Reflections on the Wine Blogger’s Conference – #1 . . . . In the Beginning . . .

The-Beginning

2014 marked the first time I’ve experienced the Wine Blogger’s Conference. I went into the week somewhat trepidatiously, truly not knowing what to expect.

Yep, I do ‘blog’, but not at the level that most ‘wine bloggers’ that I know do. I’m not as consistent or focused as they are, and I was truly and honestly hoping to learn a bit more about myself and a lot more about many of the bloggers and what makes them tick.

I had the pleasure of hosting a few key players in my tasting room before the festivities began, and I immediately felt a whole lot more comfortable and confident about who I am and my ‘point of view’.  This, to me, is as important if not more so than anything else when blogging and creating an image of who you are and want to be perceived as.

I learned that I could convey on paper what I try to do in person – to educate people about wine in a different and entertaining way. I like to look at the industry through a consumer’s point of view, even though I am a winemaker, and constantly ask the question ‘why’. Why is it that people feel the way they do about screw caps? Why is it that many think they know what a ‘corked’ wine is but that their use of the term is different than mine?

I therefore owe this ‘posse’ my gratitude for ‘setting me straight’ and helping me set the table for four of the most fun-filled and confidence-building days I’ve had in my 10 years in the industry.

A lot more to follow . . .

Cheers!

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Customer Service – How Much is Enough (or Too Much or Not Enough)?

bad-customer-service

 

When I was much younger than I am now, Nordstrom opened their first store in our area. My oldest brother went down and purchased a suit from them, and remained a happy customer for a long time. Flash forward a few years later – he’d  gained some weight and the suit did not fit him anymore, so he brought it back to Nordstrom – and received a full refund!

This was clearly ingrained in my head as the ‘ultimate’ for customer service. Keep the customer happy – even if it really did not make any sense to. (and yes, I do not believe they should have given him a refund for his weight gain!!!!). Back in that day, Nordstrom set the bar for customer service and, as far as I know, still retains a high level of it.

That said, is it really fair to ‘assume’ a business will go so far out of their way to ‘keep a customer’? This especially pertains to the wine industry, where a ‘subjective product’ may either be ‘damaged’, ‘faulty’, or simply not live up to a customer’s expectations of it.

In many cases, a winery should stand by their products and ‘make things right’. If a product is damaged during shipping, the winery should make right and either refund the money or send along a replacement product. In most cases, the winery will file a claim and recoup their costs as well.

Now let’s say a product is ‘simply faulty’. What in the heck could ‘faulty’ mean in our industry? Could it be excessive amounts of solids or grit, as a famous Spanish winery has experienced in one of their wines and just issued a recall notice for? Could it be that the wine is infected with brettanomyces, a spoilage yeast that causes a wine to smell like a ‘barnyard’ or like ‘band aid’? Could it be that ‘it was just off’, not living up to the expectation of the consumer? Could it be that the ‘cork was bad’ – and I’ve already talked about the plethora of things this might entail from a consumer standpoint.

I’m really curious to hear your thoughts on this issue. I don’t think there’s an absolute right or wrong answer here – to me, it depends (my favorite answer to almost any wine-related question!!!).

Join in and voice your opinions please . . .

Cheers!

Are Young Wines ‘Assessed’ Fairly? Depends Upon The Producer, Perhaps?

young wine

 

I enjoy reading a number of different blogs and one that caught my eye was Steve Heimoff’s commentary on the World of Pinot Noir tasting which took place last weekend at the beautiful Bacara Resort in Goleta, just north of Santa Barbara.

He went to a Burgundy vertical tasting of a specific producer’s wines, and he commented that all of them were great, but that only the oldest one was ‘drinkable’ now. Upon further questioning, he felt the younger wines were simply showing too much acid or tannin and simply weren’t balanced – but he did not see this as a fault, but instead, a sign that these wines will continue to age.

This brings up the big question – what if he were tasting a wine from a ‘lesser known’ or ‘unknown’ producer that had these same traits (ie was ‘backwards’ and needed more time to truly strut its stuff). Would he be as ‘kind’ and ‘understanding’ and give it the same benefit of the doubt?

And I’m not trying to single Mr. Heimoff out, as I do appreciate his take on many things wine-related. I believe that most reviewers, without the benefit of a ‘track record’, may indeed not be as kind to a ‘backwards’ wine these days as they may have been, say, two decades ago.

Producers are releasing their wines earlier and earlier to try to recoup their monetary outlays and to try to make room for future vintages. In order to do this, though, many wines are being made in a much more ‘forward’ manner,  wines that are more approachable and drinkable at younger and younger ages.

So what to make of producers who are making wines with plenty of ‘rough edges’, wines that are meant to lay down for a while. Do you still search these out, even if reviewers would ‘pan’ them for not being ‘drinkable’ now?

I’m curious to hear your thoughts on this.

Cheers!

Is Image Anything . . or Everything?

image is everything

The wine industry is a fun place to ‘call home’. There are tons of great characters out there; wine continues to be an absolutely fascinating ‘vehicle’ to work with and is truly ever changing; and one will never tire with the challenge of introducing one’s wines to new folks all of the time.

As we all know, or probably should know, it’s sad but true that what lies ‘inside’ the bottle often has little to do with whether a wine is purchased in the first place – and often whether it is repurchased for that matter. The packaging of the product is extremely important, as is the reputation of the winery, the winemaker, etc.

But here’s a question for you – do you care what the principals of a company ‘stand for’ or how they act when it comes to the purchasing of that product? Does it matter if they’ve supported causes that you might not support (such as Chick Fil A and their anti-gay stance or Carl Karcher of Carl’s Jr. fame and his anti-gay and anti-semetic stances). Does this truly affect your purchasing decsions?

A recent blog post came out about a famous French producer not allowing long time reviewers to review their wines because of ‘less than stellar’ reviews of a previous vintage, among other things. On the surface, this seems like a very short-sided thing to do for the producer. Of course, there may be other sides to the story, but for now, it appears that the winery in question is ‘running scared’ and, for them, in a very public manner.

So again, the question remains – would this affect your purchasing of these wines? Would it matter if a winemaker or winery owner publicly or even privately stated that they were ‘against’ something you stand for?

Curious to hear your thoughts on this . . .

Blinded By The Cab . . . or Merlot . . . . or Pinot . . .or Chardonnay . . .

Dark-Clouds

I attend dozens of wine tastings each year, featuring all different types of wines. Most of the events I attend where my wine is being poured feature domestic wines, sometimes from a specific region and sometimes featuring certain varieties.

Most of the time, those in attendance seem to be pretty knowledgeable and ‘open’ about trying what I have to offer, but not always.

I poured at an event recently where at least a dozen people came up, looked at the bottles that I had on display, and then asked whether I had a cabernet sauvignon, or perhaps a merlot, or maybe a pinot. In all three cases, I said I did not, that I did not produce those varieties, but that I had a number of other wines that they may want to try.

In every case, they said thanks but no thanks and walked away. I was able to ‘grab’ a few before moving on and asked if they might be interested in trying the syrahs, grenaches, etc. that I was pouring.  No thank you, I was told over and over, I don’t know what those are.

It’s certainly easy to get overwhelmed at wine tastings, especially tasting where there are dozens of wineries pouring north of 100 wines or more in total. And I can certainly respect those that are ‘on a mission’, only searching out specific varieties or regions to compare and contrast all that are there.

In the cases I mentioned, though, it had more to do with ‘familiarity’ than it did to a specific tasting ‘strategy’. It surprised me quite a bit, because I look at wine tastings as an opportunity to not only reinforce what I believe I like, but to ‘challenge’ myself by trying those things I don’t ‘think’ I’ll like, based on previous experiences with a specific producer, a variety, or a region. To me, that’s one of my favorite parts of a tasting.

What kinds of strategies do you employ at larger wine tastings that may have dozens of producers or more and that you might find 100+ wines at? I’ll be awaiting your replies (-:

Is It What’s Inside that Really Counts?

resized bread pic for blog

One of the challenges making and trying to sell wine in this industry is that what’s inside the bottle seems to be the least important thing in the process at times. This may sound strange, but let me explain . . .

Visual and verbal clues help ‘guide’ us in everyday life. Your senses are honed to quickly get information to your brain – that doesn’t ‘look’ right or that ‘smells’ great. It’s human nature, and that’s not a bad thing at all.

When it comes to subjective stuff, though, it certainly can wreak havoc on trying to ‘evaluate’ something on face value. Let’s take wine, for instance. I make a dryish Gewurztraminer. You would not believe the types of responses I get when I mention this – and before a drop is even poured. Many many people simply say – no, I don’t want to try that because I don’t like sweet wines’ or  ‘I really want to try this because I like sweet wines.’  A ‘picture’ is set with their senses as to what to expect when the wine is poured . . .

Those that don’t like sweet wines will begrudgingly try the wine – after I ‘force’ them to, of course – but their mind is already anticipating a specific experience with the product based on the variety itself and they will perceive it ‘with bias’. The same is true with those who like really sweet wine.

How do I ‘get around’ some of these biases? I work as hard as I can to actually have someone taste the wine itself and judge it for what it is. I also do not call this wine a gewürztraminer, but instead call it The Outlier J

Or take rose.  Yep, it’s certainly ‘hip’ to like rose these days, and you’re seeing more and more of them produced in drier, crisper, more ‘food friendly’ style. That said, just showing someone the bottle will illicit an immediate reaction because of the color alone. Many will not even want to try the wine. Why? ‘I don’t drink white zinfandels’ is often the reasoning I here.  There’s nothing wrong with white zins at all, if that’s what you like, but the visual color clue is immediately telling them what to ‘expect’ about the wine.

And there have been tons of studies about how the label itself affects how one ‘feels’ about the product and whether or not you are drawn to wanting to pick it up off of the shelve if in a retail location.

What are your thoughts on this? Have you ever found yourself excited or not excited about a wine because of the color of the wine itself, descriptors used, the label, etc.? I’m curious to hear and to get a discussion going on the subject.

Cheers!