This past weekend was my sixth Taste Washington weekend in Seattle. As usual, it was a fantastic event -- particularly the seminars which bring together top media and industry panelists, fabulous wines and the opportunity to taste in a more structured setting. The grand tasting was wonderful, too, given the breadth of exciting wines, chance to connect with clients and industry folk.
Below are my notes from the two seminars I attended; Janel will share hers in a future post:
Washington versus the World
This seminar paired five Washington wines with five wines from France, Australia and Napa. What a treat!
1999 Woodward Canyon Special Selection
Deep blackberry, black cherry, graphite, vanilla; chalky tannins. Some hints of rosemary and celery root. Still quite youthful; beautifully integrated. Smooth! Long life ahead of this wine...
2000 Leoville Las Cases
Dear God. A damn fine St. Julien. Cassis, blackberry, spice rack; subtle yet complex in the way a French wine can be; oregano, dried cherry and lots of depth in the palate. Mineral note at finish. Still pretty tight and much less fruit-forward compared to Washington. (At this point I was loving the tasting but also feeling odd comparing them because they are not really comparable -- it's like two amazing but very different musical scores. Doesn't matter which one is better because both are amazing. That's why you can ask for more than one glass at a table!)
2005 Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon
Very juicy black fruit with hi-toned cassis note. Quite round on the palate with good, chalky tannin. Youthful. Not my style of wine, actually.
2005 Cos d'Estournel
Coffee grinds, butterscotch, mocha. Not your typical Bordelaise approach. Silky with great, smooth, depth; some graphite at palate with chalkiness and long, tannic finish. This is complex and very special. Seems in between new and old world (I couldn't quite place this wine because even though I knew it was the Bordeaux, it didn't present that way.)
2005 Araju Eisele VIneyard Cabernet Sauvignon
Very concentrated black fruit, graphite, curing tobacco; ripe with silky tannins.
2010 Betz La Cote Patriarche
Youthful -- nearly felt like California even though I knew it was from Washington. Cinnamon, blackberry pie; big concentration -- just a baby; slight cured meat character but mostly hidden by youthful fruit. There is luscious weight here that just doesn't quit.
2009 The Standish
I don't have much experience with Aussie wines because I tend to find them to be huge fruit monsters and I prefer some complexity with other aromas and flavors. This wine was awesome. Super youthful with great depth; forest floor, black cherry, pepper; nice velvety palate.
2010 Avennia Syrah
Wow! Black cherry, concentrated pepper, hi toned graphite; silky with some exciting zippy acidity and good, prominent rich fruit. Integrated. Un peu d'animal -- makes me want more. Would love to see this wine again in 10 years. Palate weight is just wow. Damn. Will be thinking about this for awhile.
2006 M. Chapoutier Ermitage le Meal
I'm usually the Francophile who loves the "stank" of the old world. This wine had stewed tomato (too much), bay leaf, caramel, cured meats and lots of cherry. Nice complexity but just not my style -- definitely needed food -- like a very stinky cheese. Not sure if this is/was typical but seemed on its way out.
Yakima Valley 30th Anniversary
I've been to Yakima a few times to judge the Washington State Fair, but must admit I had no idea! Yakima is "the craddle of the Washington industry and has been growing grapes for over 100 years". It is also home to 12,000 acres of vineyards or about one third of the state's acreage, 75% of the hops produced in our country and the number one producer of mint.
This area is also home to the sub-appellations of Rattlesnake Hills, Red Mountain and Snipes Mountain. There are some incredible vineyards here including Boushey, Red Willow, Ciel du Cheval and more.
Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut Rose
DSM is the state's largest grower of Pinot Noir which is used in this wine. Lovely red apple, rose, cranberry and a nice, creamy palate. Heck of a value!
2010 Owen Roe Red Willow Blend
Inky blakcberry, black cherry pie, basil, a little toffee; smooth, bright with cocoa at palate -- it just feels good in the mouth; mouth-filling yet somehow balanced; rich with a little touch of brown sugar on the finish.
2010 Betz La Serenne Syrah
Little bit of an old world style. Black peppercorn, fresh oregano, white pepper and black fruit; more angular; very youthful and juicy but with balancing minerality; very focused nose -- if an aroma could have a texture, this would. Intriguing wine.
2010 Smasne Cellars Ancient Rocks Rhone Blend
Chalky, raspberry jam, dried cherry and nutmeg -- great aromas; really nice complexity on the palate with a velveteen texture; little mid-palate mineral and coffee note on the finish. Love it!
2009 DeLille Harrison Hill Red Blend
A Cabernet Sauvignon dominant wine with hi-toned blackberry, roasted red pepper, garlic butter and raspberry. Long finish with rich fruit throughout palate -- it just goes and goes. There is subtle slately character.
2010 Soos Creek Ciel du Cheval Red Blend
Blackberry puree, fresh leather and oregano, sweet black cherry; juicy and huge on palate; slately/mineral on mid-palate with clean finish. Delicious.
We attended one of my favorite annual events this past weekend -- Taste WA in Seattle. (For those who missed it, a smaller version of the event is being held in Portland on Monday, April 23 at Pure Space.)
The Washington Wine Commission team always does a fantastic job with this event, and over the years has added seminars led by industry leaders and national media, and more recently changed to a two-day format.
This year's annual Oregon Wine Symposium was held in late February in Portland and saw record attendance. The event always provides a good chance to learn, connect with colleagues and network; and I was delighted to find that the outlook and energy level have improved dramatically since I first attended in 2009. I left also with four key takeaways, which I detail below.
Medford's ABC affiliate, KDTV channel 12 featured SOWine on its website with an article and video
What a fantastic conference put on by marketing guru, Marilyn Hawkins of Hawkins & Company PR of Ashland, Oregon. Marilyn and her right-hand woman, Vicki Griesinger, were organized, enthusiastic and kept the schedule running on time -- not an easy feat when you have over 100 people in attendance.
SoWine was created to focus on sales and marketing for the fast-growing regions in Southern Oregon such as the Rogue and Umpqua Valleys. My talk, Developing a Solid Marketing Plan for Wine and Wine Grapes, highlighted the essential components of such a plan, how to compose one and tips for continuous improvement.
Below I list the best tips presented by each of the other featured speakers:
Eugenia Keegan of Keegan Consulting on Sales & Distribution in a Tough Economy
* do not underestimate the pricing effect of the true laid-in cost which is FOB plus transport and taxes
*make sure that the wholesale markets you choose are places you're comfortable visiting twice per year -- if you're not working the market, your competitors are
Don Morgan of GMA Research Corporation on DIY Research Tools
* one of the best ways to improve your marketing efforts is to think like a research scientist -- ask questions and use the answers to your benefit
* if you're only going to ask your customers one question, it should be "Would you recommend us?"
Rachell Coe of 4theGrapes on Making Your Website Work Much Harder
* make sure it is very clear how to sign up for your newsletter andbuy your wine on a homepage that downloads in less than 10 seconds
* use free measurement and management tools like Google Analyticsto monitor traffic and conversion, browser shots to see how your site looks on various platforms, and a link checker to make sure nothing is broken
Chris Oggenfuss of Oggenfuss Wine Marketing on the Value of Social Media and Customer Contact Innovations
* Facebook is the third largest "country" in the world -- if you only embrace one form of social media this should be it
* Snooth has a wine trade platform where wineries can and should manage their profiles as its the largest online wine database
* call your customers to thank them and sell more wine -- this is a vastly under-utilized form of communication in the industry
Porscha Schiller of South Stage Cellars on Special Event Planning
* begin with a goal in mind and be sure to check with the community and neighbors to find out if there is a competing event that will diminish your return
* 15 to 20 minutes before the event begins, "arrive" as if you were a guest to tackle last minute issues
It's always a pleasure speak at industry events and even better when I return to the office with a few pages of marketing notes for my clients and my company. A special thank you to Laura and Kurt Lotspeich of Trium who hosted the speaker's dinner the evening prior on their beautiful deck. Check out the winery and their Viognier next time you're in the area -- it's delicious!
On June 14, I will be speaking at SoWINE, the Southern Oregon Wine Marketing Conference being held at OSU extension in Central Point (Medford area). The purpose of the event is to enable small wineries to address current challenges and better plan for the future of their businesses. My talk, Developing a marketing plan for wine and winegrapes, will be a more in depth presentation than the one I presented at the Oregon Wine Symposium this past February.
The event has a wait list but I am happy to send my follow up materials to anyone who is interested afterwards.
On Monday, February 22 I gave a presentation on developing a strategic marketing plan. My co-panelists were Mark Freund of Silicon Valley Bank and Scott Lawrence of Michael Skurnik Wines. Stephany Boettner, Marketing & Communications Director for Oregon Wine Board, moderated.
I just returned from the Direct to Consumer Symposium held in Sonoma, California. Mobile marketing via short message service (your phone's SMS setting) was the most interesting emerging trend discussion. Craig Harper, CEP of Apisphere, educated attendees about how wineries can use text messaging to connect with consumers. For example, a winery might use text wine club members in a specific area of a retailer tasting. Or communicate with opted-in customers when they travel to the surrounding area about wines available to taste that day.
I was also drawn to a finding that 90% of wine club sign ups are done in the tasting room. While not surprising, it certainly speaks to the power of the winery experience in connecting with higher value customers. The chances that a more impersonal website purchase will lead to a club membership are therefore relatively low.
A recommended quick tip is continuing to treat customers who have had to drop out of your wine club due to financial reasons as if they were still members for four to six months (i.e., offer tasting room fee waivers, purchase discounts and any other benefits). This will build goodwill, demonstrate loyalty on behalf of the winery, and increase the chances that they will return when their financial situations have improved.
I recently attended the 5th Wine Industry Technology Symposium in Napa. There was much discussion about social media, which was also the case at the February Oregon Wine Symposium. Social media can be a useful form of communication to engage customers, inform them of special events and winery news, and monitor what's being said about your brand.
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