasting room) and heard a staff member doing a somewhat robotic introduction to the wines that they were pouring? By robotic, I mean spewing facts like clonal selections, type of oak used, malolactic percentages, awards/points garnered in major wine competitions and publications, etc. All of this information is valuable, but it must be discussed within context of the customer’s experience – he or she must be engaged first and actually interested in that type of information.  Hint – if the customer’s eyes are glazing over and cobwebs start extending from her/his nose during a factual soliloquy, the customer is not engaged and is not likely to buy.

Read the full article...

Proposed Federal Budget Raises Concerns About Excise Taxes on Wine
25 November, 2013

By Elizabeth Hans McCrone

When talks resume in January on the president’s 2014 budget proposal, there are some in the industry who fear that an excise tax increase on wine could be included as a means to add revenue to the federal coffers.

Excise Tax Quote

Excise taxes are indirect taxes collected by federal, state and local governments on the sale of certain goods like gasoline, tobacco and alcohol. While the formulas for levying such taxes are complex, in terms of alcohol, the higher the percentage per unit, the greater the tax. Current federal excise tax rates for wine, beer and spirits can be found here.

In its present form, the president’s proposal contains no new taxes on wine. But according to Michael Kaiser, the Communications Director for WineAmerica, the budget is a fluid document. He says some closest to its source have urged wine advocates to be on the alert.

“There’s nothing official yet, but everything’s on the table,” confirms Kaiser. “Off the record, congressional staffers have told us to have (excise tax increases) on our radar.”


“Tasting in the Dark” Sheds New Light on Unique Marketing Strategies
30 October, 2013

Henry Wedler Tasting

Henry “Hoby” Wedler; Tasting in the Dark

by Elizabeth Hans McCrone

‘Blind tasting’ is more of a figurative than literal term. It usually refers to hiding the identity of wines during sensory examination, and then revealing information like varietal, blend, region and producer once the tasting is complete; hence, being initially “blind” to knowledge about the wines.

But Francis Ford Coppola had something more innovative in mind when he was considering the concept several years ago. During a team meeting while discussing the addition of blind tasting for guests at his Geyserville winery, Coppola proposed that the lead host should, in fact, be blind. Furthermore, he argued, the participants ought to be blindfolded during the tasting, temporarily removing their sense of sight, which could enhance the overall experience.


Tom Wark: The First Wine Muckraker
23 October, 2013

Tom Wark

Tom Wark

“My first encounter with wine,” laughs wine blogger and public relations expert Tom Wark, “was when I climbed up in my parents’ pantry, attempted to pull down a jug of wine and broke it all over the floor.”

Wark went on to earn a master’s degree in history at San Francisco State. “I realized that despite the fact that I was knowledgeable about history, there wasn’t much call for that in the world,” says Wark. “It looked like I had the skills for marketing and public relations and wine PR sounded good to me.”

Since then Wark has become one of the world’s most respected wine bloggers, known for his efforts to improve consumer rights when it comes to wine distribution and availability.


Wine Industry Still Grappling With TTB Regulations on Social Media
18 October, 2013

New TTB Rules

When the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a circular last May that identified social media platforms as sources of advertising for the first time, many in the industry were expecting it.

“We weren’t surprised that the TTB was finally making some recommendations. After all, social media has been around for quite a while,” acknowledges Jordan Winery’s Communications Director Lisa Mattson. “The problem is, I don’t know if I really understand what it is we’re supposed to do.”

Six months after the communication was issued, Mattson and others like her are still trying to sort out what the recent ruling means and what impact it can have on their ability to continue to do business in the largely unregulated world of the Internet.


Government Shutdown Creates Huge Compliance Backlog for Wine Industry
16 October, 2013

gov shutdown quote2If the House and Senate are able to avert Thursday’s debt ceiling deadline and come to some type of an agreement, the country might breathe a collective sigh of relief – but for the wine industry, the crisis is far from over.

The government shutdown that has taken the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) essentially out of commission since October 1, has created a serious pile up of new business and wine label permit applications that can’t be touched until the TTB is back on line.


In the Case of a Botrytis Infection, What You Need to Know
14 October, 2013


Botrytis – click for larger view.

José Santos, Enartis Vinquiry

Even though the incidence of Botrytis was lower in US wine regions in the 2010 and 2011 vintages, high levels of infection were still found. High incidence of Botrytis were also found in 2013 despite the ideal growing conditions during the summer, particularly in regions of the Pacific Northwest.

When winemakers think about Botrytis infection and the consequences, they think mainly about the presence of laccase, an oxidative enzyme that can cause browning. However, there are other metabolites produced that can decrease and jeopardize the quality of wine. Among these, the most worrisome are the production of glucans and gluconic acid by Botrytis, as well as higher levels of VA due to activity of indigenous yeast or bacteria on damaged fruit..

So, when facing a potential risk of Botrytis infection, what do you need to know?


Wine Industry Still Grappling With TTB Regulations on Social Media
09 October, 2013

New TTB Rules

When the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued a circular last May that identified social media platforms as sources of advertising for the first time, many in the industry were expecting it.

“We weren’t surprised that the TTB was finally making some recommendations. After all, social media has been around for quite a while,” acknowledges Jordan Winery’s Communications Director Lisa Mattson. “The problem is, I don’t know if I really understand what it is we’re supposed to do.”

Six months after the communication was issued, Mattson and others like her are still trying to sort out what the recent ruling means and what impact it can have on their ability to continue to do business in the largely unregulated world of the Internet.


Transferring a Wineries Small Domestic Producer’s Credit
30 September, 2013

Wine Glass & BottlesHow does my winery transfer its’ Small Domestic Producer’s Credit?

If you are a new winery, the best question to ask first may be: what is the Small Domestic Producer’s Credit? Back in 1991 the federal government increased the wine excise tax. In order to keep the rate the same for smaller producers, a credit was created for those wineries that produced less than 250,000 gallons of wine per year, on the first 100,000 gallons produced. Because of the credit there is no change from 1991 on the tax rate for those producing less than 100,000 gallons. Those producing more than that see a phase out of the credit in the amount of 1% per 1,000 gallons produced over 150,000 gallons, with total phase out at 250,000 gallons.


Expert Editorial by Caraker Law Firm

Making Quality Wine While Conserving Water
22 August, 2013

At their Vineyard Water Conservation Field Day on Friday August 16, Sonoma County Winegrape Commission presented research results in water conservation for viticulture by Rhonda Smith, UCCE (University of California Corporative Extension) Viticulture Farm Advisor, and Mark Greenspan, Advanced Viticulture, at 4001 Cellars in Alexander Valley. The research focused on the efficient use of water to protect and produce grapes without excessive watering.

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor.

How does your winery compare to others in your peer group?
07 August, 2013

The largest wine industry survey in the industry in three years, launched earlier this summer, has extended its deadline for responders until August 15. The 2013 Moss Adams Wine Industry Financial Benchmarking Survey is aimed at gathering market, operational and financial data from wineries, vineyards and negociants to determine and evaluate current wine industry standards and benchmarks. The goal: to assist the industry in developing better planning strategies and decision making.

Bill Rodda, Vice President of AmericanAg Credit, one of the survey’s sponsors, said:

The idea of the survey is to provide reliable benchmarking numbers, both financial and operational. How does your business compare to others in your peer group? What is your overhead per case compared to the industry at large? People want to know if they’re running fat or lean and one way to find that out is by comparing their company’s numbers to other, similar companies. This survey provides that information.”

Read the full article on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Wine Industry Advisor Now Accepts Press Releases
07 August, 2013


Wine Industry Advisor Now Accepts Press Releases

The Wine Industry Advisor strives to be a resource of industry news and information for wine business professionals. If your company, association, or institution publishes a press release that is relevant to the wine industry, please send it to and include the word “press release” in the subject line.

We welcome the inclusion of photos, logos, and links to additional information. All submissions will be screened for wine industry relevance by the editor before publishing to the press release section of

Please add the Wine Industry Advisor to your press release distribution list. Subject: “press release”

Out of State Alcohol Sales
30 July, 2013

outofstatealcoholsalesSo you think you want to sell your beer, wine or distilled spirit to consumers in another State? Here are some important things to know.

Expanding the geographical reach of your alcohol production makes perfect sense from a business perspective.  As you might have guessed, nothing in the alcohol production business is terribly easy and the same holds true for your desire to expand.  The federal government will issue a permit that effectively allows you to sell your product wherever you wish.  That being said, there are federal laws that require you to abide by state law, and thus the state requirements for registration must be carefully observed or your operation could be subjected to enforcement action by both the federal and state government. There is no guarantee that you will be able to sell your product across state lines, or ship to retailers in far off states.  The only thing that is certain is that the rules will vary from state to state. Nevertheless, the benefits of expanding your geographical reach are well worth the time and effort to obtain proper permission to operate in a new state.

Read the full article by Caraker Law Firm on the Wine Industry Advisor.

Is Your Winery, Brewery, or Distillery Prepared to Preserve its License in the Event of the Death of an Owner or Controlling Stockholder?
25 June, 2013

ripoutofbusinessIf you have held an ownership interest in an alcohol production business you know that the operation of this business necessitates a higher level of government involvement than many other business ventures. You likely worked tirelessly to acquire your permit to produce your product, managed and accounted for your operations according to federal and state regulations, and paid your excise taxes appropriately – all in an effort to protect the business you created and your livelihood. Because of this hard work, you have likely designed a business that has a life of its own based on your products and the consumer demand for them. That demand is a valuable asset that should be protected for your intended beneficiaries at your death.

Read the full article on the WIN Advisor.

There’s a Wine App for That
08 May, 2013


Are applications worth the resources it takes to produce and maintain them?

It’s true: There is an app for almost everything. At last count, the wine industry had almost 600 of them, offering everything from education to recommendations to tastingnote tools.

According to comScore Inc., a Virginia-based Internet technology company that measures consumer behavior in the digital world, the number of smartphone users in the United States surpassed 100 million last year. With those kinds of numbers, the potential audience for wine brands represents a giant target.

But before you jump with both feet into this rich consumer pool, you need to understand what building an app means to your brand – and your budget.

Read the full article on the WIN Advisor.

Video Marketing Goes Viral
18 April, 2013

Conceptualizing and creating effective winery videos

You might think you already have enough to do without adding video production to the pile – and you’re probably right. But before you dismiss the value of video, consider these stats:

  • By 2013, video will account for 90% of Internet traffic (Cisco, 2010).
  • When marketers used the word “video” in an e-mail subject line, open rates rose 7%-13% (Experian 2012 Digital Marketer: Benchmark and Trend Report).
  • Video in e-mail marketing has been shown to increase click-through rates by more than 96% (Implix 2010 Email Marketing Trends Survey).

With results like these, it’s no surprise that wineries are using video to connect with consumers and trade members.

Creating successful videos doesn’t necessarily require expensive camera equipment or a film-school education – but it does take creativity and planning.

Read the full article on the WIN Advisor.

Selecting Saccharomyces; How industry pros choose the ideal wine yeast
18 April, 2013

The dizzying array of Saccharomyces cerevisiae strains available on the commercial market from numerous suppliers is enough to induce option paralysis in any winemaker. Summer is here and now is the time to explore new yeast options through the careful consideration of grape variety, wine style and fruit composition. After that’s pinned down, it’s off to the thrill of bench trials come harvest. With both test and final batches, it’s important to prevent cross-contamination for clear and repeatable fermentation results. After all, a winemaker must be certain that what was so carefully chosen transforms the carefully tend-ed fruit into the highest-quality wine possible. Read the full article on the WIN Advisor...

Southern Oregon University professor carves out a niche in wine climatology.
12 April, 2013

When the subject of climate change comes up at wine industry conferences, so inevitably does the name of Gregory V. Jones. A professor and research climatologist in the Department of Environmental Studies at Southern Oregon University, Jones studies climate structure and suitability for viticulture,
and how climate change and variability influence grapevine growth, wine production and quality.

Jones has given hundreds of international, national and regional presentations on climate and wine-related research, and has written dozens of related articles and book chapters. Perhaps most impressively, he was a contributing author to the 2008 Nobel Prize-winning “Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Report.”

Read the full interview from Vineyard and Winery Management Magazine, Nov-Dec 2012

Shortage of Farm Workers to Worsen
04 September, 2012

Guest Blogger - Robert Acosta, iGlobal Worldwide, Inc: 

In an industry where tradition is as sacred as the soil that gives life to the vine, the winemakers have adapted modern technologies, such as the new, “Optical Eye Sorting Grapes”, with one goal in mind-- to bring more quality wine with each harvest, to more people around the world, for less cost. Technology is evolving, however, what is decreasing is the labor pool in the fields. This shortage is not only impacting the grape industry but all agriculture.

Grower, Craig Underwood, who farms strawberries, peppers, and carrots, says, “the shortage is forcing us to leave crops in the field - we can’t pick them - lack of workers.” CNBC reports, that according the

Western Growers Association, there’s a 20 percent drop in labor this year. Some growers say the impact is higher. A majority of growers are paying higher wages as an incentive. However, the problem is bigger - the workforce is aging and there’s no new generation of labor behind them. When asked if local residents are coming to this call for labor, the growers say “no, zero, not at all”.

Adding insult to injury, the younger Hispanic generation has no interest in field labor. The work is difficult, demanding, and strenuous. Technology has created the monster - instant gratification. Young workers want the maximum pay for .... read more.

Grapevine Red Blotch Associate Virus (GRBaV)
04 September, 2012

A new guest blog about the Red Blotch Virus on the WIN Advisor by Agri-Analysis.


When was GRBaV Virus Discovered?

Declined_ZinDuring the 17th scientific meeting of the International Council for the Study of Virus and Virus-Like Diseases of the Grapevine (ICVG) held at UC Davis, October 7-14, 2012, scientists from Cornell and UC Davis reported the discovery of a new grapevine virus. Dr. Keith Perry, Department of Plant Pathology of Cornell Univeristy, reported a new circular DNA virus from grapevine which is named “Grapevine cabernet franc-associated virus (GCFaV)”. Dr. Mysore Sudarshana, USDA-ARS, Department of Plant Pathology of UC Davis reported a circular DNA virus in grapevines affected by red blotch diseases. They named this virus “Grapevine red blotch-associated virus (GRBaV)”. It is believed that GCFaV and GRBaV are the same virus that belongs to the family of Geminiviridae. Noteworthy is the fact that it is a circular DNA virus composed of 3,206 nucleotides as opposed to linear RNA viruses which make up the majority of the grapevine virodom. This is the 2nd DNA virus found in grapevines.


Vin Couture Wine Lounge - A New Approach to Wine Tasting
27 June, 2012

After several visits to different wineries one thing quickly becomes apparent, many of the tasting rooms are strangely similar. They all have a bar where you stand and taste and a table with non-wine items emblazoned with the winery’s logo.

There are differences between tasting rooms of course, but the basic theme is much the same from one winery to the next and nearly all stick to the model that has been in place since the seventies.

During the busy season, tasting rooms will have the inevitable crowds bellying up to the bar, while busy tasting room employees try to greet, serve, and describe the wines, while remembering who has tasted what, and attempting to close sales all at the same time.

Having said all that, we have to admit that this system does sell wine. But we also need to acknowledge that for wine country visitors, after just a few wineries the tasting room experience can get old fast.

Click Here to

Oak Alternatives
26 June, 2012

Oak Alternatives

Oak Alternatives

When it comes to winemaking, the phrase “oak alternatives” is somewhat of a misnomer. In winemaking, there really is no alternative, is there? Oak and wine go together like Burns and Allen, like a wink and a smile. Though other woods have been tried in the past, oak is wine’s best friend.

People have been using oak barrels to make and store wine since before the Roman Empire. It was discovered early that oak was not only easy to work with when it came to fashioning barrels, but that the wood itself imparted subtle flavors and characteristics to the wine itself. Oak adds maturity, aroma, flavor, structure and balance to otherwise ordinary wines. The chemical and biological reactions between wine and oak help stabilize color and help with elevage.

But wine barrels are expensive, and becoming more so, going for anywhere from $300 to $2000, depending on the source. And with each use of a barrel, the properties imparted to the wine lessen by degree, until they are no longer effective. Many wineries use new oak wine barrels for Read More→

Point of Sale Systems - Time to Put the Cash Register Out to Pasture
28 May, 2012

Back in the day, a cash register in the tasting room represented cutting edge technology. A register could keep track of the daily cash and reconcile sales receipts with a total at the end of each day, streamlining record keeping. 

But times change; today most wineries are marketing in several arenas at the same time, from wine events, to online sales, to the tasting room and beyond. There are not only wine sales to track, but non-wine items such as tasting room merchandise, wine club memberships, shipping, compliance, and more.

Fortunately, now wineries can avail themselves of computerized point-of-sale (POS) systems to help keep track, and keep up, with the myriad facets of running a winery. No longer does someone have to sit and add up ledger sheets at month’s end. Today’s POS systems can not only keep track of everything needed to keep a winery running, they can provide up-to-the-minute status reports in real time. This allows savvy winery owners to be nimble and shift strategies on the fly, saving time and, most importantly, increasing ... read the full article.

Tasting Room Merchandise - Building Your Brand and Boosting Profits
14 May, 2012

These days, companies that are marketing to a younger crowd often employ something called “street teams.” These teams are made up of groups of young people in the company’s target demographic that are paid to take a product out on the streets or any place where their customers are, and show it, use it, and talk about it to others in an attempt to stir up interest and sales.

Wineries can take advantage of this same tactic to help promote their brands to potential new customers. It’s as simple as effectively offering branded merchandise to visitors in tasting rooms.

“Once the wine is drunk and the bottle recycled, your customers could easily forget you,” said Vanessa Topper of TopNest Designs in Northern California. “If they take home a decanter or corkscrew with your winery’s name on it, chances are they’ll remember you.”

Most tasting rooms today sell merchandise along with their wine. These items for sale include things like ... read the rest of the article.

7 Ways to Grow your Facebook Fans
01 May, 2012

More Fans – More Interactions – More Sales

Why do we want more fans?

Facebook - Like

Every time a fan comments, “likes” or interacts with your fan page there is a good chance it will be broadcasted to the News Feed of all of their Facebook Friends. Lots of interactions will signal to Facebook that this is important information and it will be included on a fan’s News Feed. Each fan can have hundreds or even thousands of Friends. If only 10 of your fans interact with an event notice, photo, video or simple text type message, that information can show up on thousands of peoples Facebook News Feeds — and can be furthered shared with multiple levels of additional friends. This is how your information, special offer or call to action, can go “viral” spreading quickly to many people.

Seven Ways to Grow Your Facebook Fans

  1. Have multiple influential users invite all of their friends to become fans of the page. If you can get 20 people each to invite 100 users, and encourage these users to invite their own friends, your fans will quickly grow. Use incentives if necessary – contests, rewards for joining, etc.
  2. Leverage your other online resources including email lists, websites, blogs and any other place you have a digital presence. Start to call them to action to join your fan page. Add Facebook links to the homepage of your websites, add a link in employee emails, place links in your email and newsletter marketing. The key is to funnel enough subscribers to the page where a natural cycle of growth begins by virtue of more people becoming fans.
  3. Leverage your “offline” media. Include promotions and calls to action in your printed advertising, brochures, press releases and telephone messages.
  4. Make special announcements on Facebook first creating a place for the most up-to-date information. Give people a reason to Like you!
  5. Offer “exclusive to Facebook Fans” discounts and invitations. This can be done with coupon codes, mentions in your tasting room or business or using QR codes or matrix barcodes. (To get a free QR code for your business, contact us.)
  6. Consider targeted Facebook and Google advertising. This can give your page a quick boost of fans. Targeted ads focus on your potential customers.
  7. Continually update page content. More content on the page is going to be more content for users to interact with. Users’ consistently engaging with fresh content is the key component to growth. By reaching into the news streams of individual users your brand can start to grow fast if your content is worth reacting to.

Don’t forget to leverage the new Facebook Timeline format. Communicate directly with Fans, promote your brand with custom pages and sell wine and wine industry products via Facebook!

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Spotlight: BSG & ConeTech Team Up on Unique Winemaking Seminars
03 April, 2012

“Wine Flavor Management Through Science and Technology” is the topic of an intensive winemaker workshop series offered at four different locations throughout California this April.

The seminar is a joint effort between Beverage Supply Group, distributor of the Phyterra Yeast, a strain that eliminates specific wine defects, and ConeTech, provider of the Spinning Cone Column technology, a system that uses vacuum distillation to extract and manage alcohol levels in wine.

Doug Manning, Sales Manager of Beverage Supply Group, is excited about the cutting-edge research and development both companies will be sharing with winemakers throughout the series – and about the revolutionary advances Phyterra Yeast brings to the winemaking process.

“After two years of trials, 230 wineries and 600 fermentations, we now have a statistically valid sample with which to evaluate this exciting yeast, “ Manning says of his product. “Phyterra Yeast, when used as a dominant strain absolutely eliminates hydrogen sulfite during fermentation.”

Stephanie Goss, ConeTech’s Sales and Marketing Manager, is similarly eager to share the benefits of the Spinning Cone Column technology with winemakers seeking to lower alcohol levels in their wines for either flavor or tax purposes.

“It’s a purely subtractive process that allows for the removal of unwanted characteristics such as alcohol,” Goss explains. “The fruit can be harvested at full phenolic ripeness without worrying about all those sugars turning into alcohol.  There’s no loss of flavor or of the components you want – just less of what you don’t want.”

Goss says one of the benefits of the Spinning Cone Column is that it allows winemakers to come in and taste their wines at different alcohol levels until they find their “sweet spot” – the place where the alcohol and flavor are perfectly balanced. 

Goss is also excited to announce the opening of a new ConeTech facility   on the Central Coast early this summer.

The  “Focus on Flavor” seminars will be held from 8 am to 12 pm on:

•   Wednesday April 11, 2012: Courtside Cellars, San Miguel, CA
•   Wednesday April 18, 2012: Napa Valley College, Trefethen Building, Napa, CA
•   Thursday April 19, 2012: Dry Creek Inn, Healdsburg, CA
•   Friday April 20, 2012: Hampton Inn & Suites, Lodi, CA 

Contact Information

For more information and registration contact:

Doug Manning, Beverage Supply Group, Sales Manager (707) 252-2550,

Stephanie Goss, ConeTech, Sales and Marketing Manager

(707) 577-7500,


Advisor: Why Using a Recruiter Makes Sense
03 April, 2012

Your top financial officer just quit and left you with a gaping hole in the management team. Your winemaker just told you she’s moving to New Zealand at the end of the month. You had to let your sales manager go because he can’t get along with the rest of the staff.

What do you do now?

In the past, many winery owners just sat down, wrote up a want ad and put it in the newspaper or on Craig’s List hoping the right person would see it and respond. This typically resulted in dozens of phone calls getting in the way of normal business, and dozens of resumes flooding the fax machine. Somebody then had to stop whatever it is they normally do in order to sort through all the applicants and try to choose which ones to call back for an interview. Then somebody had to schedule and conduct the interviews, a process that could take weeks.

In the meantime, all the work that would normally be getting done is piling up because of the distractions of the hiring process, including the work of the unfilled position.

Today, instead of do-it-yourself hiring, many savvy winery owners are utilizing the expertise of professional recruitment firms, saving them time, money, and headaches. Recruiting firms typically charge a percentage of the salary paid to the new hire in a one-time fee, and most offer a guarantee that if the employee does not work out within a certain period of time, the firm will either find a replacement or offer a prorated refund. This gives the recruiting firms an incentive to make sure they place the right candidate in the right position.

According to Carolyn Silvestri, partner at The Personnel Perspective, a recruiting firm in Santa Rosa, California, on average it takes 90 to 120 days to perform recruitment, develop a sourcing plan, obtain a resume pool, assess the candidates, do the interviews and select a candidate. If your employee gave you a two-week notice, this can seem an eternity.

With a professional recruiter, not only do wineries save time, but management staff and workers can continue doing their regular duties without distractions.

“A winery can benefit greatly by using a recruitment firm,” said Derek Stefan, winery recruitment specialist at Nelson Wine Executive Search in Santa Rosa, California. “It creates very strong opportunities for the owners to benefit from the expertise of a recruiter who knows the market. The recruiter can have people ready when you need them, reference checked, background checked and prepared to go. It’s a cost savings. You don’t have to worry about all of that; it’s done for you.”

According to Silvestri, 80 percent of employee turnover is based on mistakes made during the hiring process; using a professional placement firm can greatly improve your success.

“We’re dedicated full time to doing nothing but finding the best people for the wine industry,” said Margaret Baez of Recruiting Associates Network in Santa Rosa, California. “We’re mining talent five days a week, sometimes more. When using a recruiter, wineries are exposed to candidates they wouldn’t see otherwise.”

Making a bad hire can compound problems and cause a winery owner to have to repeat the laborious process of replacing the employee yet again.

“When you open a job up to just anybody, you never know who is going to walk through the door,” said Norm Mitroff, owner of Mitroff Consulting & Associates in St. Helena, California. “You may get a hundred people responding. Maybe three or four are qualified. When we seek a candidate, we don’t just throw an ad out there. We actually go out and recruit.”

There is an art to interviewing, and those with limited interviewing skills may find themselves at a loss when it comes to deciding which candidate is the best fit. Many recruitment firms will do the interviews as part of their service. The winery owner often sits in on the interviews. They can relax and observe the process, and not have to remember what questions to ask.

There is more to consider than a candidate’s paper qualifications. Does he or she fit with the culture of the company? Will your candidate get along with the person who will supervise them?

“A good recruiter meets with the manager that the new employee will be reporting to in order to understand not only the position, but the personalities involved,” said Silvestri. “We always take the time to find out what your culture, environment, and management style is so you can feel one-hundred percent confident. These factors can increase the likelihood of hiring the right person by seventy-five percent.”

Mitroff agreed. “We believe that clients can not afford to make a bad hire,” he said. “It is possible to train and develop skills within an executive, but near impossible to ‘fix’ someone’s attitude. Hence, Mitroff Consulting & Associates emphasizes the potential candidate’s fit not only with their skill set match to the position, but equally important, the candidate’s cultural and attitude fit to that of the client.”

In addition, a recruiting firm can help winery owners with the final decision process and help negotiate compensation. These sometimes-sticky areas can be difficult to navigate for the untrained or inexperienced.

Recruiters who have been in the business for a long time have contracts throughout the industry and are often able to reach out to candidates that the typical winery owner would never be able to contact. Professional, experienced recruiters know who is currently working where, who is available, who is qualified, and who may be looking for other opportunities.

“We always go back to the basics,” said Baez. “Technology has changed, but nothing will ever take the place of human relationships. People want to do business with people they trust and know. We learn the motivations and qualifications of potential candidates in advance for our clients and that saves everyone time and money.”

Confidentiality is the watchword when it comes to reaching these candidates. The best recruiters can quietly and confidentially search the available talent pool and contact those they deem best suited for the position.

There are two types of recruiters: contingency firms and retained firms. A contingency firm only gets paid if a winery hires a candidate they provided. This is incentive for them to present as many candidates as possible to as many wineries as possible, hoping for a fit.

A retained firm earns their fee no matter what happens, and so can take the time to dig a little deeper and find the exact right candidate for each situation.

“If you have the wrong person in a critical position his or her attitude can permeate the whole organization,” said Stefan. “It pays to hire a firm that understands exactly what your business is looking for so you only see the best candidates. We can help you understand why a person didn’t work out, and help prevent it from happening again.”

According to statistics provided by The Personnel Perspective, a top performer produces 48 percent more than an average producer. That means a manager making $80,000 a year who is not a top performer is costing the business $38,000 a year.

If you have an opening but don’t have time to advertise, interview, and screen applicants, a professional recruiter can help make finding that perfect employee a reality.

Learn more about Wine Industry Recruiment & Staffing Companies:

To Buy or Not to Buy: Factors Impacting Winery Supplier Choice
22 February, 2012

Writers: Dr. Janeen Olsen and Dr. Liz Thach, MW, SSU Wine Business Institute
Printable PDF Version

Is a new press, a wine label design change, or a purchase of fifty new French barrels in your future? If so, how do you and other winery executives determine which supplier to use in order to achieve the highest quality product or service at a cost-effective price?

Positive supplier relationships have always been important in the wine industry, but even more so during tough economic times. With increased global competition and pressure to reduce costs, wineries often scrutinize suppliers more closely to obtain better pricing. At the same time, long-standing relationships are also a primary consideration. So what factors really drive a winery’s decision in supplier selection?

Some of the answers can be found in the results of a new study completed by the Wine Business Institute at Sonoma State University. An online survey was sent to wineries across the US, and the 117 respondents shed some light on factors impacting winery supplier choice.

About the Responding Wineries

Respondents to the survey were primarily winery owners, winemakers, and purchasing managers. The average number of years in business for all wineries was around 15, with a larger percentage (60%) of wineries located in California. Size of winery based on case production included 74% at less than 10,000 cases, 15% between 10,000 and 50,000 cases and 11% producing more than 50,000 cases.

Methods Wineries Use to Find A Good Supplier?

Survey results show that wineries use a variety of methods to identify and research potential suppliers. Figure 1 illustrates that word of mouth is seen as very important or extremely important by (67%), followed by the Internet (44%), trade shows (26%), industry organizations (15%), print publications (9%), and finally social media (5%). The greatest change over previous years appear to be a greater emphasis on the Internet and soc ial media as research tools, and slightly less emphasis on print media and trade shows.


Figure 1: How Wineries Identify Suppliers

What Are the Most Important Factors in Selecting a Supplier?

While pricing is a driver for evaluating new suppliers, it isn’t seen as the only critical factor in the purchase decision. Indeed, as illustrated in Figure 2, high quality


Figure 2: Important Criteria in Selecting Suppliers

products/services were seen as an important criterion in selecting a supplier by all wineries (100%). This is followed by excellent customer service (98.1%) and on-time delivery (96.1%). Low price was rated as an important factor by 80% of the wineries.

Interestingly, while only 14.6% of the respondents felt that a price increase would cause them to change suppliers, 41.7% felt a decrease in quality and 33.0% felt that poor

customer service would cause them to look elsewhere. Over 70% of the respondents felt that they should increase the number of suppliers as a way to become more competitive in the marketplace. On the other hand, almost 30% felt decreasing the number of suppliers would help them compete more effectively. For those who said they wanted to increase the number of suppliers they used, the areas in which they hoped to add suppliers were: packaging and bottling supplies (58%), winemaking supplies (50%), grape sourcing (38%), and legal/compliance advice (13%).

How Often Do Wineries Evaluate Their Suppliers?

More than half the wineries (52.1%) reported that they evaluate their suppliers on a yearly basis, with 35.9% evaluating every 2-3 years. However 66.4% said they will re-evaluate suppliers more frequently when market conditions are tough, such as the economic recession of 2008-2011. The vast majority of the wineries (92%) identified the primary reason for re-evaluating suppliers is driven by the desire for better pricing.

The Importance of Suppliers in Providing a Competitive Edge


Figure 3: Do the right suppliers help you maintain a competitive edge?

Survey participants were asked to respond to the question: “Do you think the right suppliers help your winery maintain a competitive edge?” As illustrated in Figure 3, a large percentage (67%) of the winery executives responded “absolutely” or “quite a bit” to this statement. 21% said “somewhat” and 10% reported “a little bit.” Only 2% of respondents stated that suppliers did not help them maintain a competitive edge.

In terms of examples of suppliers supporting winery business success, following are quotations from some of the winery executives:

A new label company won the award for our Fall bottling. Their unit price was lower, and quality and delivery time frame was wonderful. Our products now remain competitive in a very tight market.

We switched capsule suppliers to a domestic producer. They provided improved delivery times and pricing.

Pricing is the obvious answer, but the fact that I have run into absolutely horrible customer service from one supplier led me to seek another supplier for most of our wine making equipment.

A supplier offered me unique items that few others had at the time. They were tailored to my winery theme.

Implications for Winery Suppliers and Wineries

This study suggests several implications for both suppliers and wineries. In terms of suppliers, they need to recognize the new role the Internet and social media are playing in terms of wineries’ supplier selection process. Though not the primary source of information for wineries, it is definitely growing in importance. Therefore, suppliers should make sure the information on their websites is accurate, timely and provides useful data. In addition, suppliers may want to expand their use of social media to engage decision makers and encourage word-of-mouth.

Suppliers should also recognize that while being competitive on price has become more important, wineries still look for quality products, on-time delivery and customer service in making the final purchase decision. Reducing service in any of these areas as a way to lower prices will not likely lead to long-term success.

The main implication resulting from this study, is a clearer understanding of how wineries are managing supplier relationships to support their business strategy. Wineries should recognize that evaluating suppliers on a more regular basis, using new Internet and social media tools for research as well as relying on traditional sources of information, and deciding whether to increase or decrease the number of suppliers do appear to help with competiveness.

About the Authors:

Dr. Janeen Olsen ( is a Professor of Marketing and Wine Business. Dr. Liz Thach, MW ( is a Professor of Management and Wine Business. Both work full-time in Sonoma State University’s Wine Business Institute.


Dr. Janeen Olsen


Dr. Liz Thach, MW


The authors would like to acknowledge the help of George Christie, Wine Industry Network, and the following Sonoma State University wine MBA students who participated in the research study: Jacob Avery, Sierra Burch, Katherine Doran, Palmer Emmit, Andrea Gonzalez, Kendall Hoxsey, Jody Jurgens, Gabriel Magee, Nicholas Rood, Regina Sanz, Regina Scurich, Michael Sipiora and Howard Wang.

Advisor - People: Sue Straight, AKA, The Wine Wench®
09 January, 2012

A Wine-Drenched Life
Sue Straight, AKA, The Wine Wench®
Writer: Jim Brumm
Sue describes herself as a rustic, medium-bodied, slightly-aged-yet-still-enjoyable woman who loves wine and loves to share it with friends and family. She approaches her wine reviews the same way.

A woman sits across from me at a local coffee shop in Santa Rosa, California. She is animated and upbeat. As usual, she is talking about wine, and as usual, her story ends with a laugh and I can’t help laughing along.

“I think people take wine way too seriously,” she is saying. “I think that wine should be fun.” She goes on to tell a story of filling her bathtub with red wine and bathing in it. I form a mental picture of this . . .

Meet Sue Straight, AKA the Wine Wench®. Sue is not your typical wine reviewer/writer/taster. Sue is not your typical person.

Born in Santa Monica, California, Sue grew up in the San Fernando Valley (and she does a mean “valley girl” imitation). Living on a small ranch with her family, she said she was “riding before I was born.” As a girl she wanted to be a horse veterinarian when she grew up, but that was not to be.

“I’m a failed Jewish American Princess,” she said, laughing. “I was always too bohemian to fit into that world.”

After high school she worked for a while at a veterinarian hospital in southern California and met and married a man who was both a farrier and a musician. Sue trained horses during the day and waitressed at night. She would roller skate down Ventura Boulevard to work each day. (At one point she was offered a chance to try out for the Los Angeles Thunderbirds roller derby team, but that’s another story.)

In 1981 Sue moved to Healdsburg, in northern California’s Sonoma County. One evening, while working as a waitress, a regular customer who managed a nearby tasting room offered Sue a job at her winery. “I thought, okay . . . I like wine,” said Sue, with a smile. She accepted the position and fell into the world of wine. She never looked back.

There she met the woman who would mentor her into a life of wine. Winemaker Carol Shelton asked Sue to help with some wine tastings. “I got to taste and write up descriptions,” said Sue. “Carol noticed that I had a palate, that I could taste subtle flavors in the wines that others missed.” Carol took Sue under her wing and eventually invited her to be a judge on a wine tasting panel. Sue did her first wine judging in 1985, at the Cloverdale Citrus Fair, which has since evolved into the San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition. She is now a regular wine judge for that competition as well as the El Dorado County Fair, Pacific Rim, and others.

Sue has tenaciously pursued her love of wine, and of sharing that love with others. For five years she wrote a column on wine for the San Diego Union Tribune where she developed a following of loyal readers. In 2001 she hosted a wine-related show on two Sonoma County radio stations, KHBG in Healdsburg, and KRSH in Santa Rosa. On these shows she did live, on-air tastings and interviewed winemakers from the region. It was while doing radio one day that a friend first dubbed her with the moniker “Wine Wench®.”

“I tend to be irreverent and lusty,” said Sue. “Hence, the Wine Wench® is a title that suits me perfectly!”

From the beginning Sue approached her work with a different attitude from what people had come to expect from wine reviewers. Instead of dry, traditional wine-speak, Sue infuses her reviews with wit, banter, and irreverent analogies, all of which add up to fun reading, along with great information on the latest wines available on the market.

Here’s how she described one wine: “Slightly sweet and totally refreshing, like Drew Barrymore sitting on a picnic blanket in a sunlit field of wildflowers, wearing nothing but a crown of daisies in her hair.” (I’d buy that wine.)

And another: “Picture Lenny Kravitz lounging in his bedroom, wearing black leather pants and eating ripe blackberries.”

“I love what I do,” said Sue with a grin. “I lead a wine-drenched life.”

Sue feels that instead of wine being something lofty and cerebral, it should be accessible, fun, and a part of everyday life.

“Wine is unabashedly sensuous,” she said. “It smells good, it tastes good, it enhances your daily life, and it’s good for you.” She laughed and added, “It’s always an adventure!”

In 2008 Sue started her blog, in order to, as she put it, “to gently educate the wine-glugging masses; to bring the tasting room to the Internet.” She is available to taste and rate wines for anyone. Rating on a scale of one to five stars, she only publishes ratings of three stars or above on the blog so everything you find there will be good.

Over the past 30 years Sue had been a part of the wine industry doing, as she put it, “whatever a Wine Wench® can do,” from managing tasting rooms and wine clubs, helping with crush, event planning, judging wine competitions, consulting, writing, and more. Today Sue is director of sales and marketing for J. Rickards Winery in Cloverdale, California, where her enthusiasm, energy, and excitement have greatly increased wine sales since she came onboard a short time ago. She is also a regular editorial contributor to the magazine Wine Country This Week.

Soon, in addition to wine tasting, her Web site will offer Wine Wench® products, from tee-shirts to wine glasses. She also offers a new service she calls “Back Label Girl™,” in which she helps wineries with the writing on their back labels to help sell their wines. As if all that weren’t enough, Sue is a talented blues harmonica player, and performs regularly around Sonoma County with her band, Wine Wench & Friends.

But her first love is always the wine. With her unique, refreshing, and sometimes cheeky approach, Sue Straight—the Wine Wench®—is helping to demystify wine and share it with a wider audience. She has made wine fun again.

To contact Sue, or to submit wines for review, visit her web site at

Come by and meet our team!
09 January, 2012

If you didn't visit us yesterday at UWGS booth #1820, we hope to see you today. Come by and meet Nick, Dan, Elizabeth and George, view our site demo and find out about some of the new supplier member programs we have to offer! We look forward to seeing you there!

WIN Advisor: Direct-to-Consumer Sales