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SMicons2Now that social media in wine and hospitality seems mainstream, facebook fan pages are de rigeur, and the twitter, flickr, fb, digg, etc. logos are plastered everywhere, there’s something significant missing in the translation of the message on connecting.  Referring back to the cocktail party analogy, would you host a party and not be there?  Invite guests to your home to connect and entertain them and leave everything up to a catering staff for interacting with your guests?

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I sure hope you answered no to both questions.  If you did, why on earth would you launch a social media program and issue automatic direct messages to your guests?  Why would you post generic, monthly or weekly messages (imagine a PA system a la high school) announcing, shouting at people something they didn’t ask you about?  Do you understand the concept of real conversation?  If I come to your home, I’m excited to see YOU…and if you have the butler answer the door, the bartender entertain me and the cook tell me loads of information, guess what…I’m probably not coming back.  Nor will I tell my friends anything positive about that experience.

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Maybe you’re mislead by the cold, technological tool in front of you…your laptop (i-phone, Storm, whatever).  What you must not forget is that there are real, flesh and blood, passionate people on the other end who love wine, hospitality, their friends, family, travel, SCUBA, or whatever FAR more than they love your bottom line.  While technology extends our reach by several orders of magnitude greater than we can imagine, you cannot lose your sensitivity, your listening skills, your inter-personal talents in the hopes of automating connection.  Businesses hoping to increase their business without getting involved, asking questions, caring and listening are doomed to fail, and fail on a large scale in public.

Our friend @winebratsf is right.  And she is doing businesses a service by letting them know what she wants and why she’s there.  Many people I know just “unfollow” a business that gets impersonal, automated or uninteresting.  If you can’t make the personal investment in the relationships, you are in the wrong place.  Give more than you get.  Provide value.  Care.  Share.

What do you think?

Thanks for reading.  Cheers!

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Giant strides are very exciting.  In our industry, a slow, seasonally affected, growing, pressing and aging pace sometimes takes over and causes our progress to lag a bit behind faster moving industries (tech, TV, advertising…to name a few).  So when the wine industry makes a leap, it generates a wave impossible to ignore, exciting to watch, and exhilirating to participate in whenever you can.  This summer in particular, Social Media in Wine Marketing has taken that giant stride, nay leap forward opening up imagination, possibility and interactive wine marketing experiences new in the wine world.

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Contributing to the leaps forward upto and including the summer of 2009, credit must go to the Wine Bloggers Conference, Twitter Taste Live, The Open Wine Consortium, the Bloggers Tasting and Planting Forums to name a few; accessible, frequent, groundbreaking online interaction between wine lovers, wine bloggers and the wine industry building a critical mass, connecting technology with everyone and anyone with a passion or passing interest in wine.  Then there is the Murphy-Goode, Really Goode Job campaign.  Regardless of what you think about the job (temporary, contractually a quagmire, and possibly vague in its mission) or the campaign (missing some basic social media fundamentals, mysterious in its process, depersonalized), the gimick of the search has splash landed as one of the top 10 topics we wine bloggers talk about.  Some of my favorite Wine Bloggers were on the MG top 50 list (some are still on the top 10 list).  Add to that the VinTank promise to donate $100K in Social Media strategy consulting if Murphy-Goode selects one of the VinTank 4+ and the buzz has gone viral.

LesOpportunity abounds.  And I gotta say that the coolest crest of this wave in Social Media evolution this summer in our industry, in our little Wine Valley has to be St. Supery (and specifically, Lesley Russell’s work) choosing to search, strategize and carve out a position for a highly experienced full time Social Media director to fortify their marketing team. The shift to new media is now working from within the wineries, connecting with and hiring people from a food, wine and social media background. Smart?  Hell, yeah.  Without the gimmick but with a thorough sifting and months of their own experience, St. Supery jumps in the rest of the way.  Their resume of social media history from 2008-2009 includes Lesley Russell speaking on panels (including the ZAP/ Wine 2.0 Social Media Panel and the DTC Summit Panel, “Relationship, Relevance and Results”), Twitter Taste Live wine tasting, a Bloggers Tasting Forum, multiple-avid participants on twitter, real facebook fan page development, and a series called “The Divine Wine Encounter” for trade wine folks.

So we’re talking about St. Supery’s newest hire, Mr. Rick Bakas.  I can’t wait to see what happens now…And I couldn’t be

RBakasmore delighted for St. Supery, the Bakas family and for Napa Valley and the wine industry.  In their continuing leadership in social media marketing, I’m excited to watch them execute a thoroughly thoughtful strategy with great wine, talented people on their team and a tremendous growing network of real and virtual fans.  It also may mean that social media/wine lovers will have a winery to call home in the Napa Valley, a headquarters to start or finish their wine quests…and a place that gets the brilliance and social value of the technology that connects us.

As if we needed an excuse to raise our glass, these are exciting times.  Cheers!

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Because he can.
Because he does.

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

Vote For the DirtySouthWine

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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.

Cheers.

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Yep, another beta tester:  The American Winery widget is working its way into California Wine Life.  While I talk more about the wine industry here and I don’t review wines, I certainly enjoy them with friends, family and co-workers…hey, it’s my job!  So I’m happy to share with you my favorite finds.  Put it this way:  I have access to a different set of people and information.  Yes, that impacts the wine I enjoy and if I can share the fruits of a great winery with you…along with some inside information, isn’t that cool?  AND, you can get the wine fast and easy…

So what do you think about the widget:  Its features, functionality and form?

Other blogger friends trying out the WineCliq: RickBakas.Com and 1WineDude.

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A cloud post:

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First class, Lesley Russell, St. Supery, Napa. Forward thinking, bloggers wine tasting II, Sauvignon Blanc, Moscato…bacon.  Gathering names, Chris Parker, and guilty pleasures, Brittany Spears, Scissor Sisters, Justin Timberlake, Michael Jackson, Journey and Barry Manilow!?  Sunshine, old oaks, vineyards, bud break, Dollarhide, Cabernet Sauvignon, photos.  Soil, vines, rows, Josh Antsey, sleepy, fuzzy, friendly, fabulous, knowledgeable, funny.  Gracious, supportive, amazing leadership, Michaela Rodeno, Emma Swain, smiles and the Boos. GG.  Bloggers gather.  Hugs.  Tweets.  Twitpics.  Representing Napa, Contra Costa, San Francisco, Sonoma, Santa Clara, Alameda, food and wine.  Fig trees, fruit trees, farming, Fish Friendly, Green.

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Tasting Gallery, bottles, glasses.  “What is this?”  “That’s a spit cup, Shana.”  “What’s it for?”  “Never mind.”  Josh leading, bloggers tasting.  Semillion, 100%.  Sarah Jones, sweet.  Wine Club line up: Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot: rich, complex, friendly, Napa, more please.  GG. Reds.  Winery exclusive. 650 cases.  Photographs, laughter, sharing.  Limited editions.

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Chef Ron Barber, specialties, fallen goat cheese souffle.  Cherry tomatoes.  Out side, under the oak.  More tweets.  Lunch, Game Hen, Elu, red blends, more sun.  Cheers!.  Greens, fresh french bread, olive oil, red, Cabernet Sauvignon.   Cheeses, flowers, French, dessert, Chateauneuf du Pape.

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Nothing I could have written would have been anywhere near as eloquent, graceful and prefect as that day.

My fellow bloggers, however, will have collectively communicated through their posts.  Check them out listed below:

Janesta: Brix Chicks

Jim White: NapaMan

Liza: Brix Chicks

Russ Beebe: WitiCulture: Wine Hikers Blog

Shana Ray: Not Yet Out on VHS

Thea Dwelle: Luscious Lushes’

Trevor & Karen Jonas: UnCork 29

Ward Kadel: WineLog

Xandria: Brix Chicks

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Great crowd, fantastic wines, cool mix up of technology and of course…this very social event: that was the basic recipe for Thursday’s Wine 2.0 Tasting.  The tweet-stream of the evening played high above the crowd.  Video screens and projectors with various content were in every row.  But I think my favorite part has to be the bloggers lounge.  Here, Wine 2.0 is working to set aside space for food & wine bloggers to do what they do right there at the event.  Of course no one wants to spend a whole tasting attached to their keyboard when there is wine to enjoy…but the possibility of connecting a few readers with the bloggers experience in real time, maybe some photos and a couple quick wine reviews, sounds like a great blend of technology and  current, relevant stuff.  My next hope is that consumers at the tasting have enough exposure to the bloggers at the event and have the opportunity to connect with the wine bloggers and their content.

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The greatest value I see in creating a space for the bloggers at these events, in addition to acknowledging their passion and contribution to the wine loving world, is to connect them with consumers and fellow trade to increase exposure and readership.  I think the next easy step is to include links to the attending bloggers’ web sites. Their content continues to be entertaining, interesting, educational and valuable to wine consumers…and did I mention wine blogs are free?  They can help cover wines attendees weren’t able to get to or couldn’t remember.  Their coverage of the event seems to me to be an obvious way to reconnect with the wine tasting experience, the wineries and the wine bloggers who were there.

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There are always more wine blogs to check out.  My blog roll to the right here is continually getting longer and their content keeps getting better.  There is so much variety that I’m sure you’ll find one to suit your taste.  Check out a wine blog now.

Cheers.

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fbI have been on facebook for a while…maybe a year or two.  Several friends dragged me after I had already spent time assembling a MySpace page…also a year or two ago.  At first it seemed like a great place to semi-connect with friends and family through photos & messages.  Fast forward to today.  In addition to the hundreds of friends I have on my personal facebook page, I (co) manage a Fan page for Hahn Family Wines, Cycles Gladiator and Santa Lucia Highlands Wine Artisans.  I am fascinated to watch as people become fans, contribute photos, discussions, questions, and as the content fills out on these pages.

Did you know there is a Fan page for facebook?  It is packed with great information, it is easy to sort through and essential if you are an administrator for any fan or group pages.  We’re all still collaborating and working together (within the wine company and among fellow wineries) to figure out how best to use the facebook group and fan pages.  What kind of content is interesting to the fans?  What keeps them coming back to the fan pages?  And why?  How will these virtual gathering places bring value, content and wine interest that wine lovers want, need and keep current in their lives?  And the bniggest question:  Will they buy wine as a result?

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This is the first post in a series on facebook in the wine industry.  I have been to the facebook offices and met with my new friend Andrew who built News Feed for facebook (thanks Cortney Erin).  Andrew and I are working on a conversation for the Wine 2.0 event on April 2 to answer questions and walk wine industry guests through the “how to’s” and “why for” on facebook for wine lovers.  We know Gary V and facebook’s Dave Morin are hanging out …and further, facebook and Wine Library are in a partnership.  LOVE THAT!  Once again, anything that brings wine to a wider audience I am in favor of, indeed!  And leave it to Gary to convert the unconverted.  He has successfully uncorked facebook…there are no limits.

facebookwineSo the whole point of this post is to set up musings about facebook for businesses, groups and the wine industry…asking why?  What do you have to say about how you use facebook?  Do you participate in groups?  What for?  Community?  Information?  Facebook is doing an awesome job of staying ahead of the curve…redesigning the home page, adjusting status updates, offering feeds from blogs, twitter, flickr, and so on.  And what about facebook connect?  What will that mean for facebook interface, blog commenting, posting, etc?  We’ll find out much more about facebook connect when we sit down with Andrew on April 2 in San Francisco.

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I see a lot of potential here, both for users and for wineries on facebook.  Yet, a lot of the functionality, value and interest will be (like most successful Web 2.0 sites) user generated.  So is the wine community interested and engaged enough to participate on facebook when it comes to groups and fan pages?  That means both the industry, providing the fan pages and intital content AND the consumers, adding interest and content as they become more engaged.  Is there enough content and need or desire to bring people back to the Fan/Group pages again and again?  The great thing about wine is that it engenders social activity, conversation and participation.  Our industry is uniquely positioned to partner beautifully within social media, to  inform, educate and  connect…all in conversation about wine.  There are already dozens of wine groups and fan pages.  Check these out and let us know what you think.  And share additional wine group or fan pages in the comments section here as well.  There’s a lot we can learn from each other as we sort through this new meduim.  I find more to learn and additional ways to connect through social media, so I am thrilled the wine industry has found its way here.  Because as we have heard before: “Better relationships drive better business, period.” (Amber Naslund)

Cheers!

Photos courtesy of facebook and my Blackberry Storm and ICanHasCheeseburger.

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Can you repair a Hospitality Fail?  Ok, you have to try anyway.  And I must give credit to Domaine Chandon for e-mailing me an apology and an offer to give us a better tasting experience. Here’s an excerpt from Chandon:

“On behalf of the entire hospitality staff at Domaine Chandon, I would like to thank you for your very powerful feedback and extend our most sincere apology in regards to your visit to our winery. I am absolutely shocked at the lack of attention that you and your guests were paid, and you are absolutely right in calling us out on it… we always aspire to provide each of our guests with world class customer service and with your group we obviously dropped the ball. I agree with you whole 100% that even a smile or an I’ll be right with you would have had a significant impact on your 15 minute downward spiral… I cannot speak as to what happened on Sunday, but I always appreciate the feedback and I always address the issues at once.

On a lighter note, we would really appreciate if you and your group would come visit us again our compliments.”

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If you missed the terrible customer service story from last time, check out Hospitality Fail.   There are SO many wineries in northern California, and say I go this once and of course it will be …better, because they will be trying to fix the hospitality fail experience from our previous visit.  Then the next time I go (if I go) to Domaine Chandon, what then?  I’m worried about risking the same embarrassment with guests again.

Of course we will go back and let you know how that visit works out.  I do feel obligated to go and give them the opportunity to come full circle despite my hesitation.  Poor hospitality is an unfortunate by-product in areas where success, tourism and complacency collect…and sadly, Napa is sometimes one of those places.  In these bad economic times, complacency is a sure bet for failure.  The kind of customer service that makes the most difference is inexpensive and easy:  it is that personal touch that reminds your customer that they are important…beyond what they spend.  The business that can offer great customer service with a personal touch will gain my loyalty and my recommendation to all my friends and family.

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Clearly I’m pissed…annoyed, perhaps.  Actually embarrassed.  As tweeted earlier today, I took friends, a wine blogger from SF and a Food and Beverage manager from New York (this is all context) on a spontaneous wine tasting day in our beautiful Napa valley.  Sunday morning seems to be one of those days that begs for bubbles.  We headed north to Domaine Chandon.  The rain, the fog, the day was, frankly, stunning.  We arrived at D.C. as the prologue to start our venture into the best of Napa Valley Hospitality.  Or not.

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We entered the store where 3 employees chatted amongst themselves and greeted us before resuming their conversation.  Heading upstairs for the tasting room, we found a place at the bar and tables ready for us.  Fantastic  blood oranges adorned the champagne cocktails as winter life during the mustard festival buzzed on this delicious Sunday noon.  As we chatted about where we’d lunch and visit it was almost 15 minutes of waiting without a single word, glance or acknowledgment,  from anyone working there.  Totally invisible, we looked around, found another place at the bar for about 2 minutes before deciding we were not going to be helped in any way.  Domaine Chandon was clearly too important to care.  With too many choices in the valley we left.  Sadly surprised at this discouraging start, we walked out past the same 3 chatting employees (greeters?) who didn’t say good bye or interrupt their conversation…yet another missed opportunity.

Generally we expect adequate service.  That’s the kind of service you barely notice as it becomes part of your daily routine…basically it is the bare minimum.  Occasionally we get really good or even great service or great hospitality.  When we do get that kind of service, it changes our day.  We talk about it …a lot.  We go back.  We take our friends.  When we get bad service we talk about that too…but it also changes us, or at least it changes our day.  Soured, disappointed,  a hospitality fail is incumbent on every person working there.  From the manager down to the newest tasting room hire, any guest leaving with a bad experience does so because each and every person on that team failed to do their job.

Simply put, we were ignored…for over 15 minutes.  No “hi”, no “welcome” no, “we’ll be right with you”, no nothing.  I would never do that to my friends coming to my home.  Why would any winery let that happen?  We left with me embarrassed by my choice to go to Domaine Chandon and the lack of hospitality here in Napa.  I am so grateful that Elizabeth Spencer (a fabulous tasting room just across from the Rutherford Bar and Grill), and specifically, Vanessa, turned our entire experience around.  With a calm ease and charm, she shared the wines and delightful conversation reminding me that a Sunday with friends in Napa Valley can be a spontaneous joy with just a little hospitality.

I’d recommend anywhere else for bubbles in Napa: both Domaine Carneros and Mumm are less likely to ignore you than Domaine Chandon.  But at Elizabeth Spencer (and at Darioush, Rutherford Bar and Grill and Rubicon Estate) you’ll get at least good service, if not great hospitality.  Customer service is the best marketing, hands down.  For another perspective on the same visit, check out The Luscious Lushes’s Blog, or The Roger Smith Life. It wasn’t just me.

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