If you're like me, open that bottle night may be every night of the week! But seriously, Open That Bottle Night (OTBN) is an annual event started more than 20 years ago by Wall Street Journal wine columnists Dorothy Gaiter and John Brecher. The idea was simple - find and drink a special, older bottle of wine that you might not otherwise touch. It was their effort to get readers to drink some of these "moldy oldies" or wines stashed in the cellar that had been waiting for that perfect occasion. Now retired, Dottie (as she likes to be called) and John are still living out the tradition of OTBN on the third Saturday of February each year.
I've always admired Dottie and John. They are some of the best wine writers in the industry. Their prose was always candid and honest. And their writing style was as open to their readers as their love affair with each other. You see, Dottie and John have shared 40 years of what has obviously been an enduring romance and love for each other. Often, their lovey-dovey ways spilled onto the pages of their wine column which always struck me -The Husband and I have been married (well, we've been married for a long time) and I still feel those pangs of passion and love for him to this day. I can relate and appreciate their feelings for each other.
Dottie and John's recent OTBN included a bottle of our 1973 Petite Sirah - the inaugural vintage of this wine and the very first vintage of red wines in our history. It was also the year they met. How special! They still have an outlet for OTBN on PalatePress.com. You can read Dottie's recap of their memorable night with our Petite Sirah here: http://palatepress.com/2013/02/wine/open-that-bottle-night-wrap-up/.
I'm a sucker for a great love story and as love affairs go in the wine industry, Dottie and John's story has to be right up there with the best of them.
I feel like a little kid with the excuse "my dog ate my homework." Only in this case, I'm neither a child nor is blogging the same as homework! Nonetheless, the fact that I've had a lengthy hiatus from writing this blog was brought to my attention by a loyal wine club member at an event last Saturday.
I was hoping no one would notice. Although secretly, I guess I feel honored that anyone would really care whether there's regular content on Wilma's Wine World or not. Truth be told, I've been frightfully busy the first 6 weeks of 2013, coupled with a complete lack of inspiration. Every time I sit down to try to write, I find myself covering the same topics or simply griping about the state of the wine industry...yes, I think you know by now that I miss the good ole days! (Less competition, fewer brands, more attentive distributors, etc.)
Now, I just learned that we've got even MORE competition--from Brad and Angelina. That would be Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie. I kid you not! Here is the article straight from our industry's favorite news source: Wine Business. The fact that Brad and Angie (yep, I can call her that 'cause we go way back...check out this photo!) have entered the industry is another sign that the proliferation of brands and labels doesn't appear to be going away anytime soon. People from all walks of life have a fascination for the art of winemaking--but often, with little to no common sense as to how the product actually gets sold in the three tier system. Which means I'll be on a plane or in front of a distributor sales force telling our brand story a lot this year. (Ironically, I'm at the Southwest terminal this very moment.) Just since January 1, I've done this in the following cities: Los Angeles, Ft. Lauderdale, New Orleans, Dallas, Denver and Phoenix. Next month I'll do it again in Los Angeles, hoping that at least one or two people find my wines and what I have to say compelling enough to present our wines to the buyers of today's top restaurants and wine shops. Hmm, I wonder if Angelina intends to do this? Maybe I should offer to help?
Meanwhile, back at the winery things are humming along smoothly. There's a spring in people's step and a lot of excitement for the year to come. We have so many exciting things planned! We're creating several new one-of-a-kind wines for our wine club members and getting ready to bottle our single vineyard selections. We've launched our new Zin Lover's Club and are preparing a major overhaul to our website and ecommerce site. We're developing a marketing campaign to leverage our reputation as the "Wine for Sailors" and will be pouring our wines at the America's Cup which commences in the SF Bay later this summer. Our electric car charging station is installed and we're fine tuning our specialized education tours and tastings offered to the public. We are BUSY! But, it's always a good time to visit, especially now with the weather so beautiful and the crowds minimal.
Please stop in and say hello if you make it our way!
|If someone had told me five years ago that The Husband and I would switch places and I would become President of the winery, I would have said "No way". Who on earth would want that job? It's tons of work, it's tremendously stressful, and it's a completely thankless job. Forget it, it's not worth it. And you know what? A lot of that is true. But... I have to tell you, I have loved every minute of it this year, much to my great delight.|
|It didn't start out that way. On day one, I had to fire a long time distributor, run by people I've known for practically my entire life. Talk about stressful. Not to mention sad. But I had no choice, as I had to support V2 Wine Group, our new national sales agency we had hired to be responsible for our wholesale business. This was a decision they had recommended and I felt I needed to support that. The year has been full of choices like that - not always easy ones, but always in the best interest of the company. And that is what truly comes naturally to me - doing what is in the best interest of this company. Because quite simply - I care. I care a lot. I care about our past. I care about our future. And I care deeply about everyone involved with the winery. This should come as no surprise to anyone - I take my role here very seriously.
So while business is still a challenge, and competition in the wine industry is the toughest I've ever seen, we have SO much to be thankful for. Our wine quality is at an all time high, our direct to consumer business is at an all time high, and the talent and dedication of our staff is at an all time high. We've made it on the radar screen of some of the industry's most respected wine critics, including the Wine Spectator who not only rated our Mariner at 91 points, and our winery as "One of the best places to visit", but also gave us prime coverage (and the only non-Napa winery to obtain this) in their "Class of '72" story saying we "make an assortment of excellent red and white wines". The fact that my name was also mentioned was icing on the cake and the summation of many years of hard work.
So, as we end the year 2012 together, the year of our 40th Anniversary, I am so proud of the wonderful culture we have created here, the sense of pride that prevails within these walls, and the unique and increasingly rare breed that we are: one of California's truly iconic, pioneering, family owned wineries.
Thank you for your support, loyalty, and friendship.
There aren't too many pats on the back at the top. Not too many "well dones", "great work", or "thanks for a job well done". It's just assumed that the boss man, or in this case, the boss lady doesn't really need positive reinforcement like the rest of the troops. Thankfully, I've always been extremely self motivated. I get my kudos from watching projects come to fruition, receiving feedback from our customers, and reading wine reviews that are positive. Helping my staff develop and watching teamwork in action is also a big warm and fuzzy feeling for me because I know I've made a positive difference in the lives of others.
So when it was brought to my attention that the legendary James Laube, Senior Editor of Wine Spectator, mentioned my name in a December 15 article on the Class of '72, my heart burst with pride. It was just six years ago that I sat down with him to share my vision for our family winery. I told him where The Husband and I wanted to take the business and the improvements we were making to bring our wine quality and business practices to an entirely new level. In fact, that's when he encouraged me to start this blog - to chronicle the life and times of a "wine country insider".
Wow. Now, he's acknowledged the work we've done by actually including Dry Creek Vineyard in his story--the only winery from Sonoma County. Furthermore, he feels we make "an assortment of excellent reds and whites". I'm immediately inclined to share it with my Pop. Because deep down inside, we're all trying to get our parent's approval, right? I'm no different. I hope he'll swell with pride as much as I am right now. Ah...it feels good. Rest assured, I won't let it go to my head though. I'm not like that. But just for a minute, as I prepare for Thanksgiving, I'm feeling mighty happy and proud. And thankful - very, very, thankful.
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving. And, I hope someone tells you "well done" too!
Throughout the year, we've been talking a lot about our 40th anniversary. It has been a big focus of our marketing efforts and has pretty much dominated 2012. But, I realized in the middle of the night last night that I haven't bragged much about it on this blog. Plus, I haven't shared with you the cool new video we made highlighting the occasion.
First, let me say-I'm really proud the winery is celebrating 40 years of family winemaking in the Dry Creek Valley. We have been through a lot (and I mean a LOT!) so this milestone is very near and dear to my heart. I literally grew up at the winery, as did several other people still in our employ, and we've seen the wine industry grow from the growth and glory days of the 80s and 90s, to the slug fest of international competition it has morphed into nowadays. I've seen the dreaded neo-Prohibitionists be replaced by a nation of wine-friendly folks with a fascination for the grape. Tourism and tasting rooms have become big business. Distributors have become wholesale behemoths with far too many brands competing for far too few slots on the retail shelf and restaurant wine list. Winery travel is still essential. Good press and high scores are helpful. Producing high quality wines is non-negotiable.
But the real key to success is the ability to stick it out. Persistence and patience are vital. And at the end of the day, it has to be a labor of love. You simply have to make wines you are passionate about sharing with the world. How they end up on the dinner table is the hard part.
Oh yeah, and a good dose of humor helps too.
In this day and age of being "plugged in" - you know those high tech, high energy social media types that are constantly tweeting, facebooking, foursquareing, instagraming, blah, blah, blah - I often feel like my head is going to explode. How do they keep up the energy? Red Bull? Triple espressos? Power naps? In all seriousness, I do understand the power of these new forms of communication. And while I may not be the most savvy (or even like) this age of instant communication, it's more relevant than ever for our business.
And that's why I got really excited when I learned that not ONE but TWO of our wines were nominated for a Snooth People's Voice Award. What is Snooth you ask? Good question. I actually had to do some digging myself. What I found was fascinating. Snooth is an incredible online resource about all things wine related. You can learn about wines from around the world. You can share thoughts and engage in online forums about the wines that you like. You can learn about food and wine pairing. You can BUY wine! It's really one stop shopping for wine lovers. Snooth, being the creative energetic types that they apparently are, created a "People's Voice Awards" wherein their customers vote for their favorite wines from the around the world. Thousands of wines were submitted. Now in the final rounds, two of our wines have made the cut. I have to say, this is especially gratifying. Why? Because it tells me that our wines are being appreciated by actual people who actually enjoy them. Yes, wine critics are important, but to have our wines given the seal of approval from wine consumers makes my heart feel proud.
The voting is not over. I'd like to encourage you take 10 seconds to vote for our Fume Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc. Here are the links:
Fume Blanc: http://www.snooth.com/awards/?v=7673574
Sauvignon Blanc: http://www.snooth.com/awards/?v=7571456
In our socially engaged world, it's harder than ever for a winery like ours to cut through the clutter. Thanks to Snooth, we too have been given a voice with our most important constituents: Those who drink and enjoy our wines on a daily basis.
I'm a bit nostalgic today. 40 years ago, on August 24, 1972, my Dad finally got the permit to build Dry Creek Vineyard at the corner of Dry Creek Road and Lambert Bridge Road. At the time, I was just 9 years old and preoccupied with making friends in the new town we'd just moved to called Healdsburg. I recall being mostly focused on Barbies and Batman - not on some silly winery. However, the now iconic photo of me turning over that first shovel full of dirt with Dad looking on is truly emblematic of our winery 40 years later. I'm the President now and Dad is enjoying his retirement, albeit with one eye still on the family business. I know he's proud of our success - the winery is doing well despite some of the economic land mines that we know are out there. The wines have never been better and with our winemaker Tim Bell on board, future vintages are in very good hands. I feel really positive about our business for the rest of 2012 and beyond.
So positive, in fact, that we are going to take a day off! Yep, that's right -the entire DCV crew is heading up to Lake Sonoma today for an afternoon of barbecuing, water skiing and good old fashioned family fun. We are actually CLOSING our doors for the day - a first for us on a non-holiday. I figure, what better way to celebrate our 40th than with our winery family and the dedicated employees who have helped make this business possible.
So let's raise a glass to Dry Creek Vineyard and say Happy Birthday - forty never felt so fabulous!
This time of year, something remarkable is happening in the vineyards that surround my house. It's when the grapes begin to change color - the official term is Veraison, pronounced (Vay-ray-zoN). This exciting time signals that harvest is just a few short weeks away. And it also tells me that my winemaker will soon be pulling his hair out and losing sleep - but that's another story....
Veraison is a viticulture (grape-growing) term meaning "the onset of ripening." The phrase is originally French (isn't everything in wine culture?) but has been adopted into English use. The official definition of Veraison (or at least the one that was on the internet when I Googled the word) is "the change in color of the grape berries." That's a nice definition and all but it really doesn't paint the entire picture.
With the grapes changing color, it means the culmination of almost 9 months of careful vineyard cultivation. You see, to get to this point, we actually started working in the vineyards almost immediately after last year's harvest. There was the pruning and cover cropping in the early winter. Then there was the frost protection and nightly watch as new buds began to grow this past spring. And finally, this summer our vineyard team has been painstakingly working to position shoots, thin leaves and manage the canopy to ensure proper sunlight for the grapes. Plus, they've been closely monitoring to make sure the vines get enough water. Whew, that's a lot of work!
So, with the grapes going through Veraison, you can imagine how excited we all are to see that first load of grapes arrive on our door step soon. In fact, we get so excited that we like to pop a bottle of bubbly and toast the occasion. Yep, just one more excuse to drink champagne! Our winemaking team tells me we are just a couple of short weeks away from our first grapes. Later this week the first of two interns we've hired arrives from South Africa and our Dry Creek family will expand a little more.
So, please join me in raising a glass to toast another great harvest... in this case, our 41st!
|A super thing happened to me today. One that makes all the late nights of writing and absentminded brainstorming for topics all worthwhile! Wilma's Wine World has been nominated as a finalist for the 2012 Wine Blog Awards in the Best Industry/Business Wine Blog category. I'm grinning from ear to ear! The competition has steadily grown and so has the sheer number of wine blogs published today. The fact that Wilma would even qualify is a tremendous honor and something I'm very proud of for both myself and my staff.
Now comes the important part, public voting, which ends Thursday, July 26, 2012. Please cast your ballot! Each category winner will be chosen based on 50% of the input coming from the judges and 50% coming from the public vote. Congratulations to all the finalists, and may the best blog win!
Click on this link to cast your vote: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/WBA12. I promise it will only take 10-15 seconds of your time. In addition to Best Industry/Business Wine Blog, you can also vote for Best Blog Post of the Year, Best Original Photography or Video on a Wine Blog, Best Wine Reviews on a Wine Blog, Best Single Subject Wine Blog, Best Winery Blog, Best Writing On a Wine Blog, Best New Wine Blog, and Best Overall Wine Blog.
Thank You! Gracias! Merci! Danke! Grazie! Obrigado!
One of the unpleasant things about making wines that go so well with oysters is that every now and again I have to pretend to like the slimy little bi-valves. I have done quite well over the years, managing to avoid ingesting these creatures of the sea, thanks to a host of polite excuses which range from "shellfish doesn't agree with me." To, "I'm sorry but I'm on medication that interferes with digestion of oysters."
You guessed it: the truth is I don't like oysters. In fact, I detest them and manage to avoid eating them at all costs, despite producing what is generally regarded as some of the world's "Best Oyster" wines.
I have managed to keep my secret for quite some time. But just recently, my hidden truth was put to the test, all in the name of selling wine. And, remarkably...I survived. Plus, it was fun!
One of my favorite distributors, Pine State Beverage of Maine, set up an Oyster and Blancs tasting at a waterfront restaurant in Boothbay Harbor called Mine Oyster. It had been a year since I had been in the market and I was looking forward to catching up with the reps who sell our wines. Until I heard it involved oysters.
Oh my, what to do. Here I was, in the middle of my vacation, squeezing in some time for business. I'd be willing to do just about anything to help sell our wines, but oysters...really??
As I entered the restaurant, I could tell I was in trouble. Intoxicating smells of saltwater and shellfish greeted me. Boisterous fisherman sat at the bar. And a table full of eager wine sales reps surrounded me with high fives and hugs all around. Then, the defining moment came. I was handed the menu and asked to order the selection of oysters that we would taste with my wines. Ugh. No amount of wincing or squirming could get me out of this one! I steeled myself for the moment and started ordering recklessly. Glidden Points.... Pemiquids... Oysters Rockefeller... Oysters Parmesan...Oysters this and oysters that.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I needed to save face. These folks were depending on me!
Slowly we slurped and sipped our way through the assortment. Round the table we went, each person commenting on which was their favorite wine for the oyster of choice...was it Dry Chenin Blanc, the Fume Blanc or our Sauvignon Blanc? Unanimously the Chenin Blanc was the group's favorite. It was uncanny really, as this is the same wine what won the 2012 Pacific Coast Oyster Competition as one of the "Top 10 Wines" to go with oysters. And, after a few gasps and quick gulps I slowly began to comprehend.
I could taste the sea. I could sense the ocean. My mind started to wander...the crispness of the wine danced across my palate running head on into the briney salinity of the oyster...ahhh, the "bliss factor." Yes, I could finally understand what all the fuss was about.
While oysters may never become my seafood of choice, I am now one of the enlightened ones, thanks to the great state of Maine and the wonderful folks of Pine State Beverage.
Thanks guys and see 'ya next year!
As the end of my vacation draws near, I am reflecting on what a wonderful trip it has been. Over the past couple of weeks I have spent my time seeing family, relaxing, reading, eating and - you guessed it - sailing. It has been such a welcome break from the daily chaos of simultaneously running a business and a family, and a much-needed one at that! Of course, my brain hasn't completely turned away from the winery. There is just so much going on right now with our new consumer tasting experiences, bottling in full swing before harvest starts, and the anniversary of the date that we received our use permit 40 years ago coming up. With all of these exciting things going on, it has been a tad difficult to keep my mind completely focused on relaxing.
However, when our 2009 Heritage Zinfandel was named one of the "Best Burger Wines" out of a 30-bottle taste test, I immediately snapped back into vacation mode. Why? Because one of the best parts of a summer vacation is eating outside and enjoying a great barbequed meal with family and friends. I love burgers, but I have to confess that my favorite BBQ dinner with our Heritage Zinfandel is my dad's famous 'Zinful Flank Steak'. With only a few days left in my vacation, I am going to make sure this recipe hits the grill before I hit the road!
Steak marinade: Combine ingredients and marinate flank steak overnight. It is important to first pierce the steak all over with a fork so that the marinade can better penetrate and tenderize the meat.
Zinfandel sauce: Combine ingredients in non-reactive saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer to reduce by one-half. Remove from heat and cool. Remove steak from marinade. Add reserved marinade to sauce mixture and puree in the food processor. Grill, broil or pan fry steak over high heat; cook to medium rare. Cut thin slices across the grain. Serve with heated sauce.
Looking back at my last few posts, I realized that my tone was a tad in the dumps. It's easy to get frustrated in this business. Yet, at the same time, I can't overlook the wonderful aspects of the wine industry and all the lasting friendships I've created. So, rather than focus on what's bad, I want to share with you what's really great about our industry. I thought maybe a top 10 list would be appropriate.
So there you have it. That's my list. What's yours? Feel free to chime in. I'd love to hear from you.
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