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

Posts tagged “Wine Country

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.

barrel_1-080

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!


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.

customer-service

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.”


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.

zap-view

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.

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

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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.


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