May 2011 Archives

This is my 164th post. Throughout my 4+ year journey of writing a blog, I've been blessed with the most wonderful and supportive!! Now it's time for me to ask a favor. If you're a fan of Wilma's Wine World, please click this link to visit the 2011 Wine Blog Awards web site and nominate my blog.  The nomination period lasts one week and ends on May Click photo to visit American Wine Blog Awards & Nominate31, 2011.  The categories include:

Best Overall Wine Blog

Best New Wine Blog

Best Writing on a Wine Blog

Best Winery Blog

Best Single Subject Wine Blog

Best Wine Reviews on a Wine Blog

Best Industry/Business Wine Blog

Best Wine Blog Graphics, Photography and Presentation

I'm not very good at asking for help. Nor am I one to beg, plead, cajole, or beseech. I am however, humbly asking for your help to get Wilma out there in nomination land. I'm not the most techie of blogger types, nor am I as active in the blogosphere as some of my fellow wine bloggers. What I am however, is totally committed and passionate about sharing the ups, downs, successes, failures, trials, and tribulations of a lifetime spent in a family wine business. Sometimes I find myself brimming with story ideas and can hardly wait to share them with you. Then I remember, oh yea, that might piss off The Husband, The Father, The Staff, The Distributors, The Customers, The Bank, The Kids, and the myriad of other people/entities I interact with on a daily basis. Other times, Wilma is simply too busy, tired, or overwhelmed to find time to write. In the end, it's my desire to entertain, educate, shed light and inform that keeps me going. (That, and my extreme sense of guilt!)  

Thanking you in advance, I remain your dedicated wine blogger…Wilma.

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Sometimes it pays to be in debt. Up to your eyeballs. For a really long period of time.

No, I'm not talking about Greece. I'm talking about being a preferred banking client of a major lending institution. As you might surmise, running a winery, owning vineyards, and producing, selling and marketing wine is a highly capital intensive business. It takes several years before the product we produce can "go to market" and several more before the inventory cycle completes a full turn. Most wineries operate with a revolving line of credit to offset operating expenses that cash flow doesn't easily cover as well as provide working capital for some of the more cash intensive aspects of the business, i.e., replanting vineyards, buying barrels and equipment, etc. 

As part of our "We're Going to Kick the Recession in the Pants Plan", also known "We Will Leave No Stone Unturned To Get Ahead Plan," we recently completed a major refinance of the winery's long term debt structure to take advantage of lower interest rates and preferred lending packages. It was a highly labor intensive and time consuming project that made our normally calm and mild mannered CFO Dru, unusually stressed out and anxious.  But his diligence and hard work paid off and we are happy to have a wonderful new banking partner, Union Bank.

Here's where the fun part comes in. As a "preferred" banking client (i.e. someone who is up to their eyeballs in debt!) we were Click photo to enlarge - Concertinvited by Union Bank to see Sheryl Crow perform live at the Sonoma Valley Jazz+ Festival this past weekend.

Can I just say right now, there's a reason Sheryl is a rock star. She is quite simply, A ROCK STAR! As a breast cancer survivor and single mother, she's already got Diva written all over her face. Add to that, the fact that she's an amazing singer, songwriter, and musician playing a multitude of instruments throughout her set, and you can imagine how powerful and soulful her music is when enjoyed in person. I felt mighty lucky to be so close to such a legendary female rocker and had a fabulous time reliving my younger days as a wannabe rock star myself. (I actually never wanted to be a rock star, but I sure did and still do love great classic rock and roll.)

Union Bank outdid themselves in sponsoring the concert and I am so grateful to have been among the invited patrons.  Thank you New Banker Friends!

Maybe debt isn't so bad after all.

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Yesterday was the culmination of many months of work. On the outside, it may not have seemed like a big deal, but between you, me and the lamp post, it reflected a lot of work, study, analysis, and more. What I'm talking about is our DTC Retreat. DTC is the acronym that the wine industry has dubbed the Direct-To-Consumer sales channels, i.e. tasting room, wine clubs, and e-commerce. These channels are separate from the traditional way wineries sell their wines which involve finding nationwide distributors and selling through the 3 Tier system. (Winery:Distributor:Retailer)

DTC has been an increasingly important buzzword for some time now. The most obvious reason is profitability. When you don't have the middlemen in there, it's a much more profitable way of doing business. However, more important is the fact that it's the only sales channel where we can FULLY control the customer's experience with our wines. Here's an example. Pretend you go out to dinner… you order a bottle of wine. You have an amazing meal, a great server, etc. Maybe you just got some good news or a promotion at work or your teenager actually picked up their dirty clothes, so you're in an even better mood. It's highly likely that all these positive influences will add up to a great experience with the wine you selected. But the converse is true too...

You're in a rush to get ready for dinner. You head to your corner liquor store to pick up a bottle. The sales clerk is non-existent or doesn't know diddly squat about wine, you have no idea if it's going to be food friendly and the lack of service and rush hour traffic makes the whole experience rather unpleasant. This could, in theory, negatively impact your perception of the wine, no matter how good it is.

Now, take a DTC experience.

Someone visits wine country. It's a glorious day in the valley. They stop into the tasting room on a relaxing summer afternoon and discover firsthand the delights of chilled Sauvignon Blanc. Or, they just received their latest wine club shipment and eagerly curl up in their easy chair to read the accompanying newsletter. It's all about Old Vine Zinfandel. The gnarly vines and history of the region nearly come to life with every sip they take. In these examples, practically every interaction they have with the winery, every impression, every conversation, every word they read, in essence EVERY ENGAGEMENT they have with the brand is fully controllable. It's all up to us. It's on our backs.  But herein lies the problem. As an owner, I can't control everything. I can't script exactly what they'll experience when they walk into our tasting room. I can't fully know that the tour or tasting that has been set up for them is being conducted exactly as I would like. Because, I have to rely on others. While I can teach, train, mentor, share, rant, rave, and jump up and down, there's no way I can be 100% sure that what I want our customers to experience is actually happening. Unless you tell me.

So that's why we had the retreat. To get everyone together for a detailed look at how we do things. We then asked ourselves, how can we improve? It sounds trite, but what can we do to SURPASS our customer's expectations? WHAT CAN WE DO TO WOW 'EM?

Three themes kept coming up. Family, Heritage, and Authenticity. These are the three core elements that are at the very heart and soul of Dry Creek Vineyard. They're the three things that we alone OWN and that must come through in everything we do and say.

We spent the morning revisiting our vision, mission, and core values. The afternoon was dedicated to team building and brainstorming. We threw in a few Kumbayah moments for good measure, but by and large we focused on how to better infuse FAMILY, HERITAGE and AUTHENTICITY into the tasting room, wine club and ecommerce. The team came up with some great ideas. We concentrated on the "what" not the "how," so people wouldn't get bogged down with logistics. No idea was too silly or grandiose. Everything from buying a golf cart for giving vineyard tours to hanging more family  photos was thrown on the white board. Here's one of my favorites: fly members of our hospitality team to people's homes to conduct private tastings and wine education.

I couldn't help but, how am I going to sell that idea to The HUSBAND??

Now, I'd like to get your feedback! What are we doing right, and where are we missing the mark??  Are we spot on, always exuding warm, gracious hospitality? Or are there a few grumps in our employ that are making a bad impression? What about our customer service? Is it timely and helpful like the good folks at Nordstroms? Or, do you get the run around leaving you frustrated and sour faced like the last time I contacted our internet service provider.

Please tell me, what do you want??? It's the only way I'll know.

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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2011 is the previous archive.

June 2011 is the next archive.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.


This is a blog about what it's really like to be in the wine sit back, take a sip and enjoy!

about me

our wines

our winery

our events

contact me

privacy statement

favorite posts

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

monthly archives


Hopes & Dreams

Owning a Coastal Cottage

Sailing for 6 Months

Getting a 100 Point Score

Favorite Haunts

Coast of Maine

Dry Creek General Store

Dry Creek Kitchen

Healdsburg Bar & Grill


Sonoma Country Antiques

Baci Cafe & Wine Bar

The Farmhouse

Istanbul's Grand Bazaar

Bad Ass Coffee

Bistro Ralph

Bits of Press

Food & Wine Magazine

The Wine News

Wine Enthusiast

Wine Spectator

Press Democrat

Sunset Magazine

Connoisseurs' Guide

Dan Berger's Vintage Experiences

Cruising World Magazine

Oprah Magazine

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Down East


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Connoisseurs' Guide

Practical Winery & Vineyard


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Blog Buddy List


Hip Tastes

Pinot Blogger

All The Best

Julia Flynn Siler


Winery Web Site Report

The Pour - Eric Asimov

Dr Vino

Steve Heimoff

Start Up Ladies

Good Wine Under $20

Blind Muscat

The Wineroad Blog

Gabe's View

Wine Peeps

Vici Vino

Cellarmistress' Cellar Talk

Uncork Life

WineVine-Imports Blog

The Wine Witch


Honorable Mentions

Wilma Hits The World of Blogs
Most Intriguing New Wine Blogs of 2008
Midwest Wine Guy
Winery of the Month
Julia Flynn Siler
Meritage wines - and a fascinating glimpse into family business
Winery Web Site Report
New Winery Blog: Wilma's Wine World
Start Up Ladies
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