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Google Searches and the Good Grape Archive

I recently took a look at the search terms that people search for in Google that lead them to this site.  In doing so, I suppose it’s a good thing that I don’t pay much attention to the back-end reporting on my web site lest I turn this place into a blog focused on wine accessories and Trader Joe wines.

Below are the top seven archived posts on Good Grape from July based on Google search terms.  It also doubles as a good review of some old chestnuts from the archive, a part of the nearly 1300 posts from the last five and a half years.

Land, Brand or Label

This is a popular post from 2009 about the growth of private label wines.

This Month in Wine Advertising

Apparently, searching for, “Wine advertising campaigns” holds some interest for people.  This post from the spring of 2010 analyzes several ads from popular mainstream media.

The Quixotic Kelly Fleming Cabernet

I don’t do a lot of wine reviews, but when I focus on one wine, winery or personality it’s because I’m keen (really keen) on what they’re doing.  Kelly Fleming, a boutique producer, is an example in this interview from 2009.  A number of people search for, “Kelly Fleming wine” every month.

The Wine Wand isn’t Magic, but it is Pretty Cool!

I was as surprised as the next guy that the $300+ Phillip Stein Wine Wand actually worked in blind testing.  Apparently a lot of other people are curious, as well.  “Wine Wand” is a popular search term in this post from 2008.

2011 Wine Books:  Four to Look Forward to Reading

The last several years have been a great period of time for the wine book reader with enough quality reading to fill up a decade’s worth of poolside reading.  Folks searching for “Best wine books 2011” speaks to the abundance of quality reading available to the wine enthusiast.

Trader Joe’s:  Wine Marauder or Consumer Fraud?

“Trader Joe’s wines” seems to always be a hot topic.  Are the private label wines at TJ’s junk or gem?  I express my opinion in this piece from January, 2010.

Wine Accessory Review:  Wine Shield

Home wine preservation is an evergreen topic with perpetual interest.  I found the Wine Shield to be a great accessory for preserving wines at home for five days at a high level of quality.  Other people must be interested in the Wine Shield as well, “Wine Shield review” yields a lot of search queries.


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Field Notes from a Wine Life – Exhortations and Admonitions Edition

Odds and ends from a life lived through the prism of the wine glass…

H.R. 1161

Now that the din of the debt ceiling debate is quieting down to a dull roar, it’s timely for wine consumers to direct their attention back to other matters of great political import – like, say, wine shipping rights.

Last month, two excellent white papers were published that provide enlightened reading for the wine lover.  Related to the influence wholesale lobbyist dollars have on Washington and the reckless piece of potential legislation that is currently looking for sponsors (H.R. 1161), both papers are pragmatic, fact-based, bi-partisan looks at how special interests are served in the halls of Congress.

While the phraseology, “white paper” alone is enough to make most readers tuck tail and run in the opposite direction, you shouldn’t let that particular bit of verbiage dissuade you from making an investment in understanding the issue(s). Toward Liquor Domination (links open a PDF) by the Specialty Wine Retailers Association and A CARE-less Rush to Regulate Alcohol by the Competitive Enterprise Institute both, in different ways, illuminate the corners of politics that deserve the bright glare of sunlight.

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And, make no mistake, the issue here isn’t with wholesalers; it’s clearly at the feet of our elected politicians who allow lobbyist money to influence their actions under the guise of serving, “Their constituency.”

As consumers, being able to stay abreast of the issues and affect political outcomes is the underpinning through which our freedom is founded.  Being able to make our voice heard is a privilege.  Making that voice heard in matters that relate to our personal interests makes it all the more meaningful.  I urge all readers to read, understand and let your voice be heard with your Congressman. 

The first step is to know more than the Congressman’s intern that will answer your email.  Both of the linked white papers will help you do so.

Summer of Riesling

“Summer of Riesling” is a marketing and promotional umbrella started by New York restaurateur Paul Grieco.  Branching out from what was a heretofore a New York-based restaurant promotion, Summer of Riesling (June 21st to September 22nd) has gone nationwide this year and purports to quash the notion that all Riesling is sweet. 

By having restaurants from coast-to-coast promote Riesling by the glass, Grieco hopes to build mindshare that Riesling is the perfect summer wine with a lilt of acidity to refresh and cleanse the palate, not the duotone plonk that’s a remnant of the 70s.

I give Grieco an “A” for effort, but in reality this campaign sucks with a capital “S.”

First, it seems terribly self-motivated, what with trademarks, t-shirts and a figurehead who cribs from a certain former Santa Cruz Rhone Ranger’s book of self-aware, literate, philosophical name-checking with neurotic, pop culture, existential faux-intelligentsia brain droppings, while craning to find a microphone in a diffident way shtick.  Granted, this figurehead does so with a certain bespoke sartorial splendor not matched by his spiritual forebear, but just the same, this campaign speaks of a cloaked grab for national limelight in the wine conversation akin to holding a funeral for corks.  Licensing and events and such can’t be too far behind, nor the public mea culpa and repentance.  And, as a sidebar query, who said that prevailing wisdom holds that Riesling is all sweet, all the time anyways?  Susie the server at P.F. Chang’s?

Second, and more importantly, nothing good and pure has ever happened by creating widespread popularity for a wine varietal, by mindshare or sales volume. 

Mr. Merlot, your table is ready.  Mrs. Oaked Chardonnay we’ll be with you in a few moments.  Ms. Pinot Grigio your party is already seated.

To say the least, the tumble down is terrible.  To say even less, these sorts of things need to happen organically.

Mr. Pinot Noir under $20, I hate to hold you up as an example.

The absolute last thing that needs to happen is to create broad consumer interest in Riesling, one of the last bastions of unspoofulated wine you can find in the world.

Forgive me if I seem a little unforgiving.  But, to co-opt and adapt Michael Pollan and his food rule on eating:  “Marketing.  Not a lot.  Mostly for the good.”

Summer of Riesling isn’t for the good.


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Help Steer the Direction of an Award Winner!

Generally speaking, I do very little public housekeeping here, but it’s time for some remodeling and I want your feedback. 

Despite winning some awards and receiving significant positive feedback about the design of this site, I haven’t materially changed the look or the function of Good Grape since November 2006.  Times have changed a lot in the intervening (nearly) five years.  At the time, Wordpress was a very secondary blogging platform choice behind MovableType (I chose door #3).  Facebook had recently announced general availability to the public from its former days of being collegiately oriented; Twitter launched, but was barely a blip on the radar, YouTube was hot (but not ubiquitous) and smartphones were still very niche in general adoption.  Tablets like the iPad?  Nope, at that point people were stoked about rumors of an iPhone that was set to be released sometime the next year. 

A lot has changed in five years and this site has barely kept pace, making due with duct tape and spittle.

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A number of regular readers have let me know that pieces and parts of the site don’t always work, or the site is slow for them, or it’s hard to comment, or archive pages are junky looking, or links take you away from the site, etc.  And, forget about reading this site on your mobile phone – Good Grape equal’s bad mobile mojo.  The list goes on and on and I have my own list of wishes and want-to’s 35 items deep.

So, here’s the question and the crossroads I’m facing:

Do I keep the same general design (with some slight modifications like making the main text area wider and re-doing the navigation) and simply leave a classic design alone, focusing on enhancing functional and technical aspects of the site?

Or,

Do I take this opportunity to blow it out and set the bar for what a quality, beautiful, professional wine blog should look like, plus all of the social and mobile bells and whistles?

Readers, friends, colleagues, and peers: Your feedback is very welcome.  Should I mess with a good thing for a potentially greater thing, or do stay true to the visual identity in place and simply remodel focusing on functionality, familiarity and usability?

Please leave a comment.


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Mollydooker:  A Left-handed Punch in the Gut or Not?

Within the span of 24-hours this past weekend, I had a conversation with an Australian wine marketing representative who described her role as, “The toughest job in the wine business,” and word spread about a wee wine accident Down Under.

In a story that was picked up by Time, CNN, MSNBC, Huffington Post and most major news outlets, it seems 461 cases of a 462 case parcel of the 2010 Mollydooker “Velvet Glove” Shiraz destined for the U.S. was dropped by a forklift while loading a container, creating broken bottles and, at the least, damage to the bespoke bottles with a velvet label and a $185 per bottle price tag.

Initial news reports were quick to point out that the wine was insured. 

I was in the company of wine writer’s this past weekend and they pondered whether this massive wine spill was actually a bad thing—the Mollydooker wines having a certain reputation for their over-the-top blowsy style favored by Parker and Wine Spectator who reviewed the 2009 vintage with scores of 97 and 96, respectively.

On Monday, July 25th the winery issued its own press release answering some “whys and wherefores” in how the accident happened after news reports were largely based on the scant original reporting from the Associated Press.

Yet, interestingly, Decanter.com subsequently reported that the winery press release with the headline, “Years of Tears and Sweat and More Than $1 Million Worth of Fine Wine Go Down the Drain” was rescinded and replaced with another press release titled, “Years of Love and Care, and More Than $1 Million Worth of Fine Wine, Go Down the Drain.”

If you’re ever curious about what happens when a press release is pulled online go ahead and search for the first headline I mentioned and you’ll see pages and pages of empty pages from syndicated press releases that serve as content for news sites.

Aside from the curiosity of all of this – broken bottles and the vagaries of press release headlines—the reality remains that this is probably the best thing that could possibly happen for Mollydooker and their “Velvet Glove” brand.  With an insurance policy, millions and millions of dollars of free press and the not inconsequential fact that despite its incredible critical scores, the 2009 wine (called a “Cult” wine by some) is largely available in the U.S. with plummeting pricing, winery owners Sarah and Sparky Marquis should be just fine despite the quote from Sparky where he noted, “This wine is our pride and joy, so to see it accidentally destroyed, and not consumed, has left us all a bit numb.”

Wine-Searcher tells a more interesting story.  The below graph illustrates the drop in price at U.S. retail over the last 12 months, which is decidedly, non-“cult-ish.”

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To respond to the rhetorical statement from my new Australian wine marketing friend who described her job as, “The toughest job in the wine business,” I would say:  The toughest job in the wine business is convincing a retailer to buy the 2010 Velvet Glove when the 2009 with insanely good ratings is still widely available below suggested retail price.

While the Marquis’ may be “numb” and crying over spilled wine, U.S. wine retailers are crying over dead inventory and there’s no insurance for that.


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On Family and How I Came to Understand that Location Matters

My Dad, Lawrence F. Lefevere, died on Saturday, July 9th and was laid to rest on Wednesday, July 13th.

He was young, just 64 years old.

The last 10 months (to say nothing of the last couple of years), have been hard.  My brother, sister and I carried principal responsibility for ensuring appropriate care for my Dad as he slid into full vascular dementia, the accumulation of brain damage in stroke patients, with the same needs as those with Alzheimer’s.

Accordingly, regular readers of this site have probably noticed that my writing output has dropped off precipitously this year; the result of the increased responsibility with my Dad’s care, which itself coincided with new and demanding responsibilities at work.  I prioritized appropriately, and in so doing my creativity and inveterate curiosity in wine slowed to, if not idle, at least first gear, as did my available time. 

This public acknowledgement of the private challenges I’ve been experiencing should not be mistaken for a eulogy to my father.  I’m not able to quantify in mere words what the loss of my Dad means to me.  In fact, I haven’t come to grips with his mortality yet, still dealing with an open wound and flowers hither and yon around the house. 

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No, instead, this is a brief rumination on wine and, more specifically, what I’ve recently come to understand about wine and the importance of place.

Over the last week or so more than a few people said to me, “Your Dad was ‘Old School’” and “They don’t make them like Larry anymore.” Or, “He was definitely his own man.”

They’re right.  He was “Old School” and damn proud of it thankyouverymuch; he was very much a throwback to a different era, a product of where he came from, the kind of guy that can’t be popped out of a cookie cutter mold and dropped into the suburbs.  My Dad grew up in a place that scarcely exists anymore – a Midwestern post-World War II middle-class clapboard neighborhood with both a tavern and a Catholic church within a stone’s throw of the front stoop.  He was raised by two working parents, one a laborer and the other clerical, neither of whom was educated beyond high school.  He was a Baby Boomer who went to Vietnam raised his family and worked 60 hour weeks for nearly my entire life.

My Dad smoked and drank and cursed; he was stubborn, principled, self-possessed, he spent little, saved a lot, paid tuition for all 16 years of his kids education (Catholic schools through high school and then college), was funny, loyal, loved Notre Dame football and was a complete and utter technophobe, never advancing beyond hunting and pecking on a typewriter.

And, to my knowledge, he never saw anything I’ve written about wine, much less understood my interest in something that didn’t come from Stroh’s brewery.  I am a “New World,” contemporary counterpoint to my Dad’s traditional ways.

Yet, my Dad has helped me come to a new appreciation about wine, at least wine that speaks of where it comes from—in sensibility and stridency.

Over the last several years, The Office of Champagne in the US has been on something of a long-term sustained warpath(Center for Wine Origins) in protecting the value of origins in naming i.e. Champagne comes from Champagne, France and nowhere else. Likewise, in this sensibility, Port wine can only come from Portugal. 

When it comes to this Champagne “Location Matters” campaign, I’ve always played both sides of the fence; never too with the Champagne and Port campaigns nor too against.  Kind of right down the middle, but leaning towards an arched eyebrow and the notion that there are more important things to do and spend money on then marketing and bleating about how, “Champagne only comes from Champagne, France.”  Especially when trying to undo 30 years of ingrained consumer habit.

As I celebrate my Dad’s life and fondly recall what a unique person he was, where he came from, what he lived through, how he was a distinct product of his time, place and environment—unmistakably unique in personality and ethos based on his roots and his life experiences, and ultimately buried just miles from where he was born, I’ve come to realize that location does matter.

I realize that he is the result of a confluence of circumstances that are unique to him, and not able to be duplicated.

As I’ve thought about my Dad’s life, as unique as he was, indeed, he couldn’t have come from any other place than South Bend, IN, just as I now see that dammit, yes, Champagne comes only from Champagne, France.

I get it.

My dad may have been an “Old School” guy that didn’t know anything about wine, but he posthumously taught me to appreciate the, “Old World,” as well.


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