Smith-Madrone winery has been making estate grown and bottled wine for 40 years! Founded in 1971 by brothers Stu and Charles Smith, Smith-Madrone makes about 4000 cases per year farmed from their 200 acre ranch in St Helena California. A visit to the winery will always be accompanied by a tour from one of the Smith brothers.
In 2010, Stu Smith became somewhat of a wine world personality with the launching of his www.biodynamicsisahoax.com web site. From the opening paragraph of the web site:
“I challenge any Biodynamic farmer or supporter to defend the writings of Rudolf Steiner. I submit that if you believe in science you cannot believe in Biodynamics, and the corollary is just as true, if you believe in Biodynamics you cannot believe in science. As you can tell by the title I believe that Biodynamics is a hoax and deserves the same level of respect the scientific community has for witchcraft, voodoo and astrology.”
I’m a fan of sustainable and responsible growing and distribution of wine and do not claim to be an expert on the subject but the practices of bull horns and cow manure don’t seem to have any bearing on quality grapes. So, this post isn’t about biodynamics…It’s about two Smith-Madrone wines. If you want to know more about biodynamics (and Stu’s view) click the video from Cork’d.
- The Stuff: 100% estate grown Riesling. The 2009 growing season resulted in the lowest Riesling yield in Smith-Madrone history. With only 302 cases produced the bone dry Riesling comes in at 12.9%ABV
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, almost colorless with just hints of golden straw
- The Sniff: Amazingly vibrant nose that explodes with aromas of apple, pear and a nice minerality. This wine makes my mouth water with ever sniff.
- The Sip: Quality Riesling through and through. A wonderful kiss of sweet Asian pear graces the front of the tongue accompanied by a balanced tart citrus on the mid palate. Wonderful flavor profile with outstanding acidity and a balanced finish.
- The Score: At $27, this is more than I would spend without having had some experience or strong recommendation for this wine. So, here it is…if you’re a Riesling lover, you will like this wine. 4/5
- The Stuff: 100% big bold and bombastic Napa Valley Chardonnay. Aged for 11 months in 70% new French oak. 14.4% ABV, 790 cases produced
- The Swirl: Very light in the glass, lacks the traditional yellow gold color one comes to expect from Chardonnay.
- The Sniff: Immediately get a blast of cedar, smoke and earth. The nose has to really dig deep to catch a whiff of the granny smith apple. A nice minerality starts to present itself upon a second visit.
- The Sip: I’m a fan of slightly oaked Chardonnay and this one delivers on that front. The fruit seems to be a little more hidden than I would have initially liked. After the video review I enjoyed this wine with an Indian Curry based dish and it really came alive. The mouth feel was thick without being overly exaggerated. The presentation of the mineral acidity on the finish was a nice touch.
- The Score: At $30, I enjoyed the wine, but I preferred the 2007 vintage. Give this one a try in the tasting room if you think you’ll be on the fence at that price. 3/5
More from Smith-Madrone Winery
25 Jan 2011
Staying ahead of marketing trends is important. As a new business owner consumed with two thoughts; 1) how do I get people through the door, and 2) how do I give them the best possible experience when they arrive, I have a new appreciation for marketing trends and their potential uses at Nectar Tasting Room. There are smart people that get paid a great deal of money to offer analysis and recommendation to businesses on their marketing strategies. I am not one of them. Over the years of marketing at church, at a top global bank, and now with the magazine and tasting room, I’ve made two valuable observations:
- People want to be connected – People love to be a small part of something big. This is a testimony to the power of the “like” button on Facebook or “following” a business on Twitter.
- People want an experience – You can go to a winery and taste wine and leave or you can go to a winery and interact with the winemaker, take a tour of the facility, taste directly from the barrel and walk away with a memory and an experience.
I’m always looking for the power of connection that can bring people in the door and the engaging experience that keeps them coming back. Here is a look at three (not the only three or the best three…just three) marketing trends to watch for 2011.
Location Based Marketing
Do you Foursquare? Do you use Facebook Places? I’ve asked these questions of people as they come in the tasting room the last three weeks. Using my scientific formula I would guesstimate that about 10% of the people who come in have heard of Foursquare and about 3.28% actually use it. In my opinion, sites like Gowalla, Foursquare, Scvngr, and the new king, Facebook Places are barely scratching the surface of potential. With barely 20% of the world using smart phones, the potential growth is staggering.
Location based marketing has several great benefits. It creates loyalty and connection. It adds to a customer’s experience. It shares with all of their friends / fans / followers that they have been to your business thus increasing your potential marketing impressions. You can offer deals, reward loyalty, create challenges, and share information with people who check in (varies depending on application).
With Facebook’s entry into the game, 600 million users now have potential access to check in, savings, tagging and sharing. Foursquare continues to plug along with their model and maintains the lead in overall use but rest assure that as Facebook ramps up marketing and enhancements to the application, Foursquare may struggle to survive. Services like Scvngr offer a ray of excitement as businesses can add challenges or tasks to perform and can connect with other businesses to create a scavenger hunt type experience.
P.S. Check in at Nectar Tasting Room – They mayor gets a complimentary tasting bar flight and new check ins get $1 off of glass pours.
How can these funny little box codes make a dent in the marketing world? According to Wikipedia, QR Codes are a specific matrix barcode (or two-dimensional code), readable by dedicated QR barcode readers and camera phones. The code consists of black modules arranged in a square pattern on a white background. The information encoded can be text, URL or other data.
Businesses can use a simple (and free) QR Code generator that can point people to specific information about a product, web site, or event page. Why not point people to the page where you can actually BUY the product. Any user with a camera ready smart phone can take a picture of the QR Code and have instant access to the information. Mobile marketing…mobile connection…mobile experience. A recent article on Enobytes.com goes as far as to say…
“I see QR codes exploding in the industry. It’s a marketing tool not fully being utilized in the wine business. It is the future of marketing, but it will take a considerable amount of effort for wineries and others to embrace it.”
While I don’t agree entirely with the prediction (explanation later), I do think the QR Code is an intriguing way of marketing specific information to a limited demographic. The problem with claiming QR Codes as “the future of marketing” is it assumes an easy adoption. Not only does a user have to have a smart phone, they have to download an app to recognize the picture AND it assumes that the person even knows what they are supposed to do with it. QR Codes will play a short term role in marketing and they are a fun and innovative way to share information. At Nectar Tasting Room, I plan on implementing them on our table toppers and maybe even in the front window (for our hours and Facebook page).
Group Buying Coupons
Everyone loves a deal. Get $20 worth of tacos for $10. Save 50% on clothes from Macy’s. Engaging customers through group buying deals, (Groupon, Living Social, Deal Planet, etc) has come on strong during the great recession. Merchants are looking for customers and cash flow, and customers are looking for deals. Groupon is so popular that Google offered to pay 6 BILLION to acquire them. A quick pulse check in every major (and minor) metro area across the US will reveal hundreds of Groupon copy cats.
A testament to the power of Groupon (and also a warning) – Prior to launch I did a Groupon for Nectar Tasting Room. I knew enough to know that I couldn’t support a discount on wine. Groupon asks for a minimum of 50% off on a product and then takes 50% of the actual sale price. Offering $50 worth of wine for $25 would mean that I would actually receive $12.50 for each Groupon sold. While cash flow may be good, the potential marketing cost could be high, especially if I didn’t have a way to capture any data on those purchases.
I chose to do a Groupon for my club membership, Club Nectar. The normal cost for the frequency based annual membership is $75. We offered the Groupon at $35 and sold 120 of them. The actual cost of the product on my end is $0 (although the potential for frequent users could certainly stress the costs), so to offer them at $35 seemed appropriate. Starting the business with 120 people who are incented to visit on a regular basis has proven to be a wonderful surprise. The added benefit is the capture of each of these member’s email addresses for added follow up and connection.
Several marketing trends are playing out for 2011. In my opinion, keep your eye on these. They could be great avenues for increased connection and customer experience.
18 Jan 2011
Remember when you first fell in love? This weekend I was reminded of what it was like to explore wine for the first time. Do you remember you first wine experience? Think back to the explosion of flavor, the romance, the mystery…and the excitement of the unknown. Do you sniff then swirl, or is it sip, then sniff? What is a Rose? What is the all the fuss?
Saturday I experienced the joy of helping two people through their first wine tasting. Both ladies were brought in by their wine loving friends and both were so excited for their first experience. There was nervousness and an anticipation that accompanied the fear of the unknown. Think back to a first date. These are the feelings and emotions that seemed to explode out of first time wine explorers.
The Joy of the First Time
The first kiss, the first car, the first touch, the first sip; each imparts a memory that will not soon be forgotten. I remember my first time. I was 16 and the night was hot and passionate. The windows of the car were getting steamy…
…uh, oops, wrong story….
I remember my first time. I picked out a wine for a date, unsure of what to get. After awkwardly fumbling with the cork, I finally managed to pour the Merlot into the glass. I watched as she swirled the wine in the glass and then lifted it to her nose. I did the same. As the liquid flowed over my tongue, I was hooked. The flavor was new, intense, full of fruit, and intriguing. Each sip brought a new rush of intensity. I knew this was more than an alcoholic beverage. This was art with layers of depth that begged to be explored.
Saturday, I watched as two people experienced the same awakening and arousal from the fermented grape. Their eyes lit up with joy and each wine brought a slew of new questions and curiosities. Each swirl, sniff, sip brought a smile to their face.
“Why do you swirl the wine?”
It releases the aroma so you can get a better sensory experience. It also helps bring oxygen into the wine which can soften some of the rough edges as it opens up.
“What am I smelling or tasting?”
Start with the basic taste characteristics of sweet, salty, sour and bitter. Then move on to any fruit flavors and aromas that you can identify. Next, are there any spice or herb components and finally, do you detect any earth or mineral flavors and aromas.
“This is so cool!” exclaimed both participants. The questions continued and the curiosity was contagious as the world of wine wonderment unfolded before them. The wine tasting started with a dry rosé and included a pinot noir, merlot, syrah, and finally a late harvest chenin blanc. One lady enjoyed the wine more as the tasting got heavier, but balked at the syrah. The other’s preference was the syrah. However, in the end both wine explorers purchased the Terra Blanca Late Harvest Chenin Blanc.
“It’s like a tropical fruit salad dessert in a glass!”
Success! Wine loving converts. Ambitious explorers who will be back for more. Their trip to the store will now include a walk down the wine section. Their confidence and knowledge of what wine to bring to parties has increased.
Guiding these two wide eyed women through their first tasting was fun. It reminded me of why wine is exciting and why I wanted to get into this business of blogging, writing, and selling wine. Too often we analyze the juice like a science project and forget it is a passionate expression of some creative wine maker. It’s a personal experience with personal preference. As Charles Smith of K-Vintners says, “It’s just booze, drink it.” Explore through repetition and variety and remember to savor each sip.
What is your favorite part of wine tasting? Leave a note for all those wine explorers those who are beginning the journey full of question, intimidation, and curiosity. Remember, enjoy life with friends, drink happy!
One week ago today I was frantic. The blog that began in November 2009, with the intention to start a business, was finally fulfilling its vision. Just hours before opening we were still waiting for fire department approval, decorations were still arriving, catering for the evening had yet to arrive, and the credit card terminal still wasn’t processing. As someone who prides themselves on being organized, I felt overwhelmed and under prepared. How would the weekend turn out? Could social media marketing motivate people to action? Would the whole event be a non-event or would we experience success?
For those that regularly read this blog, I hope you are not tiring of the recent posts on the new adventure. I plan on returning to a regular schedule of wine reviews, wine business, and entertaining observations of the wine world (or at least I hope they are entertaining). This post is less about the tasting room and more about the power of social media in action.
I’ve long known and believed in the power of social media to call people to action. In March, and again in June of 2010, we (I and several other Washington wine bloggers) used Twitter and Facebook to draw hundreds of people together online AND in wineries to celebrate Washington Merlot and Washington wine. These events showed me that people are listening online and those people are passionate about wine.
The Social Experiment
Nectar Tasting Room was built using social media and I’m committed to continuing this social media experiment for as long as I can. Other than the capital costs of web design, logo development and some interior and exterior signs, I spent zero marketing dollars on Nectar Tasting Room. I don’t say this to pat myself on the back; actually I pat you on the back for being passionate ambassadors of the business. The results were overwhelming:
- Prior to launching, using Groupon and LaunchPadINW, we sold 120 Club Nectar memberships. This annual membership provides savings and rewards frequent visits. To have 120 members for a business that has never opened its doors is powerful. Memberships are $75 if you want one.
- Weekend receipts were nearly $8,000, over 25 cases of wine (no, I don’t mind sharing this).
- Friday night was standing room only from 6-11pm (people stayed way after the open sign was turned off every night).
- We have already booked 6 private events with inquiries coming in daily. P.S. we can host your group from 10-75 as well. Send an email to email@example.com for details.
At one point at the height of our busiest time, a good friend of mine, Ed Reese from Sixth Man Marketing, leaned over and jokingly said, “This whole wine and social media thing…it’s never going to work.” Now, I’m do dummy, I don’t expect these results every weekend. In fact, I fully expect this weekend to be half as busy. We’ve got a few marketing ideas in place but most of them were either focused on last weekend or upcoming weekends.
Why Did It Work?
The success was actually a result of hitting the sweet spot of relationships, social networking, and traditional media. It has been fun getting to know each of you (virtually and in real life). The relationships we’ve built online and through local networking events have generated what I like to call “brand ambassadors.” YOU are my marketing team and you didn’t let me down.
The immediate reach of social media and the power to instantly share the blog posts, Facebook updates and Tweets provides a force of marketing. The post referencing the grand opening was shared on Facebook and Twitter over 100 times. This reach translates into tens of thousands of impressions. The final piece to the puzzle is traditional media mentions. Still a force to be reckoned with, the newspaper and local entertainment magazine, The Inlander, mentioned our opening and the result was traffic.
What Did We Learn?
“For one of the most organized people I know, a lot sure did take you by surprise this weekend,” said a good friend of mine. Well…yeah…it sure did. I think I can attribute that to the lack of brain power. I was so focused on all the details surrounding the opening that I lost sight of some of the most basic process pieces.
- Hot water tank was not sufficient to run the dishwasher over and over again on a busy night. We remedied this by installing an instant hot.
- Bottle neck at the register as we hunted and pecked to find the products. Solution, UPC codes entered, and UPC sheets printed for an easy scan of glass pours, flights, and tasting fees.
- Food. We provided a very small catered menu this weekend and we are still working out a long term solution for our small plate and dessert menu.
- Too many menu options on First Friday. I was warned but I ignored the advice. First Friday will always be super busy, going forward we will only offer glass and bottle sales for this night.
- We were under staffed. Solution – I hired someone who starts this weekend and another person will be starting in February.
- Process – I am a process nut at my day job. Everything is documented and has a written procedure. This is on my next steps list to help with the flow at the tasting room.
This is my first business. Every day I learn something valuable and I rely on a team of people around me to give me good advice and help me succeed. So, here we are, continuing with this social media experiment. So far, so good, check back with me in six months and I’ll let you know how it went.
P.S. Come on in to the tasting room this weekend (January 13-15), mention this blog post, and I’ll give you $1 off your order.
06 Jan 2011
Thank you! The words and video associated with this post would not have been possible without each of you. You have been supporters from day one. What started 14 months ago as an intentional branding effort for a wine and coffee business is now finally becoming a reality. Nectar Tasting Room is here! Who would have thought that a blog, blended with social media, combined with old fashion networking and relationship building could lead to an actual brick and mortar business?!
The steps leading to this moment have been some of THE most exciting and THE most difficult moments of my life. Finding the space at 120 N. Stevens was a magical moment. The moment I peered inside the windows, I knew this was the home to Nectar Tasting Room. Working through lease negotiations, city building regulations, and liquor control board issues have made me physically ill and visibly older (I would venture that if you go back to video #1 you’ll see a thinner and younger looking Mr. Nectar).
Once we received permission from the city to build, progress moved quickly. Every day was like watching an exciting story unfold with new twists turns and plot developments. The contractors have become friends. While they tend to push every project right up to the very last possible minute (still working on plumbing when the health inspector is walking through the building), these are good hardworking people just trying to make it in the economy. The beauty of the space is partially theirs to be proud of. While the initial relationship with the building owners started a little rocky, I have grown to like my landlord. Their family, in fact, purchased 8 Club Nectar memberships! Thanks for your support.
It takes a team to get the work done. From my original designer, Josh Hissong (who is now a great friend and a fantastic individual) to the team who picked up the ball and ran with it, Rainmaker Marketing – the space is a credit to their hard work, persistence and patience (mostly with me). Billie Gaura, Cindy Wiedmer, Josh King, and the rest of the Rainmakers, THANKYOU from the very bottom of my heart. I can’t wait to share a glass of grapes with each of you. I also want to say thanks to the local businesses who have provided their endless support – Sante Restaurant, Anemone Designs, Concept Home Furniture, Firefly Lighting, Steven Meek Architects and Pixie Dust Chocolates. My final thanks goes to the amazing people and partners at LaunchPadINW. Bill, Allen, Mark, Jared, and Jennifer, (and the other office cronies Ed, Travis, Heather, Hara, Mark, Ash), I could not have accomplished any of this without your support and guidance. I look forward to our future as neighbors at the 1889 building.
The best part of the whole journey begins now. Now, I get to help each of you enjoy some great Washington State wine. I look forward to putting faces and real names to twitter handles. The next few months will be a reunion of “old friends” as you walk through the tasting room. We built this space to continue to grow the Spokane wine scene and to be a part of a business we love. Join us for our grand opening weekend for three days of fun and excitement.
We are open Thursday from Noon – 7pm, Friday and Saturday from Noon – 9pm (don’t forget The Final Sip wine party on Saturday from 9pm-10pm). Enjoy live music on Friday and Saturday night. Stop by to meet all of the five winery owners and wine makers (at various times). It is an absolute treat to hear from the passionate people behind the wine. Use our innovative iPad wine menu to learn, explore and even save the wines you enjoy. Relax in the modern space. Most importantly, but a bottle or two and enjoy life with friends, drink happy!
The participating wineries at Nectar Tasting Room are Anelare Winery – Kennewick, Hard Row to Hoe – Lake Chelan, Northwest Cellars – Kirkland, Skylite Cellars – Walla Walla, Terra Blanca Winery – Benton City.