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Tasting 200 Wines in 3 Days: Sensory Overload?

Do you think an average wine blogger can really ‘taste’ wine and get a good assessment of it at the Wine Blogger Conference 2010 (#WBC10)? A discussion with Jay Soloff, owner of Delille Cellars (@DelilleCellars on Twitter).

I’m sitting here having tea and gluten-free muffins with Jay Soloff, co-owner of Delille Cellars, which has been deemed ‘Washington States Best Winery’ time and time again. My meeting with him was not to interview him, it was tea between friends. But our conversation developed into a perfect blog topic. It went a little something like this…

Barbara: I tried well over 30 new wines a day at the Wine Blogger Conference 2010 last week. Not only was the amount of wine tastes that were thrown our way overwhelming, but there was a constant buzz of music, conversation and sales pitches, along with a general palate fatigue of 30+ WA wines a day, which started at 9am, and ended well past 10pm. Can a non skilled palate make a sound judgment under these conditions? If the point of our tasting is to let our followers in on some best kept #WAWine secrets, is an event such as this effective, as say, an hour in a tasting room or sipping a bottle of WA red with dinner?

While at WBC, I avoided any attempt to tweet or blog wine reviews, and wonder what type of assessment could truly be made in an atmosphere of that nature. For me, tasting wine in a crowded room, filled with music, people chit chatting with me about up-coming wine events etc is almost impossible (even with many years in the wine industry, and many trade tastings and events such as Taste WA). The distractions are just too numerous. I decided, instead to focus on the personalities of the wine makers, their history and story, and how I could help them get the word out on their wine. Every wine maker I spoke to, and every wine that I tried did leave an over all impression on me… but man was it tough to make a sound assessment!

Jay: Yes, that is something that wine makers/owners think about when at tastings. We at Delille Cellars have discussed our presence at large tastings numerous times, and what it means to us in terms of Return On Investment (ROI). We conclude that we don’t care about ROI at all… not even a little bit when we pour our wines to hundreds of people. We can’t weigh the value of any of our marketing effort, our aim is just to be accessible! You never know today what participation will yield down the road. What you give is what you will get. Not everyone we taste on our wines in a crowded, distracting, room will take away what we really want them to (a great introduction to our wine), but they may take with them the experience, a bit of our history, and the ability to have asked me direct questions.

Barbara: That is so perfectly ‘wine’. The wine industry is particularly unique to me in that you are selling more than the juice. You are selling a lifestyle and an experience. It seems similar to what you are saying to having a presence at a large tasting. I am glad to hear that you don’t need to measure the results of giving tastes of your wines to people, such as the Wine Blogger Conference. This leads me to ask you a question about why Delille doesn’t seem to be investing much in Social Media. Why is it that wineries are apprehensive to use that same ROI marketing concept with Social Media?

Jay: Wow… that’s a very great point Barbara, Social Media marketing has been sitting in my gut as something we need to do. Unfortunately, there are 4 owners, not just me.

Barbara: We’ll talk about that next time we meet for muffins Jay. Thanks for answering my questions.

I would like to hear more from the people that feel they are able to make a sound judgment about the wines tasted in this type of environment, especially during ‘speed tasting’. For me, WBC was a great way to learn about new wineries, places to eat and stay etc as a way of steering my followers to new cool things. As for getting a good grasp on the wines that were poured, I may have to buy them all and taste them one by one in my kitchen with dinner!

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Social Media and Networking- Are We All Becoming Idiots?

I have heard about, read, watched and pondered deeply about people declaring that Facebook, Twitter and Blogging is destroying our brains. Where has reading gone? Why don’t kids play anymore, or old folks gather to play chess? What about college students meeting for coffee to discuss the unique relationship dynamics between Simone de Beauvoir and Jean Paul Sartre?

I have a bachelors degree in History, Political Science, and English, with a minor in Philosophy and a MA in Social Anthropology, am I allowing a finely tuned noggin to turn to dust by permissing myself to be immersed in these new fangled Social Media Networks?

During a discussion with one of the countries greatest Social Media minds, Chris Pirillo, a week or two ago, I caught myself admitting that Twitter has forced me to re-think making a point. It has conditioned me to make my point quickly, clearly, and in a way most everyone can understand. As an English major, and someone who has been public speaking and teaching for many years, this was an interesting revelation to me. I also feel that my years of archival research experience were a joke compared to the access of information I have now, the type of information, and who it is coming from. OK, so maybe the content has changed a bit… but so has my life. I went from 15 hour nights spent in the NYU library ten years ago, researching one question I had about Elenore Roosevelt’s involvement with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, to tweeting “What’s the best Banana bread recipe” last night, and getting 30 answers in 10 seconds.

It is obvious that the type of information we get from each other over these social spaces is quite different than the information found in archives and the works of Nietzsche, Marx and The American Anthropological Association, but who cares! The information is relevant and applies to our every day lives… and it comes real time! I have not lost the book worm nerd in me… the girl who reads Shakespeare well into the night, just because I tweet. If anything, I have exponential access to new information, not to mention friends and connections with people who I truly believe “are there for me”. I write this, by the way, as I eat a banana muffin- the recipe of the grandmother of someone I have never met who is on Twitter. It’s the best muffin I’ve ever had. Her name was “Grandma Jo”.  A few key take-home points: 1. I like muffins. 2. I am not an idiot, and neither are you, we just like to tweet and connect on Facebook.

“Not everyone would think that the actor Ashton Kutcher’s Twitter musings on his daily doings constitute part of “the universal body of human knowledge.” But the Library of Congress, the 210-year-old guardian of knowledge and cultural history, thinks so”. See HERE for a recent New York Times article about Twitter and historical archiving.

Wine Tasting Etiquette: From an Ex-Tasting Room Manager

Don’t: pet the winery dog then bury your hand in the bowl of oyster crackers (in front of anyone).

Don’t: pour your unconsumed taste of wine in the water pitcher, use the spit/dump bucket.

Don’t: ask for each pour to be put in a separate glass. They are pouring you wines in an order for a reason, it won’t make a difference. Rinsing the glass with water in between each pour is silly, don’t do that either.

Don’t: take sips of your cold Starbucks during your wine tasting.

Don’t: wear perfume, it impedes on other tasters olfactory experience, most of what we taste is directly related to what we are smelling. Don’t wear deodorant either, this will add to the ‘funky’ smell of everyone’s wine, giving it a more Old World appeal.

Don’t: have long drawn out conversations with the tasting administrator and guests standing around about how much you LOVE the winery next door and visit them each year etc.

Don’t: use the cheese and crackers set out as a substitute for your lunch, especially after you have loudly proclaimed that you are only at that free tasting to taste, not buy.

Do: (if you like to be handled rough) get drunk and hit on the woman pouring your wine- she’s the wine maker’s wife and knows how to deal with brash, impulsive, messy, loud drunk men. Also, make sure to call her “waitress”.

Do: if the wine maker is around, try to come up with original questions that they don’t hear all day. Instead of “so which one is YOUR favorite wine”, ask how they feel about Obama’s new Health Care Reform and what they’re favorite flavor of muffin is.

Do: swirl obnoxiously while stick your pinkie up when you sip, put each glass of wine up to a white piece of paper, and blather on about the legs of the wine, how it needs to open up, and how you spend more money on wine than groceries; this will ensure the tasting room administrators and other guests respect for you.

Do: ask to “revisit” everything you already tasted so you can make an informed choice about which to purchase, start with the sweet Riesling and move to the Cabernet.

Do: ask if they will waive the tasting fee if you buy, if there is a case discount, if there in an extra one for wine club members, and if you can have the ‘industry discount’ on top of all of that. The wine maker is working full-time at a gas station because he or she likes to make wine, not because he wants to sell it for a living.

Do: buy the wine your wife wants… trust me, it’s best for all involved.

~All Content Written By Seattle Wine Gal

Categories: Uncategorized

What on Earth is a “Barrel Sample” Walter Dacon Wines Explains

February 23, 2010 Leave a comment

I had an AWESOME time this weekend at Walter Dacon Wines in Shelton WA. THANK YOU Lloyd, Ann and Holly so very much for showing me around. I feel about Walter Dacon the way I do about Obelisco Estate and Barrage Cellars– true GEMS that I am so happy to have found.  Wine Maker and owner Lloyd introduced us to his dog Belle, and then took us in the cellar for some barrel samples.

Awesome wine maker and cutie Holly talks about Twitter!

Social Media Tips for the Wine Industry: Your Twitter Homepage

February 22, 2010 4 comments

The details of your Twitter homepage ARE important for your Social Media efforts.

  • Pay attention to your bio (use key words for best Search Engine Optimization (SEO)
  • Chose a hometown location of the closest city to you to maximize people’s search for you
  • Customize your background with completely free applications such as FreetwitterDesigner
  • Chose a high quality image that you keep consistent throughout your platforms (Facebook, blog etc)

Real Life Social Media Success: The Influence of a Great Campaign

February 8, 2010 10 comments

Sorbet at Russells Dining (@RussellsDining) in Bothell, WA

Picture this scene. I’m in a gorgeous restaurant (that I frequent often) on a date with my snookems. We were dining fireside, great wine, nice shoes… the works. Before I go further, I digress a bit… I tend to have a one track mind and bore the hell out of him with Social Media talk, so on the way to the restaurant I mentioned something about having a Social Media and Seattle Wine Gal free dinner. I will tell you now that it was NOT an evening void of Seattle Wine Gal, and here’s why.

[Keep in mind how this directly relates to the real power of influence that exists within the walls of Social Media].

We were talking about an upcoming trip possibility and how we can go about it since we have a new puppy when I was interrupted mid sentence and told by him that someone in the restaurant was talking about “Seattle Wine Gal”. We both listened quietly and finally spotted the table of 6 who were enjoying a bottle of one of my favorite wines a few tables away. Phones all out in a tweet-friendly position, one of the gents was saying: “Seattle Wine Gal highly recommends this place. She’s become one of Seattle’s prominent tweeters and has awesome recommendations for wine and cool events.” I phased out and let them have their privacy back, but I did notice my name come up again a few times later that night. I must also mention that the wine they had ordered was a wine I recommended last week on Twitter.

Now folks, it is imperative that you know that I am not writing this to ‘toot my horn’. I was literally SHOCKED to hear this, and didn’t quite know if I liked the little bit of notoriety. It really did, however, get me thinking a lot about spreading a message through Social Media platforms such as twitter and Facebook, and how very powerful it can be if done well and with honesty and enthusiasm.

I have worked with many restaurants, wine shops and wineries to help them get on the Social Media Map. I am sure to check in with them up to 6 months afterward to see how their campaign is influencing business. They have all reported super positive things, and I can see just how well their campaigns are developing.

I am having an absolute blast with Seattle Wine gal, and meeting so many new and great people as a result. I did not set up this persona to make money, but I have been offered countless job opportunities, free event tickets, meals, wine etc. as a result. I sometimes feel that I am sitting on a gold mine of sorts. The fact of the matter is that everyone has the same opportunity to be doing so.

Thanks for letting me share this thought with you. Please contact me at Contact@SeattleWineGal.com if you have any questions, or would like to touch base about your own Social Media Efforts and how I can possibly help you.

Thanks all for the support folks, I truly appreciate it.

-Seattle Wine Gal

Wine Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous: The Truth About Owning a Winery

January 13, 2010 9 comments

The Glamorous Life of a Vintner: Don Scrubs the Toilet

Thanks once again Don Phelps of Hard Row to Hoe in Chelan WA for joining me for another guest blog post in my “Ask a Vintner” series. This one’s a good one folks. Pour yourself a glass of wine.

Seattle Wine Gal:

“So Don, What is it like to own a winery? It seems so glamorous! Out in the vineyards with the sun shining on your face, lavish wine dinners and parties, 1,000 bottle cellars, midnight candle-lite barrel tastings”…

Don Phelps: I was thinking today about the nice aspects of owning a winery which includes meeting great people, living in a beautiful area, being your own boss, etc. That got me to thinking about all of the folks that come to the winery and say how much they admire the place and wish they could take the plunge to do it themselves. And that is about where reality came into the picture..

We spend the lion’s share of each day:

Paying bills

Handling payroll

Doing the taxes

Ordering wine glasses so everyone has something to drink out of

Getting change from the bank for the till

Ordering toilet paper and paper towels for the bathroom

Buying bags and boxes

Getting ice for the white wines

Taking out the empty bottles

Restocking the shelves

Cleaning the bathroom and tasting room

Picking up garbage outside

Working with vineyards to grow next years grapes

Worrying about freezing weather, insect infestations, bird damage, too much water, too little water

Ordering barrels

Spending entire days in the truck hauling grapes from up to 5 hours away

Working 7 days a week from daylight to 10 at night during Sept and Oct


Worrying about things like:

Equipment breakdowns

Enough help

Enough bins to ferment the red grapes in

Enough stainless steel tanks to hold all of the white wines

Inoculation with the right yeast

The fermentation process itself

Punch downs

YAN and FAN

Secondary fermentation…

along with a million other things that have to be done in the right manner and at the right time to make it all work; finally going to bed at night thinking about what needs to be done, and waking up in the morning still thinking about it.

And if that was not enough you still have to figure out how you can sell your product and have enough money left over to pay the mortgage. That means back on the road promoting the sale of the wine, trying to get restaurants and stores to carry it, negotiating with distributors, dealing with frozen shipments in the winter months and over heated ones in the summer, and then staying open that last 45 minutes for the straggler that just could not come back tomorrow and loves your wine but leaves with a single 15 dollar bottle.

One more thing before I forget it – you need a second job to live on.

No question about it – this is the memorable life!!

Yep, if it was not for the pure gold customers that become your friends over the years we would probably sell the place and let one of you enjoy the life of Riley – owning your very own winery.

-Don

Seattle Wine Gal: “Oh, I see”.