December 2010 Archives
I am blessed to have gotten to know so many of you through this blog. Some of you I've met through our wine club. Others, I have gotten to know from my visits to your town or region. To each and every one of you, please know how much I appreciate your support and friendship this past year. It's these relationships that have truly made the difference in my life and in our business. But, there are some very important people that you need to get to know as well. These are the unsung heroes of our winery...the folks on the bottling line, in the office, and in the cellar who help make Dry Creek Vineyard the very special place that it is. From all of them to all of you, BEST WISHES FOR A VERY HAPPY NEW YEAR!
I am having a love/hate relationship with this blog right now. One moment, I'm compelled to write, waking up in the middle of the night simply overwhelmed with ideas. Then other times, I'm too pooped to even think about it and I wish it would just go away. As anyone who is serious about blogging knows, it truly is a major commitment that can be a royal pain in the arse. Are there sound business decisions for blogging? Not really. Does the time invested pay off in increased sales or revenues? No. Does it add value to the bottom line? Impossible to say. The next logical question then is, WHY DO IT?
Here's why. Every now and again I get an email or meet a customer who raves about this blog. They tell me how much they enjoy reading my prose (if you can call it that) and how they look forward to my posts. They tell me how I brighten their day, make them laugh, or simply shed new light on their interest in wine and their infatuation with the wine business. Here's a sampling of just a few of the comments I've received:
"I just love your blog. Every time I get an email saying there's a new post, I stop everything to read it...because I know it will make me smile and feel good."
"I've learned so much from your blog. It's one of the few that I read consistently."
"Keep up the good work Wilma. Your blog is a pleasure to read."
There aren't too many things in life as rewarding as making other people happy. And as anyone knows, when you're the boss and you work in a family business to boot, you RARELY get a pat on the back, let alone any sort of recognition from the powers that be.
In fact, to be perfectly honest, it's usually the opposite.
Which is why I keep blogging. Because it feels good to be recognized by complete strangers for the effort, passion and time I put into my work.
Right now, I'm on a mission to get my 52 posts in before the end of the year. That's so I can submit Wilma's Wine World into the 2011 Wine Blog Awards competition. Last year I was shy a few posts, and didn't qualify. This year, come hell or high water, I'm doing it.
So, please keep the "warm fuzzies" coming! I need all the motivation and inspiration I can get.
With Wilma tied up in national sales meetings this week, I thought I'd fill in...
After retaining my post of seven years as a Sales & Marketing Administrator/Executive Assistant for a family owned winery, I had become very comfortable in my job. I was the "go to person" for everyone from the owners to the part-time Tasting Room associate. I became very well groomed and versed in my responsibilities. The people and company I worked for, for better or worse, defined who I was professionally. My work ethic and integrity were already a part of me but because I loved what I was doing, it was an easy job to wake up to every day.
So, on that dreadful day last spring I suddenly found myself a Âstatistic.Â I had lost my job due to a merger with a larger firm who wiped clean the executive and administrative slate that consisted of dedicated, hardworking employees. Sadly, in the wine industry today, this is not unusual.
The very next day I went to work full time. My full time job became, finding a job. I was full of anxiety and motivation. I took stock and decided that this could be a very good thing. The wine industry is somewhat incestuous; over the years you see a lot of the same faces making their rounds from one winery to the next. I had developed some great relationships and contacts over the years. I was confident that my skill set and network of "wine" friends would land me on my feet. Well here I am, over four months into my new job. I am in the very same field with almost the very same title. The differences are simply geography and the faces with whom I am now working. Same game, different players; after 15 years in the wine industry this is the conclusion I've come to, and that is not a bad thing.
I have had the good fortune of landing employment with a company that is not that dissimilar from where I was. Dry Creek Vineyard has all the qualities that fit my criteria. It is family owned, produces a relatively small production of hand crafted wines with care from vineyards they own and or manage, have longevity in the industry and a passion to make it work.
Although I bring experience to my new job, it is the little things that are so new to me. I am assisting the Vice President, who also happens to be the Director of Marketing, who also happens to be an Owner, who also happens to be Wilma. Phew! I am acutely aware of how much I will learn from working with her. My predecessor was in this position for ten years. I have big shoes to fill. The hardest part is that I want to have the knowledge you get after seven years, right now.
I feel valued and I am encouraged. Is it hard to look for work after being at the same job for a long time? Yes, but as I have found out, it is rewarding in so many ways. My day is not mundane and I do not feel complacent. It may be the "same game with different faces" but how lucky I am to be working and in one of the most fascinating industries in the world located in one of the most magnificent locations in the world.
That is just one of many items we'll be discussing at our national sales meetings today. Each year we have our small but talented team of regional sales managers out to the winery for a series of meetings and planning sessions focused on our wholesale sales. We review our business territory by territory, discussing the pros and cons of each distributor, overall market conditions, and the winery's goals and objectives. We give ourselves a pat on the back and convey our deepest appreciation for a job well done. This year, we'll exhale a collective sigh of relief. After all, we just survived the worst conditions for wine sales since the Great Depression.
These can be painful meetings. Sometimes they are peppered with thoughts and suggestions that are hard to swallow. Other times, there's an abundance of creative dialogue that contributes to out of the box thinking and successful strategies for the coming year. (I'm keeping my fingers crossed that there's more of the latter than the former this year.)
More often than not, we are told we need to lower prices in order to sell more wine. After all, they're salespeople! And we, knowing the fiscal realities of running a winery and being responsible for the livelihood of some 35 plus employees, sit there wondering how we're going to make it all happen. But somehow, we always do. One thing we never budge on is wine quality. No matter what, we simply won't compromise on this one bit.
This year I'll be unveiling our new Fumé Blanc package which I'm pretty excited about. You might recall that not too long ago, (view my post - http://www.wilmaswineworld.com/2008/03/to-fume-or-not-to-fume-that-is.html) there was a lot of grumbling about the name Fumé Blanc. Never mind that it's the flagship wine that put us on the map. Or, that we were the first in Sonoma County to introduce a crisp dry California version of the great Pouilly Fumé's. The majority of our sales team felt we should discontinue it altogether. "Old Fashioned." "Confusing." "A Dying Category." That's when I exercised my veto power, feeling strongly that killing off FumÃ© was a bit like GMC discontinuing the half ton pickup. Thank goodness everyone listened as this is now one of our bestselling wines.
One thing we know for sure is the paradigm is shifting. Just like every other aspect of our business, we are always looking at ways to improve. If we do it right, maybe, just maybe, I might be able to keep the old suitcase stowed away for a little while. If not, well...
I don't want to think about that right now.
Note: As an alternative to Fumé Blanc, we also produce a 100% Dry Creek Valley Sauvignon Blanc to showcase the subtle nuances of our home region. With a dash of Sauvignon Musqué in the blend, this wine is altogether different than our traditional Sonoma County Fumé Blanc, yet celebrates the intrinsically refreshing flavors of my favorite white wine variety.
Saturday night was one of those nights I felt especially grateful to be in the wine business. I was surrounded by friends and fans that came from far and near in pursuit of fun, a delicious meal, some darn good wines, and lots of laughs. The occasion? Our annual wine club Holiday Winemaker Dinner held each year at Charlie Palmer's Dry Creek Kitchen.
The evening started out with light appetizers and a wine reception. After 30 minutes or so, we meandered over to our tables, festively decorated by our in house Martha Stewart, Miss Reenie Donahue. Reenie was in rare form, elegantly sashaying throughout the crowd telling stories and introducing those who didn't already know each other. Winemaker Bill Knuttel was on hand and did a great job recapping the wacky harvest of 2010 while sharing his personal philosophy on winemaking. I played the role of Wilma the Wine Diva which is a cross between Hostess, Cheerleader and Debate Team Coach, with a little bit of Sarcastic Wine Wench thrown in for good measure. The Husband shared his own take on things, and at one point, gave a very heartwarming speech on the tremendous gratitude and appreciation we have for our wine club members who are so dearly loyal to the brand. Frankly, I thought he might shed a tear, but then I realized he was just having one of those I've had umpteen glasses of wine, I'm feeling pretty good, and my emotions are a little tender tonight kind of moments. (Don't lie, I know you've had them too!) But it was so sweet that I immediately forgave him for stealing my thunder in the opening remarks.
(Alas, the ongoing challenge of a husband and wife sharing the limelight!)
In some ways it was like a reunion of our October wine cruise, as four of the couples had also gone on our magnificent trip to Italy and Croatia. It was especially heartwarming to learn that several of these folks had already gotten together on their own-just to spend time together. I felt really good about thatknowing that our wines and our company had played a role in forming new and lasting friendships.
I've been thinking about that a lot, especially during this incredibly busy and stressful time of year. (I happen to be in the BAH HUMBUG camp, where the notion of holiday decorating, shopping, and gift giving on top of everything else in life is very challenging.)
So honestly, just before the dinner, I found myself dreading the idea of getting all dressed up, being charming, and having to entertain our customers. But then it happened. That amazing moment that never ceases to amaze me--when complete strangers become the best of friends over sharing a glass (or two, or three) of delicious wine together. It's that magical connection of wine, food and camaraderie that bonds us together, and it's been going on for centuries the world over. And, it nearly always brings me back into focus on what's important in my life; family, friends, loved ones, and in this case, customers and fans who've become a part of our very special Dry Creek Vineyard family. Thank you everybody!
Acronyms have always been a part of our dialect. Shortening up words into quick phrases that are easily understood is something of an art form. A few that come to mind (compliments of my two teenagers) are LOL ("no mom, it's not lots of love!"), POS ("parent over shoulder", not the printed materials used to help sell wine) and WTF (this one's obvious...). A quick search on Google reveals an entirely new language is being spoken by the newest generation - check out http://www.urbandictionary.com/ if you don't believe me.
This brings me to one of my more embarrassing moments in the wine industry. As a young twenty something working for the winery, I thought I was pretty hot stuff. There I was, out there on the streets of San Francisco, selling wine, making deals and entertaining customers. I even had a company credit card. I was cool. But, as I know now, one can have certain experiences that will knock you down a few pegs. And, wine sales is one of them.
Perhaps the busiest selling time for our industry is the three month period beginning in October and carrying on through December - October, November and December-better known as "OND." Being the hot shot that I thought I was, I recall having more than a few conversations about this key selling period. Everyone was talking about it. OND this and OND that. The problem was, I didn't have a clue what OND meant. You have to picture it - me and a bunch of my industry counterparts discussing how important OND is and I'm clueless as to what everyone is talking about. Fortunately, no one asked me a serious question about my strategy for OND.
Years have passed yet OND remains a very busy and important time for our industry. And while the impact of these three months have lessened over the years with the proliferation of so many wine brands, the holiday selling season is still a critical time for us. This is particularly true for sparkling wine producers. Did you know that 60% of all sparkling wine/champagne is sold during OND? Talk about sweating bullets.
As we enter December with OND nearly behind us, the majority of our sales work is done. Distributor orders have been placed, retailers have finalized their promotions, and restaurants have stocked up on wines for the holiday season. Now it's time to start planning for next year. The next few weeks will be spent recapping our sales, finalizing projections for 2011, and preparing our budgets for the coming year. Think MPB (meetings, projections, and budgets) instead of OND. Then, before we know it, it's JFM (January, February, and March) and time to start all over again.Good thing I'll be a whole year wiser. Because maybe my CLE (collective life experience) will outperform my PKTD (professional knowledge to date) so our TRPC (total revenue per case) can surpass our LYSTD (last year sales to date).
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