Posts Filed Under wine industry events
Every once in a while, you get a gig that is so good, you just have to pinch yourself to test if it’s all real and you’re actually getting paid to have so much fun.
Such was the case at the 2014 San Francisco International Wine Competition, which wrapped up a couple of weeks ago and recently announced its results. Over 30 countries and 26 U.S. states compete in this competition, which is billed as America’s largest such international vinous battle royale. The pinch-inducing vibe came courtesy of my lucky draw in amazing wine competition panel-mates, which included cult winemaker Heidi Peterson Barrett (small tidbit of advice: do not get between her and shoe shopping!) and competition organizer Anthony Dias Blue. The latter meant, of course, that at some point our panel would probably be getting some of the better wines entered into the comp, and that indeed did come to pass when we kicked off the second day of judging and were greeted with the wine lover’s breakfast of champions: a stellar flight of mostly vintage bubbly.
Did I mention that I love my “job?” Well, I do.
As for the specifics: the judges were divvied up about 3-4 at a table, tasting several related flights blind, knowing basically only the residual sugar, grapes, and price points of each wine. A splendid time was had by all (at least as far as I could tell), and I was happy to have leant my judging palate to a competition that was so well-organized, well-run, and that represented such a stellar group of wine-biz-insider-type judges. As always, I felt that I was bringing the overall class levels down a few notches by my attendance, though I think I made up for it in humor (we laughed a lot at our table…).
Anyway, here are a few of the stellar picks from that stellar bubbly lineup that had my table more-or-less swooning..
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My friend Paul Mabray, of Vintank, recently gave a speech at the 2014 Wine Communicators of Australia event. The topic was, roughly speaking, the digital divide in the wine world. You can read a transcript of the entire talk given by Paul here. And if you’re in the wine biz, you really, really need to read the entire thing.
Yes, all 70+ pages of it. Because this speech shows just how bad the wine biz is at digital right now. How bad? Calling the wine biz staggeringly, hilariously bad at digital is probably slightly understating the scenario a little bit.
This is the wine biz at digital in 2014:
And here’s what the wine consuming populace wants wine to be when it comes to interacting with them in the digital space:
The disconnect is immense, which is what Paul’s speech deftly demonstrates in the kind of blood-splattering, gory, Mortal Kombat (“FINISH HIM!!!”) detail that is representative of ass that the wine biz ought to be kicking when it comes to digital (but doesn’t). Now, while I certainly appreciate that there will likely be at least some complainy-pants moaning criticism regarding the details of this topic, please read Paul’s entire speech before levying them. Seriously, there’s that much ammunition in this lengthy but excellent talk.
Below I offer some of the money-shots from Paul’s speech (emphasis mine), that I think illustrate just how far we in the wine world have to travel before being able to collectively call ourselves up-to-speed on the digital consumption of wine media…
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Over the next two insane weeks, I’ll be waving to the Midwesterners among you from 30,000 feet as I fly back and forth across our great country twice in order to lend my taste buds (and, no doubt, subsequently further increase not only my frequent flier mileage but also my dental hygiene and surgical fees) to two Left Coast wine competitions.
First, there’s my second stint at the venerable Critics Challenge wine comp., held in (stay classy) San Diego (San Diego is still there, right?), the 11th year for that event, which is unique in its assembly of judges who are pretty much exclusively in the wine journalism/critic biz.
This will be followed shortly (as in, a few days) by my first stint at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, as part of a group of seventeen newly-minted judges joining the cadre at SFIWC this year, its 34th (see inset pic on that as reported by SOMM Journal earlier this month).
The thing that tickles me Provence-rosé-pink about all of this is not so much that I am getting wined, dined and paid for doing something so cool (ok, that does, in fact, tickle me a bit Provence-rosé-pink now that I think about it), but that I know so many of the other judges, and am fortunate enough to call several of them friends. Technically, these are business trips for me, but they are hardly the kind of business trips about which one could complain, particularly when compared to some of the locales, efforts, and intensely driven personalities I frequented in my corporate life (ever been to Hackettstown, NJ; Slough, England; or Stupino, Russia? No? Well, take it from me, you don’t want to be in too much of a hurry to visit).
Let’s just say I’m not complaining!
More to come from all of that (if you’ve got requests on what you’d like to see in terms of coverage out of those comps., shout it out).
This Summer, I’ll once again become an honorary Cretan.
For starters, next week I’ll be working with Wines of Crete in leading two trade and media educational seminars and tastings on the native grape varieties of the twelve recognized PDO and PGI designations of one of Greece’s largest and most dynamic (and challenged!) winemaking regions. The tastings will be blind, and will focus almost entirely on the varieties themselves, most of which will be totally unfamiliar even to the geekiest of wine geeks. fro that perspective alone, it ought to get very interesting, particularly at the lunches and tastings that will follow the seminars. Anyway, those events are invitation-only, so if you can go, you already know about it, and I look forward to you heckling me in NYC or D.C.!
I am fairly sure I got that gig because I’m one of the few U.S.-based wine people who’ve actually been to Crete and then said anything about it. As some of you reading this might recall, when I first visited the island in 2012, it was on assignment for an article idea I’d agreed with the now-defunct glossy Sommelier Journal. After SJ went belly-up, I’d briefly contemplated posting that article here on 1WD, but the voice and tone was tailored for SJ’s glossy style, and just didn’t fit the frenetic psychosis of my normal style of writing on these virtual pages.
So instead I reached out to the new SOMM Journal, and I’m happy to report that the Crete feature will appear in the August issue of that newly revitalized masthead (assuming they don’t also go belly-up this Summer; it’s not likely with their much expanded readership base, but hey, anything’s possible in the print world right now).
More to come on all of that that when the article (which focuses on the island’s most progressive producers, and the ironies in Crete’s battle to get its fine wines – which once ruled the Mediterranean commerce world – onto the modern global marketplace) finally sees the light of day, a year later than originally planned. Welcome to the wine biz, right?