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 annualClick photo to enlarge 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 Matt & Nova - Click photo to enlargerights 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!

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Sometimes I feel like I'm selling myself short. Like I'm compromising my standards to adapt to the changing whims of an increasingly competitive industry. Case in point: The use of screw caps instead of a traditional cork finish. When this trend first appeared on the wine scene, I thought you've got to be joking?? Who on earth would want to buy fine wine with a screw cap finish?  Even the avant garde trendsetter wineries, who were first on the scene with these alternative closures, seemed destined for failure. Earlyclick to enlarge models were hard to open. They were sharp and tended to cut your hand if you weren't careful. But mostly they evoked memories of cheap low class jug wines drunk in back street alleys. On a personal level, I found the experience of a screw cap less than satisfying. I'm sorry but there's something missing from the sensory experience of opening wine when you simply twist your hand to the right, hear a slight "zzztt" sound, and presto magic, the bottle is open.

But as times change, so must I. And, so I've succumbed to the idea of screw caps in a big way. In fact it's so big that we just installed a shiny new Italian screw cap machine so we can start screw capping our Chenin Blanc, Fume Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc bottlings without the need to bring in a mobile bottling line.

You should know that this decision was not unanimous. In fact, my husband and I were polar opposites in our way of thinking. He felt strongly that distributors and the trade, particularly restaurants, would embrace our decision. I was convinced that the public, our loyal diehard Dry Creek fans, many of whom are very long term customers, would be put off by our decision. In the end, I lost the battle, so last year we started using screw caps on our 375ml bottles and now on the 750ml bottles of our major white wines as well. Do I like them? Not really. But they do have their distinct advantages.

The possibility for cork taint or "corkiness" is completely eliminated. There's no chance of being stuck without an opener if you find yourself on a desert island with only one bottle of wine left. And, they are generally a less expensive closure than the combination of a cork and capsule finish combined. Alas, we've gone and done it.

For now, I'm limiting our usage to our lively and refreshing white wines--what we refer to as "summertime in a bottle". I can't quite get behind the idea of a red wine in a screw cap yet, although the idea has been presented. For now, I'm sticking with tradition. And, the hope that there are others out there like me, who believe that the magic of wine includes the farming of the grapes, the appellation of origin, the artistry of winemaking, and the pulling of a little tan piece of bark, used for centuries around the world. 

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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.

I wear a lot of hats!

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...?

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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! 

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Big lips. Big boobs. Little bodies. Or, is it Big lips. Big boobs. Big dreams? Whatever the case, being freshly back from LA LA Land (aka Hollywood/Beverly Hills) feels a bit like stepping into a different galaxy. While my life here is abundantly rich and full, with sparks of excitement and glamour from time to time, it's clear that life in So Cal is different. At least that's the impression I got last week during my annual participation in the Screen Actors Guild Awards.

It isn't actually the SAG Awards that are an issue. While I can't say I'm an expert on awards shows, the overall ambiance and feel of this particular celebrity studded event is actually very down to earth and convivial. Guests are there to celebrate their craft and share in their friends' and colleagues'click to enlarge successes. After all, imagine being chosen for a SAG Award by members of the Screen Actors Guild-isn't that the best compliment an actor could have?

"Look mom, they like me!"

Maybe that's why I feel so comfortable talking up my wines to such an illustrious crowd of Hollywood's who's who. Because they're actually hard working, passionate craftsman, just like you need to be in the wine business.

But there's no denying that the culture of Beverly Hills is vastly different than my own. Plastic surgery, expensive cars (we're talking Maseratis and Buggatis not click to enlargeyour run-of-the-mill Mercedes Benz or BMW!) and dressed to the nines, skinny (and I mean skinny) beautiful people are the norm. While fun to observe, it must be very difficult to live like that on a daily basis. I know I couldn't.

Nonetheless, I strutted my stuff with the best of them as I worked the Red Carpet on show day. I shamelessly preached, promoted, and promenaded trying to gain awareness for our wines. I flaunted my big bottle, and chatted up the brand with as many people as I could. Then, I sat back and observed. One person in particular caught my eye.

Now that is something I don't see every day!
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About this Archive

This page is an archive of entries from February 2012 listed from newest to oldest.

January 2012 is the previous archive.

March 2012 is the next archive.

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