Saturday, June 21, 2014

Guest Speaking on Wine Back To My Roots

The schedule has been a tad busy with business travel, a daughters wedding and a couple speaking engagements with local wine clubs/tasting groups. My blog was left behind so what better than a post taking me back to my roots and journey in wine.

I was given a couple opportunities to speak with local groups, some included assistant winemakers on wine popularity and social media. Naturally, the first question to me was my background in wine, how I started and why I love it. We discussed the original tasting group consisting of 12 members and our requirement each week a different varietal be brought from regions we were not familiar. Discovering wine I explained is about tasting, tasting and more tasting. Don't be afraid or disappointed if you only enjoy certain varietals. We all have different palates and it will change in some instances over time. Take Merlot and Zinfandel in my case. Historically I disliked each but over time discovering the better bottles appealed to my palate. I've grown to love these as well especially with food pairings. The question was posed "What was your first sip of wine you can remember?" Sadly I must admit at thanksgiving while several years underage at my grandparents, Sutter Home White Zinfandel was my grandmothers favorite and we were "forced" to sip for the blessing of the meal.

Wine popularity here in the Midwest varies especially by state or city. Chicago for instance has a larger following and love of wine vs the entire state where I live. My local wine store really promotes itself to top California and Oregon small production wineries by extending invitations to the winemakers which they have shared a glass with and also carry their wines in the shop. The events are packed and provide an excellent networking opportunity for both the winery and the wine lover. Conversing with a winemaker for 20 minutes yields a wealth of information from history to style. Some of my most rewarding experiences are with these down to earth passionate "farmers."These are must attends for any wine nut and I recommend them all.

A couple folks in the audience were Iowa winery personnel or followers and hinted at my snubbing of reviews about the industry where the local wineries are growing rapidly. I have always been honest and pride myself on integrity so admitting that I was not a fan of the wines was not easy. Explaining to them how I will never alter their fans reviews or opinions by bashing them in publication. I will though reach out to them by phone or email and explain why I was not a fan. That is more valuable than ripping them in public. Go back to our palates are all different. I know several folks who love Iowa white wines because of their sweetness. Why would I want to wreck their view? I was flat out told the Iowa winery perception of snob... but that changed after my explanation at least I feel it did. Thankfully no rotten tomatoes to dodge. Time will tell though.

Social media garnered the majority of the remainder of time with blogging and wine making. I could not stress enough the continued interaction between wineries and followers on all major social media platforms. Smaller wineries rely on interaction because of their limited advertising budgets. Make the most of every opportunity. Meet and greets, virtual tastings, well planned release parties, guest pours at fine arts or city events are all simple inexpensive ways to grow brand awareness. Coupled with social media exposure (winemaker or marketing) most nights after the winery closes talking with fans. Consumes a lot of time but then again running your own business isn't easy and not for everyone. Don't forget the product you are selling must appeal to a majority. Be patient you will not be an overnight success. The payoff is worth it's weight in grapes. I gave kudos to a few who do a great job promoting their brands...Cindy at Passaggio, Amelia and Dalia at Ceja Vineyards, Robert Larsen at Rodney Strong, Craig Camp and staff at Cornerstone Cellars, Kim Kramer at Kramer Wine some who I feel are the hardest workers.

"Do you make a lot of money blogging wine reviews?" Common question and and even more common answer no. Some professional bloggers write for a living and make money off articles or write for particular larger wineries. My blogging is for fun and relaxation or my pressure reliever. They are my thoughts on each wine I taste or winemaker I meet. 28 years in Operations is my background yet finding that gem in the rough is my passion. Yes I have been asked to write a favorable review in exchange for samples but I decline. I have received plenty over the years with no strings attached.

Last topic the audience wanted to chat about was wine making. For all my wine making friends  I had to correct the audience and explain wine making is a passion not a get rich plan. Many make comfortable livings but each that I have spoken with strive for that perfect bottle, their labor of love. Some of the nicest folks you will ever meet and so humble....a winemaker. Anyone can become one regardless of age, sex or national origin. Again it takes time and experience. I raise my glass to them every night.

A few weeks later I evaluate my speaking engagements and they bring a smile to my face. What a neat time talking wine with novices, experienced and expert wine lovers. Brought me back to my roots and instilled my love of wine. I was getting bored writing the same old stuff. The tastings were still special and the wines amazing I just didn't feel like talking about them. So they thanked me and I thanked them. It was special to know they enjoyed the blog and my material. Cool indeed.


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