28 Feb 2010
“My wife died for no damn good reason. It’s time to do something about this.” – Budge Brown, Owner of Cleavage Creek
At an age when most men have earned the right to retire, 77 year old Budge bought the Cleavage Creek label with one goal – fight breast cancer. After his wife of 48 years passed away, Brown was “mad as hell and not going to take it anymore.” Every year 40,000 women die of breast cancer and 130,000 are diagnosed. The passionate act of making wine has led to over $73,000 in donations to Oncology Research Centers, medication, and financial help for women struggling to survive.
Many of you come to DrinkNectar for wine reviews and this is a wine review of three Cleavage Creek wines. Life is more than wine. Life is about connecting with people and making a difference and leaving a legacy. Cleavage Creek donates $1.50 from every bottle sold. Drinking wine can actually make a difference in a woman’s life. Chances are, as you are reading this, you can think of someone who has been touched by breast cancer, maybe you’ve even lost someone close to you. You can relate to Budge’s passionate anger toward finding a cure.
I was first introduced to Cleavage Creek when they agreed to participate in my Wineries on Twitter Series. Their use of Social Media is a model to be followed. They connect, their social, and they rarely promote. They are using the power of the social world to spread the great word about their wine and their mission. With vineyards in Napa Valley (20 acres) and Tracy Hills (20 acres), Cleavage Creek has a vast selection of estate wines, reserve releases and blends.
On the label of each Cleavage Creek wine is the picture of a breast cancer survivor. Their story of struggle, courage, and hope can be found at the Cleavage Creek Web Site. Terrie, who graces the bottle of 2008 Chardonnay, was diagnosed in 2004. After a long painful battle, including a Mastectomy and several surgeries, Terrie is a survivor! “I don’t take anything for granted and I thank my Creator every day for all of my blessings. Dealing with breast cancer was a horrible experience but I emerged a more positive, appreciative person. I am thankful for the incredible people I have in my life. They are my angels. My life is blessed and I know it.”
Yes, this is a wine review, but more than that, it’s a humanity review. In my book, Budge and the folks at Cleavage Creek score a Best in Show, Double Gold and 100 point score for their efforts!
2008 Tracy Hills Chardonnay
- The Stuff: 100% Estate Chardonnay from Tracy Hills AVA, CA – 8 Months in new French oak; 225 cases
- The Swirl: Golden Wheat colored with less “viscosity” than some Chardonnay
- The Sniff: Interesting to find a predominate melon (no pun intended) and citrus aroma with hints of smoky vanilla. Not a strong nose, but very pleasing
- The Sip: Classic Chardonnay thickness on the front palate with a gentle flavor of vanilla and nut. The melon flavor is very mild (maybe like a Honeydew Melon). The acid is light on the back end.
- The Score: At $18, this is an above average Chardonnay and the price point is good. I score it a 3 (out of 5). The flavor was nice but lacked depth and dimension.
2007 Tracy Hills Shiraz-Merlot
- The Stuff: While the label says Shiraz, the blend is actually 67% Syrah and 33% Merlot. 230 Cases
- The Swirl: Very dark and inky, opaque and ominous looking
- The Sniff: As described in the video, the fruit seemed to be playing hide-n-seek with a tree. There was a distinct woodiness and moderate fruit play. The typical Syrah spice was downplayed (probably because of the Merlot).
- The Sip: The wine needed to breathe. The initial sip felt like an all out assault on my mouth. In the video, you can tell I was not super pleased with the presentation. DAY TWO provided a great experience. The wine opened up very nicely with a beautiful blackberry / dark cherry flavor and the tannins on the back end were much more palatable presenting a nice finish. Strongly encouraged to decant this wine.
- The Score: At first sip, I was going to score this a 2 (out of 5) because of the bold tartness that seemed to overwhelm. My enjoyment on day two lifts the score to a 3+ (out of 5). For $18, this is a nicely balanced Syrah (after decanting) that provided a good structure of fruit, spice, and finish.
2007 Tracy Hills Secret Red
- The Stuff: There is no disclosure of the blending of this wine (hence the secret) – my guess would be predominately Cabernet Sauvignon with Merlot and Syrah (or Zinfandel); 400 cases produced
- The Swirl: The color is what I like to describe as a rusty purple, similar to what you might find with an aged wine or a Cabernet.
- The Sniff: The fruit raises his hand from the back of the class and says, “Hello, I’m here and I’d like you to meet my friends cocoa and cinnamon.” This is a nice mildly aromatic wine, not overwhelming but nice.
- The Sip: At first taste this wine was my favorite of the three tasted (although after the day two showing of the Shiraz-Merlot it is close). The structure seemed to be a dance between the cherry and a cinnamon / pepper spice on the front. As the pair danced away, the mouth was met with a two note melody of cocoa and oak. The tannins were mild and the acidity was balanced. Nice sipping wine that would hold well to pork or a chicken with a red sauce.
- The Score: Also at $18 this is a 3+ (out of 5). The mild aroma holds this back from being a 4. At $18, it’s a sure bet to please most casual wine drinkers and connoisseurs.
The cause if phenomenal, the story is inspiring, and the wine does not disappoint. I couldn’t more highly recommend a wine to support and enjoy. Your mouth will enjoy and your heart will swell with pride.
28 Feb 2010
Today’s post has little to do with wine, and more to do with life…enjoy!
33.2 miles from my doorsteps as a winter wonderland that I’ve neglected for seven years. With life, work, wine and other business adventures and hobbies the winter months have become an exercise in surviving till spring than enjoying the beauty that surrounds the Pacific Northwest.
My step-son has been snowboarding since he was 9. It is an activity that he does with his dad. From time to time he’s expressed interested in going with me, but timing has never worked out. He’s turning 13 soon. When talking about what he wanted for his birthday, he said, “I want Josh to take me snowboarding.” Not a party? Not a sleep-over? Needless to say I was stoked…and scared. Spending 8 hours with a teenage boy is a little like spending 8 hours with a crazy monkey hyped up on sugar.
I rented my skis, packed the Jeep, and we made the 48 minute journey to the top of Mt. Spokane. The video camera came along because his mom has never seen him snowboard either and she couldn’t come with us. After getting my bearings with a few Bode Miller-esque downhill runs (it’s amazing how the muscle memory remains), the camera came out to film Ian.
When the camera came on, Ian immediately went in to “Welcome to Drink Nectar.com, I am your host…” – It was hilarious and unscripted. From there we put together this video montage of the five senses of snowboarding (and skiing). The best way to end any perfect day on the slopes is with a glass of wine. Ever seen a 13 year old give his best swirl and sniff (no sipping involved)?
The wine featured in this video is a 2007 Cleavage Creek Secret Red. Look for this in Episode 38 of DrinkNectar.com
26 Feb 2010
No child should live with the fear of death. No child should die with unfulfilled dreams. The Wishing Star foundation is one of the true heroes of this world, providing hope and fulfilling dreams to children who live with the impending threat and stress of terminal illness. These young children live their lives with thoughts of doctor’s visits, tests, pain, and medication. The Wishing Star Foundation helps to fulfill dreams of vacations, room makeovers, trips to Disneyworld, Hollywood experiences, and meeting famous people. As individuals in Spokane (and across the internet) it may seem overwhelming for us to do our part. How can we help?
Taste Spokane is an event to support! For four hours on a Friday, you can enjoy Spokane wine, local food, and bid on fabulous auction items. Your $20 ($25 at the door) goes to help fund the wishes of these beautiful children.
Coordinator Taryn Erickson got involved with Wishing Star after a family friend, who was a “wish child” passed away. She watched the miracles first hand and was compelled to be involved. Spokane has 40+ active wishes including 21 year old Andrew who has a rare cancer of the bone. Andrew was diagnosed as a teenager and has given up school, college, job to fight this monster into remission. Your attendance can help fulfill his wish!
This year’s Taste Spokane includes a wider selection of food and wine vendors. Visit the web site (linked below) for a complete list. Please join Wishing Star and DrinkNectar.com in support of helping fulfill these children’s whishes.
When: Friday, March 5 from 6-10 p.m.
Where: Northern Quest Casino (discounted room rates available)
Cost: $20 in advance and $25 at the door
25 Feb 2010
The goal of this series is to connect with wineries and wine business that use Social Media (Twitter and Facebook) effectively. These interviews can serve as a catalyst to help other wineries and wine businesses to see the benefits (and pitfalls) of joining the social revolution. Click http://drinknectar.com/tag/wineries-on-twitter/ to view all interviews.
How long have you been using Twitter?
I’ve been on Twitter since Sept. 2008 – my how the time flies! I actually had to Google search ‘how to find out when you joined Twitter’ to get this answer. Not a good sign – do the questions get harder?
What prompted you to dive in?
I’m an addict for new technologies and with all the media coverage on Twitter, it looked like it was here to stay. Now look at it – something like 600 tweets per second?
What type of strategy or approach do you use when posting content?
I look at Twitter as just one more way for us to interact with our fans – the keyword there is interact. It’s tempting to just scream offers and news from the rooftops but it’s much more enjoyable when you get to know your Twitter fans. It’s amazing who is following you!
What have been the benefits of using Twitter/Facebook? (increased traffic, increased brand awareness, customer connection, etc)
Brand awareness and interaction is the goal for me. If someone buys your wine, enjoys it, and tosses the bottle, that’s where the interaction stops. If this same customer does a simple Google search for the winery and finds a great way to interact with the winery (enter Twitter & Facebook) then that experience is strengthened.
Is there a single success story that you can point to with using Twitter/Facebook?
Oh, there are tons! My favorites are the customers who find our wines out in the market and tweet about how much they enjoyed it. For such a small brand like LangeTwins, it’s really cool to see where people are finding our wines and what they think of them. On the flip side, if they don’t like it, Twitter and Facebook give you a line of communication to have a dialogue with that customer – that’s vital.
What do you think is the single biggest barrier to why we don’t see more wineries actively using Social Media tools?
I think the biggest barrier is time – most family wineries like ours are running 110% all year long. It’s fun, but incredibly consuming. I’ve made social media (blog, Twitter, FB) a priority because I see the value in it, and, I enjoy it! But it took a bit for everyone @ LangeTwins to come around.
What advice would you give to wineries joining the stream or getting back into the stream?
Jump. Pour yourself a glass of wine some night and spend 30mins browsing around Facebook and Twitter. Then watch that 30mins turn into 3hrs! Now you’re hooked.
Briefly tell us about your winery, a new release, or something unique about you?
We’re a multi-generational family owned winery that crafts wine from sustainably grown winegrapes. As a 5th generation family farmer in Lodi, California, it’s important to preserve the land we farm for future generations. From using solar panels to produce green energy to restoring native habitat areas amongst our vineyards, we take an all-encompassing approach to sustainability.
New release? Nice timing! We are just releasing our Proprietary Tier of wines, which are limited individual lot selections sourced from our favorite vineyards. Our initial release is a 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and a 2008 Chardonnay. The wine label was chosen by our fans on Facebook and our blog! Talk about a social media wine…
What is your favorite rock band and why?
Oh man – I am probably going to be ousted by the family now. Metallica! Since I was a kid, they’ve always stayed in my Top 5 (well, there was a rough patch there with Load/Reload) and Dec 08 my wife surprised me with concert tickets. It was insane. Their last album, Death Magnetic, is amazing. *changes Pandora station to Metallica*
24 Feb 2010
The Tipping Point of a Maturing Wine Blog
Anyone who holds his breath waiting for the ad revenue tipping point to tip is going to suffocate. – Steve Heimoff; Wine Enthusiast Magazine
“Basically the whole wine blog world is like the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, a whole bunch of loudmouths trying to shout over each other, only less dressy.” – Ron Washam; Hosemaster of Wine
Recently, two articles surfaced that have caused quite a bit of angst and swirl in the wine world. Each seem to undercut the viability and influence of a wine blog. At the risk of getting “hosed” I step lightly into this post, mostly wanting to provide the counter punch (or maybe that’s just counter flick at my level) to these articles.
While I respect the writing and insight that both of these men provide to the wine world, at the risk of offending, I can offer this, “Those with their head in the sand have their ass in the air.”
Heimoff’s post focuses on ad revenue (or lack thereof) and asserts that most wine bloggers will never make any money blogging. I’ve gone through several responses in my mind to this post. One was “how dare he,” two was, “he may be on to something,” and finally third, “don’t keep your head in the sand too long.” While the post focuses on the lack of a rush toward online ad revenue for wine bloggers, the underlying insinuation (read through the comments too) is that wine bloggers have little influence to warrant any ad revenue. I’ll address this misconception further in the post.
Many of Mr. Heimoffs’ points are right on about the speed in which dollars are migrating online, however I think it’s important to keep in mind the youth of the wine blog. As wine blogging matures quality will rise to the top. Niche blogs will develop that focus on regions and or specific wine varietals. As the collective pool of information, opinion, and reviews grow, so will the consuming traffic. Content quality and data centralization will be huge. Wineries are being exposed to great new tools that allow them to capture and calculate the mention of their brand online which will result in focused marketing efforts.
The move toward online dollars is slowed for the wine industry for a few reasons; wine is a specialized industry (meaning not everyone drinks wine – yet); distribution laws hinder national and global brand awareness; and most winery owners are not marketers by trade, they are farmers.
Ad dollars are not migrating online.
Ad dollars are not going to migrate online anytime soon.
There is no tipping point.
Just ain’t gonna happen anytime. – From Steve Heimoff
Marketing dollars ARE migrating out of print media (take a look at the cemetery of newspapers and circulation magazines). This trend WILL hit specialized print magazines in the future. It may not happen in 2010, 2011 or 2012 but the trend will continue to trickle down to niche magazines. Print media that survives will be the ones that adapt to incorporate a strong online and social presence with its readers.
Heimoff’s stance also teeters on the misconception that wine bloggers are in it for the money.
From Steve’s Bio: Steve pondered his twin passions of writing and wine, earnestly contemplating how he could combine the two interests in order to be gainfully employed. Taking a major leap of faith, Steve set out to become a wine writer.
This sentiment is echoed hundred-fold across the wine bloggersphere. The majority seeks to combine passions of writing and wine. Some will make money (through events, ad revenue, speaking, syndicated writing, books, etc), but the majority will continue to combine those passions for the same reason there are blogs tracking the mating habits of the Peruvian Water-Beetle…it’s a passion that people want to share. As Steve experienced great success with his leap of faith, is it too much to ask to support others (through success or failure) who attempt the same.
Now, on to the Hosemaster piece in the SF Chronicle; I usually wouldn’t devote any server space or brain power rebutting someone who devotes his time to heckling people. I respect his place in the online world and actually enjoy reading his humorous, exaggerative, narcissistic posts. However, when a large “news” (used loosely) organization devotes ink to such opinions, I’m slightly unnerved. To Derrick Schneider’s credit, he did bring in two sides of the opinion. Steve’s basic snarky premise is that wine bloggers have no influence and that we’re all a bunch of attention seeking, wine grubbing winos attempting to take our jabs at the establishment.
My foray into the wine blogging world is quite young (going on four months). I interact with quite a few bloggers. My observation and is that 98% of them take their work seriously. Their desire is to provide a value add resource for their followers – whether that is their immediate family or 10,000 people a day. While the writing quality varies from the moderately average (see the author you’re currently reading) to the down-right inspirational (see 1WineDude, Good Grape, Vinology, etc) these folks are making a marked difference. While a 4+ score from DrinkNectar.com may not “register on the radar” nationally – I have irrefutable proof that a winery interview with DrinkNectar.com doubled a winery websites visits for the week, thus increasing brand awareness. The cost to the winery – 1 hour of time.
Additional influences that I can speak to are the local awareness of wineries and the wine scene in Texas by Vinotology and in Phoenix by Weekly Wine Journal and Arizona Grape Escapes. A little grass roots event in February drew hundreds of people together online and in tasting rooms across California promoting California Cabernet. In interviews with five wineries on Twitter, each speaks to the increased brand awareness they receive by interacting with and even sending samples to bloggers. Can this influence be measured in direct case sales? I think it’s far greater AND it’s only just beginning. To Tom Wark’s point in the article “wine bloggers have about the same influence as wine writers, none.” But, as I mentioned above, as bloggers specialize, develop niche brands, as information repositories centralize (i.e. Cellar Tracker / Grape Stories and Cork’d), and social media forums like Twitter and Facebook explode the potential for influence is far greater than all print magazines combined.
In closing, I say – Bring it on Hosemaster!