a food/wine/marketing blog that is funny by accident, sarcastic on purpose.

Posts tagged ““Sonoma County”

melon shooters & eye shadow in green valley.

This past Sunday, I hopped into my semi-gas friendly Honda Civic with three of my girls and trekked through the Sebastopol Farmer’s Market to make my way through West County.  Our mission was to Celebrate Earth Day in Green Valley.  Yes, the official Earth Day is this Wednesday, but who does a wine tasting event on a Wed other than me?

This year the theme was “Low Key, Low Impact” and five different Russian River Valley Wineries (aka pinot-yumminess) opened their tasting rooms to the public and held free earth-friendly exhibits, food pairings and tastings.

The first stop was at Iron Horse Vineyards where we were greeted by 80 degree heat, delicious sparkling wines, my favorite wine radio host and Sonoma County wine queen – Ziggy the Wine Gal and the owner of the winery, the “earth mother goodness” herself – Joy Sterling.  My favorite part of the Iron Horse event was the art exhibit which focused on re-cycled art, made from re-claimed, re-purposed, re-imagined materials.  I will have to say part of my reasoning for this was because it was in the bottling room and the only way to get away from the heat!lukka

Lukka Feldman of Barn Diva was in charge of the salt (and popcorn) tasting which including a chunk of salt that Joy brought back from the Himalayan Mountains.  The winery’s head chef Ruben Gomez served a spring vegetable soup with bread from Wild Flour Bread in Freestone.  The chocolate from TCHO chocolate paired perfectly with the Iron Horse Chardonnay.  According to Joy, “The Citrus chocolate is from Madagascar and has a distinct lively citrusy zing that crazy as it sounds is delicious with Chardonnay.”

After our amazing experience over at Iron Horse, we made our way past the redwoods and Russian River Valley vineyards to Harford Family Winery, where I wasn’t able to have the same interaction with the owner and winemakers (though I would love to in the future).

This didn’t stop my friends and me to gush over the pairing of their Four Hearts Vineyard Chardonnay along with some Melon Shooters.  At first I was a bit hesitant to try because I think of either sparkling wine or a Sauvignon Blanc is best paired with any sort of fruit, but this pairing was perfection.  I even advise the people at Harford to have that pairing as part of an everyday tasting experience, maybe even let people know the recipe on their site.


Dutton-Goldfield and Balletto Vineyards was our last stop because we wanted take their 2:30 tour of the Laguna de Santa Rosa, Sonoma County’s watershed, wildlife preserve that can be found in their backyard.  Of course getting four girls to get anywhere on time hardly ever works, so we were about 10 minutes late.  Not that I minded because we got to spend more time drinking their Pinot Noir.  While Balletto’s Pinot is a great every day wine, Dutton-Goldfield’s had a range of Pinots that any wine drinker would love.  My personal favorite, as well as the tasting room staff’s recommendation was the 2006 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir.

Okay, maybe the only “green” part of my experience was the melon shooters and my green eye shadow, but it is nice to see a West County event that was a perfect balance of really good wine and food along with education without it being forced down your throat.

defined by my generation.

Yes, I am a Millennial.  I may get made fun of by my fellow wine blogging friends for being young, but I am the epitome of a Millennial Wine Drinker (this also includes not taking the time to edit my posting to realize that I meant to say epitome instead of epiphany).  Okay, well maybe since I did grow up in Sonoma County my palette is a bit more solicited than an average middle American youth’s palette.  Then again, maybe not.  I judge wine on the experience that I have within the setting that I am drinking the wine (hence why this wine blog is about my experience rather than the tasting notes of the wine) and I will even admit to purchasing wine because of an animal on the label, a clever slogan or even a bright colors (Fat Bastard Chardonnay fits all three of these criteria)

Back when I was working on the Clos du Bois campaign in 2007 (see some of my work here) I did extensive research on Millennial’s and their wine consumption habits, coming to the consultation that if you do not have at least a portion of your Marketing Plan that talks to the younger generation then you are missing out on the big picture.


While we may not all be purchasing ultra-premium wines and joining in on high end wine club memberships, we are wanting to learn about wine and are a very passionate and social group.


We have left the toga parties in our past (some of us) and are going to and throwing dinner parties where bringing a bottle of wine and a knowledge of what to pair it with is in full regard.  We have grown up with advertising, so flashy gimmicks that I mentioned above are not the way to win us over.   We are eager to learn more, but of course we want our teachings to be fun and informative.

I don’t want to say that wineries must cater to us, but there are some things that you could do to embrace a younger generation (as well as others you may be trading down during this recession).  Lisa de Bruin had started with some good ideas of how wineries could work with wine bloggers and I think that same thinking could be applied to the Millennial generation:

Maybe a lower end wine club with deals for those entering in to their first wine club membership?

****Or maybe just a deal for one wine blogging Millennial who has not found the right Wine Club to be a part of*****

Picture taken by Em Mota.

Or a social media strategy that gets your consumers active in contests and promotions of your wine?  *Cheers to Twisted Oak Winery and El Jefe for showing us that wine can be a lot of fun

I believe that the brands that acknowledge Millennials will have a great long term strategy.

The Zinquisition said it best in the blog post about the Press Democrat’s atricle on how us Millennial’s seemed to ruin the Barrel Tasting for some older visitors, in Madcap Millennials Long Live the Queen

Think how far your marketing dollars go when the crowd gathers at your winery and HAS A GOOD TIME and then spreads the word via their own circle of friends electronically!”

customer service done right.

There has been a recent epidemic of blog postings that have been critical of the lack of customer service that a few wineries have provided, including two recent ones from me (here and here).  With the ever-expanding blog posts about everything from what people had for breakfast to the wine they drank before going to bed, the internet is a haven for people to write about their daily experiences.  It is also a fact that people talk more about their bad experiences than their good ones.  Online and during their everyday lives.

I was told by one of my male friends that my posts as of late have been a bit pessimistic and that I should write about something pleasurable and not just promotions or brands that upset me.  Though I don’t believe him, especially looking at the overwhelming exceptional customer service I received (and wrote about) from my favorite wineries over the past two Barrel Tasting weekends, I figured I would take a look at some places I have been to recently that I think have the right idea.  Two Sonoma County restaurants instantly came to mind.

Jack and Tony’s Whisky Bar- They opened up in Railroad Square in downtown Santa Rosa last month, but local Sonoma County chef, Jack Mitchell (of Sassafrass) knows that a good restaurant is nothing without a great staff who is dedicated to providing a memorable experience.  They literally rolled out the red carpet for their customers this past Wednesday.  It was their Grand Opening celebration and no matter how cheesy it sounds, the party was in fact  Grand.


A limo drove guests from the Santa Rosa Hyatt and dropped them off at the front door.  Here guests were greeted by a red carpet and a smiling Jack saying “thank you” for coming.  For part of the day, a paparazzi style photographer snapped candid photos, the mayor showed up for a ribbon cutting ceremony and they gave away free appetizers.  The drinks were delicious and the garlic parmesan fries were cooked perfectly.

Jack personally went from table to table to greet each of his guests and to chat for a bit.  It will be interesting to see if they can keep up this level of great customer service, but as Jack told me “He had the best restaurant staff to choose from in Sonoma County,” so look for people who know what they are doing.

Bovolo Restaurant- One several different wine tasting occasions, myself and a group of wild women have entered into Bovolo (behind Copperfield’s on the Healdsburg Square) to dine on their infamous mac and cheese and carbonara dishes.  Other than my friends being obsessed with the handmade bacon, we go there because they offer free corkage for locals and I have a bit of a crush on one of the staff members at the cash register.  I like that you order off the menu at the cash register and you go to sit down, it brings a more informal vibe to the place.


We tend to get a bit rowdy, so instead of yelling (which has happened at various restaurants or hotels), the staff will come in the back and simply ask us to keep it down.   I understand that sometimes we need to be reminded to use our inside voices, but asking us nicely goes much further than coming back and acting like we are ruining your life.

(Bovolo picture taken from Google Images)

Both of these restaurants have proven to me on more than a few occasions that it is the simple things that create an experience worth coming back for.

barrel tasting weekend two: passion for pinot.

Saturday March 14th was the big Barrel Tasting event for me.  This time I was to be accompanied by my local Sonoma County group of friends, as well as some out of town wine blogging/twitter friends, including @Robbin_G, @Winebratsf, @BrixChick_Liza, @MmWine, and local friends @Oenophilus and @SonomaWineGuy.

We made the stops in Dry Creek Valley at the usual suspects, including Truett Hurst, Papapietro Perry, Kokomo Winery and Michel-Schlumberger.  My non-wino friends had a great time at all of my favorite wineries, laughing at the glasses from TH or loving the mystery barrel (and winemakers) at Kokomo and especially the photoshoot in the rows of barrel at MS.  They all loved the wine too, thus cementing each winery into my winery hall of fame (to be mentioned at a later date).


The one thing all four of my favorites have in common (other than the Dry Creek location) is that each winery has their own style of Pinot Noir.  All delicious in their own way, but all very different with wines that range from lighter fruity flavors like the 2005 Pinot Noir from MS to the robust raspberry flavor of the Pinots at PP (specifically the Elsbree Vineyards).

Pinot has been my one true wine love for some time.  It wasn’t until I discovered this varietal that I started drinking and loving wine.  After years of living in Oceanside, Ca and having a roommate that would always drink heavy Zins from Ravenswood, I discovered the joy of a lighter wine in the La Creama 2003 Pinot.  Of course the movie Sideways came out a few years later and I couldn’t order a glass of wine without someone asking me about that movie.  Five years later, this wine has grown in popularity and the amount of vineyards growing this grape just keeps on getting larger.  This only fuels my love for this grape.

The two Sonoma County appellations that grow some of the best (IMO) grapes are the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast.  The fog provides the perfect blanket for these demanding grapes.

Saturday night was the second “big event.”  My first ever Twitter Taste Live where I would be able to stream live with Matt from A Good Time with Wine on the #TTL website trying none-other than my favorite wines….  Yes, it was a Passion for Pinot night on #TTL.

About 15 wine bloggers met up at Palette Art Café in Healdsburg (Great food and FREE WIFI), socialized, ate some dinner and drank many different Pinots.   Unfortunately after a long day of Barrel Tasting and a stolen iPhone, I had to leave early (I am so sorry I wasn’t able to stay).

Sunday morning I was up and ready to tackle my very last day of Barrel Tasting.  This time I was caffeined up and excited to hit some new wineries in the Russian River Valley.  I met up with Danelle (aka @daynell), fellow wine bloggers (see above) and Samantha Vega from 101.7 The Fox (aka @1017TheFox) at Joseph Swan.  Here we tried some pretty good samples of Zins.  After leaving, Danelle, Samantha and I got lost for the rest of the group…  And with no cell reception and an apparent lack of knowledge of the area, we ended up not being able to find Olivet Road to meet up with the posse.

This adventure led us to Westside Road where we passed by two friends of mine who were frantically waving at the passing cars, trying to persuade people to visit the Thomas George Estates (formally the Davis Bynum tasting room).  Of course, I had to stop.

Here we sampled two delicious Pinots.  One where I am coming out and saying was the best (in the barrel) Pinot Noir I had all weekend. – This was an 2008 Lancel Creek Russian Rover Valley Pinot.  A perfect blend of strawberries with a hint of cherry. It wasn’t too dark or too light… I guess I would have to call it “just right.”  It even paired perfectly with my vegetarian tamale that they were serving.

This new winery is definitely worth checking out.  Their tasting room currently pours several different Pinots, reminding any visitor that the Russian River appellation is a great place to visit and drink some great Pinot Noir.

barrel tasting day one: new adventures and old favorites.

One of the biggest events in Sonoma County is the two weekend extravaganza (aka drunk fest) that is Northern California Wine Road’s Barrel Tasting Weekend around Healdsburg, Ca.  The first two weekends in March provide visitors the chance to sample wines straight from barrel, pre-purchase the wine (called futures) before it is bottled and meet the winemakers.

Barrel Tasting weekend is a true celebration of spring in Wine Country: the mustard flowers are in full bloom, the sun is usually out for the first time and tourists & locals are running around in short sleeved shirts with red stained teeth.  It is the first event of the year that the wineries roll out the barrels and open up their cellars to the sunlight.


Thea Dwelle, her mother and I headed out into the wilds of the Sonoma County wine roads with an agenda:

  1. To show Thea’s mom some of her favorite wines and wine people.
  2. To visit new wineries we haven’t been to.
  3. To visit our Winery Twitter friends.

Dry Creek Wineries: Papapietro Perry, Kokomo, Peterson, Truett Hurst (aka @truetthurst) and Sbragia.

Saturday morning was spent visiting some favorites including, Papapietro Perry, Kokomo, and Truett Hurst.  All the barrel samples from these favorites did not disappoint.  Kokomo Winery even had a delicious special “Mystery Sample” for visitors to guess the varietal.  Winemaker, Erik Olsen even gave us a clue (a Bordeaux variety). Thea did eventually get it.  If you really want to know the varietal, ask me in the comments.

Jim Morris at Truett Hurst made us laugh with his “X-Ray” glasses (aka polarized lenses to look into the creek for salmon), feed us some tri-tip and let us try some of their own zinfandels.

We also visited Sbragia where they seemed to not have enough people working to handle the massive amounts of people visiting the winery.  We tried some unmemorable Zin and left.

Alexander Valley Wineries: Route 128, Jimtown (for lunch) Hawkes Wine’s (aka @hawkeswine) and Stuhlmuller.

Route 128 is a newly opened tasting room in downtown Geyserville. They are still very small so they were not participating in Barrel Tasting, but they poured some pinot for us anyways.

The folks from Sonoma County Tourism Bureau (aka @InsideSonoma) suggested a pairing of Jimtown General Store’s infamous chocolate pudding with one of Hawkes Wine’s Cabernets.  The pairing did not disappoint. The 2007 Pyramid Cabernet Sauvignon went perfectly with the rich chocolate pudding. Good thing the two are right next to each other.

Healdsburg Wineries: Newly opened Hudson Street Wineries (Bluenose, Owl Ridge, Teira, Windsor Vineyards, etc), Holdredge, Camilla (where @Cellardiva was pouring), Sapphire Hill.

These wineries are all smaller with limited cases and I would have to say, I was not as impressed with them. It was the end of the day when we stopped by here, so my experience could have been a bit jaded because of the massive amounts of people.  I would like to stop by Camilla and Sapphire Hill again.

Altogether, I couldn’t have asked for a better Saturday to spend wine tasting to experience some old favorites and new adventures.

Look for tweets with the hastag #barreltasting next weekend!  And, of course, please follow me at @ShaRayRay on twitter!

a new love of gardening.

Last week I stopped by the Love Farms Market in downtown Healdsburg to say hello to a friend who was helping to remodel the store.  Love Farms is a local farm which grows certified organic fruits, veggies and sells seedlings for people to grow their own. They supply produce to some of Healdsburg’s biggest restaurants (Barn Diva, Ravenous and Cyrus) as well as to anyone who stops in their retail store or by their farm on Grant Street.


Picture taken from Jon of Sonoma’s Flicker page

During my visit, Ron Love (owner and the farm’s namesake) told me that they are remodeling the market to introduce a healthy and economical community restaurant to the town in the back portion of the store.  He mentioned it would be opening up around the time when the Healdsburg Farmers Market opens up (in May) with meals made, of course, with Love Farms produce.  During my visit we talked about the new seedlings that they are selling and he inspired me to want to start my garden at my house.

All of this rain and the extra pinch on my pocketbook as of late has gotten me into a food funk.  I notice that during the winter I am much more apt to eat meals with less variety…. Maybe it is the weather and being stuck indoors has made me a bit lazy, maybe I just know I can use that as an excuse. But I don’t seem to have the same inspiration in the wintertime as I do during the fall, spring and definitely the summer.

I still buy produce… I have had a lazy vegetarian taco kick that has lasted the past two months.  A few times a week, I will sauté up some spinach, mushrooms, bell peppers and onions along with some store bought salsa to make my tacos. It takes no time at all and they are delicious, but that is beyond the point.

What is my point?  Do I even have one?

Oh…. yes…. My food habits have become monotonous.  My visit at Love Farms has sparked a new excitement in me.  Sonoma County is the perfect climate to grow a garden (or even a Farm).  For the first time since I moved out on my own, I am not living in an apartment… Even better – my house already has three boxes for gardening.  Ron mentioned that right now is the perfect time to start growing my seedlings, or purchase them from him to start growing my beets, onions, garlic and spinach.  So, look for tweets and blog posts about my very first adventures in gardening.

freebies + social media = hot restaurant strategy.

This article from Media Post News says it all:

Earlier this month, Denny’s gave away more than 2 million Grand Slam Breakfasts in one day with the help of a Super Bowl commercial and online chatter.

This week, Quiznos gave away a million subs in three days after using only banner ads, Facebook and Twitter presence and some free local radio exposure.

Denny’s may have been investing in brand awareness, but as the Quiznos promotion demonstrated, with consumers looking to save every penny they can, you probably don’t need the Super Bowl part to drive a freebie.

Another current example of using a giveaway and online chatter to drive restaurant traffic: International House of Pancakes just completed its third annual National Pancake Day on Tuesday, in which it gives away a small stack of pancakes and in return asks customers to consider donating to the Children’s Miracle Network or a local charity.

IHOP, which has raised nearly $2 million for charities since starting the day in 2006, relied on a dedicated Web site with a “tell a friend” pass-along application, its normal presence on key social networks and some PR to drive awareness and traffic.

The result? IHOP has not finished tallying, but the chain was shooting for $1 million and believes that this year was its best in terms of awareness, traffic and donations, according to spokesperson Patrick Lenow.  “The word-of-mouth generated through social networks was just incredible,” he says.

And that’s just this month’s roster of freebie-based promotions designed to draw in new diners, get existing customers to visit more frequently and pick up some revenue from the beverages and other purchases that usually accompany the freebie.

“Social networking and restaurants are a logical match,” says Reggie Bradford, CEO of social media marketing consultancy Vitrue.  “Food is naturally social,” he points out.  “Where do you want to eat?  Do you want to grab something here?  This is translating to online conversations around restaurant brands.  We’ve seen tremendous adoption of social media strategies among QSRs and fast-casual restaurants.”

Combine social media with freebies, and you’ve got marketing dynamite.  “Giving away food in these uncertain economic times obviously resonates strongly with consumers,” Bradford says.  “Huge gains are being made by brands who are reaching out to consumers with something tangible. IHOP deserves kudos for taking it important steps further by giving back to the community and forging loyalty along the way.”

The lift in online buzz has been significant for all of these promotions, based on Vitrue’s Social Media Index, which measures online conversations about a brand in social networks, blogs and Twitter.

Denny’s SMI score more than doubled (from 22 to 45.6) after its commercial and meal giveaway.  Quiznos’ jumped from 12.4 on the first day of the promotion to 16.1 three days later, or by 30%. IHOP’s score was 36.9 on Jan. 1 and 73.9 on Feb. 25, the day after Pancake Day–a 99% gain.

IHOP and other brands could benefit from more compelling Facebook pages, perhaps incorporating surveys, polling and a restaurant locator, Bradford says.  Providing franchisees with the tools to tap their online social circles to market local events is another opportunity, as is capturing event RSVPs to go back to individuals with coupons and other loyalty-building offers, he adds.

customer service in the consumer review era.

Years ago, back when the terms blog and twitter were still unknown, if restaurants, retailers or wineries provided terrible customer service then the word only got around to the visitors immediate friends and family.  If it was a truly horrific act of bad customer service or product failure, then maybe the word would spread a bit further.  Of course this is not the world we live in now.

As shown by Lisa de Bruin’s trip to Domaine Chandon, Gary Vaynerchuk’s visit at Mondrian, a “hip” hotel in Miami, as well as my recent trip to Korbel, a bad experience is not only is talked about online – it has the ability to “go viral.”  Consumer review site’s such as Yelp (even with their problems) and personal blogs have had a great impact, both positively and negatively on the service industry.  It isn’t just wine reviewers or food critics that are telling the world their opinion.

You can bitch all you want, but this trend is not going away anytime soon.  The internet is here, and social tools are just making it easier and faster for people to voice their opinions.  Go ahead and complain that these reviews are not from trained professionals, who know what they are talking about, or negative reviews could be from disgruntled employees, or that positive reviews could even be from someone affiliated with the company.


Okay, hopefully now that you are done complaining about the situation you can take a deep breath and accept that consumer written reviews are not going away…. Or, hopefully, you are one of the ones reading this that understands that this new form of reviewing the service industry can actually help businesses.

What some people don’t get is that BOTH negative & positive postings provide a great opportunity for publicity.  The online landscape allows businesses to respond to negative comments and even generate positive posts by asking visitors to post reviews, or just by delivering customer service that is truly above and beyond.  Those businesses that adapt to the new era of online voices and not only respond to what is said, but actually LISTEN and (if need be) make changes will be the ones who will make it through.  Yes, I do know there is more to running a business then just this — just stick with me here….

Service businesses HAVE TO adapt to the landscape or watch their competition, that are paying attention, take away customers.  They have to know that in this new online era that they truly have to go above and beyond when it comes to customer service.  If you are a business that needs some help with online publicity or even an evaluation of your place of business, then please visit here.

I will leave you with some quotes from Gary:

“Stop age discrimination in the tasting room because that 24 year old will go and blog about what kind of douche bags you are and no one will buy your wine.”

“Service industry is really going to start feeling these impacts.”

korbel’s lack of an online plan.

Just a day after reading about a friend’s lack of acknowledgment at Napa sparkling wine maker Domain Chandon, I was asked by a friend of mine to visit the Korbel tasting room to pick up some Zinfandel (yes, Korbel does make some wine).

I tweeted about my experience, briefly saying that

Korbel doesn’t get a lot of wine bloggers. Staff didn’t know what I was talking about.


When I asked the older tasting room attendant if she ever gets any wine bloggers in the tasting room, I was greeted with not only a blank stare, but she almost looked insulted like I was speaking to her in a different language that she was supposed to figure out.  She asked me what a blogger was and when I told her it was a person who wrote about wine online, she still continued her blank stare and simply said no.

Okay fine, this tasting room person was clearly a different generation and my experience was mediocre enough to not give it a second thought afterward.    Expect I live in a world that is centered around the internet and my mind was on the Domain Chandon experience that I just missed out on.  Interesting enough — several hours after tweeting about my experience, and even drinking a bottle of their zin at home (saying it was pretty good) I read an article in the Press Democrat about how Korbel is suing Comcast to make Comcast identify “internet customers” who criticized the wine company on Craigslist.

Without turning this post into a debate over freedom of speech or even talking about what was said about Korbel on the postings (read about that in the article), I will say that I think Korbel is going about this all wrong.

This incident happened a year ago and I remember reading it in the Press Democrat, not really thinking too much about it.  Untrue (or possibly true) and unflattering things are said about brands online and offline everyday.  While I do agree that those who said the slanderous allegations should not be allowed to remain anonymous…  It is how a brand handles the negative PR that matters.  I think if Korbel simply dismissed the allegations as false than I wouldn’t be here talking about them or my experience in the tasting room (they were playing the Bodyguard soundtrack from the early 90′s).  Instead their reaction to the allegations was to sue Comcast to get the names of the people who created the postings, just so they can sue them for slander.  This is not a good PR move, it makes them look guilty and it brings on more negative attention.

This got me thinking about Korbel and if they even have an online strategy….  It isn’t like I hear that much about Korbel within the wine-blogging community and in my daily marketing promotions emails.  Their website, though saying brand new, is already out of date and to have their flash version open in another screen is not only unnecessary, it is annoying.


It is interesting that their site has a forum that currently isn’t working.  Their Perfect Proposal Promotion link is currently not working as well.

Altogether, my perceived image of them is that they are out of date, and Korbel people, if you are reading this (which I hope you are because it means you at least have done something right online aka Google Alerts) these are not allegations, just one person’s experience at your beautiful, yet boring tasting room.   I am a fan, especially of your blanc de noir sparkling wine.  And, hey, if you need some online publicity help, call me…  It is what I do.

why you should hire a freelancer.

I was just recently asked by a winemaker friend of mine if I have any marketing agency recommendations for him.  After he told me he was looking for an agency to create a print ad, my first question to him was why he wanted an agency to do this for him when it would be much cheaper and faster to hire a freelance graphic artist to create an amazing print ad for him.

His reaction to my question was that he hadn’t thought about that and he wasn’t sure how to go about finding the right person to help him out.

This comment got me thinking about local photographer/creative director/social elite Todd Brilliant’s new project the Creative Job Agency and the large number of freelance creative people I know around the area.

The CREATIVE JOB AGENCY will position itself as “LinkedIn for Creatives,” only with a real-world social element that will help form and cement critical professional relationships.

What is great about this “agency” is that it allows like-minded creative people to network, online and offline to discuss work opportunities and possible collaborations.   It is a great opportunity to meet freelancers and build up your list of recommended graphic artists, website developers, pr people, etc.  What it doesn’t do is get the word out to other, non-creative businesses and people who might be looking for our services.  That is up to us.

My current side business (still in initial start up phase) is social media and public relations focused, which is not a discipline that local businesses usually think to use when budgeting their marketing dollars.   This means it is up to me to get out into the community to let them know that I am available to help them cheaply market their brands online.  I currently am doing this by networking with business owners and other creative people, linking businesses that might not need my services with other freelance people that can currently help them.

Other reasons a freelance PR/Marketing/Website person might be the best answer for you*

  1. Price -  Freelancers do not have the same overhead as agencies, which means it costs less for them to create
  2. Attention – More personal attention because they have less clients
  3. Localized services – Help keep freelancers in business and they will continue to live in Sonoma County and help out the economy instead of moving away to work at agencies in the big cities
  4. Talent -The lack of work  in agencies means that talented people (like me) are doing more side work

So before you go looking for a Sonoma County agency, ask yourself if you know anyone who might know a freelancer that could help you out.

*Sorry to agencies I have previously had worked for or will work for in the future.  I am not discounting the work that any Agency does, but during economic hardships, I think that freelance work is the better choice, especially for smaller businesses.

social media can help sonoma county businesses through the downturn.

Yesterday two more stories were in the Press Democrat about Sonoma County businesses laying off people and cutting back on production.  Agilent Technologies and one of my favorite food brands, Amy’s Kitchen, both have been hit hard by the recession.  Both companies say they are cautiously optimistic about the future.  This got me thinking that it may be hard to stay optimistic when reading these articles (and the many others), but if you look at this era as an opportunity, then you can be optimistic about the future.

Even though hard working people are being laid off every single day, the downtime allows people to assess their situation and do something about it. As Scott Ginsberg, motivational speaker and business blogger says in a recent article titled How to Dance in the Rain of Our Current Economic Storm:

Take advantage of your downtime to accomplish projects and activities you wouldn’t be able to do if you were booked solid.  With this approach, you’ll probably end up accomplishing more than ever…

In tough times, one still has to believe that hard work, dedication, creativity and persistence will (hopefully) prevail.   I am lucky to have inspiration from my father who owns a carpet store in Santa Rosa.  Many other carpet stores are closing down because of lack of sales, but my dad has managed to not only stay afloat, he is actually still doing relatively well.  When this recession ends and consumers start having more confidence to start buying products, he will be the one they will buy carpet from because he will still be around.

Will your business be around at to see the rainbow at the end of the storm?   What?  Too cheesy?  How about will your business stay afloat after the hurricane?

One thing that Sonoma County businesses can do to help make sure that they stay afloat is to invest in Social Media Marketing.   An unfortunate trend I am seeing at both the national and local level is that brands are cutting back on most or all of their marketing budgets to save some money.  This is fine, if you want your competition to hog the spotlight and take away your business.  But, if you want to stay relevant and keep your brand on top of mind when consumers do get their purchasing confidence back, then you need to keep on reminding them that you are still here.

Top Reasons Sonoma County businesses should use Social Media Marketing to publicize their brand online:

  1. It is cost effective
  2. It provides national coverage (especially great in such a touristy place such as this)
  3. It can improve SEO rankings and website traffic
  4. You can be responsive to negative comments (as well as thank those with positive comments)
  5. It also provides the opportunity to connect with other members of your community

Chris Brogan, Social Media guru has an awesome post back in October of 2008 on using social media to help you get through the economic downturn.

New Media Type, a Web 2.0 blog explains that Social Media Marketing is sometimes the first to be cut because of the unknown but that it shouldn’t be.

zinful zap events: the grand tasting.

Saturday was the big ZAP event – The Grand Zinfandel Tasting!  According to my favorite wine geek and partner in wine glass breaking, Ward of WineLog Blog aka DrXeno:

“Over 275 wineries, 400 wines, countless other food and wine specialists and 10,000 attendees will be participating”

Judging from what I saw from my bird’s eye view of only one half of the event, I believe it.  As I was taking my pictures one person noted that this year is one of the ZAP event’s slower years.


No matter the amount of people, I know I was extremely thankful to be there.  Being a Sonoma County girl, I know the power that the Zin (especially Dry Creek Valley) has on people.  Even though it is still my second favorite varietal, it is still a great wine to drink on it’s own or paired with great hearty food — Great for the Winter time.

The reason I was able to enjoy this grand tasting was because of Lisa of Hahn Wine Estates aka WineDiverGirl who introduced me to the “Bloggers Lounge” organizer, Wine 2.0.  An online company and social network dedicated to social media and events in the wine world.  Wine 2.0 allowed us bloggers to come to the Grand Tasting and enjoy the free wifi, networking opportunities and to have a place to sit back and gather our thoughts of the event.

The wineries were split up into two different rooms based in alphabetical order.   I stayed in the I though Z room for the most part, highly concentrated on the T section.

The reason: Truett Hurst Winery, their three zinfandel’s, one pinot noir, one petite sirah, owner Phil Hurst and General Manager Jim Morris.  The Zins were a perfect balance of being bold without over powering the taste buds and the company was one of the most welcoming, friendly and humorous out of all wineries there.  It doesn’t hurt that they happened to be the only winery there that was on Twitter (please comment if I am wrong) – and we (Ashley, Ward and I) are all Twitter obsessed.


I sent this image to Twitter of us three with Jim.


An image I sent to Twitter saying that Truett Hurst “gets” Social Media: Truett Hurst is Everywhere.

Without naming names, I will say that some of the wineries that were there were semi to extremely close minded to the thought of social media.  Visiting as many wineries as I could, I talked to many of them about what they were doing online to promote their brand.  Most of the response to my question was “What is Twitter?” or “I do not know how to start” or “No, we don’t believe in that.”  Needless to say, I took all their business cards and have sent an email letting them know I would love to speak to them more about the power of social media for brands.

I tweeted my frustration while at the event and my favorite response was from Penelope Gadd-Coster, owner and winemaker of Coral Mustang Winery.

“Most wineries don’t even blog, let alone do any social networking”

It reminds me of a past wine client and their CEO who thought that the internet was not where their customers where… This was a year ago…. So much has changed, yet so much remains the same.

I am just thankful to be in the presence of innovators such as the folks at Wine 2.0, fellow wine bloggers who I now call my friends and wineries such as Truett Hurst.

wine tasting as just one of the guys.

Recently I spent a day wine tasting throughout Dry Creek Valley.  True, I do this all the time, so it is not blog worthy. The difference is that this time I went with my two roommates and a friend of theirs from Chicago (for this blog post I shall call him Ed, because I like that name, and because it is his actual name).

Did I mention that all three of my wine tasting buddies are of the male species? Yes, a day of wine tasting with three guys.  Oh, and Ed doesn’t even like wine.

Our first stop was Turett Hurst Winery to visit Bob* in the tasting room and to check out the salmon in the creek (at Jim’s suggestion).

“Truett-Hurst Winery is Dry Creek Valley’s newest Biodynamic winery. Our commitment to earth-friendly stewardship is paramount and echoes throughout everything we do, from the scenic stretch of bucolic Dry Creek on which we reside, through the vineyards and tasting room.”

They just opened up a few months back and they are completely remodeling the place to be a sustainable farm slash awesome place to drink some wine and listen to music. I look forward to seeing the barn open up, bringing my niece and nephew to visit the sheep and have a few picnic’s on their lawn next summer.

*Bob was a gracious host. We drank great pinots and zins while Bob and the guys talked about music. It was definitely a great first experience into the wine realm for Ed. He even bought the 2006 Red Rooster Zinfandel.

dan (pic of one of my roommates)

Next we went to visit Ross at Bella Winery. Two years living in Healdsburg and I have yet to visit this beautiful venue.  It is probably because I tend to get stuck drinking wine with Amy at PappaPertrio Perry.


The entire wine cave at Bella was still decked out with Christmas trees that brought an instant smile to my face. The smell was exactly what I think of when I think of Christmas, and the great part was that it was combined with the smell of the oak wine barrels.

Here we tried 3 different zins and a syrah that I even liked. We attempted to show Ed the proper wine glass etiquette by explaining that the correct way to hold a wine glass is by the stem which does not interfere with the temperature of the wine.  It was amusing to see such a big guy attempt to hold the glass by the stem, it just looked so unnatural for him.  I left with a bottle of the 2005 Bella Vineyard Zinfandel.


During my brief period working at the lovely Kokomo Winery (yes, another one of our stops) Becky and I would be on the lookout for a group of guys wine tasting together. It was a rare occurrence for a group only consisting of guys to go out and taste wine together.  When it happened, we loved it though.  They definitely got a good amount of attention from us.

Though, since my adventure some of my questions that are been running through my head are:

  • Is a group of guys wine tasting not “macho” enough?
  • Are they like Ed holding the glass by the stem – Unnatural?

Is it just me that thinks this?

images from the wine blogging conference.

As I sit here and think about where I want to go with my post(s) about this past weekend at the Wine Bloggers Conference, I keep going back to some of the images that I took over the last three days (yes, when I remembered to bring my camera) and reminiscing on how great it was to meet wine peeps I have only talked to on twitter or facebook.

Though there is one SPECIFIC picture that I was asked not to show anyone, but all the rest are up and viewable on my Flickr stream.

A couple favorites:

Soon after everyone else gets home and sobers up, I am sure there will be many more.   Click on this one from Brittney from WineQ (aka Wine QT) so see the power of Twitter.  As of 11/5 this image has over 340 unique views!

Altogether, a great networking and educational conference (i.e., A SUCCESS).

happy pepper.

The first night of my Labor Day weekend was spent drinking Papapietro Perry pinot noir and making vegetarian tacos with one of my own personal favorite chefs, my friend John. We picked tomatoes and bell peppers from his garden to make the veggie kabobs (bell peppers and onions) and salsa. As John went to throw away the stem of this bell pepper, I noticed the happy face on it. Needless to say, I had to send it to TwitPic, and later to my “things that make me laugh” album on Facebook.

Since Labor Day is the last “hurrah” of the summer, this weekend got me thinking about the next season and my personal favorite – Autumn! As I say time and time again, it is the little things in life that make it all worth it. Having my birthday land on the very first day of my favorite time of year just adds the cream cheese frosting to my cupcake or the happy face to my bell pepper. I am a huge fan of simplicity. It is that one simple moment that something happens that you know YOU were meant to see. That one glimpse of the cute guy looking you up and down, the butterfly that chose to land on your hand when you were just about to scratch your nose, or that nature-made happy face on a bell pepper.

One of my favorite simplistic fall activities is finding the dried up oak leaves that just fell on the ground and stomping on them, making the crushing sound. When I find a huge pile of perfectly dry oak leaves and make my first jump, nothing else in the world matters, it is just me, my ears and the leaves.

So many other things to look forward to: stuffed squash, heirloom tomatos, Australian boys in town for Crush, carmel apples, Halloween, sweaters, Pumpkin Ale, pinot drinking weather, the smell in the air here in Healdsburg during Crush, Halloween costumes, my move to Alexander Valley on October 1st and most importantly my second annual black and white birthday bash.

new obession: cheese plate.

This obsession is actually a relatively new one for me, it started a year ago when my friend LoriAnn and I wanted to get cocktails at Barn Diva in Healdsburg.  We decided to order a cheese plate to soak up the alcohol we were drinking.  The appetizer had the staples that make up the typical cheese plate you see anywhere: blue cheese, a parmesan, another hard cheese and some goat cheese.

After we both realized the other’s passion for a single plate of cheese, we agreed that it was out “thing” to go on our cheese plate and wine dates. For the last year we will go on our “dates” to places around Healdsburg like Scopa, Charcuterie, Palette Art Cafe, Ravenous and Willie’s Seafood.  OK, we haven’t been to that many places but we are both of very different schedules which has not deterred our love for the cheeses.

We are planning on meeting soon to enjoy the cheese plate at Diavola, the new gourmet pizzeria in Geyerville, Ca (amazing beet salad) and then shortly after that we have a scheduled field trip to Pugs Leap Goat Cheese, located right in the middle of Dry Creek.

Watch out for more blogging and pictures on our cheese adventures.

healdsburg magazine and my now.

It has been a little over a week since my life was completely changed. Yes, I got laid-off. It has been a huge blow to my money situation as well as my sometimes overly exaggerated ego, but thanks to the support of friends both at Hamilton Partners and around Healdsburg, I have come to terms with my first (and hopefully only) lay-off.

The reasoning is as straightforward yet complex as it sounds. People don’t print as much as they used to, thus they buy less ink. Yes, many more factors are involved, but it is pretty simple. It is cost effective, sustainable and smart to not print as much no matter who you are or what you print. A simple theory…. The complex part is that this trend has been going on for sometime, yet some have been so obsessed with trying to figure out HOW to get people to print more that they never took the time to look or ask WHY?

Thankfully, this set back has made me realize what is important in life and it isn’t sitting at my desk staring at the computer until I can barley see straight anymore.

Part of my new plan: I already promote different Healdsburg events such as parties, concerts, art openings, wine tastings, etc., so why not try to turn event promotions and planning into a career.

For Healdsburg Magazine, I will be contributing content about local events in and around Healdsburg, populating and promoting the What’s Happening calendar and promoting the site via different social media outlets such as Facebook, Twitter and Flickr.

As my last post described, Healdsburg Magazine is an Online New Media magazine that discusses real life in Healdsburg, including reviews of local restaurants, retail stores and wineries.

Please take a look, and let me know what you think at: 


a day in the life of a healdsburg local.

For the last three days I have made Palette Art Café my latest stomping ground to do my everyday online activities. Today started off dedicated to writing a blog post about my life as of Monday morning (link to post to come) but as I got up to grab my soy mocha, I came across a flyer announcing an event for Healdsburg Magazine.

The event: A Day in the Life of Healdsburg: 19 July 2008

Healdsburg Magazine…. WHAT is this, WHY haven’t I heard about it and WHO came up with such a great idea to capture the beauty and personality that our little town has in one day??

My eyes lit up….. Is this flyer a sign that Healdsburg is where I should stay to pursue my next chapter of my life (once again, link to post to come). I had to check out HealdburgMagazine.com.

The site is a newly created new media magazine dedicated to life, food, wine, events and business in Healdsburg, Ca.

I believe it definitely has the potential to help bring Healdsburg into the new millennium (i.e., creating active participants within an online community). The creator of this site, Jennifer, seems to know about SEO and using social media to market a site.  As some may know, I am just starting to attempt to get Healdsburg online, so news that someone else wants to do the same thing gets me very excited.

The event in more detail: On Saturday July 19th, 2008 Healdsburg Magazine is asking all locals or visitors in Healdsburg to take a minute of their day to capture their experience.

“Just record being in Healdsburg”

  • If you video it, create a short video of your experience and email a link to the video
  • If you photograph it, send in the photograph with details about who, where, when, and how
  • If you blog it, just blog it and send the link to your blog
  • If you use audio, send in your audio clips
  • Or, just call and leave a voice mail. 707-477-2528

I will definitely be participating in this event, as well as telling everyone I know in Healdsburg that day to do the same. I also look forward to seeing what Healdsburg Magazine has in store for the future.

roshambo tournament: a sucess.

This past Saturday was roshambo winery’s annual rock, paper, scissors tournament held at their awesome tasting room, currently in Sonoma, CA.

There is so much that could be said about this event, but after seeing some of the pictures that I ended up with on my friend Lizzy’s communal camera, I was speechless so I will allow my pictures to do the talking.

I think these pictures sum up my experience very nicely.

The party bus that drove us from Healdsburg to the tasting room.

I won my first round, alas, my victory was short lived, I guess, not enough THUNDER was brought.

Mike Smith, the roshambo winemaker, me, a few friends and two disturbed clowns

Mike Smith again and me with the wineinterview.com wine puppet.


oh, and apparently there is a video of me playing, if anyone sees it, please let me know.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.