Archive for December, 2008

Yargh, there is Treasure on that thar Island!

December 22, 2008

As I mentioned in an earlier post on this blog, there is a boom in urban wine making.  This past weekend, I found some new gems in my never ending search for tasty delights within the city limits.

This small collective is located on Treasure Island, the former Naval base in the middle of San Francisco Bay.  Luckily for me, it is in the San Francisco limits, which means no bridge toll!  To be able to re-purpose the warehouse space on this local, um, treasure, makes the wine even that much sweeter.

The first stop in this adventure was VIE Winery.  VIE makes very limited production Rhone varietals, and we tasted through a Rousanne, 2 Syrahs, and a Mouvedre blend.  VIE comes from the French word for “invite”, which is exactly what Bryan did for us – he invited us in to taste and explore the wines that he was creating with his partners. Vie comes from the French word meaning “life”, which is appropriate since wine is best enjoyed with friends, in celebration of the good life.

The first wine at VIE was the 2007 Lake County Rousanne.  It had grapefruit and lychee on the nose, and had a toasty flavor profile with a nutty note.  I tasted marzipan and toasted bread, with some grilled pineapple and must melon.  I enjoyed talking the guys from VIE as they explained that they used to make Roussanne from Paso Robles, another well known Rhone region in California, but that the climate just wasn’t quite right for this particular wine.  That said, they gave Lake County a shot where the soil and the climate seem to be right and created a really lovely white.

Next, I tried the Les Amours Santa Barbara Syrah.  Now, I love Syrah and this baby was no exception.  It was made to be a component in their GSM (Grenanche / Syrah / Mouvedre) program, but is lovely on its own.  I tasted strawberry jame, cherries, and smoked meats, with a touch of plum.

We also tried the 2006 Alder Springs Syrah, from Mendocino County.  This was really interesting, as it was famred in a high density vineyard profile, where vines are placed very closely together, and the focus is on growing smaller yeilds.  Because this is quite an expensive undertaking, this is only done by about a dozen folks here in the U.S.  This syrah is co-fermented with Viognier, and results in a very aromatic wine with juicy cherry berry characteristics.

The last VIE wine we tried was the 2006 L’Intruse Mouvedre, which has a touch of syrah and grenache blended in.  I found tons of blueberry on the nose, with a lot of blue & black fruit on hte palate, and spicy end notes.  Yum!

Sol Rouge Winery is something I was introduced to by The Wine Spies, when I ordered their Delicious Tom  Feeny Zinfandel.  Sol Rouge means “red earth” which is taken from the appellation name, high above the Napa Valley.    They also produce Rhone varietals, but also Bordeaux influenced wines.

Here, we tasted the 2007 Gypsy Blanc, a blend or Rousanne, Marsanne and Viognier.  This had a floral nose with flavors of Cantaloupe, tropical fruit and apples.  Next, we tried the Gypsy Red, which is a classic Rhone blend of Grenache, Mouvdere, Syrah, and Petite Sirah.  I tasted Strawberry jam and tons of juicy red fruit.  This was a fun and light red that I recommend for spring sipping.  Finally, we tasted the Tom Feeny Zin.  This wine is made from several blocks of vineyards on and around Tom Feeny Ranch, a well known source in Russian River Valley for zinfandel.  I stated dusty blackberries, black raspberries and other bright red fruit.

If you get the opportunity, I encourage you to try VIE and Sol Rouge!  You won’t regret it!


The importance of being…

December 13, 2008

As I expand my circle of friends in the wine business, I am often asked what is a wine blog, or what is Twitter, and why should I care.  As I sit here and read the newsletter from one of my favorite wineries, Manzanita Creek, I am struck by the call to action they put forth in the closing paragraph which sums up the most important reason:

Blogging has become and important marketing tool.  It is a win-win for the consumers and wineries.  The consumers gain knowledge and spread the word to other wine lovers with results in sales.  In this economy, we are all struggling.  We need our members support within the bloggersphere!

This in a nutshell is why wineries should blog and engage in new media, why wineries should encourage their patrons to blog, and why bloggers are so powerful.  As a winery or retailer, there are several reasons why you should join the social media revolution.  The first and foremost reason that comes to my mind is that you are missing out on a huge audience that is sitting there waiting to communicate with you.  Social media and online resources are essentially free to you, with the exception of your time.

  • Wine Bloggers are the new way of providing word of mouth marketing .  Anyone who has ever worked in a retail environment, including software sales, knows that WOM marketing is the single most effective way to generate new sales.
  • The new generation of wine drinkers is more media savvy and more wired than ever before.  They are reaching the age of majority in record numbers, and are a mostly untapped market segment.  These are the generation that crosses Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Whatever, born between 1979 and 2002, otherwise known as Millennials.  These consumers aren’t looking to build a cellar or impress their friends.  They want instant gratification and they want gloss.  They are looking for inexpensive but tasty beverages.  They don’t care about Parker, they don’t’ care about shelf talkers.  They are more likely than any other consumer to mak etheir wine purchases based on something written online.  They buy things online in record numbers.
  • We get more of our news online than from any other soruce.  This also pertains ot wine news.  Blogs and e-newsletters are free or next to free tools to spread news and information about your brand to a mass audience easiily
  • Microblogging platforms such as Twitter provide you with a large community of wine bloggers and wine lovers who have formed an online family.  Get ot know a few of them, and they can introduce you to the rest of the wine community.  I liken it to instant messaging a large auidence of like minded people at once.  Twitter is a powerful broadcast media tool and some of the things that I think are great uses of the tool are:
    • Twitter only discounts.  A great example of a retail that does this are The Wine Spies.
    • News & blog post announcements to encourage readers to click through to your website or blog.
    • Participate in online events such as Twitter Taste Live
    • Interaction with consumers with specific questions

Some examaples of good winery Twitterers are:

Additionally, there are literally hundreds of wine bloggers on Twitter.  There is a great list at Wine Twitters. As Michael Wangblicker of Caveman wines wrote,

I use Twitter to connect with wine bloggers, wine enthusiasts, and social media junkies like myself. Recently, I used Twitter and my blog to promote my client’s new harvest intern blog. Along with email, this was a great method of getting the word out. It worked because I am a member of the community and peopl know who I am. Another great application for a microblog would be an online tasting. Bin Ends Wine, an online retailer, conducts monthly “Twitter Taste Live” seminars where a special guest “tweeter” conducts a tasting all over Twitter. I also forsee this working for a winery media tasting.

So what can a winery do to encourage this new media marketing?  COMMUNICATE with the bloggesphere!   There are few key ways that I see this in action:

  • Create Google Alerts to notify your marketing team (or yourself!) when a blogger has written about your winery.  This is a simple and effective tool that emails you when a blogger talks about your winery, effectively giving you free marketing
  • Host Blogger Tasting Forums.  The first of these was held at Hahn Estates recently, and included several bloggers as well as the Hahn team and other winery participants.  This kind of cross dialogue gets people talking.  These are a great opportunity for bloggers and wineries to sit down together, where the host winery is highlighted, and we as bloggers can learn more about your wine while talking to our fellow bloggers and including additional wineries.
  • Participate in a blogger sample program.  Be sure to ask a blogger if they are open to this first, as some bloggers do not wish to receive samples.  This is a very powerful way to get the word out about a new product, which might not be readily accessible.  If you are trying to luanch a mailing list only brand, having a blogger who had 1000 readers a month read about is a huge viral marketing tool.
  • Participate in event s like Twitter Taste Live. Twitter Taste Live is an online tasting forum where participants taste the same thing at the same time across the country (and sometimes across the world).  Dpeending on the focus, you are increasing sales both during the event itself, and after – as blog posts are completed.
  • Come to the WBC! The Wine Bloggers Conference is in its infancy but it was a truely amazing event.  There were many wineries that participated, not just in tastings, and as a direct result we were exposed to them.
  • Exposure is key.  There are over 700 wineries in California ALONE.  How many do you realistically thing we actually know about?  taking that a step further, accessibility can be challenging.  If we can’t get a wine easily than we won’t know about it and you are missing out on sales.

These are just some of my ideas.  There are many more posted over HERE, and I encourage you to cehck it out!

Traditional print media is being weeded down.  As newspapers file for Chapter 11, and the new geneation doesn’t subscribe to traditional wine journals, online media is becoming increasingly important.  Bloggers often have a more distinct connection with the wine buying audience, since we are writing about what we enjoy, what are expereinces are, and what our passions are.  This differs from traditional wine writing since – in my opion – they are talking about the wine in a technical way, without the passion or love that I feel many wine bloggers have.

In Vino Veritas!

When the lights go down, in the City. And the sun shines on the bay!

December 12, 2008

When the lights go down in the city
And the sun shines on the bay
I want to be there in my city
Ooh, ooh

It never fails to impress me how lucky I am living here in San Francisco. I am pretty much an hour from 4 world class wine producing areas:

  • Sonoma
  • Napa
  • Santa Cruz Mountains
  • Livermore Valley

And I live in, what I think, is one of the smallest, friendlisest unique cities in the world.

To prove this point, last night I attended the first event hosted by the San Francisco Wine Association.   This new association is a group of 16 high end urban micro wineries, who produce small lots of ultra premium wines at a shared facility in San Francisco.  Each winemaker has thier own trademark style, with the focus being on New World wines of distinction.  Many of the winemakers have had recognition in some of the traditional wine media publications.

Because these are urban micro wineries, these brands do not have tasting rooms.  That is what makes an open house like this so special, because we get to taste small lot ultra premium wines side by side in a rare tasting event.  To have the ability to taste these wines in one place is truely special.

I found some truly memorable examples of Pinot Noir and Syrah from all over California, in a relaxed setting at Crushpad, where the wines are made.  Crushpad Crushpad is the custom crush facility in The City’s Dogpatch district, where commercial wineries share the winemaking facilities.  Additionally, lay winemakers like you and me can also participate int he process by buying in to a non-commerical group.  I am currently making a zinfandel and a cabernet blend in my efforts to better understand the chemical magic that occurs in the barrel.  These custom crush facilities have long been a secret in the wine industry, since the capital outlay for the winemaking equipment can be daunting for a new brand.  In recent years however, Crushpad has been a leader in opening up this community to the public, giving us a glimpse in to the secrets of winemaking and exposing us to new and unique brands.  By pooling resources, micro wineries are able to concentrate on souring the best fruit, and making the wine, and not worry about buying the equipment.

The San Francisco Wine Association members that I tasted and stood out for me, with the caveat that I was NOT taking notes due to my making very merry:

Because these brands do not have tasting rooms, you can only purchase the wines online via their websites directly, or through the SFWA site.

I encourage you to try them if you get the chance!

Is it Chile in here, or is it just me?

December 11, 2008

This month, Wine Blogging Wednesday‘s host, Tim of Cheap Wine Ratings challenged us to find a Chilean Red under $20.  Not having had many Chilean wines period, I was curious so I headed over to good old Cost Plus (World Market to you crazy people on the East Coast) and picked up two red blends.

The first is the 2005 Nomad Red Wine, from the Central Valley region.  This is actually an effort by a California winemaker, known for his efforts at Domaine Carneros.  TJ Evans, who partnered with two other meandering winemakers, Jeffrey Jarvis, a small vineyard owner here in California, and Jessica Tomei who is the importer.

The blend of Cabernet Sauvingon, Syrah, Carmenere and a touch of Malbec grapes was produced from grapes from all over Chile, but primarily Maipo Valley.  This is a very big wine.  It is inky black in the glass, and very earthy.  The smokey character of the Malbec & Carmenere really show through.  I am tasting a lot of smokey meats, and blue fruit like ripe plums as well as tobacco and a touch of leather sprinkled with black pepper and allspice.

This wine was $13.99 at Cost Plus and for the money, it was a great buy with excellent QPR.  If you like a big Bordeaux style blend, I would highly recommend it, especially with a meat dish for dinner.

The second wine that I piced up was another red blend.  Hey, I was on a theme!  This was also from Cost Plus, and was $11.99.  The 2005 Calcu is a blend of 60% Cab Sav, 20% Cab Franc, and 20% Carmenere.  According to their label, a Calcu is a magician, and the magic is here in this interesting blend from the Colchagua Valley region of Chile.

This blend also has a very dark purple color, and has a dusty blackberry characteristic that I attribute to the Cab Franc.  Smokey meat flavors are held firmly by the tannins.  The finish on this wine keeps on going and going and going!  There is a lot of anise immediately on the first sip, followed by roasted figs.  There is an olive like end note that pops up after you think all of the flavor is gone.  There is some oak on the wine but it is not overpowering.

I will keep looking for great buys from Chile and I encourage you to RUN not walk to pick up the Nomad!

What happens in Napa, stays in Napa. And the blogesphere. And Twitterverse.

December 9, 2008

This past Sunday, I was fortunate enough to have my Luscious Lush self and my big mouth invited to a blogger panel discussion, hosted by Lisa de Bruin (@winedivergirl) of Hahn Estates.  At this discussion were several fellow bloggers and industry folks, as well as a large contingent of the Hahn team, who were on hand to discuss their wines as well as how they can more effectively interact with us wine blogger types.

First, let me get this out of the way.  I am going to talk about some wines.  I am going to talk about some Hahn Estates wines.  These wines were tasted at a hosted event, but these comments express ONLY my opinions.  I am choosing to write about the wines that stood out in my memory as being exceptional or noteworthy, because i like to share things I like.  Moving right along then!
In attendance, we had the following bloggers:
Additionally, we had two wineries represented, which added a unique perspective.

From Hahn, we had:

  • Andy Mitchell, Director of Vineyard Operations
  • Adam Lazarre, Winemaker
  • Bill Leigon, President
  • Evelyn Pool, VP of Marketing
  • Lisa Adams Walter, PR (@lisaadamswalter)
  • and of course, our illustrious hostess herself – Lisa de Bruin, Director of New Media Marketing (@winedivergirl)

This event was envisioned by Lisa de Bruin, with a lot of input from various bloggers and industry folks, as an opportunity to open the dialogue between wineries and bloggers.  This has been something of a challenge in recent weeks, and has incited some rioting (friendly fire only!).  Before the lively discussion started, however, we were treated to a tasting of some of the Bin 36 and Lucienne offerings.  Below are my notes from my favorites:

2006 Lucienne Pinot Noir, Lone Oak Vineyard

Rich ruby color.  Rich without being sweet or overdone.  Black cherry, earth.  Strawberry fruit rollup, cherry and plum.  Tastes slightly salty.

The Lone Oak Vineyard is in an area of the Santa Lucia Highlands that produces world

class pinot noir.  Case in point, Lone Oak actually sits between Gary’s Vineyard and Rosellas Vineyard, which are both well known in pinot circles for producing some cult pinot noirs.

We also tasted the 2006 Lucienne Pinot Noir, Doctors Vineyard

This had a much chewier mouth feel, with black raspberry and Bing cherries, followed by plums and earthy spice flavors.

I enjoyed both of these pinots very much, and would say that for drinking along, Doctors is a great choice.  If you are pairing with food, I would suggest the Lone Oak.

This event was just getting under way after the wine was poured.  With our minds flowing freely, the discussion began as to how wineries, other industry professionals, and bloggers can work together.

First, let’s face it.  Bloggers are a rowdy and diverse bunch.  NO two wine blogs really have the same goal, and no two wine blogs are the same.  Personally, I write my blog because I like to share.  It started as a newsletter of events and wines that I was enjoying, and evolved from there.  I choose to write about wines & things that I find inspiring.  I choose not to write about every forgettable wine that I taste, because I don’t have that much time in my life.  But that is me.  Your wine blog might be different, and that’s OK!  The point of the blogger community is that we all have our passions.  Our readers come to our blogs for information, and for different reasons.  I read over 100 wine blogs – not every day, but in general – and each one adds value for a different reason.

  • Sonadora, the Wannabe Wino, gives me insight in to her favorite wines and her travels through wine country
  • Lisa de Bruin, from California Wine Life and Hahn Estates, gives me a unique perspective on issues in the industry as well as her adventures diving and enjoying wine.
  • The Brix Chicks let me peek vicariously in to their world as they pursue their WSET certificates and taste things locally.
  • Michael Wangblicker of Caveman Wines writes about shaping the wine blogging industry, and gives me great tips and tricks to improve my own writing.

Each blog is different, each blog is great. The uniqueness of the blogging industry is what makes it magical.

In recent news, traditional media outlets such as the Chicago Tribune have filed for bankruptcy.  As we move towards the next decade, old school traditional media methods are being surpassed by new methods, such as online media and blogging.  As Lisa put it “the shift of influence in the wine world from old print media to new on-line media, especially in the form of blogs with character, variety and accessibility to the variety of wine lovers out there is essential to the success of a growing wine industry.”  I could not agree more.  The next generation of wine drinker is so attached to the web, they are avoiding brick and mortar establishments.

There has been a lot of discussion about where the line is drawn in terms of bloggers and wineries.  I question this, as traditional media outlets get wined and dined and showered with gifts all the time.  I’m not sure why we should be held to a higher standard, just because we are innovative and new.  That being said, if we are clearly writing about a “sample”, as disclosed in our blogs, are we not covering our own asses enough?  Food for thought.

Since I personally, only write about wines and events that are important to me, I am aware that I am giving positive publicity to those wineries / events.  SO what?  How is this different than me saying to my friends, “I had a great wine last night you should try it”?  Word of mouth marketing has been, and will continue to be, the most powerful sales tool in the retail world.  The only different that we, as wine bloggers have, is that we are communicating to a wider audience en masse.

I hope that these conversations will continue, and would love to see winery hosted blogger panels more frequently, across the US.  One question that came up during our conversation with Hahn was about this being  “Hahn Fest” of sorts.  While there was a certain portion of that, I see that as being somewhat obvious, since it was a hosted event.  However, if more wineries like Twisted Oak, participate and pour their wines in a convivial and social setting, the appearance of this can be changed.  Again, I didn’t see this as an issue because it was clear before we went that we were attending a hosted event, with a panel of Hahn employees.

That’s what I think.  What do YOU think?

88…89…90! Ready or not here we come!

December 1, 2008

What is the deal with all of these numbers?  What do they really mean?  Who decided that every wine has to be rated on one scale, 1-100 anyway?  It certainly wasn’t me.  For the most part I use the:

  1. HELL no you aren’t gonna pry this out of my cold dead hands!
  2. Damn that’s some good wine!
  3. Ohhh I like it
  4. Ah well it’s a party anyway
  5. What the F?

But alas, there is a preponderance of rating scales out there and the most popular is the 100 point scale favored by overblown wine critics every where. Wine shopes are filled with wines that either haven’t been deemed as worthy enough to rate, or those that didnt’ score the coveted 90+ points required to sell out quickly, thereby ensuring the futures of the winemakers college educations.

For this Twitter Taste Live, on Saturday December 13th, we are being hosted by David Honig of The 89 Project.  The goal of the project is to expose wines that might otherwise flounder in the dusty bottom shelves of BevMo.  Those wines that are perfectly drinkable, if not enjoyable, and are still inexpensive enough to be worthly of your Carbonara.  The 89 Project seeks to join bloggers, wine lovers and reviewers to cross-post their thoguhts on these 89 point wines.

For the first time, we are being sent our Twitter Taste Live wines BLIND!  That’s right folks.  We aren’t going to knwo what they are.  It’s a SURPRISE!  This will elminate any posturing over lables or regions that might be less than stellar in our minds eyes.  The project participants will all sit down and taste these wines at the same time, and tweet about them – LIVE.

I for one am looking forward to this event and am excited to share our opinions with the wine commuinity!

If you would like to participate, please go to Twitter Taste Live and sign up.  If you’re not already a member, please take a moment to join.  It’s free, and it’s fun!  Just tell them I sent you and then you can RSVP to upcoming events.

Click HERE to order the blind four pack directly from

Click HERE to RSVP or to join Twitter Taste Live!