Archive for the ‘Wine 2.0’ Category

Because he can.
Because he does.

And because he has mad Web 2.0, Social Media and interpersonal skills:

Vote For the DirtySouthWine


Looking forward to this wine meets social media in practice study…and how it turns out!

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IF you thought you knew what the Bloggers Tasting Forums were all about, you may be surprised by the next in a series of Blogger/Winery meet ups.   Next month Hahn Estates is dedicating approximately 1.6 acres as “The Bloggers Block”.  The prime vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands appellation will be planted throughout May.  Bloggers attending the Tasting & Planting Forum in May will also plant their own vine in the Bloggers Block.  The opportunity to learn, explore and share wine experiences I believe not only adds to our wine-ophilia, but more than almost any product, wine brings people together to learn, share and explore more.

Some thoughts from Bill Leigon, President of Hahn Family Wines on creating the Bloggers Block (which I hope will aka “Writers Block”).    Here Mr. Leigon talks about how the Bloggers Block came about:

We had done a special incentive trip for our distributors a few years ago where the winners came to CA and got to plant their own PN vine with a plaque on it.  In addition there has long been a history of certain wineries allowing consumers (usually wine club members) to “own” a vine.  They join the club and buy a case of wine from their vine.  One day while talking to Andy he mentioned that we had 1.6 acres or so on the knolls in Smith Vineyard that we could plant.  In our interactions with the blogging community I learned that they are wine savvy and very interested in learning about wine.  Great wines start in the vineyard.  What better way to learn than to help plant a vine, take part in the process and follow the development of your vine over time.

This Bloggers Forum will be Hahn’s second such blogger event.  Other wineries (St. Supery) have followed suit hosting bloggers for information and education and sharing.  A few more thoughts from Bill Leigon:

p70400461Thus we are not selling anybody anything and I thought this would be a great way to enhance our outreach while providing a valuable educational experience.  I believe that the blogging community is a vital part of the future of the industry.  In the many debates of what is or isn’t ethical in regards to the winery/wine blogger relationship what seems clear to me is that the best, most ethical thing we as a winery can do is provide the blogging community with quality products, quality information and quality wine experiences regardless of race, sex, color, creed or brand of wine.  We are using our vineyards because that’s who we are.  I believe that the more the blogging community learns about wine, the better it is for all of us.

Bill Leigon gets wine and he also really gets social media:

It is a vital connection; just like the winery/wine writer connection; the winery/wine buyer connection; and of course the winery/consumer connection.  It does us no good to create great wines if no one knows about it.  I just can’t drink that much.  The wine business is a relationship business.  We must create an emotional connection to our consumers.  We do that through many means and I believe Social Media is a major part of creating that connection.

hahn-n-glasses2When I was a young salesman starting out I received advice that I have never forgotten.  The VP of Dreyfus-Ashby said to me, “Bill, the wine business is a relationship business.  You sell one bottle of wine to one person, one at a time.”  I didn’t know what he meant then, but I learned over time.  The internet and Social Media allow you to do that only it accelerates the number of people you can reach to a degree that I can’t even comprehend.  It allows me to establish a relationship and an emotional connection to someone in Germany that I have never met face to face.  It allows me to create connections with multiple people in multiple countries simultaneously and in a very personal way.

Yep, pretty much.


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The hosts (Rachel Maddow, Keith Olberman, Don Lemon, Larry King, Anderson Cooper…) talk about twitter and facebook on cable news shows.  Politicians, internet businesses and even businesses like Whole Foods are on twitter…but many of my friends still say “twit-what” ?  They know what facebook is…but don’t have a profile.  Or if they do, they attend to it maybe once a week or less.  Many have yet to find their social niche on the ning platform  Can you believe many wine folks are now early adopters thanks to Open Wine Consortium, Wine 2.0 and almost 30 more social networks dedicated to wine!!??  Granted most of those participants are in the wine industry or wine blogging world or tech. Heck, the internet, and all of these online social tools, are credited with helping to elect President Obama!  So Social Media is almost mainstream…but not quite.


So what or who am I waiting for?

I guess I’m waiting for folks like my aunt or my mom to be on twitter or facebook or any social network (even AARP has a social site…and of course they should!).  Or even some of my closest friends in their 30’s n 40’s who have no idea about the online world beyond e-mail and shopping.  I’m waiting for them to get connected.  I have faith though:  they all chucked their answering machines in favor of voice mail.  And they all have cell phones; they even text.  So not being the most patient person in the world, I it is only a matter of time.

Then what?

Well, I’m curious and eager for the information and connection that twitter, ning and the blogosphere bring to the conversations.  Perhaps I’m already primed because I’m a news junkie: world, tech, wine, entertainment, travel and politics…gimme news!  And when those folks are connected, I can’t wait to see how the marketplace inserts itself into the conversation.  We’ve already seen them blocked, booted or blasted for spamming their messages into conversations.  It’s like being at a cocktail party and walking up to people chatting (say they are chatting about a back yard bbq with their friends and family) and you start shouting “Hey I have this great deal on Office Copier Machines!  Get it right now!  Go Here to buy it!”.  Don’t you think people would just look at you like you were crazy?!  So I’m curious to find out how the next leap in social media evolution will look…will it be so gradual that we won’t notice?  I kinda doubt it.  Will it make the coolness of twitter, the blogosphere and online conncting evaporate?  I sure hope not.


Whatever it will be, my hope is that the social media tools enhance connecting both online and in real life (IRL); that it will be a hub of information, authenticity and buzz about what’s happening right now, where can we go next and who can we find to engage!

Funny, I just got a phone call from the brother of the president of my company asking me about groups on twitter and facebook…maybe we’re closer to mainstream than when I started this post!

Images courtesy of Google images.

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I like the combination of Educational Sessions for the Wine Trade, paired with Trade and/or consumer tastings the way ZAP and Wine 2.0 programmed over the last few days.   These smaller opportunities to connect and learn from other successful wineries or wine businesses is both valuable for guiding and directing our business as well as helpful and refereshing for the obvious networking opportunities.


Thanks to Smoke & Anitra Wallin, Abdi Humphries, and the rest of the Wine 2.0 company, I was honored to moderate a Social Media in  Marketing panel for ZAP.  Along side Joel Vincent (of Open Wine Consortium, Wine Bloggers Conference and now VinTank) and Lesley Russell (VP of Sales & Marketing DTC at St. Supery), we chatted with attendees, outlining social media practices, especially in the wine industry including visibility, ROI and authenticity online.

Two other sessions at ZAP/Wine 2.0 talked first about Compliance Issues with tools, strategies and solutions to address wine industry challenges.  The final session was led by Lesley Berglund presenting, frankly fascinating findings from a study Benchmarking Direct to Consumer/Wine Club practices.  The study  illuminated statistics outlining the best practices that the most successful wine club practitioners exercise.  It is this kind of analytical study, sharing and strategic collaboration that makes great consumer experiences wherever they happen.  Dry for most, perhaps, but I am pretty excited about conversations and learning more about new, improved and best practices across the wine industry.

And the best part?  After the focus and exchange on best practices, we all connect and share the fruits of all the labor.  Either way, isn’t that what it is all about?  I’ll be sharing the follow up information on the DTC Benchmarking Practices and Compliance links here as well when I receive them.

wineglassesWine 2.0 panel photo courtesy of Smoke Wallin.

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Conversation among wine industryprofessionals, marketing strategists and wine bloggers this week includes talking about some kind of Wine Blogger Certification, or a standard that ends up with a Seal of Approval in order to quickly and easily provide bloggers access to events, wineries, industry programming and so on.  I can see why some business people might seek such a …label, but I wonder about a simplified structure and I have many questions about how, why, wherefore.

The very counter-culture nature of blogging defies this kind of labeling and classification.  The bloggoshpere is the untamed frontier and an exciting place to find opinions, stories and recommendations. I have certainly heard people post that “some bloggers just want free (stuff) wine”.  But as I have spent some time reading wine blogs and actually spent time with the wine bloggers themselves, it is not an easy (usually unpaid) job to wine blog.  Any level of credibility or readership is hard earned and maintained by a level of quality, personality and humor.


I have been a regular advocate for blogger access to the wine industry in the same way we grant access to traditional media and press.  Wine bloggers have an outreach that can potentially go deeper and beyond traditional print media…at least in the wine industry.  Just recently Hahn Estates hosted the first Bloggers Tasting Forum and ZAP will have a sponsored Bloggers Lounge offering bloggers free access to the 2 day event.  So far, these beginnings have suggested tremendous success in blogger/wine industry relationship building.   The expectation is that this access will directly benefit not just bloggers and wineries, but the consumers.  With greater access to information, recommendations and outreach, we aim to convert more people into wine lovers everywhere.

So, how would you classify bloggers?  They are a complex and various group of wineophiles from all over the world.   The current count is over 1,000 wine blogs and growing.  How would you define which ones get credentials for the wine events and which ones don’t?

  • By Readership?
  • Quality of writing?
  • Their own level of wine education?

And what if the wine blogger…a really great one…isn’t interested in the credential?  Most of the wine bloggers I have met are stunningly smart and busy with day jobs, families, hobbies and fully packed lives.  And as I have said before, they do their wine blog strictly for the passion of it.  The Wine Bloggosphere is better off because of them.  I would hate to see them squeezed out by beaucracy or obstacles that have less to do with a passion for wine and more to do with sorting that helps marketers achieve ROI.

What are your thoughts?

Graphic courtesy of Google Images.

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Sure.  Why not?  Our goals may be different, but our passion for wine is shared.


Yesterday Hahn Family Wines hosted the first ever Bloggers Tasting Forum at their offices in Napa.  (disclosure: I work for Hahn, but do not write this blog as part of my employment for them.)  Bloggers, winemakers, winery Presidents, winery owners, a journalist, a filmaker, a Director of Vineyard Operations,  and a PhD candidate studying bloggers were all in attendance.  There were also wine lovers who create content either via podcasts, (Vintuba.com) or a wine search engine (1,000 Corks).  Most folks were from the bay area, but some came from as far as Los Angeles, Tennessee, and Washington state.  The goals:  1.  To taste some of Hahn’s finest examples of Santa Lucia Highlands terroir, learn a bit about the AVA and each other.  2. Continue the conversation about wine bloggers and wineries working together.  How could that work?  To what end?  And how do bloggers and wineries manage credibility and integrity in exploration of the Wine World 2.0 experience.


The variety of guests made for a fascinating and significant conversation.  Here’s what I took away from the event at first blush:

  • We’d like to host the Blogger Tasting Forum regularly, maybe quarterly. And perhaps at different wineries.
  • The variety and inclusive nature of attendees was essential to the chemistry in the room.  People from 3 guest wineries were there.  We poured from 2 who brought their wines: Twisted Oak, and Pianetta.  I wish Judd had brought Humanitas and Schlumberger.
  • There are absolutely a number of opportunities for bloggers and winereies to work together in ways totally appropriate and in ways that add tremendous value to the consumers experience, the bloggers experience and the wineries’ business.
  • The shift of influence in the wine world from old print media to new on-line media, especially in the form of blogs with character, variety and accessibility to the variety of wine lovers out there is essential to the success of a growing wine industry.  I can’t overstate this enough.  Those born digital are a massive, significant segment not just of the on-line world, but re-creating the on-line world.
  • Anything wineries can do to contribute to wine bloggers readership will help the wine industry in general and wineries and bloggers in specific.  It is the best, most interesting and direct access between wineries and consumers to cultivate conversations.  The more the better.
  • Anything bloggers can do to cultivate relationships with restaurants, wine bars, and their wine buyers to participate in their blog conversations and/or connect with the restaurant/wine bar blog could also have a great impact on the winery, blogger, consumer conversation.  Those wine directors and sommeliers are the influencers we’d love to have join the conversation more often.  They make the decisions about which wines appear on the wine lists.  Bloggers:  if you have them contributing to your blog conversations, wineries and many segments of the industry will absolutely HAVE to follow along, or get left in the dust.


The questions that remain are many:

  1. How do you measure the value, i.e. the bottom line, for how a blogger can positively influence your wineries’ business?
  2. What is in it for the blogger?  Readership?  Wine? Consulting/writing fee?  Access to their subject?
  3. What does the wine consumer and wine blog reader gain by this collaboration?
  4. Is it enough to maintain your own integrity if you disclose the nature of the relationship between the business and the blogger?
  5. Another important question, squarely in the laps of bloggers, was so well put by Joe Roberts from 1WineDude:   “Heaven knows I’ve got no problem whatsoever being courted by winemakers, PR contacts, or the wine media in general (in fact, my view is that it’s about time this has happened). The trick is maintaining the willpower to keep a unique, individual, and (hopefully) credibly opinionated voice as a blogger while the “courting” ramps up.

Based on what Bill Leigon, President of Hahn, Adam LaZarre, winemaker and Andy Mitchell, Director of Vineyard Operations had to say yesterday, yes, Hahn wants to sell more wine: AND, “…we all have a passion for wine, we’re interested in educating people about our wines, our Central Coast wine region, our winemaking practices.”  And frankly, in the new media world that is 2.0, it is more possible to have a far reaching, diverse, informed conversation with more people without filters more than ever before.

So to the evolution of the conversation, in person, on-line and over a glass of wine.



Photos provided courtesy of Thea Dwelle and Lisa Adams-Walter and Chris Butts.

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Bloggers are micro-niche alpha consumers. ” WTF?”  you say? Bloggers are a gold mine not just for reviews for a product but also for access, resources, information and possibly discounts, specials, events, connections and more.

Let’s start at the beginning: micro-niche?  Take wine bloggers, for example; there are hundreds of wine bloggers world wide that each have particular strengths or focus.  If you like pinot noir there are blogs for that micro-niche, do you like the Central Coast of California wine country?  Looking for something more international?  Perhaps Spanish or Portuguese?  There are bloggers for most wine passions out there. (Right now you’re reading a blog specializing in wine marketing and social networking.)  Ok, so now you get the idea for micro-niche.  For me it points to a depth of field, experience as well as infinite fun, experimentation, and exploration.

Next, the alpha consumer:  It is defined in Neologisims as “one who starts a trend or picks it up very early, often long before the rest of the population, usu. used as a predictor of economic trends“.  I’ll apply it slightly differently to the wine blogging world because the timing on wine is different than say, new electronics.  Bloggers are the alpha wine consumers because:

  • they taste a LOT of wines
  • they talk…a LOT
  • they write frequently, posting publically and have hundreds of thousands if not millions of readers


Essentially I’m suggesting that wine bloggers’ influence can support or direct wine buying trends.  And now that there are social meduims on line like Twitter Taste Live, the Open Wine Consortium and Wine 2.0 where these conversations between bloggers and consumers are aggregated and duplicated in addition to their individual blog posts, I believe their influence will only grow.  For the wine world and especially for consumers, I think that’s fantastic because bloggers are knowledgeable, passionate wine geeks sharing their wine experience.  They go through a lot of bad wine and less than hospitable wineries to tell you about the great ones.  Nothing beats sitting around with friends experimenting with a tasty flight of new wines and then telling the world about it. After that, I’m looking to convert casual wine tasters into passionate wineophiles.

It’s the kind of person to person connecting that brings meaning to the experience.  Anyone that thinks you’re selling them something will just go away, turned off.  Brand development is taking a 180 degree turn-about.  Gary Vaynerchuk says “give a shit about your community.”  Marta Kagen who created the What the F**K is Social Media slide share presentation reported that 78% of people trust the recommendations of other consumers. (Compared to the 14% who trust advertising claims.  Both from the Nielsen “Trust in Advertising Report)  Who do you trust?

I’ve said it before: Find the wine blogs right for you, then subscribe.  But don’t just stop there.  Share what you find.  Make connections, leave a comment, share a post with a friend, send the link to your dad.  It will feed the next time you are together sharing a bottle of wine, whether you’re talking about the USC Trojans’ latest victory or discussing the finer points of terrior, and US vineyard soil vs. France’s Bordeaux region.  US wine markets are just coming into their own as Americans embrace wine into daily life.  Better yet, information and social connectivity has never been so hi-tech, easy and accessible online.  Blogs provide the centralizing content that connects what we’re passionate about with each other.

That’s what.

Special thanks to Shana Ray for the photo.

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Maybe it’s me, but there’s something special about, um, the Special of the Day.  Ok, maybe that’s redundant, but listening to the waiter offer his practiced listing of foods, flavors and preparation always makes my mouth water, even if I don’t order the Special.  But there’s something else;  it is the Chef’s pick of what’s best today, what’s fresh, something new, fun and different from what’s on the menu all the time.  And it is only for today.  So the expiration underscores the ephemeral nature of the moment:  today’s lunch.

Over the past week I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying a 12Seconds.TV video of the daily lunch specials at New York City’s Roger Smith Hotel.  As I watch at 9 am PST, delicious preparations inspire me to look forward to my own Napa lunch, fantasizing about pan seared lamb chops with carrots, chanterelles and figs.  So I started responding with a video reply recommending a wine pairing.  It is actually great fun.  They post today’s special and I find a wine I’d order with it.  I’m in Napa, California.  They are in New York City.  But we’re bridging the gap with our passion for food and wine, sharing along the way and I hope, adding value to people’s daily food experiences.  We’re focusing on the senses, the visual, and your imagination, using a couple social media tools to connect us all.  To what end?  I hope to heighten the experiences we have together in person, over a shared meal.  And maybe world peace too.loresmerlotwglasstilt2

Today I recommended our 2005 Bin 36 Merlot (Hahn Estates in partnership with Brian Duncan of Bin 36, Chicago)  with their pan seared lamb chop. You’ve got to watch the 12 Second video to enjoy it.  Then there’s a video reply just beneath offering a wine pairing.  Not much detail in the 12 seconds, but you know you have time for it.  I always have time for my 12Seconds friends.  It is one of my favorite ways to connect.

I’ve said it before, but am astounded the way technology really does build relationships and bring people together.  It’s not the cold, impersonal tool once dreaded.  Web 2.0 and beyond, with user generated content and participation is able to bridge the gaps of time and space that went neglected before.

I’m meeting a friend for lunch and will relish the specials and our hour of conversation and just taking a moment to breathe.

Now I can’t wait for lunch.

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As we watch and participate in the transformation  currently taking place in the wine industry, it is exciting to watch the doors open wide.  Wine in many places in the world has been a daily part of family meals for hundreds of years.  It’s very function is about bringing us together to share and nourish ourselves.   It’s function is inclusive.

But somewhere along the way wine became exclusive.  A language developed and surrounded the product. Wine became a symbol of status instead of a daily ritual of coming together.  No longer.  Wine evangelists like Brian Duncan (Bin 36, Chicago) changed the way we talk about wine, the way we approach wine and the way we think about wine.  Meanwhile Web 2.0 and social media brought user generated content, online communities and interaction to a new level.  People are connecting, sharing and building networks that change the way we live and interact both with our computers but also with each other.

Wine is about coming together and so is social media.  The wine industry, both trade and consumers are coming together to talk about everything wine related from the root stock to the (online) sales and beyond.  People are stepping up to help create the structural network by offering virtual and real space for these wine  networks including: The Open  Wine Consortium, Wine 2.0, The Wine Bloggers Conference, WineLog, Twitter  Taste Live, Inertia Beverage Group, Wine Library TV, and many bloggers contributing regularly to the conversation on wine.

The social media & networking format proliferated by the internet means that participation is open to anyone (as long as you can get to a computer and an internet service).  Exclusive is in the process of transforming into inclusive. The Two Buck Chuck phenomenon confirmed wine as a drink for everyman and the demographic for who is buying wine has become as varied and diverse as the thousands of wines available in the US alone.

The opportunity here is for both wine producers and consumers.  Access to so many wine lovers gives wineries an opportunity to engage in this community, add value and learn from them.  We also hope that means increasing the value of a wine consumers experience with wine, and what they want,  how they get it, and so on. For consumers it means a variety of avenues to enjoy, learn about and connect with wine and wine lovers. Whether for entertainment value, for social interaction, or education, consumers have a powerful network of, well, online networks to engage with, participate in, contribute to and enjoy the wine life.

If wineries are smart, they will figure out how to join this online wine community, add value to it and participate genuinely and frequently.   I hope they do.  Marketing is changing from the billboard, shouting format where the buyer is passive, to an interactive, connecting model where people and brands overlap and engage with producers.  And what a perfect marriage wine and social media will be.  Two inclusive elements that bring people together to connect and share.

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Folding time and space, making connections, defining what a wine blogger is, what we are not, and what it means to the wine business:  That’s why we’re all here.  Joel Vincent kick’s off the Conference today with those thoughts.  It is an exciting time for the wine blogging world, the wine drinking world and the wine business world.

Un-like any conference you’ve ever seen before, think of it kind of like a speed dating session between wineries and bloggers.  Yeah, kinda crazy, but really a blast!  We now have 5 minutes to taste the wine and live blog about it.  I may have to go to twitter next, as this format likely will better serve for summaries at the end of they day (yes, I’ll be spitting as I taste!).

Rest assured, there is LOADS of wine love coming from the Santa Rosa, first ever Wine Bloggers Conference at the Flamingo Hilton Hotel.

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