Who is Seattle Wine Gal? Interview With Sacre Bleu

All Content Belongs to Barbara Evans. Into and interview questions written and conducted by Sacre Bleu

The tale of anyone who manages to map their way back from distress or misfortune seems always worth repeating.  We love the comeback story, the person who in spite of whatever crap got dumped into their life just didn’t see failure as an acceptable option.  They played it out.  That’s Barbara Evans, or as many of us have come to know her, Seattle Wine Gal.

Seattle Wine Gal is the Twitter name and emerging brand that is becoming a sort of Internet/Wine pop culture phenomenon.  Her number of followers, in a very short period, has sprung to almost 5000 and her web site look and content could be best described as guerilla minimalist.  It is at once both substantive and irreverent with no shortage of attitude and charisma.

Evan’s is a study in survivor strategy and balls out determination.  From a childhood depression and a learning disability comes a young woman with 7 years of TaeKwonDo experience at traveling tournament team level, roller derby girl, MA is Social Anthropology, aviation and pilot training with a final touch down as social media advocate/wine babe.  In short, she’s one of the important faces helping transform the ever youthful wine landscape.  Our interview with her comes at a time when her work load and popularity are growing rapidly.

When you look back to when you first began enjoying wine, did you ever have a eureka or Sacre Bleu! type moment where you realized wine was really special and what was the wine that came with that moment?

People love asking wine lovers “what was the bottle that turned you into an enthusiast”. Many wine lovers think up some super expensive First Growth Bordeaux or fine Champagne as the bottle that ‘did it’ for them… don’t believe them! I have asked this question to hundreds of people, and after some coaxing have learned that most wine enthusiasts discovered that wine was special when they bumped the price point from $8 to $12! I believe there are scads of “eureka” moments in a wine lovers life, all which make it more difficult to go back to that $8 bottle. As for me, I used to drink boxed wine. After “splurging” on a $15 of Tempranillo, I couldn’t drink the boxed wine anymore. My second Eureka moment came when someone bought me a bottle of 1999 Sanford Pinot Noir. After that I began working at a wine shop, attending seminars, and eventually traveled the world in the pursuit of wine!

You’ve managed to overcome a great deal in your life. The journey from young girl with a learning disability to licensed pilot, SCUBA certification and ultra marathon runner with an MA in Social Anthropology isn’t typical. What is it that burns inside you as motivation?

Yes, my past surprises people. I openly admit to having had a rough adolescence. I had severe depression and behavioral problems, which led me to “special kid” classes/schools, learning disabilities, and other problems which I will not mention (but thankfully overcame). I have always tried to keep my head above water and be a good kid who got good grades. To get a B, I tried a hundred times harder than many of the A students. After years of struggling to keep up, I developed an unintentional, systematic hyper drive sense of motivation. As life got easier, the hyper drive that barely kept my head above water started propelling me above and beyond. I guess I never really noticed (and still don’t) where this unique inner flame to push life to the limits leads me.

What is it about the integration of social media with wine that brings you to this level of passion and fun that you chose to carve out a career in it.

I never intended to start a business after ‘creating’ Seattle Wine Gal. One Year ago, I worked for a large online retail company. I created and managed their Social Media program. I was given no resources to learn how to create a winning campaign, and I had no background in business. I poured my own money into educating myself and spent hours and hours of my own time mastering SEO, analytics, and basic platform tech skills for this campaign. Just as I began to see real success, and a positive Return On Investment, I was let go due to a merger with another company. It was then that I decided to push the limits with what I learned. I created Seattle Wine Gal as an experiment. Everything that I wanted to do working for corporate, but was not ‘allowed’ to, I did with Seattle Wine Gal (from dropping the F bomb occasionally in my tweets, to pics of me guzzling expensive wine out of the bottle on my Facebook page). I found that people were tired of the same old ‘wine review’ style wine bloggers, and drawn to my style. Along the way I began to see the wine industry struggling to tap into one of the most sought after customer demographics right now… young wine drinkers! Wine makers and shop owners, as well as Seattle restaurants began calling on me to help them with their Social Media. Trading my know-how for wine and food wasn’t paying the bills, so I started my own business BeRealTime and do business as Seattle Wine Gal.

Do you believe that social media will reach it’s true potential in terms of engaging consumers with products? At least in the wine world it seems that so much social media bandwidth is spent with company’s and brands engaging each other more often than the consumer.

Yes, there is a very fast shift from traditional marketing to social media marketing right now, and there is no sign that it will ever go backwards. This seems to be very scary for the wine industry. They know that they need to get involved, but have no idea how or why. I see a lot of heal dragging, but I also see just as many people adopting these new marketing tactics.

As a company, it is very easy to get caught up in only engaging online with other companies like your own. To maximize Social Media efforts, businesses need to be dialed into their target audience i.e. their potential clientele. Extend your reach, find new people, and always be other focused. No one likes a product pusher (snore). I strongly advise business owners to get on board as quickly as possible. You get what you give; dedicate some time and effort to Social Media… the return on investment may shock you!

You’ve opted for a minimalist look for your site and turned away the recommendations of some who have urged you to upgrade its look. Why do you resist those urgings?

Part of this marketing shift I spoke of above is a consumer appreciation for raw, gritty, human presentation. People are tired of high production values and clean shiny print ads. At the same time Reality TV became popular, so too did reality marketing. It’s all about content. I am going to create a webpage soon (using zero dollars), but ultimately feel that it is completely unnecessary. I also feel webpage’s them selves, and text blogs (no offense) are beginning to lose interest and will fail to capture consumer attention. I am focusing my efforts more on video, and just started a fun new Youtube channel. For businesses too busy to write text blogs, I highly recommend getting into video. It’s easier and is the direction Social Media Marketing is headed! As for webpages, they are like a business card- a completely stagnant advert unless you work to bring it to life (badges to your YouTube channel, Twitter, Facebook etc). The new target audience is more likely to find your Facebook or Twitter page than your website.


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Social Media in the Wine Industry… You on Twitter yet? #WAMerlot

You’re invited to the largest simultaneous online Washington Wine tasting event ever (well at least that we know of). Gaining inspiration from Rick Bakas’ #CaliCabs event (and the upcoming #SauvBlanc event on March 4), a group of Washington wine writers and bloggers are hosting a national #WAMerlot taste and tweet.

RSVP for the Event at http://wamerlot.eventbrite.com

Join us Thursday, March 25 from 5 – 7 PM (PST)

Participation is simple – Find a Washington Merlot, open the bottle, drink it and tweet about it using the #WAMerlot hashtag. Using a program like TweetDeck will make participation easier (see the video on the upper right of this page).

Can’t find WAMerlot? Fear not, a special collaboration with Wine Library brings you three choices in various price ranges. Buy one or buy all three. Click the image below to see the killer deals Gary Vaynerchuk and team put togther for us!

Are you a Washington Winery? Click here for details on how YOU can make this an effective event for you!

Why Merlot? This is not a screw Sideways and shaft Miles event. This is an event to celebrate a wine variety that helped put Washington on the map. Previously I asked the question, “Which one grape best defines Washington?” The challenge, many grapes grow well and thrive in the various climates of the state. Along with smooth and rich Merlot, Washington is known for big Cabernet Sauvignon, bold Syrah, richly crafted Chardonnay, inspiring Riesling and more. With 122 votes, the outcome is below. While Merlot may not be the clear winner, it is more widely planted and more wineries across the state feature a Merlot or a predominant Merlot blend. Over the next four week’s leading up to #WAMerlot, I’ll feature a special segment on Merlot!

This event is co-sponsored by some great people on Twitter:

@seattlewinegal, @wawinereport, @nwwineandre @shona425 @wineeyak @yakimavalley @lunabeanmedia @winebeerwa @catie @walla2winewoman

Drink Happy!

*Content taken from http://www.drinknectar.com with permission and was written by Josh Wade @nectarwine

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

Social Media Strategy or Tacky? Putting Twitter/Facebook Info on Wine Labels

January 19, 2010 50 comments

“Oh c’mon Seattle Wine Gal, I know you’re ‘into’ Social Media Marketing, but Twitter names on wine bottle labels? That’s just stupid”. Was something like that going through your mind when you read the title? OK, OK, understandable. While it may seem a little tacky, it could also be one of the most progressive social media marketing decision a winery could make right now! Here are a few pros and cons that I can think of for an idea like this. Please comment below to share your thoughts and to add to my pros and cons list.

Con:

  1. Social Media platforms are always changing; Twitter/Facebook/your blog may not always be around, how embarrassing for you when people cellaring your wine, see an outdated twitter/facebook/blog 5-10 years later when they open the wine!
  2. You may turn off a lot of people who feel that it is tacky and tasteless; losing some of your potential/existing clientele– it’s just too risky!
  3. Wine marketing has always been about selling more than just wine; you are selling an experience. A Twitter name on a wine bottle causes the wine to lose all romantic and traditional appeal.
  4. It creates a stressful situation for winery staff or vintners, who then have to constantly stay on top of their social media efforts, even during crush and other very busy times… too overwhelming!
  5. The marketing worth of the back of a wine label is alluring tasting notes and winery history- a Facebook web address is not alluring and will not help sell wine.

Pro:

  1. MAJOR increase in visibility in online social media communities, which IS the next/new way to market products.
  2. Increase in Twitter/Facebook/blog follower counts, which will help establish industry leadership in the social media space.
  3. You will be viewed as fun, hip and appealing to a younger target market.
  4. You are making yourself immediately accessible to your clientele (they can contact you and get ‘real time’ interaction with you and your followers).
  5. People WILL talk about you for having done something so bold– this is always a good thing.
  6. Your buyers will follow you on Facebook and Twitter and buy more wine after seeing your tweets/posts about upcoming deals; it is a way of continuing a relationship with them and creating loyalty- you will sell more wine!

Lets face it folks, when t.v. came out, companies were apprehensive to spend their marketing dollars on it; they stuck with radio until they realized how lucrative it was. When businesses started creating ‘websites’, many were apprehensive to do so (some companies still don’t have one)! We are in the age of twitter now; why not strike while the iron is hot? What do you say, is a Twitter name on a wine label like screw caps- beneficial and will slowly gain acceptance but currently risky due to potential alienation?

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”.