13 Sep 2010
Paul Gregutt has written the book on Washington wine…literally. Paul’s book, Washington Wines and Wineries; Second Edition, provides an in-depth look at the history, viticulture, and wine making of the second largest wine producing region in the United States. Paul, wine contributor to Seattle Times and Spokesman Review and contributing editor for Wine Enthusiast magazine has covered Washington wine for 25 years. His longevity and vast tasting experience contribute to making this book the quintessential reference on Washington wine.
“Washington has moved out of the shadows of California. My sincere hope is that this book will help you understand what makes this state and its wines unique and memorable, so that you can make your own delicious discoveries.” P. Gregutt
As I read through Washington Wines and Wineries, the yellow glow of my Sharpie highlighter grew more and more with each page. Several times, since the first read through, I’ve returned to the book as a reference or a quick insight. Paul’s years of writing come through as each section is entertaining and informative. The book is divided into two main parts;
Part 1: History and Terroir – this section’s 77 pages cover the brief history of Washington viticulture, the AVA’s, grapes and the top 20 vineyards. Of particular enjoyment to me was the exploration of Paul’s “best varietally bottled” list of several wine grapes. While highly debatable, I found Paul’s list to be quite accurate as I related it to my significantly inferior experience.
Part 2: Winery Profiles – The heart of the book, with over 200 pages, Mr. Gregutt rates 205 wineries as 5 star, 4 star, 3 star or rising star. An awkwardly placed “want more” section highlights an additional 30 wineries of potential noteworthiness. In all, Paul’s ratings are of course subjective in nature, but can be tempered with his experience and knowledge of Washington wine.
Some argue Paul’s bias is for Walla Walla wines, based on his homes proximity in Waitsburg. While I can see the point, with 90% of Walla Walla’s wineries being reference in the book (approximately 40% of the remaining wineries in the state get a nod), one person would be hard pressed to provide an accurate accounting of all of Washington’s 700 wineries. While the book does not give an accounting for Paul’s opinion on every Washington winery and vineyard, it does provide a comprehensive guide for some of the best Washington has to offer.
As with any book of this nature, change is bound to make information quickly outdated. Paul’s reference to Spokane’s Lone Canary winery as a ‘rising star’ does not take into account the recent sale (Summer 2009), and the dismissal of winemaker Mike Scott (Spring 2010). While I still feel that Lone Canary is a rising star (even at 7 years old), the oversight of information is one that the editors should have taken note of.
I was also quite proud to discover five area wineries made Paul’s 5/4/3/rising star lists and a total of eight Spokane wineries were called out for their “best varietally bottled” wines. A more in-depth accounting of these can be found at Spokane Wine Magazine’s web site. Taking into account that Paul probably has little to no experience with newcomers Nodland Cellars, Liberty Lake Cellars, Vintage Hill, Barili, and Overbluff (all new in the last 4 years); a great majority of Spokane wines are honored.
Washington Wines and Wineries; Second Edition, is a must have for anyone interested in Washington wine and should be a part of any wine lover’s book collection. The aggregate of information, history, and winery profiles make for a valuable reference and resource. The book is a great companion for wine aficionados and explorers alike. Shop on Amazon.com or ask for it at your local book retailer. For more information on Washington wine, visit Paul Gregutt’s daily wine blog at www.paulgregutt.com.
Review from Sean Sullivan; Washington Wine Report http://www.wawinereport.com/2010/08/washington-wines-wineries-indispensable.html
Review from Wine Beer Washington http://wine-beer-washington.com/wine/paul-gregutts-second-edition-washington-wines-and-wineries/
The Washington Wine Commission’s “World Class Wine in Our Own Backyard,” does it deliver? I recently receive the press release on the newest WWC (Washington Wine Commission) campaign. “Supported by more than $100,000 in radio, print, online, and mobile advertising, the campaign marks the first advertising and marketing campaign of its kind in the Northwest sponsored by the Washington State Wine Commission.” Exciting! At first glance, I was pumped about the potential. A 60 day focus on value and helping Washington residents discover (or rediscover) the amazing wine in our state. But, does the program deliver all that it could?
First, let me say, I’m a huge fan of the WWC and their efforts. In a recent Skype interview, Ryan Pennington, WWC Senior Communication Manager, shared the program with our readers. I think the program deserves a spin free zone and a hard look at what is being offered to consumers. Additionally, I’m a little hyper sensitive to how the WWC is going to use the dollars saved by NOT hosting a Taste Washington event in Spokane.
Kudos to the WWC for trying something new. “More than 40 of the participating restaurants are also involved in Seattle Restaurant Week, which takes place from October 17 – 28. These restaurants will offer diners a three-course dinner for only $25, with some also offering three-course lunches for $15. Many “World-Class Wine in Your Own Backyard” participating restaurants will be combining this three-course meal with special offers on Washington wine for World-Class Value Pass holders.” To me there is a blurring of two programs. The Seattle Restaurant Week is great…for people who live in Seattle, but does adding these things into the “Value Pass” program really add value? Is the program geared toward “pass” savings or is it just an awesome promotional awareness of Washington wine?
Here is how the program works. Download the World-Class Value Pass and enjoy BIG savings on Washington wines from September 1 – October 31, 2010. What are the values you’re receiving? If the WWC is spending $100,000 to promote this program, and encourage people to use a “pass,” what are we getting with that pass?
Washington boasts 700+ wineries, yet only 50 are participating in this program. Are economic conditions so good, they don’t need the extra ad revenue? Was there an additional fee to buy in to the program? I would love to hear from some of the wineries. For the most part, the consumer benefit is pretty good with these wineries that are participating. I applaud their efforts to offer free tasting fees, extra % off on bottle or case purchases. At a glance of the offers, the benefit seems to give consumers the “member” prices at most of the participating wineries, even if they are not wine club members. But why only 7% of the total wineries for such a signature program?
Spokane Wine: Because I live in Spokane, I tend to keep a keen eye out for Spokane centric wine offers. Spokane represents with 3 of our 17 wineries (a higher % than at the state level). But, is there extra value offered for holding a “World-Class Value Pass?” Overbluff Cellars is offering 10% off purchases to pass holders. Spokane wineries Barrister and Mountain Dome are offering other very awesome promotions, but a pass is not required.
70 participating restaurants are offering “deals” for pass holders. Sounds exciting. Deals? 10% off a bottle of wine – so, that $6 wholesale bottle of Seven Hands Merlot that you have priced at $30 a bottle, I get to buy for just $27. Okay, okay, I know I’m being cynical. Of the 70+ restaurants on the list, 50+ are participants in the Seattle Restaurant Week. 1) The deals being offered are more of a result of the Seattle Restaurant Week promotion. 2) Clicking through a few of the deals revealed very generic offerings that are a part of the restaurant’s every day offering. One restaurant offers, “Wine all you Want Mondays. Put an end to Monday blues with Wine all you Want. Enjoy 50% off all bottles of wine ordered with dinner. With over 160 choices, ask xxxx or xxx to recommend a bottle.” This is no different than what you could get any given Monday without the pass. Outside the Seattle Restaurant Week, are the 20 other restaurants are supposed to be a broad representation of the other 35% of Washington’s population base in Vancouver, Walla Walla, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, and Spokane?
Spokane Restaurants: A whopping TWO Spokane restaurants are on the list. One offers nothing special apart from their normal offering and the other says they are “featuring” Washington wine flights but makes no mention of any special deal for pass holders. This is a total failure in my opinion. The WWC is not to blame for this, but I would be interested in the recruiting process and “requirements” to play.
Eight retailers are participating in the program. Two are statewide, Albertsons and Safeway. The other six are independent wine shops. Great work to the independents for offering between 10-25% off wines for value pass holders. Two complaints here – Albertsons and Safeway, really – are you kidding me? Albertson’s says they will “offer % off Washington wine in their weekly ads.” They do that anyway. Every week, Albertson’s offers “10% on select Washington wines.” Safeway?! You’re even worse. “Mix and match six wines and you’ll receive 10% off the entire purchase.” Uh, yeah…I can do that with six bottles of Yellow Tail Shiraz every day! Where is the value pass value?
Spokane Retailers: The only participating shop here is Vino! I have to offer props to John Allen and team for offering a pass specific savings of 10% off each Washington wine. My only question here is – where is Rocket Market, Huckleberry’s, Bottles, Wine Styles, Williams Seafood?
So, Is there Value?
World Class Value Pass. Winery value? Yes, at about 40 of the 50 participating Washington wineries, there is specific value pass savings, but that number seems awfully small. Restaurant value? At only about 30% of the restaurants – especially considering the super high 400% mark up at most restaurants. Retailer value? Yes, at the 6 independent shops but absolutely NOT at the two state-wide chains mentioned.
With $100,000 in ad space being purchased, the participants should certainly see some good exposure. The WWC has a great concept here, I only wish that the participation rates were higher, a more balanced “outside of Seattle” approach was taken, and more specific pass value was offered. Keep moving forward WWC – I hope to see greater things from this program in the future.
I do want to reiterate my support for the program and the effort of the WWC. Venturing out into something new like this is a great effort. I applaud those wineries, restaurants, and merchants for being progressive and lending their support to the program. When / if version two of this rolls out, I hope to see three times the support and involvement with more pass related discounts.
The evangelists for Washington Wine, carrying the wine into tasting room battles around the world and helping raise the awareness for the state – this is the Washington Wine Commissions mantra. The Washington Wine Commission is a state agency that was established in 1987 to raise positive awareness and create demand for Washington wines. More has been written about Washington Wine in the last month than any time in recent memory, if not ever. After a recent article called, Are Washington Wines Coming of Age, I wanted to sit down with the commission to hear firsthand how they are spreading the “good news” of the states wine industry. Ryan Pennington, Senior Communications Manager, sat down for a Skype chat to talk about what’s on the commissions agenda, their struggles, and thoughts on the Wine Bloggers Conference.
Ryan covers some great topics in the video but due to time, we didn’t get a chance to talk about everything on our agenda. Below are the text responses to a few key questions.
Q: What Success Are You Seeing From Your Efforts?
A: In our past and current national target markets (Austin, Denver, Phoenix, and Chicago), we field consumer research before and after each campaign. In these markets, we’ve seen an average increase in consumer awareness of Washington State as a premier wine producing region of 169% over the course of each campaign. We’ve also seen an average increase in consumers who report that they are “extremely likely to purchase” Washington State wines in the future of 191%.
Q: Being from Spokane, I was very disappointed and frustrated when our regional Taste Washington event was canceled. Are there any specific plans in the works to continue to help promote Washington wine on the East side of the state?
A: We absolutely appreciate the local fondness for the Taste Washington event in Spokane. It was a great event for nine years. At the same time, the reaction from wineries (including wineries in Spokane) to the decision to broaden our local marketing in the Northwest (and broaden it both geographically and strategically) has been unanimously positive. We’re rolling out our first comprehensive local marketing campaign this fall, including around $100,000 in advertising. This truly is just the beginning. We’ll certainly continue to market Washington wines in Eastern Washington, and that marketing will extend beyond just consumer events.
Q: What are the benefits / results you’re seeing from your efforts on Twitter and Facebook?
A: Though we’ve definitely embraced social media, we also know that we’ve still got a long way to go in this space. We’re working right now on several improvements in this regard, including substantial upgrades to our website to better integrate various social media platforms. With that said, we’re pleased with the results that we’ve seen from our social media work so far. Fundamentally, social media is about establishing lasting relationships and engaging in meaningful conversations, and I think we’ve made great strides toward those objectives over the past couple of years.
Do you have questions for the commission? Leave a comment and Ryan will respond.
17 Aug 2010
When is the last time you measured the return on investment of that $300 business card sized ad in the local rag mag? Does anyone measure the return on investment of the $8,000 web site you just developed? What is the ROI on a Tweet?
- Let me float this out there: If you’re not where the people are, you’ll sell fewer products. Period.
- If you’re a local restaurant and the local people follow a local weekly news magazine for all their local food news…you better bet your butt you should be in that magazine.
- If you notice that your customer base is friending you on Facebook, I guarantee that if you interact with them there, you’ll sell more product.
- If people in your community are holding odd things called tweet-ups and are walking around with their eyes glued to smart phones…send out some choice tweets and those birdies will flock to you.
I recently read this tweet, “So far, there’s been little proof that social networking sells wine.” To be honest, I think this is bull shit (forgive my mouth, Mother). Social networking is the main thing that sells wine! The only variable is WHERE and HOW you choose to be social. Some wineries and businesses network by joining local groups. Others are social by e-mailing their client list. Some choose to network at charity events while others get social on Twitter and Facebook. Wine is social and social networking is good business. He who has the most conversations sells the most products!
In a recent post called “Return on Investment and Social Media Marketing,” Tom Wark says, “There are other ways to spend one’s time and money that deliver a GREATER return on that investment. It is not a matter of jumping into the electronic pool and seeing profits mount, even if you make a big splash.” Again, I disagree. I think there is no greater potential to a return on investment than personal and real conversation and engagement with people through relationship marketing like Twitter and Facebook. If I could pick up the phone and engage with hundreds of my fans / followers / likers simultaneously…imaging the power. If I could reach out and share my product or business development with thousands of people daily through email…imagine the power. If I could connect with people while they shop, dine, lounge and live their lives…imagine the power. Social networking (relationship marketing) is the cost of entry to good business just like the web site was 10 years ago. He who does it well has an intrinsic advantage over their competitor.
Let’s Talk ROI
Return on investment can be essentially measured in two ways: increased revenue or decreased expenses. Any investment of your money for your business should ask these basic questions:
- What is the desired outcome
- What metric will I measure
- How will I measure it
If all you are interested in is brand awareness…how will you measure it? Can you track mentions in the online space through Google? Will advertising in publication X result in the same results as advertizing in publications Y and Z at a reduced cost? What is the value of 5000 Facebook fans? Interacting online may require time (and yes teacher, time = money), but zero conversations results in zero revenue. There are “other ways to spend ones time that deliver a greater return on investment” for the SHORT term but long term success is built on long term relationships and there fewer ways to develop relationships than with today’s social tools.
Plans and Requirements
Lately I’ve been building a lot of Business Requirement Documents (BRD’s) and Communication Plans at work. At the beginning of each of these documents are sections for Critical to Quality Specifications (CTQ’s) and Success Measures. With CTQ’s we’re required to outline the current baseline, projected target and how we are going to measure it. Do you know the current baseline of your advertising results? How much business does that weekly newspaper ad generate? Don’t know? Ditch it. Whatever the program, make sure you know what your success measure is, how you’re going to measure it and what result is considered successful. Do you want to measure social media? Establish a baseline of sales or mentions or interaction (with your web site). Pick the metric you are going to measure (sales, visitor count, web page views). Develop a campaign to drive the results. This should be true with any marketing expense your business has. Is your yellow pages ad worth it? Does your regional magazine ad call people to action? Develop your marketing campaigns with purpose (including social media) and you’ll see tangible results.
Social networking (currently through Twitter, Facebook and Four Square) is the business model of the near term future. The quickest way to reduce cost is to build a network of brand ambassadors who will help spread the word about the business. This efforts results in a social currency that can be redeemed for direct sales.
You want a specific example of ROI on social platforms? Friday I was travelling to Yakima, WA and I tweeted “Where Am I Now?” from a local winery. A neighboring winery said, “Looks like you’re at one of our Red Mountain neighbors, you should stop by.” Shocked that they were so close, I made a brief detour, visited their winery and BOUGHT a $50 red wine blend for later that night. The value of that tweet $50. Repeat this scenario several times over as your follower / fan base grows.
Social media isn’t going anywhere (even if it changes popular platforms). We have entered the “new world” where everyone is hyper-connected to each other. Quality Social connections on Facebook and Twitter are infinitely more valuable than some of your basic collateral (magazine ads, print ads, web banners). Wark concludes his post with, “It’s critical to put in place a marketing plan that utilizes the most efficient tools that are most likely to deliver the greatest return on investment.” I agree here only to say that over time the greatest return on investment will be your social currency in places like Facebook, Twitter, You tube, and wherever your customers are.
12 Aug 2010
Can the 100 point system be overthrown? In a recent post, “You Don’t Score Wine? You’re Full of Crap,” we debated the fact that most people, whether through points, grades, stars, glasses, or even the basic like don’t like system, score wines. It is clear that the 100 point system is severely flawed and should be executed, BUT it is also clear that it is firmly in place and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. There are a few factors that contribute to the 100 point dominance:
- Those who use it continue to hold the most influence. People like Robert Parker, Steven Tanzer and The Wine Enthusiast crew wield a great deal of wine power and until their publications become obsolete or they change, we’ll continue to see the scores.
- Wineries and PR firms perpetuate the problem. Don’t believe me, go into any tasting room and you’ll probably hear someone behind the bar say, “This wine received 92pts in the lasts Wine Enthusiast magazine.” When wineries move away from this as a marketing tool the 100 point score will go the way of the dodo.
- 100 point score is identifiable. Customers, especially those who are confused by wine (which is the majority of people), can identify with the rating system. Actually, any rating system whether it is A-F or 1-5 or 1-10 can be related to fairly quickly.
Is a Wine Scoring Revolution Coming?
Recently a group of bloggers have launched an effort to buck the traditions. A new wine badge system attempts to knock down the dominance of the 100 point scale. Is their attempt a mere pebble against the wall or is it the stone that could take Goliath down? Are these renegade mavericks onto something new or will we find the system floating in the river, another victim of the 100 point mafia?
Paul Mabray of VinTank says the badge system lets you “create a category for a wine that you believe in and assign a badge to it, explain the criteria openly and transparently, and only give those wines that you appreciate fit that category a badge. Simple, elegant, but more importantly a TRUE representation of the quality you admire in the categories you create. A wine fits or it doesn’t.” Badge ratings have currently been employed by Ward Kadel (DrXeNo), Mark de Vere (MdV MW), and more recently Steve Paulo (Notes from the Cellar). Steve currently has 9 badges while the other two writers have implemented 5.
First off let me just say, kudos to the idea and the effort to change the way consumers think about wine. While wine is complex and can have several layers of aroma, flavor and texture, it is not a science deserving of being critiqued on 100 point scale. The visual indicators created by this trail blazing group of bloggers serve as a stamp of approval for their readers. Each of these writers has developed what Mark de Vere calls “taste tribes.” These are people who know like and trust the author and have aligned themselves with their likes/dislikes. Implementing badges for your taste tribe seems to be a strong alternative to numerical scores. The badge conveys a wine category along with a recommendation from the reviewer.
Several challenges present themselves when launching an attack on the status quo. For me, the badge system has potential but needs to keep the following in mind to be the new sheriff in town.
- Identity – As I mentioned earlier people can easily and quickly related to a score. 4/5 is better than 3+/5. Two thumbs up are better than one thumb up. In order to have relevance to readers beyond your taste tribe the badge image needs to register. Ward Kadel’s “Awesome” badge is a good example of this. Awesome is identifiable and recognizable. Ward likes that wine and it is worthy of trying. Identity challenges arise with badges like “New World” or “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Brunello.” The image without the context of the description isn’t as easily identifiable by the customer. Badge users should keep identity in mind when creating their category and image.
- Consistency – A tandem to identity is consistency. With 3 reviewers using badges there are 19 images representing about a dozen different categories. The 100 point system solidified its place by being a consistent product. While 93 points from Parker may be different than 93 points from Robert Dwyer (Wellesley Wine Press) there is still a consistency that the consumer can relate to. Badges could take greater hold if more standard categories and images took hold…but that would go against the grain of individuality that bloggers love so much.
- Marketing – PR firms love marketing hooks. Scores / awards can become a lazy way to sell wine, but they can help establish a baseline to a confused consumer. 93 pts holds some weight when correctly displayed on a shelf talker. For badges to be successful at unseating the 100 point scale they need to be easily transferred to the marketing world. Right now, it’s easy for a marketer to put, “91 Points Steven Tanzer, December 2009.” How would this look? “Ward Kadel gives this the New World badge.”Steve Paulo’s badge, “Legit Juice,” has some good marketing potential. IF (and that’s a big if) PR people took the time to use a well crafted identifiable badge image on a shelf tracker or promo piece, that would carry some marketing muscle.
- Influence – The fourth challenge in front of badges ruling the world is influence. This won’t happen overnight and will gain momentum as the first three items are worked out. Brands like Wine Enthusiast, Wine Spectator, and Wine & Spirits carry a lot of influence. While it may be true that the wine blogging world has more readership than these three traditional media pieces, the trouble is that it is divided over 1000 different portals. I applaud the early adopters mentioned in this article. In order for a tipping point to occur several influencers, including 1WineDude, Dr. Vino, Vinography, and more would have to jump on board.
The revolution is beginning. The warriors are starting to don their armor. Personally, I think it’s a good direction to head and a worthwhile road to travel down. I would consider implementing badges on DrinkNectar but would want to do some market research first. I’ve recently implemented a visual indicator for my scoring system. It gives more clarity to 3/5 or 4+/5. I think it provides more visual awareness to a wine rating, but I haven’t done any voice of customer surveys. Another barrier for me is design. I’m not a graphic whiz. If I created a badge, it would probably end up being cheese fest.
What do customers want to see? I’ve seen pro and con comments from the blogging world but in the end, these badges are for consumers to help make better informed buying decisions. I encourage you to take some time to research what’s happening on the sites mentioned here. Leave them your feedback or leave some feedback here.
Do wine badges have the potential to overthrow the 100 point scoring system?