Not too long ago, I was contacted by a PR firm regarding one of their wineries, J Vineyards.
This is nothing to write about in and of itself. What is worth writing about is why they were reaching out to me.
As a wine blogger, they wanted me to know that J had launched their own blog, J News You Can Use. A winery that’s taking part in the wine 2.0 wine conversation? Now that I find worth writing about – not just because it adds a potentially compelling voice to the on-line mix; it also shows that I’m (thankfully!) being proven increasingly more incorrect about my dire assessment of the influence of wine blogging in the ‘real’ world!
To get a better feel of what J is all about, you of course need to sample their wine. So, I grabbed a bottle of their 2005 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. First, the numbers: 100% Pinot Noir, aged in French oak barrels (30% new) for 11 months, 14.5% abv.
My take: Ripe strawberries on the nose, cherry cola on the palate, and a touch of toasted breadcrumb on the finish. The finish also contains some alcohol – there’s just no escaping it with that much powerful booze in this wine. Still, there’s no denying the Russian River fruit – it just kicks all kinds of ass; the question will be if it can stand up to that alcohol with enough structure for any long-haul aging (at close to $30 / bottle, you should expect some aging potential in your Pinot).
To really understand a winery, you also need to know what the winemaker is up to…
You have to totally respect what George Bursick (J’s winemaker, pictured) is trying to do. Bursick has been experimenting with longer fermentation times, utilizing techniques like batonage (stirring the wine with its yeast and sediment to impart extra creaminess and a rounder mouthfeel), and resurrecting the use of rare Burgundian yeasts that haven’t seen the dark of fermentation since the 1930s.
But I’m not really writing to tell you about J’s wine (good as it is); I’m writing to tell you about J’s blog.
You might expect that I got the info. on Bursick from J’s blog. But I didn’t. I got it from their press materials. And, unlike J’s wines, in today’s social-networking-obsessed Internet world, that’s probably not good enough.
It’s great to see wineries like J embracing the on-line wine world. With social networking officially overtaking porn as the most popular website destinations, if you’re not into social networks then you’re not really on the web these days. Anyone who wants to connect with consumers and doesn’t have a socially-oriented on-line presence is officially behind the times (and the competition).
Having said that, J’s blog is useful if you already know about J’s wines, or to have a central place to catalog their news and accomplishments. J’s blog is a good first step, but it’s already behind the times when compared to some other wineries, such as Tablas Creek. Tablas Creek’s blog is winning awards because it’s being used to give us deep insights into how the wine is made, and the trials and tribulations of day to day life at the winery. Consumers want to know more than what awards a winery is winning – they want to feel more connected to the brand.
My advice to J, and any other winery that wants to take online promotion seriously: get connected, and do it quickly. Get a blog, and get personal in it. Get on twitter and follow some of the wine geek crowd. Sign up at OpenWineConsortium.org and converse with bloggers, distributors, and consumers.
If you don’t, the online wine world very well might pass you by. And sooner or later, that means the ‘real’ world consumers might pass you by as well…
This past week, I finally got around to watching Randy Pausch’s “Last Lecture.”
For the 7 or 8 of you that have yet to see this (I’ve got a 4-month-old at the house… what’s your excuse?), the video of the Pausch’s inspirational lecture has been viewed by an estimated 6 million+ people. Pausch’s topic was fulfilling your childhood dreams, made more poignant and powerful by the fact that a) he had fulfilled most of his childhood dreams, and b) he was diagnosed with terminal cancer before giving the lecture.
Pausch died last month, at the age of 47. His lecture is amazing, and it got me thinking: if I were to deliver a lecture, knowing it to be my last before I died, what would I talk about? Then I thought about it another way: Why should my last lecture be special? Why can’t all my lectures be special? Why can’t I just live as if every day, and every event, were my last?
Then I wouldn’t have to do anything differently than I would on any other day. I’d rather have someone be able to show a video of any random moment of me spending time with my daughter, and that be a snapshot of the totality of me as a person, then have to worry about topping myself for some reason before I head off to the great gig in the sky.
In other words, I’d like to have my life be the testament to, well, my life.
What the hell does this have to do with wine? Glad you asked! Assuming you’re still reading, that is. You are? Great! Then allow me to explain…
I’ve written before about the role of mindfulness in heightening your wine appreciation. Basically, give a wine a moment or two of your pure, unadulterated concentration, and it will reveal its entire world to you.
Now, imagine if you treated every glass of wine that you have from here on out as if it might be your last glass. Man, you’d really give it some concentration then.
Sip on that for a while – you might find it brings a greater appreciation of wine into your life.
Even if it’s a glass of Yellowtail.
Check out more ‘Zen Wine’ non-action by the 1WineDude.
(images: rosalynclare.files.wordpress.com, zen-life.org)
I’m glad to see that my post last week on the potential troubles with the 100 point wine rating system has spurred so much interesting dialog in the wine “blogosphere” (man, we really need another word for that…).
Probably the most interesting conversation on this was triggered by Steve Heimoff’s response on his excellent Unreserved blog. It’s worth reading, and Steve makes some great points about tirades against the 100 point system being a dime a dozen these days.
I thought that Steve’s response was very good, but I felt that he might have misinterpreted some of my points. This got me thinking that I might have been unclear in that post, and maybe some 1WineDude.com readers might have misinterpreted it also (uh oh….!).
So I responded in Steve’s comment thread, and I’ve reproduced my response here in the hopes that it will clear up any misunderstanding between us – and by us, I mean you and I, dear reader. Because, you know, we’ve got a special thing goin’ here and I don’t want to jeopardize our love-fest…
“Man, there is some excellent banter going on in these comments! I really enjoy your writing so I was particularly pleased to see that my post sparked some debate on your blog. I agree with quite a bit of what you say, I think the 100 point system does get abused too often in the wine blogging world.
Having said that, I think you might have misconstrued my post for one of those rants, which might be selling it a bit short (massive subjectivity of that self-appraisal duly noted, of course!).
To justify that, I should probably clear a couple of things up about that post of mine:
1) Steve, your palate would totally *smoke* my palate when it comes to reviewing wines (which is one reason why I typically don’t review wines at 1WineDude.com). If our palates shared a prison cell, my palate would be your palate’s b*tch, would bring it tea and biscuits every morning, and call it sir! I wasn’t railing against the 100 point system in my post. You want to see a rant, pull up any post I’ve written about the PLCB ( http://1winedude.blogspot.com/search/label/PLCB ) for comparison; now *those* are rants. :-)
My point was that the 100 point system can be confusing to consumers, because it (as you say in your post above) is really a gradient quality scale based on one person’s palate. But that’s not how most of the wine media treats it, and it’s certainly not how the industry of wine sales treats it. So it doesn’t really do what it says “on the tin.”
2) I wasn’t bashing critics or consumers. I am bashing *anyone* who would blindly follow any rating or scoring system without doing any homework whatsoever. The truth is that there are too many people out there who do that, and part of being a wine blogger these days is to help point that out and hopefully add a little entertaining education for those consumers to show them what they might be missing. That doesn’t imply that they are stupid, just uninformed.
3) I should also try to clear up a bit about the 89 Project ( http://89project.blogspot.com/ ) – I did not found this but I do plan to contribute to it. If you take a look at the 89 Project home page, you’ll find that its charter is to try to bring exposure to the wines that fail to meet a 90 or above score in the 100 point scale – these wines are perennially doomed to lower sales figures, because consumers consider the 1 point difference between a 90 and an 89 score to be substantial (but probably not so for a 93 vs. a 94).
So, this is *not* an alternative rating system – it’s simply a review of these wines in our own voices. I don’t plan to give any of these wines a review based on a scale – I simply describe what I taste and explain if I think it’s good value for money (or not).
Hoping this clears up some of the confusion about my post. I certainly think that the 100 point system has its merits (after all, no one has offered a more popular replacement yet) and I’m not calling for its demise, just pointing out the gaps. I also am NOT a fan of inexperienced wine critics offering up their reviews as viable alternatives to more experienced tasters – I fully believe that expert criticism has its place.
I should also mention that I’m not hurting for blog material, and it was a conscious choice on my part to write a piece about the possible perils of following the 100 point rating system. I literally have more than enough ideas for material that I could post every day for a year without repeating myself (yes, even if I remove my rants against the PLCB – ok, maybe 9 months then ;-). I’m only pointing that out because I wouldn’t want any potential bloggers to read this thread and think that they shouldn’t blog from a fear of running out of material. That should be the *last* thing that they worry about when blogging.“
Last week I played around with one of those kitschy on-line questionnaires, which, since it had to do with wine, I found not-so-kitschy anymore.
The questionnaire/quiz was titled “What Kind of Wine are You?“, hosted at BlogThings.com, and the on-line wine geek community seems to have really taken to it, based on all of the twitter chatter going on as we shared our results.
What I found most interesting was the number of people who cried foul at having wanted to “be” a nebbiolo, but being given instead an entirely different ‘spirit wine’ (usually Merlot). Maybe it’s just me, but I associate Merlot with Vieux Chateau Certan, Duckhorn, Cheval Blanc, and Petrus – which just doesn’t feel like disreputable company…
Seems the designers of the “What Kind of Wine are You?” quiz need to check their personality assumptions with the rest of us wine geeks and revise the quiz…?
Anyway, here are a few wine blogger / wine geek results that the group shared with me. If anything, it might serve as an interesting introduction to a handful of wine websites that you might not have checked out yet: