Dispatches from Wine Country

The Blessing of the Grapes

“God is in the details.” … Ludwig Miles van der Rohe

The Blessing of the Grapes for the 2009 Harvest at Schramsberg VineyardsIt’s late August in Northern California wine country, and the annual wine grape harvest has once again started. At most wineries in North America it’s long shifts and no days-off time for the next several months, as full attention to the details of wine production are the primary focus of each winemaking team. In spite of all the inevitable hard work ahead, the first load of wine grapes is always met with anticipation, and the arrival of the first bins are often celebrated by the staffs at the various winery. It’s a ritual that likely goes back to the historical agricultural origins of grape growing and winemaking in recognition of theFirst Grapes in - Pinot Noir from Richburg Vineyards, Napa/Carneros cycles of nature, and the task of hand crafting what was once just sunlight on new plant growth into a wine that one day will be opened in celebration of some special moment in time. This past The Celebration Begins at Schramsberg Blessing of the Grapes for Vintage 2009Tuesday, August 18th I had the opportunity to witness the ‘Blessing of the Grapes’ at Schramsberg Vineyards. The first load of Pinot Noir from the Napa/Carneros based Richburg Vineyard was pristine. Small berries on small clusters of deeply colored fruit on bright green, yet to lignify, stems. Based on the early returns, 2009 looks like a spectacular vintage, at least for Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. As a bonus I had the opportunity to meet iconic National Geographic and now famed wineSamantha Brown interview Schramsberg Winemaker, Keith Hock by the Bladder Press at the Blessing of the Grapes Vintage 2009 countryThe Schramsberg Vineyards Family Heritage Continues with Vintage 2009 photographer Charles O’Rear, who’s work I’ve long admired. I also had the chance to meet Samantha Brown who was filming segments for her Travel Channel show. More importantly I got to meet and talk to Hugh Davies, his wife Monique and their childern, a few of the Schramsberg board members and a proud grandfather. This ceremony wasn’t just a celebration of Crush, but it was about heritage, continuity, and being a member of a wine making family. It was a seminal bonding experience for family, staff and crew. While Schramsberg Vineyards PR & Marketing Manager Matt Levy had the press bases covered, this was not a publicity event, but a timeless ceremony that for me reconfirmed Ben Franklin’s pantheistic beliefs that nature is god.


Boot Scooting BBQ

“They paved paradise and put up a parking lot,
With a pink hotel, a boutique,
And a swinging hot spot.
Don’t it always seem to go
That you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone?
They paved paradise and put up a parking lot.”   …. Big Yellow Taxi by Joni Mitchell

The arriving crowd at the Scully Ranch for the Land Trust of Napa County 2009 BBQWith the smells of wine harvest filling the air in the flatlands and hillsides in the Napa Valley, and rising seasonal temperatures in what the locals refer to as Crush weather, it was time for the annual Land Trust of Napa County fundraiser. The great thing about attending a non-profit fundraiser in wine country is that you know that the wine and food are going to be something special, and the ‘Boot Scooting BBQ’ at thAuctioning a Magnum Vertical Of Viader Napa Valley Cabernet for the Land Trust of Napa County 2009 Fundraiser at Scully Ranche Scully Ranch on Mt. Veeder didn’t disappoint. The Land Trust of Napa County, like all non-profits in these challenging economic times is facing a funding crisis, and this event was an effort to refill their depleted coffers. The LTNC is permanently protecting more than 55,000 acres of agricultural and open space lands throughout Napa County. More acreage than BBQ great Ray Green at the Scully Ranch for the Land Trust of Napa County Fund Raisercurrently planted to wine grapes. Protecting the natural lands, scenic and open spaces and the agricultural heritage benefits all the inhabitants of wine country – residents, visitors, businesses and wildlife alike. And through fundraisers, like the Saturday event at Scully Ranch, will continue to do so for future generations. Thanks to organizations like the Land Trust of Napa County, they haven’t ‘paved over paradise and put up a parking lot.’ BTW: The perfect smokeThe hard working volunteers burning the midnight oil raising funds for the Land Trust of Napa County 2009 Fundraiser at Scully Ranchd traditional Texas BBQ from world BBQ champion chef Ray Green was a smash hit. And my table rediscovered a fondness for Saintsbury’s Carneros Chardonnay and Carneros Garnett Pinot Noir, both the right weight and style for a warm evening and full plates of Ray Green’s BBQ. All of the volunteers worked so hard, and deserve a hand-up. So if you live here, visit here or sell wine from this area of the world, click on this link and send in a few bucks. It’s needed, it will be appreciated, and it will help to continue the preservation of this special corner of the wine world.


So You Want to be a Wine Marketer?

Walt Disney and my old boss, Mickey Mouse“When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” … Walt Disney

One of the attributes that I always look for in someone who tells me that they’re a wine marketeer or that they want to be a wine marketer is an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. Oh, not just being a wine geek. Truthfully, that’s not going to cut-it in these hyper competitive times. You really have to have an unrelenting curiosity about life, about culture, and about others. When I used to move around a lot a skill that I developed, one that has served me well in my career in wine marketing, is what they call in the armed services ‘living on the economy.’ This basically means immersing yourself wholeheartedly and without reservation in the circumstance of the culture in which you live. It’s dropping your fears and embracing life. It means reading newspapers, magazines, books, news feeds, and not just wine industry based materials. It means listening to music, seeing plays and movies, engaging and talking to people of all ages. Well, basically living life, but paying attention while you do. Really good actors are able to observe those around them in their daily lives for cues on Duck Blind Liquors, Santa Monica, CAperhaps a current or future performance. This is a necessary skill for any good marketer. Years ago while making a sales call at Duck Blind Liquors on Montana in Santa Monica, I noticed a small, unshaven and rather unkempt man intently watching me as I made my pitch to the store owner. Thinking that the man wanted to make a purchase I offered to step aside to facilitate a possible sale. The man demurred and saiDavid Mametd that he was writing something, and was just imagining a scene. After the man left, the store owner identified the customer as playwright David Mamet, who was drawing information from the encounter. Well, as wine marketers we should always be doing the same thing. Informing ourselves about the circumstances of our culture. Here are a few articles and links that I felt informed me as to what’s transpiring out there in the greater universe which will now tend to help shape my future marketing decisions.


Please note that although the following links have good useable information, a few may require free registration or may time-out after being up for seven days:

‘Word-of-Mouth Gains Volume’ article from Brandweek re. contrary to other ad categories increased WOM ad spend

Better wines in groceries due to fine dinning slowdown now followed by availability of prime beef (may require free registration)

Timely WSJ article ‘The New, Faster Face of InnovationThanks to technology, change has never been so easy—or so cheap’

Interesting must read on ‘Wine and Global Warming: An Open Letter to the President’ (via environmental attorney, Charles Becker)

An article from Restaurants & Institution ‘Social-Media Marketing for Restaurants: 10 Tips’ – can apply to wineries

Interesting article re anonymity of food critics

A good read re. ‘New Orleans’ Chefs remembering Julia Child’ in context of Julie & Julia movie  BTW: Loved the movie!

Be involved and be aware. You never know when or where you’ll find that next big idea. Be inquisitive. Ask Questions, and then sit back and listen to the answers. Stay intellectually curious. It’s the engine that drives the effective, creative wine marketer. And that’s you, right? The innovative, creative, effective wine marketer?

Note: Copyright © 2009 Think Wine Marketing® All rights reserved.

8 thoughts on “Dispatches from Wine Country

  1. John…long piece that on the surface would seem to touch on many different points but reading this one, especially the first part, made me homesick for a place that I have only visited. In my heart of hearts, I love to grow things…as you explained the ritual and celebration at Schramsberg Vineyard, with all the luminaries running around, I sensed the deep traditions and the bonding that everyone there has with each other and the terrior – the soil, the weather, and the vines; an almost sacred pact with these people and the earth that gives them the grapes to make into wine, is far too precious to let falter.

    Thank you for this glimpse into their everyday lives, it has renewed my determination to continue to try to reach out and help, even if only in my small way.

  2. So, Mamet’s play wasn’t about aluminum siding salesman after all…it was about a wine salesman. Who knew?

    Small world. Chuck O’Rear’s a friend of mine and I’ll be with him this weekend at a Beach House in Marin. Yes, they have such things, even for 50 degree water. You gonna be there by chance?

    • Jim, perhaps about this wine salesman? My Dad always said ‘sales is a contact sport,’ and I would add ‘so is marketing.’ Nope, won’t be in Marin, headed to the Napa Growers Grape Stomp. So from one SWV to another, have a productive time, and remember to pay attention…Cork

  3. Here, here to “living on the economy.” The corporate culture today encourages silo-type thinking — fearing your competitors and remaining isolated from the real world stuff. I was in the brewing industry for a number of years, and it was sinful that the Brand Marketing group rarely stepped out of their offices and into the retail environment. A staggering campaign can work among colleagues, yet fall flat with retail partners and distributor sales people. A healthy dose of “immersion” in everyday street-level activities can trigger the best marketing campaign ever – one that Joe-Six-Pack or Mary-Wine-By-The-Glass can relate to…

  4. Pingback: Reflections of a Wine Business Blogger « Think Wine Marketing

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