June 2010 Archives
My head is still buzzing. And I don't mean the kind from drinking too much. It was from the sheer number of hats I wore this past weekend. There was my Dry Creek Vineyard hat, the one I normally wear where I'm all about promoting the winery. Then there was my Wilma hat where I'm slyly drumming up readership for this blog. And then there was my Meritage Alliance hat, where I enthusiastically touted the virtues of wines blended in the Bordeaux tradition, while pouring for a dozen different producers from all over the country. All this took place at the 3rd Annual Wine Bloggers' Conference in Walla Walla, Washington. Whew, it was a tough job but somebody had to do it!
43. That's the number of blog posts I put out last year. Unfortunately that wasn't enough for me to qualify (I needed 52) for this year's Wine Blog Awards. Try as I might, I just couldn't churn out any more in time for the deadline, which came and went during one of my many business trips to NY? MN? God Knows Where? Nonetheless, I'm heading to Walla Walla Washington tomorrow to attend the annual American Wine Bloggers' Conference. This will be my third year at the conference and I'm really looking forward to it, despite the fact that I really shouldn't be going away right now. (I've got all those damn piles, remember?!)
In between seminars on blogging, social media and the future of wine writing, I'm hoping to learn more about the Washington wine industry. I haven't been there in over a dozen years and I'm sure a lot has changed, just like here in Sonoma County. I'll get to play tourist, being entertained by the competition while sipping, swirling, and spitting my way through the region. (This is rare as usually I'm the one who's doing the entertaining!) I'll also be representing the Meritage Alliance which is a premier sponsor of this year's conference. Our Meritage delegation will be pouring member's wines and educating fellow bloggers about the merits of Meritage. I had hoped we could do a blending competition for conference participants (The Blogger's Blend Off!) but it just didn't work out. Maybe next year
If you haven't checked out the nominations, you might want to give them a read. Some are winery folks like me, who dabble in blogging. Most are professional writers who specialize in wine. And, some are full fledged bloggers who have transitioned 100% to online writing instead of traditional media. Whatever the case, they deserve your attention, as anyone who has a blog knows that it takes a big commitment.
So, let's hear it for this year's nominations to the American Wine Blog Awards! Even though Wilma isn't on the list this year, I'm proud to be part of the pack.
|I'm feeling a little blue. The office next to me is vacant for the first time in|
10 years. My assistant is gone and I continue the search for a top notch
replacement. It's been a frantic couple of weeks as we tried to dump everything from her brain into other's, just as I had done from mine to hers over our many years of working together. In her characteristic style, she managed to handle the transition with grace and ease, for which I am very grateful.
But change, especially when a beloved employee moves on, can have a positive effect too. It encourages new ways of thinking and allows people to inherently grow in their roles and responsibilities. And, the newcomer often brings talents and expertise far beyond the required skills of the job. So, I continue on the recruitment path with several possible candidates coming in for more interviews.
We've had some amazing people come through our cellar doors over the years. People who started out very humbly and later went on to become famous winemakers, winery owners, etc. In fact, Dry Creek Vineyard could really be called the University of Dry Creek! Just a few weeks ago, I ran into Dan Karlsen. He worked for my dad in the 70s. He had no wine experience and nothing more than a beat up old van, long hair and a dog. But he had just arrived in Healdsburg and was itching to get in the wine business. Lucky for him, he came knocking at the right door. Despite his lack of experience, Dad immediately hired him saying Don't worry, I can teach you everything you need to know. He went on to become General Manager and Winemaker at Chalone Wine Group, and just landed a similar job at Talbott Winery in Monterey County.
Those were the golden days, an era when people like my father were breaking ground in an entirely new industry. Kind of like the gold rush of the mid 1800s or the dot com era of the last decade. It didn't matter how much money you had, or where you went to college. What mattered was having a vision and being passionate in the pursuit of dreams. This euphoric field of dreams mentality lasted well through the mid 90s. A perfect example is Miro Tcholakov. Miro was a Bulgarian student who came to work the 1992 harvest for us. He was shy and hardly spoke English. Yet, he embodied the American spirit of work ethic, dreams, and moxy. We eventually promoted him to the position of Cellarmaster which he held until 1999. Later, he went on to become Winemaker at neighboring winery, Trentadue while starting his own brand, Miro. (Along the way, he also became fluent in English and very outgoing!)
Many names come to mind as I reflect on the University of Dry Creek. Jeff McBride, Winemaker from 1998-2003 and now General Manager for Stimson Lane's Conn Creek Winery, Phyllis Zouzounis who started in our tasting room and later became the first woman to work in our cellar. After many years here, she became Winemaker at Mazzocco Winery, and started her own brand Deux Amis. And there's Susan Lueker, a quiet intellectual who was our Assistant Winemaker under the guidance of Larry Levin, Dry Creek's Winemaker from 1981-1998. Today she's Executive Winemaker at Simi Winery, the historic property owned by beverage alcohol conglomerate, Constellation.
Occasionally, I run into DCV alum who beam with pride as they tell me their story. Yea, I worked for your dad in the 70s. When asked how they got the job, it's generally something like I ran into Dave at the post office and we just got to talking
Sadly, those days are gone. Now it's all about meticulously screening applicants, asking thought provoking questions and interviewing for hours on end until just the right candidate emerges. Because it can be painful if I don't get it right!
Besides, the office next to mine is too darn important to fill with someone who doesn't fit into the University of Dry Creek.
This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine industry...so sit back, take a sip and enjoy!
A Lifetime in Wine
Top 10 Traits of the Successful Family Winery
The Dreaded Family Meeting
Board Meeting Jitters
Is the Future of the Winery in Danger?
The Case of the Overweight Bottle
Wine and Dementia
Wanted: Talented (Normal) Individual for Family Owned Winery
A Sea of Wine
The Heroes of Our Industry