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The Return of Wine Hieroglyphics

I do not usually ponder which came first, the chicken, or the egg.  Instead, I think about the egg or the omelet.

Simply, the egg becomes a lot more interesting when other things happen to it like some heat, some pepper, some veggies, maybe some bacon and a little cheese, with a delicate cooking touch.

Wine is much the same way.  If all we had to talk about were vineyards and grapes, there would not be a damn soul blogging on it, or at least reading the blogs, if they did exist.

Last I checked there was not much of an online jet stream happening around soybeans or corn, products of agriculture.

So it is with wine and wineries.  We love the omelet.  The omelet is interesting.  The egg? Not so much.

However, the omelet (and wine) is also complex and in a period of time in which our capacity to deal with complexity is increasing, at the same time it is also winnowing.

I read a controversial post, which I cannot source, that posited that in the future people with autism would be heralded and used for their unique and singular talents.  Just as you work with a Sherpa in hiking the Himalayans, you might also work with a person who has a unique, singular gift because of autism.

The thought almost seems anathema to our current culture, but there is a larger point involved.  As a society, we are starting to narrowcast.

There is too much information out there.  Stop.  Do not make me think.  Before long we’ll all be a variation of John Nash.

The current business book du jour is called “Back of Napkin” which discusses the concept of conveying ideas with simple drawings.

Elevator pitches are becoming all the more important.  Give it to me in a soundbite.  Our newspapers are turning into headlines and 150 word summaries on the web.

Business presentations are becoming simplified and there is a movement afoot called Pecha-Kucha which means “chit-chat” in Japanese; it is a grassroots movement started by architects and designers to remedy long-winded lectures and frivolous presentations.

Meanwhile, you have Hugh at Gapingvoid.com talking about social objects.

All of these swirling bits of consciousness make it all the more interesting to me when I think about wineries marketing, trying to find some headspace with twentysomethings, and Alder’s comment at Vinography where he says in a recent post:

Ultimately, however, I think the wine world is still a bit too intimidating for its own good. The complexities of the wine world keep some people from buying and enjoying wine that really need to be brought into the fold.

Since the earliest recorded history, wine has been kept in jars with some resin on top and hieroglyphics on the side of the jug.  It is what it is—a beverage intended for enjoyment.  Let’s keep it simple.

In my crack, pop analysis, if I had to guess, I think the wineries that will be most successful in the next twenty years will be those that can focus on doing a single thing very well—a single varietal.  The wine will be marketed with a single message and the imagery and the back-story of the wine will be very simple, stupid simple. 

The complicated artifice of the wine industry will not go away, ever.  However, those that are successful within the industry will understand the all of the signals are in place for refined messaging that is simple.  We’ve gone through animals and are currently in a period of “cute” with “Used Auto Parts” and “Mollydooker.”  The next wave for wine marketing?  The writing is not on the wall, but perhaps the hieroglyphics are.


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Brotherly Rivalry?

Since I have a twin brother, I feel eminently qualified to comment on sibling rivalry.  And while I don’t want to suggest anything that would be construed as inflammatory, what, with the shadow of death still lingering from his early summer entreaty in Napa, but, the unedited press release below regarding Peter Mondavi, Sr. and the refurbishment of Charles Krug winery does make one wonder if the passing of brother Robert and the lavish treatment he received posthumously might not be fueling a more aggressive stance from that side of the Mondavi family in burnishing Peter’s legacy onto the Mount Rushmore of wine figures.

With no disrespect intended, Charles Krug winery hasn’t been that relevant in the wine world in years and the somewhat extraneous details in the release about Peter Sr.‘s contribution to the wine world, particularly a “living legends” reference from a Napa Valley winery association 22 years ago, seem a little, well, shoe-horned in.

I’m not saying, I’m just saying ... reconciliations in old age are more for family peace of mind and brotherly grudges die hard.  I would be surprised if a very delicate conversation hasn’t taken place about a living Mondavi wanting to climb out of glancing footnoted reference into a full chapter when the Napa wine story is told about the latter half of the 20th century.


RESTORATION OF birthplace of napa wine industry complete
Charles Krug Landmark Work Dedicated to “Living Legend” Peter Mondavi, Sr.

ST HELENA, CA, July, 2008— Nearly two years and $8 million after it began, restoration of two national historic landmark buildings at Peter Mondavi Family’s Charles Krug Winery are now complete.  Founded in 1861, Charles Krug is Napa Valley’s first winery, and the historical structures represent the birthplace of the Napa Valley wine industry.

On September 27, family, cherished friends and honored colleagues will gather to unveil the winery’s 1872 Redwood Cellar and the 1881 Carriage House at a formal dedication to Peter Mondavi, Sr., 93.  Mr. Mondavi is the last of the “12 Living Legends of Napa Valley,” so honored by the Napa Valley Wineries Association in a historic decree in 1986.

The tribute to Mr. Mondavi commences on the magnificent expanse of lawn under a canopy of heritage oaks that are hundreds of years older than the winery itself. The soiree will include tours of the cathedral-like Redwood Cellar, a working winery building normally closed to the public, and the elegantly preserved Carriage House, a popular venue for special events.  Both are registered national and California historic landmarks. 

Patriarch of one of Napa’s great wine families, Peter Mondavi, Sr. brought numerous groundbreaking innovations to California wine over the last 62 years. After experimenting with cold fermentation at U.C. Berkeley, he instituted the process at the family winery, the first in California to do so.  The family published the first winery newsletter in California (Bottles & Bins, 1949) and, in 1953, Life Magazine declared that Charles Krug produced the “best California white wine” of the year.  The winery’s Tastings on the Lawn, now in their 56th year, are believed to be the first wine celebrations of their kind and went on to inspire a myriad of other wine tasting events.  In 1963, Charles Krug was the first Napa Valley winery to import French oak barrels to age wine and they were among the first to vintage-date varietal wines.

The monumental renovation project at Charles Krug is part of a complete recasting of the venerable winery. Having extensively replanted its vineyards with a focus on noble red Bordeaux varietals, the Peter Mondavi Family is now practicing 100% organic and sustainable viticulture on its 850 prime Napa Valley acres, and has earned organic certification for seven of its vineyard properties. 

As part of the weeklong festivities to celebrate the dedication of the renovations, an open-house for the winery and hospitality trade is scheduled for Tuesday, September 23 at 5 p.m., and Charles Krug’s popular annual public “Tasting on the Lawn” will take place on Sunday, September 28 from 2 to 5 pm. The afternoon features tastings of Charles Krug new releases, barrel tastings in the Redwood Cellar, food and wine pairings, picnicking under the oaks, and dancing to music by The Revells.  For more information, visit http://www.CharlesKrug.com.

Please contact Karen MacKenzie or Christine Piccin at the MacKenzie Agency (makenzie@mackenzieagency.com, cpiccin@mackenzieagency.com, 707.545.3280) for additional details on the restoration project, photo opportunities, or for scheduling interviews with the Mondavi Family.

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Vin de Napkin - Drinking with Thoreau

As well noted on this blog, my beautiful and dear wife Lindsay is an Editor for Wiley Publishing, the publishers of the “For Dummies ...” line of books.  Today, hot off the press, comes a book that is ripe for the times—Living Well in a Down Economy for Dummies.

Now, I’m not sure if the book includes any wine related content, but Lindsay thinks some pointers for tipping on a bottle of wine at a restaurant made the editorial cut, which will no doubt raise the hackles of waiters and waitresses who are making $2 something an hour and living on tips, but I digress ...

Germane to the book, as I noted in this post, I was planning on doing some under $5 wine reviews. Though, I came up a winner with my first choice, the Covey Run Gewurtz, a stop through Trader Joe’s hasn’t yielded anything close to potable plonk.  Egads.  I think I might have to retract my statement ...Such is life, though.  As the late great George Carlin said, “Scratch any cynic and you’ll find a disappointed idealist.”  I’m still an idealist on the nose and a cynic on the mid-palate.

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Beauty in the Written Wine Word

A pretty cool application over at wordle.net. Type in your web address tied to an RSS feed and it scans your site and gives you back word art.  I have to say, as an encapsulation on how I think of my site, as a mixture of indivdual words, it’s pretty spot-on.  Thanks to Kristy from Wreckless Photography for the tip, as I saw it on her site.

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Breathless News at 11:00

So, Parker breathlessly notes yesterday, as reported by Wine & Spirits Daily:

“One of the biggest stories in my 30 years in the wine field will be the detailed announcement ...officially set for tomorrow…that will shake the fine wine world ......and I am not referring to BOTTLE SHOCK the movie…,”.

So, drum roll please ... the story is that Château Cos-d’Estournel is buying Chateau Montelena in Napa.

Are you kidding me?  One of the biggest stories in the last 30 years?  As a country we’re up to our elbows in debt to the Chinese, beholden to the Middle East and it’s a huge story that a French winery buys a US winery when the US dollar is in the dumper? 

To this we reply:


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