April 2010 Archives

Other than an occasional glass of wine at a restaurant, I had absolutely no knowledge or experience with wine when I came to Dry Creek Vineyard, back in 1994.  After a long career in business management, I had gone back to school to study computer/web programming, and related subjects.  Much to my surprise, I found that I loved the structure and organization of the computer world, which I came to find, was the antithesis of the ethereal world of wine.

Back in '94, DCV had an AS400 monster server, a few terminals, and one MAC used by the PR gal. There were no computers or voice mail.  When I started, the winery needed serious assistance with data entry and the running of their 800-member wine club.  The difficulties running the wine club had a great deal to do with lack of systems and software to get the job done.  With my newly acquired computer skills, I set about to develop systems to efficiently manage the club.  Kim and her staff still did much of the work by hand!  After years of running the club via queries on the AS400, I decided to write wine club software in 1996, and purchased the winery's first computer to run the software.  By then I was managing the wine club and thrown headlong into the world of wine – sort of a trial by fire, learn as you go situation. 

Eventually, I did learn about wine, and the wine club grew exponentially.  Meanwhile, the winery itself was growing and changing with the influence of the world of technology, including the purchase of computers and software.  To my delight, they now needed someone to take care of the computers, software, web site, and all things technical.  While I learned a lot and enjoyed running the wine club and the many relationships I developed with its members, it was NOT what I had re-trained to do.  I retrained to move away from business management!  So, when Don and Kim came to me to ask if I would take over IT services here, I was thrilled.

There were so many things I wanted to do to bring the winery into the new millennium, but little did I know it would be an uphill battle…  As a venerable family winery, many here (principals included) pre-dated the computer age, while technology was growing by leaps and bounds.  The saying, “be careful what you ask for” kept running through my head.  Convincing folks that technology was their friend was not an easy sell!  Some of the things I wanted to do took years of lobbying.  I still remember the look on Kim's face when I tried to explain why we needed software to run the wine club…

The good news is that I've had the opportunity to do ground-breaking stuff here at the winery: write wine club software before any existed, develop a system of email communications with our distributors and consumers before there were email blasting services/software, build a comprehensive web site and develop a distributor section with all the materials they could ever need at their fingertips, develop an online store, and incorporate a FAQ and customer reviews functionality on our web site and in our online store.  And, then, with the support of our PR director, we were able to convince Kim (still kicking and screaming) to do this blog.  Now, we even have a Facebook page, YouTube channel, and Twitter account.

Bad news is that people's eyes still glaze over when I try to explain how or why something works.  And routinely I get calls about strange things their computer is doing, followed by an explanation, “I didn't do anything… It just started doing that.”  OR, “An error message popped up on my screen…. I don't remember what it said.”  OR, “My computer screen is upside down… I don't know how it happened.”  However, I'm on a new mission: in-house computer classes.  My goal is to bring everyone here into the twenty-first century!!  So, Dry Creek Vineyard staff, be prepared to bond with your computer… a new day is dawning here at DCV. 

Lynda Abbott, Director of IT Services

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It is my impression that the general public, or perhaps more specifically the wine country enthusiast, believes that the winemaking profession exemplifies a career steeped in romance and leisure.

I have to admit that I once held that notion as well. Not too long ago I was finishing school; I had no experience or family ties concerClick photo to enlarge!ning winemaking or grape growing, yet I started entertaining the idea of making wine as a profession.

Winemaking, I assumed, consisted primarily of drinking wines, taking a little time to create various blends, considering their pros, cons, overall merit and viability; while being sure to enjoy a nice glass of wine while the sun sets over the vineyards.

As it turns out, that perception of the industry does not exactly mirror reality. I found winemaking to be a mix of very specific skills and responsibilities. The winemaker feels the anxiety of a farmer hoping Mother Nature feels philanthropic in her gifts toward a good vintage. The winemaker is an artist who sits perplexed by his creation, trying to realize what could be done to make the work a bit more complete. Lastly, the winemaker must be a businessperson, addressing the harsh reality that wine must sell.  Therefore he must feel as comfortable on a sales trip as in the cellar.

Probably the most well known hardship in winemaking is the harvest and crush. Quality in the vineyard is a prerequisite for quality wine, therefore balancing time between the vineyard and the winery becomes critical. Vital decisions have to be made in both locations, and all the decision making in that six week stretch of time impacts the quality of an entire vintage, and consequently, puts a great deal of pressure on the winemaking staff.

As soon as a harvest has concluded the entire production staff works year round in essential preparation for the next harvest. The preparation consists of moving wines from fermentation tanks to barrels, tending the barrels every several weeks to maintain quality, taking the wine out of barrel back to tank and so on until it reaches the bottling line.

In the end, the day to day trading of boots and hats for suits and ties has become, or perhaps always has been, part of the dynamic and challenging world of professional winemaking and, regardless of the perceived ideals of wine country living, we deal with the anxieties, the frustration, the hard physical work, and luck that epitomize the wine business as a whole. However, if we work hard and are lucky, we too can enjoy a nice glass of wine while the sun sets over the vineyards.

Nova Perrill, Assistant Winemaker
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It seems virtually all wineries are now using social media – more specifically Facebook and Twitter – to communicate with their customers.  And why not? A new report from Business Week magazine put the number of people now using Facebook at more than 300 million.  Twitter is ranked as one of the 50 most popular websites worldwide.  Yet most people still have not the slightest clue how to leverage this incredible new technology – yours truly included.

If you think about it, it is quite remarkable how communication has changed over the past decade.  It used to be that we would send letters (Snail mail as Wilma calls it) along with printed facts on our wines and other forms of written communiqué.  Nowadays, we hardly mail a thing (no wonder the United States Postal Service is suffering) and virtually everything we do is via the World Wide Web.  Breaking it down even further, the amount of dialogue and chatter on the web due to social media has reached a fever pitch.  It's no wonder that recent posts by Wilma have her overwhelmed and maxed out – it's quite a challenge just to keep up with what lands in your inbox on a daily basis much less make sense of tweets, twits, and whatever else.

And so that's where I come in as the winery's Director of Communications – to try and make sense of the senseless.  To try and forge relationships with new customers, build a web of strategic partners and create a buzz around our family business and our wines.  So, how am I doing?  Well, if I'm honest, I'm trying to learn as I go – on the job training – hence my reason for picking up the latest “for dummies” edition – Social Media Marketing for Dummies.  I mean, no one likes to admit they are a dummy but in this case, it's a steep learning curve and I need all the help I can get.

SFind us on Facebook!o far, we have more than 500 Facebook fans and as “DCVguy,” my handle on Twitter, we're gaining some momentum “tweeting” about news and events here at the winery.  Currently, weTweet Dry Creek Vineyard!'re not using these outlets to sell wine.  From what I've learned, it's more about establishing a dialogue with people and getting them talking about subjects and topics that are important to them.   For now, this “dummy” is learning and I'd like to take this opportunity to invite you to join in on the conversation!

Bill Smart, Director of Communications
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Hospitality is a unique and exciting industry year round.  That said, nothing compares to the charm of spring - sunshine, busy weekends, and an energetic buzz that will only escalate with the season.  This time of year is a jumping off point, a transition, and a perfect opportunity to recharge.  Last week I hosted a young couple visiting Healdsburg on their spring break.  He was a seasoned taster, but she had never experienced the wine country.  Their enthusiasm was contagious.  Click photo to enlarge!As I poured through the wines, and relayed the family history, I became as enthralled with the tasting as they were.  She fired off question after question, and I answered each one enthusiastically.  The whole experience was invigorating, and afterward I felt completely refreshed.  The slow season can be challenging and a little discouraging at times, but all it takes is one genuine interaction to remind me why I do what I do.  Relationships are the backbone of hospitality, and they are also the reason I love my job.  Plus, now springtime is here, which means that summer is on its way, the tasting room will soon be bustling with people anxious to taste our wines and make a friendly connection.  It's true that there is no business like the wine business. 

Erin Ginder-Shaw,
Tasting Room Supervisor

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from April 2010 listed from newest to oldest.

March 2010 is the previous archive.

May 2010 is the next archive.

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