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:
- To show Thea’s mom some of her favorite wines and wine people.
- To visit new wineries we haven’t been to.
- 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.
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
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.
Everyone who is “online” knows all about what Tony Hsieh the CEO of Zappos is doing via Twitter to create a brand personality based on human interaction and honestly.
Just today, I read a great article about Bill Taylor‘s visit to the Zappos headquarters in Las Vegas in which he describes what new employees have to go through to work there.
Zappos hires new employees, provides a four-week training period that immerses them in the company’s culture.
Then, a week into training, Zappos offers them $1,000 to quit…. Why? According to the article, it is because if the employee takes the money, then they are not the type of person they want working there anyways….
Coming from an ex-Starbucks employee, I can easily say that other companies in the customer service industry need to pay attention to what Zappos is doing. Their obsession with customer service has turned them into a billion dollar company. Their continuation of their free shipping , easy to use 800 number and free return service is a welcome change from Best Buys’ new policy of not being able to return items when you lost your receipt and paid cash or numerous amount of time spent on hold with AT&T.
My favorite quotes from the article:
“So the value proposition is a winner. But it’s the emotional connection that seals the deal.”
“Companies don’t engage emotionally with their customers—people do.”