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Geography is a Flavor Redux


Iran across a Stormhoek winery post from last week that mentioned the Starbucks “Geographyis a Flavor” campaign. Or, if you’re in South Africa, it’s “Flavour.”

Theirpost is a good one—a portion is excerpted below.

Weall know that us wine guys are notoriously bad marketers. We take fairly simpleconcepts about the uniquenss that "place" gives to wine and spin itinto obtuse concepts like appellations and terroir.

Butthe folks at Starbucks know how to take complex concepts like Terroir and makethem understandable. While they describe terroir perfectly, I suspect that theywould never use the word.

Itouched on this myself a little while back, because it’s genius in itssimplicity.  My original post can be found here.

But,before we give too much credit to the coffee guys for lapping the wine folks inmaking concepts easier to understand, I do need to point out that there is alsoa web site and company called “Terroir” Coffee Company.

Fromtheir web site:

Terroir™Select Coffee was created in early 2004 to forge a new kind of partnership withcoffee growers – one which recognizes their fundamental role and identity inthe production of high quality coffees. We believe that one should not blendtruly fine coffees, just like one does not blend fine wines, because they arealready complete statements. There has been very little incentive, in terms ofremuneration and acknowledgement, for producers to create really great coffees.

Formy money, I think Starbucks is doing a pretty good job wrapping value around acommodity product and I think folks like Appellation America that seem to bemoving to a wine vocabulary around “artisan” and “boutique” and “small-lot fromtheir five acre parcel in loamy soil on a hillside with a micro-climate 2 milessquare” are all better ways to educate your customer then the ill-defined and somewhatpeculiar connotation of “terroir” in this day and age (hey, I don’t assume peoplecan spell correctly).

Theword terroir is like trying to describe the color orange. How do you describe the color of an orange without providing somesort of frame of reference? And, well,if you’re going to have to provide a frame of reference and the word itself isn’tparticularly that important, then why not just go straight to the frame ofreference?

It confounds me how the American wine industry loves the Judgement of Paris story angle, yet we lift a lot of the intellectual property/concepts from the French and then don’t improve on them either.

Photo credit


All Things Considered: Wine Blog Digerati Separated at Birth?

Logo_npr_125Check out NPR’s "All Things Considered" from Monday the 28th for a nice feature on Biodynamic wines.  I’ve been skeptical in the past, I still am ... and then I realized that as a young baseball player I never stepped on the chalk stripes of a baseball diamond and never felt comfortable if I didn’t have a third batting glove tucked into my left back pocket of my uniform—so who am I to say the dung stuck in a horn on the night of a full moon isn’t legit.

While I I was doing some poking around for the NPR logo, I also found this goofy guy auctioning off his "Wine-tertainment" on eBay for $3200 (incls. travel anywhere in the U.S.).  Um, well, hmm, I’ll let you decide ...  But, he does have a picture of himself ... somebody let Beau from Basic Juice know that his 2nd cousin twice removed is stealing his shtick.




New World

Inspired by the Mondavi acquisition in late ‘04 Michael Mondavi’s recent acquistion detailed in articles here and here.



2005 Hook & Ladder “The Tillerman” Table White


Ireceived the 2005 Hook & Ladder “The Tillerman” white table wine as a partof a wine blog sampling program.

Accordingto the email from the p.r. representation for Hook & Ladder, the DeLoach’s wantedto explore the wine blogging community.

Itwould have been far more intuitive to send a bottle of red to some hardcorewine enthusiasts and now I know why they chose “The Tillerman” white as thesample.  

#1White wine, as a rule, is far more giving with a greater price to qualityequation at all price points then a red.


#2)This is a delicious wine.

Thoseguys at the Hook & Ladder Winery … always kidding around …

Thiswine must be a vinous b.s. meter to see who is full of it and who can recognizea decent glass of vino. The blogger whodoesn’t like it is outed as a charlatan not worth his blogging stripes.

TheHook & Ladder table white is an imminently enjoyable and pleasant wine—a valueat $16, if you find it at your local wine shop. This wine combines two qualities that usually don’t go hand in hand inthe good natured ways of adult sociability—it’s a wine you want to keep foryourself and, at the same time, a wine you want to bring to your nextneighborhood kitchen confab to share with others.   

Thenose is vibrant with pronounced peach and pineapple notes underscored with atouch of springtime. The wine itself isdry with bracing, sprightly acidity. Morepeach in the mouth with the crispness of green apple and a medium-long finishmake this a wine that combines a flavor profile that is hard not to like with enoughcomplexity and body to make you pause.

Igave it 17 points on the UC Davis 20 point scale.

Theneighbor that throws back the Clos Dubois and K-J Vintners Reserve is going tothank you for turning her on to this gem with NO OAK AGING.

Fromthe Russian River Valley, this Estate-Grown white isa blend of three white varieties grown in the winery’s Russian River Valley vineyards.

Accordingto another wine blog that reviewed the wine, the three white varieties areproprietary and subject to yearly fluctuations in blending quantity in order toproduce a consistent style. So, I reallydon’t know what varietals make up the blend. But, to my palate, I’m going to guess primarily Viognier and PinotGrigio with a touch of Chardonnay.

Whateverthe blend is, hat’s off to the De Loach’s for coming out of the gate with a whitewine that’s a winner.

And,if you’re a wine drinker reading this, give yourself a pat on the back forpotentially picking up two of these bottles—one for yourself and one to sharethereby turning your neighbor off the butter bomb whites and onto this gem.


Wine Industry Compliance:  “Hope” is not a Strategy


OnFriday, August 25th at 7:19 pm, Inertia Beverage Group, awine industry technology firm with the leading commerce and management platformthat enables wineries to sell direct to customers, fired a shot across the bowto the industry and to other wineries.

Thepost and the advice have important implications for wineries of all stripes and,of course, customers—me, you and other wine lovers.

Ifirst got turned onto to Inertia several months ago via a post atFermentation. And, after reading theirblog since launch in the early spring, I think they are doing the smartest andmost compelling enablement in the wine space.

And,really, you have to admire a company whose dedication to their customers—wineries—isencompassed in three little maxims:

1) Make wineries money, 2) Save wineries money, and 3) Service execution. 

Ina post at their blog on Friday, CEO Paul Mabray did a gut check on the state ofthe industry and the state of focus by wineries and said:

I thinksales are the key to a wineries success - not sales restrictions. There areenough states that wineries are not servicing properly through good directsales techniques to increase each of their business over 300%.

BecauseInertia has created their commerce and management platform around the name “REthink”and their company uses phrenology imagery, the medical practice of attributingcertain mental functions to areas of the brain, wineries, for their part, woulddo well to heed the smart advice.

Hispremise is simple and honest (I’m paraphrasing): 

“Don’tspend time worrying about the states that you cannot ship to, or that have someongoing restrictions. Use that time andenergy spent worrying (and trying) to send one case of wine to the lone couplefrom Arkansas that visited your winery last year that cannot legally receive a wineclub shipment and spend that time developing relationships and a database ofcustomers that can be cultivated in Idaho, for example, where you can ship 24cases a year to every man and woman over the age of 21.”

IfI can further paraphrase, Paul is saying: 

“Ifyou spent three hours trying to figure out how to sell to that one customer in Arkansas that cannot legally receivea shipment yet, rethink that for a second. Youcould have spent those three hours working with that same lone person thatsigned your guestbook from  Idaho that surely has a dozen wine-loving friends that can each receive 24 cases of wine from you annually and would surely be interested in sampling your wines or hearing more about your story."

Paul’snugget seems brilliantly simple to me and right on the mark.

Insales, a sales manager worth his salt would counsel the same to a young rep.:

“Don’tspend time working on things that are out of your control, work on the thingsthat you can control and will contribute to your success.”

Inany type of selling, focusing on fixing that which seems very important, butcan’t directly be managed is an easy trap to fall into and a good trap to getout of.  Having a partner like Inertia to call a spade a spade and defend the sanctity of correct action seems like a pretty smart thing to me.   

Essentially,what’s happening in the wine industry is direct shipping de-regulation iscausing a minor furor with firms creating technology based compliance solutionsso wineries can ship to all 50 states. Many small to medium size wineries are dissatisfied with theirdistribution relationship, if they have one at all, and the prospect of beingable to sell to any customer in the country holds great appeal.

But,the gotcha is that since May of 2005 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled thatstates could not discriminate against out-of-state wineries that wanted to shipwine directly to consumers, many states have inserted clauses and verbiage intothe law that create additional administration and paperwork that needs to benavigated and, for the most part, creates more gray areas for lawinterpretation. In my particular state,for example, this “fuzzy logic” incorporation of legal contingencies andpaperwork is a fact through 2006 as the legislators balanced the political needto address the Supreme Court ruling while also accounting for the lobbying andthe greasing of the re-election funds that the distributors were doing alongthe way.

It’llchange eventually, but it’ll take a couple of sessions to get it right.

Paul’smessage is simple, but important. And,as any coach will tell you: it’s the every play blocking and the tackling thatlead to touchdowns. Despite the beauty of the 30 yard bomb down the sidelinefor the score, it’s the 9 other guys doing the hard work—handling theassignment that is immediately in front them that gets the job done.

Or,in phrenological terms, it’s using the “Eventuality” portion of your braininstead of the “Hope” portion.


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