Posts Filed Under commentary

Wine Rocks (Is Wine Appreciation Becoming Cool?)

Vinted on March 26, 2009 binned in commentary, wine 2.0, wine appreciation

Well… duh, right?

Anyone that has spent more than a cursory glance through the (virtual) pages of 1WineDude (or has had the unfortunate experience of sharing a long car ride with me when I’m driving, which of course entitles me to choose the music played on the car stereo) is familiar with my affinity for Canadian power rock trio Rush – or as I like to refer to them, The Greatest Band in the History of All Mankind.

Most music fans are familiar with Rush’s complex (and lengthy) musical endeavors, as well as the high-pitched vocals of front-man Geddy Lee.  What many people don’t know is that the band are big-time wine geeks, especially Geddy who owns a cellar in excess of 5,000 bottles in his Toronto-area home (apparently its bottle capacity has been expanded – twice).

Which, in my mind, is simply even more reason to be a total fan-boy for that band.

Anyway, Rush is (improbably) riding a high of popularity now that they are well into their third decade as a touring and recording rock band, their pop-culture coolness hitting a zenith with a recent appearance on The Colbert Report (excerpt below).  Geddy Lee was recently featured in Entertainment Weekly’s “Three Rounds With…” feature, talking about… wine (and recent album releases and the band’s cameo in the new film I Love You, Man).

This got me wondering… can wine appreciation be considered cool? I mean, I love Rush, but for a long, long time, it was definitely not cool to love Rush.  Now, they’re getting mentioned on TV and mainstream magazines as if they’re Coldplay.  Same with Lord of the Rings – when I was a kid, it was not cool to love those books.  Now, the movie adaptations are winning Oscars and kids play with LotR action figures.  I’d have gotten my ass kicked for playing with LotR action figures…

I do believe that wine may be hitting a similar point in the ‘coolness trajectory’ now.

Instead of it wine appreciation viewed as the ultimate hoity-toity, snobbish enterprise (anyone remember The Onion’s coverage of Pompous A__hole Magazine?), it’s almost starting to achieve a mild pop-icon status, especially with the advent of magazines like Mutineer, events such as Wine 2.0 and Wine Riot!, the Twitter Taste Live phenomenon,  and an explosion in the number of wine blogs and consumer involvement in on-line wine social networks (e.g., the Open Wine Consortium)in the last 2-3 years.

What do YOU think?  Is Wine appreciation is becoming cool?

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The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Rush is Here
comedycentral.com
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor Mark Sanford

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Cheers!
(images: Entertainment Weekly)

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Is High-Alcohol California Wine Inevitable (Robert Parker’s Bitch, Redux)

Vinted on March 17, 2009 binned in California wine, commentary

“The industry has done everything wrong” – Paul Wagner

Well… this is interesting!

1WineDude

friend, winemaker and fellow wine blogger Josh Hermsmeyer makes an appearance in Tina Caputo’s new web documentary, Robert Parker’s Bitch.

The documentary that takes an informative and entertaining look at the subject of whether or not California winemakers are making wines for Consumers, for themselves, or are producing busty high-alcohol bombs in order to chase the almighty dollar that comes from pleasing the palates of a few wine critics, thus achieving an influential high point score and subsequent boost in sales.

Many excellent and educated opinions are offered from standout figures in the California wine world, including author Karen MacNeil, winemaking icon Randy Dunn of Dunn Vineyards, and my new marketing hero, Paul Wagner of Balzac Communications.

Let’s just say that the topic is… complicated

And the documentary takes an admirable stab at trying to breakdown enough of the complexity to make the topic palatable.  Personally, I loved it, despite the lack of explosions, fist-fights, and nudity.

The vid is worth checking out if only to hear the comments of Paul Wagner, who clearly understands the topic at it’s most fundamental levels and matter-of-factly (and correctly) states that the wine industry has basically gotten wine marketing wrong for long, long time – and that there is a new generation of wine lovers emerging that don’t give a crap about scores, established critics, or the “rules” or wine appreciation / recommendation.

Amen, brother!

The 25-minute gem is embedded below – highly recommended.

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Robert Parker’s Bitch from Josh Hermsmeyer on Vimeo.

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Cheers!

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I Hate The Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board

Vinted on March 12, 2009 binned in commentary, PLCB

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Serve or Die: The Importance of Wine Service in Today’s Economy

Vinted on March 4, 2009 binned in commentary

The economy is in the toilet.

Not exactly a news flash, right?

So why does it seem to be such a revelation to wine bars, restaurants, an wine tasting rooms that they are in a battle for their very survival in this economic crisis?  I say revelation because so few of the ones that I run into seem to get it, in terms of understanding that raising the bar on their service might be an important survival tactic in today’s economy.

Poor wine-related service has been the focus of a few recent posts in the blog-o-world (e.g., see Wine Diver Girl’s “Hospitality Fail”), and I myself had a recent misadventure at a local wine bar / restaurant (which shall remain nameless but not anonymous) whose wine service has been on the skids since the departure of their wine director some months ago.

Certainly these days if you are in the wine service industry, then you are in a battle of survival for the fittest.  And what’s the evolutionary genetic mutation that will give you superiority to weather this economic storm over your rivals?

In a word: Better Service.

Crap.  That’s two words.

Anyway,  that’s the message that I took away from the excellent February issue of Sommelier Journal, which should absolutely be your field guide for any journey deep into the wine geek forest.  Not about “better service” being two words (I didn’t need the magazine to tellme that one), but about raising the bar on service being the equivalent to holding the high position on the ebenemy in this war for the ever-shrinking  dollars of customers’ disposable incomes. Ah, you know what I mean…

The February issue of SJ is dedicated entirely to the topic of bettering wine-related service – and not a moment too soon.  There are a number of standout articles offered up in February’s release, but the items that resonated the most with me were penned by former Roy’s wine director (and now consultant) Randy Caparoso:

The old approach of accumulating the biggest, most all-encompassing wine list possible has grown, well, old, and, in times like these, is about as useful as burning money… The battle for survival in 2009 may well hinge on improving the experience of our guests.

Sage advice.  It’s not rocket science, but it needs to be said loud and clear because it’s never been more true than in the economic downturn of 2009.

Randy should know – he’s been in the service business for, well, for about forever:

“When I started at 18, 19 years old, I was working with 40-, 50-, sometimes 60-year-old people who had been doing it since before I was born. That doesn’t exist any more, so in this day and age, service has to be well defined.”

Bingo.  This is NOT difficult to do – it’s only difficult to do consistently.  But your establishment’s life just might depend on it.

Getting a leg up on your competition might be as simple as offering better and more friendly service than your competition, even if you change nothing else about how you do business.  And it costs essentially nothing to get that started.

Back to Randy:

In a recession, improving service is the most cost-efficient path to success. You can kill ’em day and night on the floor, but service begins long before the guests walk in; in terms of a wine program, it means a list that not only enhances the cuisine, but is also readable and friendly. If you’re too lazy to offer descriptions of your best selections, or so naive as to think the majority of your guests actually enjoy wading through page after page of phone-book-like listings, you have only yourself to blame if you succumb to this battle that’s rattling our windows.”

Having a staff that’s not only friendly, they’re also knowledgeable about the wines on the menu and how they pair with your restaurant’s cuisine?  Sweet!  If I were in the service biz, I wouldn’t be considering that a luxury.

I’m well aware that these ideas are conceptually simple but sometimes difficult to deliver consistently well in practice.

Sure, it takes time and effort to train the staff, and to keep them educated, but your guests are now expecting this level of service – and if you don’t deliver it, your competition just might.

And then, well… you’re S.O.L.

Survival of the fittest.

Anyone in the wine service industry would do well to check out that February edition of Sommelier Journal.   Just don’t say you weren’t warned.

Cheers!

(images: sommelierjournal.com, jaunted.com, sfist.com)

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