August 2009 Archives

I'm generally not a complainer. Really, I'm not. But I recently had a travel experience so hellacious that I can't keep quiet. It was enough to make me give up air travel forever. Clearly, I need to get this out of my system as walking across America to market Dry Creek wines is not an option.

My journey started on a flight from San Francisco to JFK. I had a connecting flight to Portland, Maine, my final destination. I should have known things were not in my favor when we shoved off an hour and a half late and the flight attendants announced there was no potable water on board.

The long flight to NY was then delayed by an hour of circling the airport due to “bad weather.” Another hour and half was spent sitting on the tarmac. This was blamed on our gate not being ready. Never mind that everywhere we looked, there were open gates.  When we finally deplaned, we were told all flights to Portland, Maine had been cancelled for the night. Ok, I guess you can't argue with Mother Nature but it seemed odd that the sky was clear and the ground dry.

Hundreds of weary travelers proceeded to line up in the Distressed Traveler line. I was not aware of this term. Apparently prVeraison in the Vineyard - click photo to enlarge!oblems occur so often that there's even have a special rate with Ramada Hotels under the acronym Distressed Traveler. After four hours of standing in line, I was told that the next available flight to Portland wasn't until Sunday, four days later.

What was most frustrating about this experience was the lack of customer service displayed by the airline. They were dreadfully understaffed, and the few staff available were complacent and indifferent. I know it's hard to find employees in the middle of the night, but that's when you call the boss and say “help!” If he or she is not available, someone else needs to simply take charge. As you can guess, this did not happen. Not once, did someone address the expanding group of stranded travelers.  No apologies, no compassion, no concern. We finally got rebooked on a flight to Boston which didn't leave until late the following day.

When I arrived, my bags were lost.

It wasn't the standstill on the tarmac. It wasn't the delayed landing. It wasn't the cancelled flight. It wasn't the lost bags. What peeved me the most was the complete lack of customer care.  As paying customers who had faced a multitude of disappointments, we needed a little compassion and TLC. Instead, we were greeted with indifference, incompetence, and absolutely no consolation (hotel vouchers, etc.) for our misfortune.

So, I'm joining thousands of other Americans in support of a Passenger's Bill of Rights for air travel. Kate Hanni, founder of the group, has been tirelessly pushing for legislation since her dreadful 13 hour experience in 2006. (For you wine country watchers, Kate is master sommelier Tim Hanni's wife in Napa.) This week, the Coalition for an Airline Passenger's Bill of Rights will be advocating to the top dog himself, President Obama, as he vacations on Martha's Vineyard.

While it's doubtful that Air Force One encounters the same problems as the rest of us, I hope the President will support this legislation. It would make life just a little kinder and gentler for us all.

Either that, or they better start serving some decent wines on board!

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For as long as I can remember, I've wanted to come up with a company tagline. Something that captures the essence of who we are and what we do. A combination of words that accurately and memorably sums up our raison d'etre. Of course, profound would be good too. But most of all, it needs to be believable so I won't cringe every time I see it on our business cards, marketing materials, website, etc.  

This is not easy to do. Most taglines, in my humble opinion, are predictable and trite, at best. Wine industry taglines are among the worst. I don't know about you, but “Indulge Your Senses” does nothing for me. On the other hand, the Ritz Carlton Hotel chain has one of the best: “We are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” Now that one really works. I immediately get their commitment to customer service.

Years ago, my father used to say “Life is too short to drink bad wine.” I'm not sure if he coined the term, or someone else did, but for a while we sold t-shirts in the tasting room emblazoned with this slogan. And we proudly proclaimed it as our company mantra.

Fast forward a couple of decades and I want to come up with a tagline that captures the essence of our family winery today. For help, I went through a creative process with fellow blogger, Jay Ehret of Incidentally, if you're a small business owner, I highly recommend reading Jay's blog and going through his 7 step program of defining your company's mission, values and brand promise.

We've had numerous brainstorming sessions but we're not done.  For now, we've settled on Family Winemaking Since 1972. I know, I know…it's a bit boring and not all that clever or creative (or “sticky” to use Jay's term) but it does convey authenticity, passion, and integrity—our company's core values. To see how we've begun using it check out our new home page at   

Taking time to contemplate this stuff takes just that--time. But, it's a well spent exercise that can help pinpoint your company's message and flush out any inconsistencies along the way. And if you come up with a good tagline, all the better!

Here are some of our other ideas. While I like them, most sound more like an advertising slogan than a tagline to me. If you have any brilliant ideas to add to the list, I'd love to hear. Lord knows I could use the help!  

?   Everyone's talking about us. Even the grapes.
?   We've been told we have some “issues”. Perfectionism. Quality. Control.
?   As a family winery, we know we have “issues”. Perfectionism. Quality. Control.
?   We know we have control issues. Just ask our grapes.
?   Redefining Dry Creek.
?   We are Dry Creek.
?   A dynamic legacy in the Dry Creek Valley.
?   Being an icon takes vision. So does making great wine.
?   Becoming an icon takes years. So does making great wine.
?   Building our legacy hasn't been easy. But then again, neither is making great wine.
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Blogger's Disclaimer: This post is full of shameless self promotion. It's not intended to offend nor is it meant to tick anyone off. I simply need a place to brag…and for today, this is it! 

I love good news. And, high scores on new release wines are always a welcome bit of news.  I've always treated press reviews (scores) with a little apprehension. When you get ‘em, great. But when you don't, it's not such a big deal…or at the very least, it's not worth sweating bullets over.  Wines come in as many different styles as human beings do. There are fat ones, skinny ones, short ones, tall. White ones, black ones, pink ones, small. And, just like people, there's a special wine out there for everyone. So, when a respected pundit doesn't like a new release, I usually shrug my shoulders and say, “oh well.”   

Because that's about all I can do. But when a good review comes in, I secretly jump up and down and thank my lucky stars.  It's not too dissimilar to watching your kid nail a line drive down the left field line. Sheer joy and pride fill the heart.

That's how I feel now. Not one but two great reviews have crossed my desk that made my heart burst with pride. The first is an 89 point score for our brand new 2008 Sauvignon Blanc. If you're a regular Wilma reader, you know that this new debut (in our Sauvignon Blanc line up) is a bit of a departure for us stylistically. And, while we think it's damn good, one can never predict the taste buds of the critics.  The other review is a 91 point rating and “Best Buy” selection for our 2007 Chardonnay.  Now, I gotta admit that one feels particularly satisfying as we have worked extremely hard to improve our Chardonnay program. There were lots of whoops and hollers in the cellar as word got around the winery.

We've certainly had our fair share of ups and downs in the wine review department. But I'll never forget the time we happily touted a 144 point score from the Wine Spectator. It was back in the mid 80s and my father had sent in a sample of the 1986 Chardonnay. The wine scored a pitiful 56 points. That same day, we received notification that it had won a Double Gold Medal at the Tennessee Wine Competition. Tennessee might not be known for its wine competitions, but it seemed strange that the exact same wine could receive such opposing reviews. So, we sent another sample to the magazine. That second one received an 88 point score. Combine the two, and…you get 144.  How's that for positive thinking?!

As a wine marketer, I've learned to do the best I can with the tools I have—whether they be scores, resources, or people. But when all else fails, I just laugh and tell myself it's only wine we're talking about here.

And then I quickly pour myself a glass.

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Winemaker Lisa here with an insider's preview of harvest 2009... I've been visiting our vineyards over the past few weeks to check on crop size and fruit development, all the while hoping that harvest would hold off until the end of August.  Harvest really is an exciting time, but there's always so much to do over the summer like bottling and making sure last year's Cabernet lots are in good shape.  Any extra time we can get goes a long way.  So, of course, as I was roaming through our DCV7 ZVeraison in the Vineyard - click photo to enlarge!infandel vineyard in front of the winery last week, I spotted a beautiful cluster with lots of purple berries.  Woo Hoo!  Being the proud owner of a new iPhone, I took a great picture to show my cohorts at the winery.  Wilma asked if I have “winemaker jitters” (not really, after 20 some odd vintages) and then asked if I'd write about what's going on in the vineyard for her blog.

What is going on is known as “veraison,” or the beginning of ripening, when the berries start to soften and change color.  Harvest usually starts six weeks after veraison, which puts it at the end of August or first week of September.  Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc come in first, with Zin following closely behind. I've been making wine for a while and every vintage has been unique.  We do the same things and bring in fruit from the same vineyards each year, but it always seems new.  I'm certainly still learning and hope never to stop.

Well, the '07 Cabernet is bottled and the '08 Heritage Zin will be done this week. There are a few more small bottlings for August, and last year's Cabernets are definitely in good shape.  We're ready!

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About this Archive

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

July 2009 is the previous archive.

September 2009 is the next archive.

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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
Blog of the Week
Blind Muscat
The Merits of Meritage
Boston Wine Expo exhibitors, and the reason why winemakers are so darn happy