February 2012 Archives
Alright, we'll admit it - we are a slightly competitive group at the winery. And so, when we set out last Friday (February 24) for the annual Vineyard Pruning Championships sponsored by the Sonoma County Winegrape Commission we definitely had ideas about beating out our other competitors.
The day began warm and friendly. Coffee and donuts were served and the rules were provided to each team involved in the competition. Really, there were two competitions happening - one for the "real" pruners - those hardworking guys who actually spend endless hours hand pruning vineyards all over Sonoma County. Then there was the "other" competition - a friendly contest pitting appellations against each other with a winemaker and vineyard manager on each team. Representing the Dry Creek Valley (and Dry Creek Vineyard) was Nova Perrill our Assistant Winemaker and Matt Vogensen our Vineyard Manager from Bevill Vineyard Management.
As we walked out to the vineyard the friendly banter began about who was going to win and why. It's not often we all come together for some spirited competition so everyone's juices were flowing and of course, ultimate bragging rights were on the line! The agenda for each team was simple - prune two vines perfectly and do it in the fastest time possible. Points are added (or subtracted) for how the vine is cut, if the correct spur is left and whether or not the canes are properly removed from the wire. Only about 1/3 of the total score is based on how fast the teams completed the challenge.
When the gun sounded, team Dry Creek feverishly started pruning. Nova and Matt were the first to finish completing two vines in just less than 1 minute. Just to give some perspective, a seasoned and skilled vineyard worker can prune that amount in half the time - pretty remarkable!
After the competition, lunch was served at the beautiful Shone Farm in the Russian River Valley. Awards were distributed and ultimately, Nova and Matt were given first prize! Check out the video to watch these champions work!
I wear a lot of hats. And I mean a lot. Sometimes it's marketing. Sometimes it's sales. Sometimes it's finance. Sometimes it's production planning. Sometimes, it's just providing a shoulder to lean on or a pat on the back. Keeping them all straight and changing them all day long is proving to be the biggest challenge of my new role as President.
One of the ones I enjoy most is sharing good news about our business. In this case, today it's with our staff.
We are having our bi-annual company meeting to give everyone the low down on where we've been, where we're going and how we're getting there. We've been having these meetings a few times a year as a way to keep everyone fully abreast on the direction of the company. Even in a small business like ours, it's important to have these meetings. That way no one can claim they "didn't know!"
I'm happy to be doing it as we're in a good place right now. We have worked very hard, for a very long time, to improve our business. No stone has gone unturned, as we've "reinvented" our family winery for the future. Call it the "vision of the second generation", or simply the need to "leave our stamp on things". Whatever the case, Dry Creek Vineyard as a company and a producer of high quality, appellation driven, distinctive wines is radically different than it was 10 years ago.
We finished 2011 in good form--just 2% below our goal. Considering our new national sales partner, V2 Wine Group, wasn't up and running (fully staffed) until September, that's pretty good. On the consumer direct side, (tasting room, wine club and ecommerce) sales were up 11% over prior year. I can't tell you how rewarding it is to be able to brag about this. For years, we've wanted to grow this side of the business. Obviously, it's more profitable than through wholesale channels. But, it's actually a lot more rewarding which is why everyone is so pumped up about it around here. And truthfully, a healthy consumer direct business enhances sales through 3 tier channels, so our distributors should be happy about this.
I'll be sharing our goals for 2012, as well as what's on the horizon. We'll touch on sales, marketing, production, human resources, sustainability, etc. And, hopefully the staff will reciprocate by sharing their thoughts and ideas. I'm not one who needs to have things candy coated. I prefer honesty and feedback, just as long as it's not whining.
So, that's the hat I'm wearing today. Tomorrow, who knows...?
Press coverage continues to trickle in from the Screen Actors Guild Awards. That is always the acid test when we evaluate our involvement. Of course personally, what I really want to know is how many celebrities ran out and bought our wines as a result?? I mean does anyone actually run to the liquor store and proclaim, "I simply have to have that Dry Creek Vineyard wine!" Since I'll probably never know the answer, I was excited to see this segment produced for a TV show called California Life HD. It's a short clip, but it gives you a good perspective on our involvement. Enjoy!
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