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March 30 2011
We have a winner. Thanks to all who entered the contest by leaving a comment and those who chose to double their odds by also tweeting.
A couple of words about this contest and protocol: First, it brings people out of the woodwork. I learned there is an entire social media niche that enters contests. Hopefully, if entrants are not a regular reader they’ll turn into a reader, or at least tell a couple of friends. Aside from the self-interested motive of providing a site benefit and hopefully gaining a new reader or two, I have no fiduciary gain or personal benefit associated with this promotion. That said, naturally, there is some marketing involved so the folks at Kalorik (and Air & Water who is coordinating) feel like they get $300 bucks (plus the not so inexpensive shipping costs) worth of mindshare in exchange for the refrigerator—that’s why @teamkalorik had to be included in the tweet to count as a second entry—a small price to pay in order to make somebody’s day when a kick-ass wine refrigerator shows up at their door.
All told, after removing double comments from the same commenter(s), comments related to tweets, and a disqualification for a comment after the end of the contest, there were 55 entries in the form of a comment. There were also 14 double entries in the form of tweets. 69 total entries. Tweets were added sequentially—entry numbers 56 - 69. I went to a random number generator, entered parameters and #44 came back.
...And congratulations to Amanda Hippe for winning the 21-bottle wine cooler from Kalorik! Amanda will be contacted by email and her shipping address will be routed to Kalorik and Air & Water for fulfillment. Should Amanda not respond to multiple inquiries, I’ll do another random number generation for an alternate winner.
Thanks again to all who entered and, most importantly, thank you for reading Good Grape: A Wine Manifesto
March 27 2011
At some point in a wine enthusiast’s journey, for reasons practical or aesthetic, there comes a time when a refrigerated wine storage solution jumps onto the wish list. If you don’t have a wine cooler (or, even if you do) you’re in luck because I’ll be giving a Kalorik 21-bottle wine cooler away to one lucky commenter to this post, a $300 value.
For me, I lucked into a wine fridge as a way-too-generous wedding gift nearly six years ago. One of my best friends (and a groomsman) gave me a bottle of 1999 Joseph Phelps Insignia and a Danby Silhouette 51-Bottle Dual Zone Wine Cooler. Getting married in your thirties does yield benefits – the gifts are better, certainly.
Since then, much to my wife’s chagrin, I’ve also managed to overtake the garage refrigerator in addition to using a dedicated full-size 1950’s-era vintage refrigerator (set to cool, but not cold setting) in my basement that I use for reds and whites that are in the drinking queue. Aside from general cellaring in my basement (no furnace heating so it stays 58 degrees year-round), I have my refrigeration needs well-covered and it all follows a circuitous path to my palate in a system that only makes sense to me.
When looking for a refrigeration solution, the options are clearer. There are two paths: The do-it-yourself (DIY) practical path or the aesthetic (read: cool and more expensive) path.
If you’re on a budget and not concerned with looks, you should take a look at a nifty gadget called the Wine-Stat II that works with any refrigerator, including the 1970s avocado green model that is probably in your grandparent’s garage.
Hardly a new development, the original Wine-Stat was developed in 1984 before later being replaced by the next generation Wine-Stat II. Invented and sold by Bill Happersett, the Wine-Stat II is about the size of a television cable box and acts approximately in the way a light dimmer does.
In the same manner that a light dimmer controls lighting to degree of brightness, the Wine-Stat II controls temperature on any refrigerator allowing a wine enthusiast to take the guesswork out of temperature control.
Would you like a perfect 55 degrees for your special reds? For $149 the Wine-Stat II lets any wine enthusiast turn an old refrigerator into something useful.
On the aesthetic side of the equation, the options are more plentiful.
Search for “wine cooler” or “wine refrigerator” at Air & Water or Amazon.com and you’ll find more brand names and size options than you’ll probably care to research and all of them are reasonably expensive, at least as compared to a regular dorm size or standard refrigerator. Yet, they all have the very important aesthetic aspect of having a glass door, temperature control and some level of stainless steel for the modern kitchen look giving them an appearance of a lifestyle tool that can reside where it must combining form with function.
For my part, I’ve been happy with the Danby, but if I were going to supplement with a smaller size unit for my kitchen (countertop or built-in), I’d look at a couple of other brand names including Kalorik, an appliance manufacturer who seems to hit all of the consumer review factors (no Freon, low energy usage, quiet, no vibration) at very competitive prices.
And, kudos to Kalorik and their online retail partner Air & Water for graciously offering to give one Good Grape reader the opportunity to win an absolutely free, shipping paid 21-bottle cooler (link here for details on the wine cooler).
The contest will be open from Sunday, March 27th at 9:00 pm EST to Tuesday, March 29th at midnight EST. Here’s what you need to do to win: Leave a comment on this post and answer this question: Which of the wines that you own would you want to put into your wine cooler first? That’s all. Did I say the wine cooler is a $300 value?
If you want to want to earn a second entry into the random drawing, simply tweet this: 21-bottle wine fridge giveaway from @goodgrape at Goodgrape.com. Comment at GG to win! Provided by the folks @teamkalorik
Good luck and thanks for reading Good Grape: A Wine Manifesto.
March 26 2011
The darkly comedic, wine-soaked, buddies-on-the-road fiction book has already been written. If another similarly resonating wine book were to find market success it might be non-fiction, combine elements of self-discovery that occur in “Coming of age” stories, and provide a rooting interest for the underdog.
And now, that book has been written, too.
Summer in a Glass: The Coming of Age of Winemaking in the Finger Lakes by author Evan Dawson likely won’t capture cultural ‘lightening in a bottle’ in the way that Sideways did as it shined a light on the Central Coast of California, but that’s not to say it shouldn’t. If Sideways used wine as a tableau to explore the darker complexities of relationships, Summer in a Glass explores the obstacles that many have overcome to pursue triumphant excellence.
And, in terms of elements that make up a good story and offers enjoyment that appeals to a broad cross-section of wine consumers from the very casual to the hardcore, you’d be hard pressed to find any wine book that offers more than Dawson’s non-fiction debut highlighting the, ‘Little wine region that could’ in west central New York—an area that has found sporadic critical success for its Rieslings over the last decade while continuing to search for more solid footing with other varietals in this cool climate growing region.
By profession, Dawson is a television news anchor and reporter who moonlights as the Managing Editor for the New York Cork Report. His professional acumen alights on the page in the form of a nose for the story that provides just enough detail to engage combined with a brisk writing style that forsakes ornate language in favor of clarity.
Focused on a cabal of thought-leaders in the Finger Lakes wine region—11 key personalities, a winery and a wine collaboration—Summer in a Glass is a surprising page-turner that shines based on a well-considered narrative structure that gives each subject their own chapter with a 3rd person historical backstory before jumping to 1st person and present-day reportage that brings their struggle to hopeful current terms.
Covering the established quality leaders and influencers in the region, readers are invited to learn about a German ex-pat who may not be an ex-pat for long, a Dane by way of France, a quirky grape grower, a Canuck, the prodigy with THE palate and others.
Having spent a long weekend in the Finger Lakes late last spring on a tasting trip with the author and others, I had the opportunity to meet many of the people featured in the book. I found them as charming as Dawson captured, and I left my in-person experience infatuated with not just the wines of the region, but also the people and their joie de vivre.
The Finger Lakes embodies a spirit that I respect. The wineries and their leaders aren’t flashy, pretentious or preternaturally gifted people, nor are they wealthy beyond measure. They are normal people, like you and me, who are in the midst of a passionate pursuit of something bigger than themselves. I admire that. And, deep down, we all aspire to climb to their heights: from humble beginnings to the world stage while maintaining a sense of humility. Dawson captures that optimistic spirit.
If the book has a fault, it’s that the author is in love with his subjects, stopping short of anything that looks like criticism, pulling punches on a winery portfolio that may have some inconsistencies, a red that he doesn’t care for, or a skeleton in the closet that he may know about, yet he declines to open the door. It’s a small quibble and part stagecraft, leaving the visage of the Finger Lakes and its region as a warm fuzzy for the reader in the spirit of the book’s hopeful theme.
In sum, perhaps the best thing any writer can say about another writer’s work is this: I wish I would have written Summer in a Glass. Yet, for the betterment of the reader, Summer in a Glass couldn’t have been written by anybody besides Dawson.
Fortunately, there’s an opportunity, with an abundance of quality-oriented boutique wineries emerging in the Finger Lakes, for Dawson to bring his keen eye to a different aspect of the region in his next book and that’s something we should all look forward to.
The book trailer video:
Ed. Note: As I’m wont to do, I pre-ordered Summer in a Glass on Amazon.com and I now have two copies. The first commenter to this post will win a brand new copy of Summer in a Glass postage paid by me. Simply answer this question: On which Finger Lake is Dr. Konstantin Frank’s winery located?
* W. Blake Gray’s profile on Johannes Reinhardt, featured in Summer in a Glass
* Joe Roberts on Sam Argetsinger, featured in Summer in a Glass
Tasty Finger Lakes Wines I Recommend:
* 2006 Heron Hill Late Harvest Ingle Vineyard Riesling Reserve
* McGregor Winery 2008 Dry Riesling Reserve
* McGregor Winery 2008 Dry Gewurztraminer Reserve
* Ravines Wine Cellars 2008 Argetsinger Vineyard Dry Riesling
* Anthony Road Wine Company 2009 Semi-dry Riesling
* Hermann J. Weimer 2008 Magdalena Vineyard Dry Riesling
* Heart & Hands Wine Company 2008 Barrel Reserve Pinot Noir
March 20 2011
A bullet dodged doesn’t mean a kill shot isn’t in the clip and that’s my fear with HR1161.
With this week’s introduction of House Resolution 1161(HR1161), the horse has left the barn a second time, and the issue at hand is not just the potential loss of rights related to the sale and purchase of wines from wineries and retailers from outside of the state of your residence; it’s also the fact that not enough wine consumers care.
From a wine industry perspective, aside from facing the very real frontal assault on shipping rights, more propitiously, the industry may realize the deficiencies they face amongst the ranks of their consumers. The deficiency is a lack of sensory understanding and palate training, a wholly different, but controllable factor separate from the vagaries of lobbyist influenced three-tier protectionism.
But, it doesn’t have to be this way.
When you consider the increasing number of consumers that are drinking wine (U.S. per capita consumption grew for the 17th straight year in 2010), and recent Wine Market Council research that indicated one in five US adults over the age of 21 are “core” wine drinkers (drinking wine at least once a week and accounting for over 90% of wine consumed), understanding the sensory characteristics in wine while developing your palate, in my opinion, is not only a critical need, but also the lone separating point in between those that are “wine-inclined” and those that are harder-bitten “wine enthusiasts” in the same “core” category.
Frankly, the domestic wine business needs to convert many of the “wine-inclined” into more of the “enthusiasts,” a fact that is often overlooked because of the rosy growth over the last two decades. Here’s why: Wine enthusiasts are likely to pursue their interest in matters of the grape by conscientiously developing their palates, acquiring knowledge, staying abreast of issues, and, most importantly, seeking out unique, small wines that aren’t available in their grocery store aisle, teasing out characteristics of the wine that makes it special to them while advocating for its availability in the process.
The “wine-inclined,” on the other hand, are likely to enjoy wine as a preferred quaff over other beverage choices or for lifestyle reasons, not delving into the minutia.
While there is nothing wrong with being simply, “wine-inclined” the ramifications are more dangerous for the industry writ large: The more you know, the more you care. In order to “know,” it’s helpful to analyze wine with a deeper sense of what you’re drinking. Yet, sensory understanding and training your palate takes effort; effort that nobody has made easy for wine consumers leaving a wide swath of drinkers who swill the stuff, but don’t necessarily understand or care about the issues associated with it like HR1161 and niggling details about backdooring consumers to protect the interests of wholesalers.
No, the “wine-inclined” find enough of what they need at their grocery store, big box retail, or their local wine and liquor store.
Given that there are approximately 230 million adults in the US and simple math indicates that 46 million are (or should be) core wine drinkers, the wine consumer advocacy site Free the Grapes! has but 13,000 fans on Facebook. Sad, but true and one can only suspect that relatively few of these 46M “core” wine drinkers would feel the impingement of reduced access to wine that HR1161 represents.
While this is great for the large wine companies and the distributors they work with, it’s bad for the small wineries and the small cadre of enthusiasts who seek out the interesting beyond their state borders—the same people that intuit and appreciate the sensory aspects of said wine.
Solutions do exist to the sensory training issue, however. Le Nez du Vin, roughly translated to, “The nose of wine” is the French olfactory-based palate training tool that contains 54 vials of commonly found aromas in wine. On the market for over 30 years, it continues to be one of the most valuable wine education tools available…that nobody buys. At $400, I’ve never met a single person that owns one or has even used one. Because of the delta in between Le Nez du Vin’s dollar cost and perceived intrinsic value, there continues to be a significant market need for somebody to develop an inexpensive, easy, scent-based way to make palate training easier.
All this is interesting context for an upstart technology company based in Silicon Valley called Scent Sciences.
Launched to market in January of this year, Scent Sciences has an aroma generating product called ScentScape™ that works with their software and strives to add an extra dimension of scent to in-home gaming, entertainment and other consumer markets. A small tabletop product, it plugs into your computer or anywhere there is a USB port, bringing to life, “Smell-o-vision” something that has long been a cultural reference point on cooking shows, as-in, “Boy, I wish you could smell this.”
Imagine watching a movie with a birthday party scene and having the wafting scent of birthday cake and ice cream hit you, creating a multi-dimensional immersive experience. Or, if you’re playing a video game that has a battle scene, imagine smelling the stench of burnt rubber, gunpowder and smoke. You get the idea. And, more importantly, the technology is aimed squarely at a mass consumer audience ($69.99) and runs from a PC with the ability for consumers to customize scents to their own video editing as well as a software developer’s kit for third-parties to customize and enhance. Scent Sciences’ web site indicates that applications for Facebook, YouTube and other online experiences are in the pipeline making a scent-laden media experience in your home a not too distant reality.
This immediately smacks me as a tremendous opportunity for the wine business. Instead of smelling a forest whilst watching Avatar, I want to smell forest floor and mushroom and violets and beet juice while reading about Pinot Noir. I want to smell mint and dust while fine tuning my Rutherford Cabernet chops.
I suspect many others would, as well, if it were easier and cheaper to do so. Hopefully, ScentScape™ has a wine drinker on staff and understands the market potential. Or, ideally, a wine industry insider with some programming skills can run with the software developer’s kit, helping convert millions of the “wine-inclined” into enthusiasts with easy to use education.
In the meantime, we struggle. The industry struggles with mounting enough support to fight off threats while a small band of passionate wine enthusiasts look over their shoulder for infantry support.
In a society that always wants to blame somebody else for their self-interested motives, the wine business and, by extension, its consumers, need to look in the mirror and blame their own benign neglect in not nurturing a deeper concern for the sensory evaluation of wine, as well – the umbilical tie to deeper pursuit of the grape.
In regards to HR1161, I’m not saying that vested wine parties will get what they deserve, but we may sleep in the bed that has already been made, the scent of clean cotton not included.
March 17 2011
Unless you’re Rip Van Winkle snoozing since 2004 and awakening in the early spring of 2011, it’s not hard to persuasively argue (to say nothing of intuitively understanding) that digital marketing (in all of its permutations) is foremost on the minds of wine marketers for direct-to-consumer engagement.
That’s the fact. Here’s the reality: It’s wild and wooly out there. Making sense of it is beyond any one person and yesterday’s Twitter account is tomorrow’s old news. Yet, trying to figure out any one thing (like geo-location, for example), can take you into Alice’s rabbit hole leaving you more confused than when you began. This, I know.
Continuing what has always been a part of what I write about here – the intersection of wine marketing and wine enthusiasm – I’m altering these posts to, at the least, be more findable on the site by headline if not style.
Generally, I like to take sides on an issue and make hyperbolic proclamations that read like mandates (um, Glenn Beck without the apocalyptic bombast?). Instead, with this incrementally re-jiggered series of posts that will occur once every month or two, I’m choosing to just simply discuss a few things that have wine marketing implications (that I find of interest) while offering some context that I find equally interesting.
Of course, first up is the wine industry’s favorite internet poster child: Gary Vaynerchuk.
Gary V. and Dailygrape.com
On Monday, March 14th Gary Vaynerchuk announced on the 1000th episode of WineLibraryTV that he was re-deploying the web-based show that launched him into pop culture. During what he described as an “emotional” episode that seemed to me to have all the emotional sincerity of somebody cruising up to their baby mama’s trailer park in an Mercedes S-class to drop off eight months of child support back payments, Vaynerchuk revealed that the newly created Dailygrape.com would be the new home for his wildly popular wine review show.
WineLibraryTV (WLTV) isn’t going away, per se, but it will now only be used for special interviews and one-off activities, according to Vaynerchuk.
Citing a need to, “Innovate” and get out in front of trends, Dailygrape.com is available via your web browser and optimized for viewing on iPads and iPhones. As an iPhone/iPad application, Dailygrape offers a number of features for community and user wish lists, and access to additional Gary Vaynerchuk reviews.
Speaking of reviews, Vaynerchuk promised more of them, which he will deliver on…for the introductory price of $2.22 a month through the rest of year, delivered in a monthly newsletter. More on this in a second.
A couple of things jump out to me about Vaynerchuk’s move to a de-couple himself from his retail operation, WineLibrary:
1) He’s smart to not let his charisma and personality take him in business directions away from the core of what got him to this point – wine. Does Oprah become an icon and build a media empire if she took a left turn out of her afternoon chat fest three years in?
2) He’s smart to re-brand because his shtick is intrinsically linked to WineLibraryTV and his WLTV patois has a finite audience. The early returns on his first two episodes at Dailygrape.com indicate Vaynerchuk may be toning his act down from outsized caricature to energetic everyman. This can have a direct correlation on potential audience growth.
3) In order to be taken seriously as a wine critic, where there is ample room for deification with a younger generation, Vaynerchuk had to separate himself from the frequent denunciations that a reviewer can’t be impartial if they’re selling the wine, as well.
4) Dailygrape.com doesn’t offer an RSS feed – which means Vaynerchuk is no longer syndicating his content – an online model that has been predominate over the last decade; the notion that giving content away for free, everywhere, can help build a brand. No, instead of going to Google Reader to watch the show, you’ll have to go directly to the site, or the iPhone/iPad compatible application on your device.
This “innovation” that Vaynerchuk speaks of seems to me to be more of business-savvy maturation and a necessity with an eye on the next couple of years of sustaining growth for his personal brand.
What’s he’s doing is using internet feedback as a large focus group to answer perceived negatives while at the same time creating a branded media property separate from the womb of his retail operation, positioning himself as an accessible wine critic for a new generation. Rachael Ray has her 30-Minute Meals and Vaynerchuk is building on wine criticism. Through this process he’s also showing his cards for what we’ll be talking about two years from now, which will likely include:
1) Remember when we didn’t have to pay for anything on the internet? Vaynerchuk goes premium offering exclusive content to subscribers.
2) Vaynerchuk the respected wine critic with a fast-growing subscription-based newsletter, widening influence and Dailygrape shelf talkers at retail stores nationally
3) Multi-platform ubiquity
4) Extensible branding and the foundation of a media company à la Oprah’s Harpo Productions and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.
In sum, I’m careful not to confuse “innovate” with “necessitate” and, truthfully, it seems like the changes Vaynerchuk is making are as necessary as they are cutting edge yet I have a sneaking suspicion that Vaynerchuk’s star is not only going to get brighter, but he’s going to convert detractors in the process.
To see how my Vaynerchuk analysis skills were in March of 2007, a little over a year into WineLibraryTV, click here.
Next up: Pts. II and III of this post series.