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March 31 2008
Popular Wine Blog is Sold in First-Ever Wine Blog Acquisition for an Estimated U.S. $1200.00 and other Considerations
INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana, April 1, 2008— Popular wine blog, Good Grape, a site started in January 2006, has been sold to Happy Mutants, LLC, the parent company to Boing Boing, the Internet’s most traffic’ed weblog.
In a statement, a Happy Mutants principal who declined to be directly quoted said, “We wanted to buy a wine blog because, well, you know, it seems like wine is pretty hot these days, and this guy was the cheapest we talked to. We talked to a dude, maybe his name was Ash, no, Oak something, no, oh, I don’t know, it was something related to a tree and anyways he wouldn’t sell because he was actually serious about wine and then we talked to a couple of Doctors, not real doctors, like doctors in college or something, I love college girls, whoops, did I say that, and, anyways, they wanted too much money, so we landed on this guy who practically low-balled himself before we even offered a number. We would have given him $2500 before he blurted out $1200. Frankly, we just want the URL, but the guy wanted to sign a consulting contract and non-compete. $50 a month for two years sounded pretty good to us.”
Jeff, Writer and Editor at Good Grape said, “I am happy we were able to maximize shareholder value and I look forward to a mutually beneficial relationship over the two years of my consulting contract. Boing Boing is noted for being a ‘Directory of Wonderful Things’ and I think Good Grape will harmonize perfectly with their vision for expanding into vinous ‘wonderful things,’ plus they made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. I have a family and I look forward to spending more quality time with them in the future. My unborn son and daughter need a father, and maybe a Dad too after they are born.”
The acquisition closes on April 1, 2008 in an all cash transaction with additional considerations. Boing Boing is purchasing the content, URL and all imagery associated with the site. Jeff, the blog writer and chief voice, will not continue with Boing Boing.
Jeff noted, “This really culminates a 12 month run that started last April 1, when I was named one of Oprah’s friends. I am very happy for Boing Boing and I am sure they will continue the Good Grape tradition just fine. In fact, I have received emails from people suggesting that a monkey could writer better then myself (sic), so my contributions are really immaterial to the future of the site.”
When asked why he sold, Jeff noted, without a hint of irony or NBA-star like ego mania for speaking in the third person, “Everybody has a price. Jeff has to do what is right for Jeff. I am taking a loss on the deal based on how much it cost me to have the site designed, but a bird in the hand is worth two bushes, I always say. The early bird gets the apple, if you know what I mean. Frankly, I felt like the timing was right, my wife asked me every week if my time spent was yielding any money and I kept telling her that the quarterly $7 Amazon.com referral fees were money enough. Finally, I was able to prove her wrong. After taxes and the write-off, we will celebrate at French Laundry. I may have to ante in for her portion, but I am sure I will have enough for mine. Of course, we’ll have to fly there too because I live in the middle of the Midwest.”
Jeff noted that ideas are plentiful, but execution is what matters, a formula for his run of success over two years with Good Grape. Ever the entrepreneur, he plans to start a new site under the guise of one of the following names:
1) Bung & Punt
2) Pomace & Lees
3) Reverand Grape
4) Mog Grog
5) Wine is the new black
Jeff invites readers of his blog to submit a comment with their vote for the name of the next incarnation of his unique take on wine.
# # #
March 30 2008
Ah, I was sipping a nice Viognier and Roussanne blend from a producer I was not familiar with, Garrestson Wine Company, and just got done recording a podcast with my partner-in-crime, Tim Elliott from Winecast.net, who is making a Roussanne with Crushpad, and one of our topics was high alcohol wines. In fact, one of the guests on the call was Craig Camp from Anne Amie vineyards who had some commentary on high alcohol wines and the relative merits of the ongoing wine debate about extracted, high-alcohol wines.
With that as my baseline, imagine my pleasant surprise when I start doing some online research to do this wine review and I come across a nice write-up from Craig’s winemaker, (UPDATE: Craig sent me a note and actually Tim is the National Sales Director) Tim Brislin, on the wine that I am reviewing.
Thanks Tim, for not only providing a first-person account of an interaction with Mat Garretson, but for also saying what I would want to say, minus the first person interaction.
Garretson Wine Company produces high-end Rhone varietals, generally at $25 to $50 bucks, but they also produce a more affordable series—a red and a white blend called the “G” series, which can be found for around $15 - $16. From their web site:
The G Series was born out of a desire to produce a white and red wine which would serve as an true introduction to GWC and our style. While exhibiting generous, ripe fruit, there’s more to these wines. They have finesse, balance, nuanced layers that, we hope, prove a bit more compelling than most wines in this category.
I was not familiar with Garretson and picked it up yesterday on a whim since I have been on a Viognier kick lately.
Tim from the Anne Amie blog says:
Garretson Wine Company is a must have for any wine collector, and this fine Paso Robles vintner produces wine that are varietally correct, terroir driven, and expressive. I first met Owner/Winemaker Mat Garretson at a trade show in Boston, drawn to his table by his colorful labels and the buzz his wines were creating. After looking at his labels and noticing the alcohol content, I felt some trepidation towards tasting his offerings. After all, high alcohol is the demise of the wine industry, as wine critics bemoan, and California producers among the worst offenders. But these wines were perfectly balanced, complex, and showed exactly why Paso Robles is the epicenter for Rhone varietals. Since these wines are highly sought after, I had some trouble buying my own stash and decided in order to best enjoy Garretson, I’d have to bring Mat to Anne Amie. A few emails later, Mat agreed to come and in February, he will be pouring his wine all day, and showcasing some of his favorites during an elegant dinner that night.
I’m going to apologize to Mat for my preconceived notions regarding alcohol content and his wines, especially after reading his article on that subject which can be found here. It seems I’ve become blinded by provincial pretenses. We don’t get high alcohol wines in Oregon because the weather doesn’t let us…Garretson gets higher content due to his warmer weather and that’s part of what makes his wine different and enjoyable to drink.
This Viognier/Roussanne blend is a winner, our world is small, and my review for the 2005 Garretson Wine Co., G White, can be found here.
March 27 2008
Last Friday I wrote a post about my transition from working for a technology company in the wine industry back to my roots in regular business-to-business technology. The post came about quite by accident as I had intended to write a simple review about the 2003 Hourglass Cabernet Sauvignon, but other things tumbled out onto the page in a jumble of fingers pounding on the keyboard as I recounted how I came across the Hourglass and what it meant symbolically to me.
I posted the blog and then headed to bed.
The following morning, I had mis-givings. It was too personal, too wrought with the foibles of my humanity. Understanding that as an RSS feed the post had already made its way out to the Internet at large, I moved the post to the archives—not trying to be disingenuous, but just simply acting as a person that wears clothes in public. However, I have had nightmares to the contrary, go figure on that one.
I thought the post was, perhaps, sweetly melancholic, like the Charlie Brown Christmas special, but it could be interpreted differently, maybe more than a touch blue, masked by words.
Despite my judgment in moving the post, I received no less than six emails from people that I’m friendly with via my blog and they all commented one way or another about the touch of sadness that was inflected. One friend asked if I was related to Sylvia Plath, which I got a chuckle out of.
If you want to read the post, you can search for it in the March archives. I am probably making more of it than what it was.
However, this entire prelude is really getting me to my point, which is this: While I am not classically trained in wine, and I worked in the wine industry for a brief respite before moving on, here is what I learned while in the business, all of it positive and none of it in any specific order.
1) The wine industry walks a tightrope in managing the “Neil Armstrong” complex—wine folk want to be first, but they do not want to do the failing that is a part of experimentation
2) The wine industry is very collegial and rife with folks that lean on an abundance of mentors
3) Levi’s jeans, no doubt based on the wine industry’s agricultural roots, has a lock on the industry as the jean of choice
4) The normal six degrees of separation is about .5 in the wine industry and industry lawyer John Hinman is the maven that connects everybody
5) Tom Wark from Fermentation is a genuinely nice guy who is well-respected by anybody and everybody that gets the Web
6) Tasting rooms are for tourists. Despite the high costs for living there, no wine country native goes to a tasting room on Saturdays.
7) Professional courtesy in the wine industry is observed more so than any other industry in America. If you make a call to a stranger asking to talk 8 out of 10 times they will call you back. In corporate America, it is .25 out of 10 times.
8) Trade discounts are a fantastic perk. You mean I have a business card from a company in the wine industry and I get 20% off?
9) There is virtually a zero barrier to entry for somebody wishing to launch a successful e-commerce company in the wine industry. Start-up costs are low, ability to penetrate high and ability to gain market share is favorable to the entrepreneur
10) Robert Mondavi casts a larger shadow and has no peer relative to influence in any other industry, compared to his influence in the world of wine
11) The wine industry is big on the recitation of a persons curriculum vitae with corresponding name-dropping
12) Only fools fly into SFO when you can fly into Oakland
13) There is a tremendous California, West Coast-centric attitude that looks down their nose at people from anywhere other than New York
14) Most of the problems in wine marketing are because of the “forest and tree” syndrome
15) The greatest opportunity in wine today, bar none, is to open up a retailer, a distributor or a wine shipping logistics company, in that order
16) The best hotel value in all of Napa Valley is the Gaia, on the border of Napa and American Canyon.
17) Grocery store prices are approximately 30% higher than in Indianapolis
18) The wine industry is still an easy three to five years away from really understanding and embracing technology, particularly the Internet
19) People care less about what kind of car they drive than in Southern California
20) If our illegal friends from Mexico were not here, the wine industry would be up the creek
21) The tension between wineries and distributors is palpable
22) There is no rhyme or reason to how wineries price their wine
23) Napa has the reputation, but Sonoma and the Central Coast have the mojo
25) Hitting the lottery is easier than creating a wine brand that jumps the rocket ship to national growth
Of course, I learned much more, but these are a few of the lessons. Never before have I encountered such genuine goodness in people than in the wine biz., and I’ll always be fond of those memories, but I’m making a hasty retreat back to a normal life and keeping my wine passion as a hobby, as it should be, not mixing business with pleasure.
March 25 2008
I am offering another quick reminder that voting is ongoing for the 2008 American Wine Blog Awards.
I am pleased to be nominated in two categories—Best Blog Graphics and Best Wine Business Blog.
My site is, presumptively, the dark horse in both categories. The Best Blog Graphics is likely swinging towards an upstart and the Best Wine Business Blog is amongst stiff competition against three legitimate businesses. It is flattering for me, but stiff competition regardless.
Your vote is important—not necessarily for this blog, though that would be nice, but for all of the finalists.
You can see all of the nominations summary style at Fermentation
And, you can vote for your favorites at the voting mechanism found here.
Some brief commentary, in my mind, 2008 is a critical inflection point for wine blogging. No, not blogging in general, that much has been decided, but specifically for wine blogging.
In a few short years, and particularly the last two, the increase in mindshare and influence wrought by wine blogs has been tremendous, but the rubber is starting to meet the road and in order for wine blogging to become something truly valuable to the wine industry we need to continue to tick up in exposure, go pro so to speak.
It is an interesting notion that wine message boards wield an equal and commensurate influence as blogs in ‘08 and likewise it is unfortunate that Wine Spectator keeps their blogs behind the subscription gates, almost despite the loosening up on content at media power brokers like The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, but then the wine industry moves at its own genteel pace.
That said, your vote is a vote for progressiveness. A huge turnout in voting is a validation for wine blogs in and of itself. Go. Do. It. Now.
As a sidebar to my blog being nominated in the Best Wine Business Blog category, I started a “Wine Business Network” group on the professional networking site LinkedIn a few weeks back. If you are not on LinkedIn, you need to be pronto. It is becoming THE rolodex tool for the new millennium. Well, I started the group very innocently and seeded it with six or seven people. Quietly, passively, it has grown in number about 12X and I am getting 10 – 15 requests to join daily.
March 24 2008
What do an obscure post-Easter holiday, festive libations and Bill Clinton have in common? Could be the set-up to a punch line, huh? The answer is not a bacchanalian party with interns, either.
Before doing a quick Google search, I would have sworn that South Bend, a northern Indiana border town, a region referred to as Michiana, on the south bend of the St. Joseph river, in the shadow of our lady’s golden dome, my hometown, was the only place in the U.S. that celebrated a peculiar and festive Polish holiday the Monday after Easter called Dyngus Day.
What did we do before Wikipedia and Google?
Alas, because of Wikipedia, I now know that Buffalo, NY and pockets of New York also celebrate Dyngus Day, this most joyous of celebrations. Welcome to the party, fellas. I made it 35 years thinking this goofy slice of Eastern European- cum-Americana was unique to South Bend. Selfishly, it is somewhat nice to be in on something local, and, well, kooky. Kind of like that hidden gem of a wine made in absurdly small quantities by the crackpot winemaker.
Dyngus Day is, frankly, an excuse to party, a hump holiday after St. Patrick’s Day and before late spring weather roars to life. It is a day of beer, polish sausage, boiled eggs, and city-county council members slapping backs and kissing babies at VFW lodges throughout town.
Undoubtedly, there is some vino being served, too—perhaps some Hungarian vino from Tokaj or a lightly tannic German red wine, something to pair with the food. Polish sausage, in particular, a zesty sausage that is on our dinner table every Easter, pairs well with a peppery Syrah, even if a Pinot is best for the Easter table.
Besides South Bend being a legacy town with a huge enclave of polish folks and a place where being called a “Polack” is not viewed as an ethnic slur, it is also a town that hosted the former President of the U.S. today. Indiana, for once, is in the thick of current politics and a primary coming up on May 5th.
Meanwhile, Bill and Chelsea hit Indiana all day today. They will be there for something called Dyngus Day. According to one Google search, Dyngus Day is a day where guys get to drench gals in water; apparently tomorrow, gals get to throw dishes at the guys. It’s a Polish holiday. Of course, what part of Dyngus Day will Bill Clinton take part in?
That excerpt leads me to the somewhat loosely tied point of this post. What living president would you want to party with, er, enjoy a glass of wine with?
For my money, out of Jimmy Carter, G.H. Bush, Clinton, and G.W. Bush, you are almost forced into a no-brainer decision. My personal politics aside, which straddle the middle of the road, when I’m not fantasizing about being a beatnik or a farmer of organic produce on the margins of society, I would definitely choose Clinton.
I think I would pull a Washington state red blend out for him—something with brisk acidity, complexity and abundant fruit.
Dyngus Day aside, which President would you drink with and what would you have?