June 2009 Archives

First I must say that I am very excited to be a guest on Wilma's wonderful wine blog.  Reading and writing about Sonoma County wine is part of what has taught me that I am, undoubtedly, a Northern California girl.  After four years of college in San Bernardino county, I quickly realized the rarity of my hometown – incredible food, fine wine, and a landscape about as picturesque as you can imagine.  In this unique setting wine is not only a delicious commodity, it is a way of life.  The pace is slow, the work is satisfying, and once you are in the industry, you likely always will be.  ThaErin Ginder-Shawt said, simply growing up in Sonoma County does not make you a wine country insider.  It provides a unique outlook, but it takes being around a winery firsthand to really understand the magic.  Fourteen months ago, I was given that opportunity. 

Working in a tasting room is a lot like traveling.  Each day is a new experience, and each day provides an opportunity for teaching and learning.  Wine is personal, and with each tasting room guest I am reminded of this fact.  When confronted with the question, “what do you recommend?”  My response is static, what do you like?  With so much variety and quality at my fingertips, it is important to pour wines that people will not only enjoy, but will also learn something from.  My goal is to present each guest with a familiar wine, an unfamiliar wine, and an unforgettable wine.  Lucky for me, at Dry Creek Vineyard, this is not an arduous task. 

As rewarding as it is to impart knowledge, it is equally fulfilling to learn.  This plays in a tasting room, where the consumer is not the only person expanding his or her consciousness.  On a daily basis I pour wine for people from all walks of life – restaurateurs, lawyers, bankers, writers, doctors, students, retirees, and even winemakers.  All of these people have a story, and in the midst of relaying the Dry Creek Vineyard tale I often have the chance to hear theirs.  After almost a year and a half of wine country hospitality I have gained a great deal of wine knowledge AND life experience.  The fact that we wine country insiders have the privilege to learn not only from each other, but also from our consumers and guests is what makes this industry so special.  I know I am fortunate to live and work in this exceptional part of the world.

Tasting Room Associate, Erin Ginder-Shaw has been with Dry Creek Vineyard since 2008.

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When Kim Wallace, er, check that, Wilma, asked me to step in and be a guest blogger, I had more than a few trepidations.  For one, how in the heck can I fill such big shoes?  After all, Willma's been doing this a while and her voice is about as authentic and real as it gets.  I know a lot of people that read Wilma's blog (including some of her close friends and family) and they really enjoy it.  I think my second thought was, okay, don't screw this up – your job is on the line here.  Thankfully, as it turns out, a terrific topic to blog about came racing across my desk just this morning.  

As Director of Communications, my job encompasses just about all things having to do with communicating.  From writing press releases and corresponding with the media to conducting sales meetings and sharing the family story, Kim relies on me to ensure that our message is clear and consistent.  Public Relations in the wine industry can be, well, the word challenging comes to mind.  Getting ink for your brand among the thousands of other brands is down right daunting.  But, our motto has always been stay on message, stick to the story, and eventually we'll get some ink.  Patience and timely follow-up are two huge keys to being a successful PR person.

And so, when great press comes across my desk, I can't helClick to read the Wine Spectator Feature by Dana Nigro!p but be just a bit giddy.  Today, that press was in the form of a Wine Spectator.com feature by Online Managing Editor, Dana Nigro.  Click the PDF to check out what Dana has to say about our 2007 Fume Blanc as well as our other single vineyard bottlings including our new 2008 Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc

It's usually at this point that I go into Wilma's office looking for a PR “high five.”  One thing (among many) that is great about the big boss is that she “gets it” – in other words, she understands how challenging it is to get good press, she has reasonable expectations for press coverage and when something good does happen, she is appreciative of the hard work and effort.

So, Wilma, if you're reading this poolside at some Italian villa, I'm giving you a virtual high five.  Be sure to have a glass of prosecco for me!

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What do the following words have in common? Pasta, Prada, Prosecco? You guessed it; I'm off to IIITTTAAALLLYYY!

What can I say but dear ‘ole dad (correction, Papa) is taking his girls off to Italy for a little father daughter bonding time.

I could feel guilty. I really could. There are a dozen reasons why I shouldn't go…I'm too busy, I have too much work, it's too expensive, it's irresponsible, there's a recession, the kids will miss me, the husband needs me, the winery needs me, our softball team needs me, the dog needs me..………............................... NOT.

Click photo to enlarge!

Thankfully, I've come to my senses and am seizing the opportunity. So, Arrivederci everyone! I'll report back to blogging duty upon my return in July.

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You may be wondering what's going on with the Meritage Association. (Or, maybe not, but I'm going to tell you!) First, we've renamed ourselves the Meritage Alliance. With over 220 winery members all passionate about the art of Bordeaux blending, it was time to expand our outreach to trade and consumer followers. Somehow the name Meritage Alliance vs. Meritage Association seems to better represent the exciting and complex nature of these wines.

A new website is also now up and running. Check it out at www.meritagealliance.org.

And, we just completed a fun new video. You'll see some familiar faces as well as hear perspective on Meritage wines from a famous chef, sommelier and winemaker. Our next big task is to put on a tasting/blending event in San Francisco next year. This is a biggee, but if ZAP (Zinfandel Advocates and Producers) can do it, so can we!

P.S. After a bunch of arm twisting, I've agreed to remain Chairman for another year. While the pay stinks, the wines sure are awesome! Please support this venerable organization by becoming a fan on our Facebook page. And, while you're at it, you can visit the Dry Creek Vineyard Facebook page too.
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Whenever I feel nostalgic, I pull out an old wine. More often than not, it's a bit of a disappointment as I seem to have lost my taste for older red wines as I age myself. They're usually pretty tired, with little of the fruit characteristics associated with the varietal and an aroma of barnyards and blue cheese basking in the sun. (How's that for a description!)

I proved myself wrong last week and took a bit of a risk at a major industry schmooze fest.  Wine Spectator's annual Big Bottle party was held last Tuesday at the acclaimed Dry Creek Kitchen. This is a “must attend” event for any self respecting brown nosing vintner as it's a great opportunity to visit with the folks from WS in addition to hanging out with all your winery friends and colleagues. And besides, Marvin Shanken knows how to put on a helluva good party.

As a fun twist to all the rare and special wines, we decided to bring a moldy oldy from our wine library. We chose a 1974 Zinfandel. (I was 11 when it was made and it was my father's second red wine vintage.) While we weren't quite sure what to expect, we figured few in the industry can do this and besides, it's fun to test the knowledge and palates of so many noted winemakers.

We covered up the vintage and the varietal and set up a guessing game. At least a dozen people put down their guesses, but not one person got it right. Until the very end, when the much respected, often controversial Jim Laube himself guessed it correctly. I must admit, we were very impressed. So, while many in our industry like to complain that his palate is biased, or his judgment not fair, clearly the guy knows his stuff.

More power to ya, Jim!
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If you're planning on getting into the wine business, it helps if you have a good smile. It's even better if you can smile on demand--through clenched teeth, challenging scenarios, frustrating personalities and endless business dinners.

This is one of many prerequisites for success …the ability to look and act perfectly happy while making lively politically correct conversation with complete strangers. Don't get me wrong. I'm not the unfriendly or snobby sort. On the contrary, I love meeting new people and can be quite a chatterbox. BUT, the endless business dinner is a necessary evil that separates the men from the boys, the women from the girls, and ultimately, the brands that get sold from the ones that don't.

Let me explain. The majority of our wines are sold through wine and liquor distributors all over the country. Other than members of our wine club or visitors to the tasting room, this is the only way we can get our wines to a specially selected store or restaurant near you.

These distributors sell 1000s of wines from all over the world. They're buried in inventory and inundated with brands. The same is true at the account level. That's where the endless business dinner comes in. And the endless business trip. Followed by the endless sales call. Year after year after year.

Seriously folks. Without a fair amount of what we call “face time” in the marketplace, it's just too darn easy to become the forgotten one. I've seen this happen all too often. Perfectly good brands that fade into oblivion for no apparent reason.  Lucky for him, my father was a natural at this form of promotion. He loved getting out into the market and was darn good at it in his day.  Lucky for me, The Husband and I also enjoy traveling the nation to spread the good word about Dry Creek Vineyard.  But I must admit there are times when it can be difficult to muster up the stamina to head off to the endless business dinner.

That's when that smile comes into play.  

Good thing my chompers are in shape and my cheek muscles still in tact. ‘Cause judging by ALL the wines out there these days, it looks like I'm going to need them for a long time!'

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from June 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

May 2009 is the previous archive.

July 2009 is the next archive.

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Wilma Hits The World of Blogs
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Julia Flynn Siler
Meritage wines - and a fascinating glimpse into family business
Winery Web Site Report
New Winery Blog: Wilma's Wine World
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Insider's View of Family Owned Dry Creek Vineyard
The Glue that Keeps the Whole Thing Going
Atlanta Dish
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Blind Muscat
The Merits of Meritage
Boston Wine Expo exhibitors, and the reason why winemakers are so darn happy