Every once in a while I receive wines that surprise the heck out of me. They are sometimes at low price points that provide a consistent and approachable tasting experience, some are amazingly vibrant and full representations of the grape varietal, and other times there are small wineries who send samples that truly impress me across the board. This shipment of Benessere wines from Napa, California fits into that last category. The winery sent two of each wine which gave me the opportunity to share with Ben Hilzinger, my main wine slinger at Nectar, as well as with a few friends.
Benesesere (ben-NESS-seh-ray), Italian for prosperity was founded in 1994 by John and Ellen Benish and produces about 5000 cases of Italian varieties and Zinfandel. Benessere farms 36 acres surrounding the winery, predominately Sangiovese and Merlot (27 acres). Winemaker Jack Stuart brings his 36 years of experience to the St. Helena winery where his approach of “not overripe, not over-alcoholic, but graceful flavorful and balanced,” is displayed.
I have to admit I didn’t share this wine. The blend of 49% Zinfandel, 41% Sangiovese and 10% Merlot is made from the run off juice that is drained from the main tanks of what becomes their intensely dark red wines. With only 12-18 hours of skin contact the juice is fermented separately in stainless steel tanks to make this fairly dry “pink” wine. With less than 1% residual sugar the slightly tart wine demonstrates nice balanced flavors of raspberry and spice. At only $16 per bottle this is a winning wine for summer barbeque or hanging out on the boat. 3+/5
2009 Benessere Pinot Grigio
In the glass the nearly colorless wine gives off aromas of lemon zest, and peaches. During the winemaking process the juice spends a few months in neutral oak barrels before bottling. An added depth of complexity is added to the palate of the wine. Boasting flavors of citrus and mild tartness the soft medium acidic finish lends me to believe that the wine will pair well with an array of food. The $22 price tag is a little much for me on this wine. I would encourage a trip to the tasting room to see if it fits in your flavor profile. 3/5
2007 Benessere Sangiovese
The 100% estate Sangiovese comes across slightly darker than its Tuscan counterparts. At 14.4% alcohol by volume the wine is also more alcoholic than the Italian versions. Aromas of wet leather are merged with soft red fruit and spice. The flavor profile is medium bodied and consists of subtle spicy leather, mint, and earthy raspberry. There is a modest amount of acidity and tannin on the back end giving the wine more structure and depth than what I was expecting. In all, a very well made Sangio that gives the characteristics of the grape variety while providing the strength of Napa Valley. At $28 retail, this is a nice wine, 4/5.
2008 Benessere Zinfandel “Black Glass Vineyard”
The 100% estate Zinfandel is 14.7% ABV and spends 18 months in French and American oak barrels. The color is noticeably lighter than many California Zins that I’ve tried. Smells of freshly laid tar are interwoven with the traditional dark strawberry and black pepper. In the mouth there are indications of leather, meat and herbs that nicely accompany the moderately jammy fruit. This is an approachable wine but at the $28 price point reminds me more of something I would find at ½ the price. 3/5
2007 Benessere Zinfandel “Old Vine”
With vines planted in 1923 from Collins Vineyards this Zinfandel lives up to what California Zin is known for. The grapes undergo an 23 day extended maceration to slowly extract the flavor before lumbering for 15 months in French and American oak barrels. With a deep color and flecks of jewel toned purple at the rim, the Zin is moderately robust with aromas of blackberry and earth along with tobacco. The palate reminds Ben of cherry Shesha and me of flowers and strawberry jam. If you like fruit forward Zinfandel then this is a wine you will definitely enjoy. The modest price point of $32 makes this an attainable treat too. 4/5
2006 Benessere Phenomenon
An estate super Tuscan blend of 56% Cabernet, 37% Sangiovese, 5% Merlot and 2% Syrah. The dark bold colored wine went through a gentle handling wine making process with careful attention paid at each step. The flagship wine was bottle aged a full 12 months before being released in 2009. When sharing this wine with a friend, she said, “WOW, this is an amazing wine.” This statement was said before revealing anything about the blend, price or geography. Full complex flavors invade every portion of the palate including oak, olives, sweet vanilla, tobacco and dark red fruits. Every aspect of the wine continues for an eternity on the finish providing an incredibly enjoyable experience. So far, for 2011, this is the best wine I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying. 4+/5 ($50)
15 Jun 2011
Look at the back label of most American-made wines and you’ll most certainly see the phrase *CONTAINS SULFITES*. Oh no! Not sulfites! Why, out of all the compounds found in wine, does this little punk get his own shout-out on the bottle? Well, some people see red wine as an open door to a morning full of horrendous headaches and directly blame sulfites. Seeing the “warning label” only fortifies this belief. It seems odd, though, that these same people can drink sweet white wines (which scientists have declared often times contain more sulfites than red wine) without missing a beat the next day? It’s because although sulfites certainly affect a select few, they don’t affect most. Back in the 1980’s, the FDA did a study and found that “one in 100 people is sulfite sensitive to a degree, but for the 10% of the population who are asthmatic, only 5% of that group are at risk of having an adverse reaction to the substance.” (Sorry for the numbers, I know my readership goes down when I have too many numbers!) Long story short, sulfites are not the bad guy and the 1% that are affected don’t even list headaches as a symptom.
But Mr. Ben, why are sulfites added to wine at all? Let me preface this with a story. A few weeks back, some friends of mine in a wine production facility gave me a bottle of organic, NO ADDED SULFITE white wine called Siegerrebe. They did this not out of pure kindness, but because they couldn’t stand the stuff and wanted it out of their sight! I have a fairly decent cellar and many wines to choose from while I started to write this blog, but considering my subject, I popped open the “gift” that claims to possess fewer sulfites. Needless to say, I took two sips, poured the bottle down the drain and am now sipping on some robust Malbec to rid me of the awful taste.
Sulfites occur naturally in all wines regardless, but, continuing a tradition since the 17th century, are still often added to cease fermentation to the winemaker’s liking. As a bonus, they can also act as a preservative to prevent spoilage and hindering the introduction of oxygen to the juice while being transferred from a holding tank to the bottle. Bottle Shock, however, is often a side effect when adding SO2 to wine during bottling, but often dissipates with time (the longest being a few months). All in all, I wish I had an answer to the age-old question of “why does red wine give me a headache?”, but even science still can’t explain this phenomenon. Is it the tannins? Histamines (I’ve heard taking Sudafed helps)? A separate unknown naturally-occurring compound created during fermentation? Who knows, but sulfites are essential to the flavor and life of the wines you love so let the myth die!
For more information on Sulfite Sensitivity, check out these websites:
Ben Hilzinger is a wine slinger at Nectar Tasting Room and at the Arbor Crest Winery. During the day he masquerades as an aspiring drum teacher seeking to instill a sense of rhythm in wanna be rockers. In the evening Ben dons his rock star cape as a drummer for a local band. Ben hopes to share the love of wine with his generation and has aspirations to be a wine maker.
14 Jun 2011
We are today’s GROUPON! We hope you’ll participate in one or both of these great deals. Both will be available June 14 and 15 but hurry because The Final Sip coupon is limited to the first 250 people.
Groupon is a great way for customers to save money but it is also a fantastic way for businesses to engage new and existing customers. While some argue that that Groupon can be a huge burden for small businesses, I contend that done correctly and with the right intentions, small business can benefit greatly from the marketing and exposure. See the final paragraphs for my insights.
P.S. While you’re here you should LIKE US on FACEBOOK
Wine Tasting for Two $5 (reg $10)
Nectar Tasting Room is a winery just like any other in Spokane, we just happen to have 5 wineries and 44 wines on the menu for your imbibing pleasure. Every weekend you can come to Nectar and experience 5 different wines at the tasting bar. A tasting for TWO is normally $10 but for the Groupon lovers, enjoy at 50% off. Stop by and enjoy the wines from Anelare Winery (Kennewick), Hard Row To Hoe Vineyards (Lake Chelan), Northwest Cellars (Kirkland), Skylite Cellars (Walla Walla), and Terra Blanca (Benton City).
The Final Sip $5 (reg $10)
We think it is sad to see wine go down the drain. We think you do too. Help us save the grapes by stopping by for Spokane’s best weekly wine party. From 9-10 on Saturday night we put ALL our open bottles of wine on the bar (usually 20+) and customers can sample between 6-8 of the wines for only $10, for Groupon lovers only $5. This is a fun way to learn more about wine and explore wines from all price ranges $15-$50. Bring a friend or 10 and come by for The Final Sip wine party. It is kinda like a kill the keg party but with more class and grapes.
Five Tips for Thriving With Groupon
If you approach Groupon as a way to make money, you may quickly find out that making 25% or less on your goods or services can quickly eat into profit margins. Use Groupon as a way to market a service or product to a large demographic. Consider the cost of traditional advertising to a large base of people. Use money from your marketing budget and not cost of good.
2. Capture data
While Groupon frowns on collecting email or information as a requirement to redeem, there is nothing that says you can’t try to capture at least some basic information (name and email). Chances are most people will be willing to join your email list. They like your product enough to buy it, if you provide value and don’t over market through email, you may gain instant access to a very large email list. Groupon will provide you a list of names of people who purchased. Drop those names in an alphabetized spreadsheet and add a column for email. Print the list and when people come in you can validate by searching for their name and ask for the added info.
3. Added value sales
When people come visit your establishment are their other products or services that they will likely add to their bill (drinks, added service, more food)? Don’t give away the farm on the Groupon. Use the opportunity to entice people to visit and make sure you have attractive add ons while they are in your establishment.
4. Staffing and impressions
Plan your Groupon carefully. If you have limitations on staffing or schedule, make sure the Groupon includes restrictions on volume or a reservation system. You don’t want to be overwhelmed at your business or be in a situation where Groupon redeemers leave with a negative experience. Chances are you will be making a first impression to hundreds of potentially new customers.
5. Don’t overuse
Limit the amount of times you use deal based services like Groupon. Customers are getting used to getting deals and you don’t want to establish a pattern that undervalues your goods or services. Why would someone come in and pay $50 for dinner when they know that you frequently use deal sites that offer the same food for $25. A percentage of customers will be just ‘in it for the deal’ but your job is to win them over to why your business is worth returning too for the full price. Wow them with service and quality and follow up.
09 Jun 2011
Dear business owner, I don’t want to be your friend. I don’t want my personal information being in your feed. I’m sure you don’t need to know about my friend drama or how high my bedazzled score is. I want to like you. I want to be a fan of your business, but we don’t need to play Mob Wars together, or ‘poke’ each other, or even chat. Please, shut down the friend page for your business and open a Facebook business page. I’ll like you, I promise.
Now, I don’t mean to be harsh. Many businesses started Facebook “friend” pages because they were misinformed or because they were early adopters before Facebook had business pages. I would like to gently encourage any business with a “friend” page to start the process of moving those friends to “likes.” Growing friends is certainly easier, but as you’ll see below there are several benefits to an active and engaging business page.
Five Reasons Why I Like You, I Really Like You
1. The Danger of Being Closed Down
Facebook terms and conditions clearly state that you will not use your personal profile for commercial gain. Additionally, profiles are to be created with real names. Business names are not “real names.” I’ve known a few businesses that have had their profile pages shut down, without warning for violating these terms. Losing connection to several hundred to several thousand people is not something you want to risk.
2. The Power of an Opt In
When a person makes the conscious choice to ‘like’ your page, they are opting in to your message. You’ve proven to them that there is a connection and through the power of engaging content you can keep them coming back for more.
3. Limited Popularity
While it may seem like a stretch to have 5000 friends, you may be surprised to learn that over time your brand may easily generate this kind of organic growth. Facebook limits the amount of friends a person can have to 5000. Ask my friend, Rick Bakas about those limitations. Rick is a person, but he is also a brand. He’s now created a business page for his brand to accommodate his popularity. Locally, I see several businesses with friend pages that will soon be at that cap. Don’t limit your growth, start thinking strategically how to move people to the correct platform.
4. Stats and Analytics
Facebook analytics can be a pretty powerful tool. At a glance business pages can see who is interacting with their page, what type of media people are consuming, and how effective their campaigns are. The demographic information alone can help make significant business decisions. Facebook also tells businesses the impressions (or reach) of each status update. Watching this information over time can tell you when people are online and what type of content generates the most interaction.
5. Facebook Ads
Don’t underestimate the power of Facebook ads. Facebook is the single most used web site in the world and those trends don’t seem to be slowing down anytime soon. With 50% of users logging in daily, and average time on site nearing an hour, Facebook is certainly giving ad spots greater visibility and power. The future of their revenue model is in ads. Business pages can utilize ads to gain more ‘likes’ or to promote a particular product or event. The beauty of ads is the ability to target who sees your advertisement. If you want wine lovers within 50 miles of Spokane, WA who are also interested in jazz to see your ad, Facebook gives you that kind of power. My personal preference is to pay per click, rather than pay per impression.
A Migration Plan
Now that you see the error of your ways and are scared to be shut down, you need a migration strategy. How are you going to move the hundreds (and potentially thousands) of people to a new location?
- Start: The journey always begins with the first step. Create your business page, add some content updates, upload the pictures you need, get the profile complete and then start reminding your “friends” to go “like” the page. Do this frequently with a stop date in mind (90 days).
- Create an event: From your “friend” page, create a Moving Day event to let all of your “friends” know that they should like your new page. Remind them that the “friend” page will eventually be shut down and if they want to continue to get your witty, humorous, and informative posts, then they better go like you.
- Encourage Migration: If you can afford to, offer a special small incentive to everyone who migrates by a certain date. Make the coupon only available on the business page and promote it through all your marketing channels.
Facebook recently added a feature to allow people to migrate their profile page to a business page. The process only transfers your profile picture and automatically turns all your friends into likes. No other data is transfered. Check out this article on Mashable for more information. http://mashable.com/2011/03/31/facebook-profile-to-page-migration/
Chances are you won’t win everyone over to your like page. Some people just don’t pay attention. You’ll most likely also gain some new “likes” as the organic growth of people liking your new page shows up on hundreds or thousands of people’s feeds. Start now. There will be some attrition along the way but the results will be worth it. You’ll “like” it, I promise.
Josh Wade is the owner of Nectar Tasting Room, Spokane Wine Magazine and Nectar Media. Josh used the power of relationship marketing to build a following and a brand for a business before opening. Relationship marketing and social media has helped drive successful business revenue without the need to spend money on traditional marketing. Nectar Wine Blog receives 12,000-20,000 page views per month and ranks in the top wine blogs in the country for engagement, traffic, and readership. Learn more about Nectar Media here.
A year ago Spokane residents learned that the Washington Wine Commission canceled the popular long running event, Taste Washington. Many Spokanites felt that the wine commission turned their backs on our city. Conversation of east versus west and second city sprung up at wineries and wine bars around Spokane.
Enter Varsity Communications to save the day! Varsity Communications is the brains behind Taste Washington (Seattle, Portland and formerly Spokane). If anyone is familiar with hosting a grand tasting, Dick Stephens and his team are.
Sunday, June 5 the culmination of their efforts shone the spotlight on why Spokane is a perfect host city. With 60 wineries and dozens of food vendors, The Lincoln Center played host to the first annual Vintage Spokane. With each sip the memory of Taste Washington became more and more faint. Over 400 people plus volunteers, vendors, and wineries enjoyed the wines of Washington and Idaho perfectly paired with culinary creation.
Where Were The Spokane Wineries?
As a local business owner, I have to play the political balancing game but as I talked to several people leading up to and during the event, one question kept coming up, “Where are the Spokane wineries.” With 19 wineries producing wine in town, one would expect at least a 50% participation rate. As I walked around, I was happy to see Robert Karl, Arbor Crest and Knipprath Cellars proudly representing Spokane. I realize that Vintage Spokane got a late start in recruiting and several local events may be tying up the resources of local vintners, but the opportunity to show support and engage customers was missed. As I watched the hundreds of people enjoying wine and food, I couldn’t help but look forward to next year seeing 10-15 of our local quality wineries representing.
While I was there to work (a little), I had a goal to visit some new wineries and revisit some new releases from old friends. Below are some of the stand outs:
- Bergevin Lane She-Devil Syrah
- Cougar Crest Dedication
- Alexandria Nicole Shepherd’s Mark
- Long Shadows Pedestal Merlot
- Rotie Cellars Southern Syrah
- Kiona Winery Lemberger
The culinary delights were incredible as well. Cheese from local Saunders Market was a favorite as well as amazing presentation from Muckleshoot Casino (smoked salmon and marshmallow), and Kennewick’s Chef Frank Magana from Picazo 717 Restaurant (Gorgonzola stuffed, prosciutto-wrapped prawns and Dungeness crab chipotle mac n’ cheese).
If the 2011 Vintage Spokane event is any indication, Varsity Communications may need to look for a larger venue for the 2012 event. Spokane is a wine loving community and showed voracious support for the vintage vino.
See their Facebook page for pictures from the event