Thursday, January 31, 2008

Listen to me on Wine & Dine Radio

I was interviewed this week by Lynn Chamberlain of Wine & Dine Radio about our valley's Alsace Festival and the Anderson Valley Winegrowers Association. It was my first radio interview as the interviewee and, although it was exciting, it was a little strange for me. Because my background is in journalism and PR, I'm not used to being in front of the microphone (or pen, or camera). However, with our own brand coming out, I hope there will be many more to come.

Listen to the interview here by clicking on show 708a, under my name. There are several other segments below mine that talk about the Anderson Valley and our upcoming event.


Monday, January 28, 2008

It's snowing!

It snowed here in Boonville today (exremely rare)! I would say it snows once every 10 years here on the valley floor. The last time was just a few winters ago. After it started, Joe and I took a quick spin out to the vineyard to see if we could capture any images of the snowflakes falling, but, alas, the only one that came out well was the photo of the snow on my car.

Speaking of snow, I spent the weekend skiing in Tahoe with Joe and friends. Here are some photos of our trip (plus a few more of my favorite snow images):

Monday, January 21, 2008

My first time flying

In Boonville we have a subdivision where many of the houses that face the small "airport" (a runway surrounded by grass) have airplane hangers, and people still keep planes as recreation and a way to travel in and out of a valley with only VERY windy roads. At a recent winegrowers meeting, I had mentioned to one of the locals with a plane that I would love to see Boonville from the air someday. On Sunday, I got the chance!

Local Larry Lombard took me up in his two-seater, restored army plane -- it was one of the coolest things I've ever gotten a chance to do, made even better by the fact that he let me fly the plane for almost 1/2 of the time we were in the air (no landing or taking off, of course). It was fantastic!

We had a rare, warm and clear day for January and we took a spin out to the ocean to see if we could spot some whales. And, sure enough, we saw two! We did a loop down along the coast, around a monastary perched high on the hills above the ocean, then back over our ranch along Mtn. View Rd., and over our vineyard. It was so fascinating to see everything from above -- our vineyard looks even more meticulously laid out than on the ground. And even though I knew this had happened, it was amazing to see all the vineyards stretching behind Boonville - ours being just one of a handlful here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

We have our label!!!

I opened up my e-mail today and, lo and behold, there was a copy of our final wine labels. Without further explanation, here is the culmination of several months of hard work --- by our designer. :)

Alcohol Wholesalers Use Money for Influence

According to an article published today by Reuter's, alcohol wholesalers spent $50 million to influence politicians and deny consumers the right to buy wines directly from producers in many states. In other words, wholesalers fought to keep their business alive and thriving by requiring wines to continue to go through wholesalers before they can be sold to the consumer.

When I read the first third of the article, I thought that, although appalling as a small winery and wine consumer, it was no different that anything the tobacco, firearm, or other threatened industry would do to keep themselves afloat. Then I read this:

"The amount of money alcohol wholesalers contribute to state political campaigns in an effort gain influence is often greater than far more visible industries. For example, in 2006, Texas alcohol wholesaler political contributions were greater than the political contributions of all gambling and casino interests, retail interests, food interests and all business services -- combined. That year Texas alcohol wholesalers also outspent commercial banks, security and investment interests, the insurance industry and banks and lending institutions when it came to political contributions."

Okay, this shocked me a bit. More than Texas casinos? All business and food services? For alcohol to have outspent all of these other industries, it's amazing. Granted, this did come from a press release by the Specialty Wine Retailers Association, but if it's true, it's hard to believe.

As a small winery, this means that it's even harder for us to ship our wines to many of these states. In Texas (among several other states), we have to pay the state for a permit in order to ship there. Another group of states passed legislation prohibiting direct shipping at all. Unfortunately, the cost of permits add up and, most small wineries can't afford to go through a distributor and wholesaler. Kind of ironic for a nation whose wine consumption has only been going up, up, up and will soon surpass Italy -- one of the top wine producing (and consuming) nations in the world.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

The Art of Packaging

Packaging has turned out to be one of those easy-seeming things that in reality is very difficult. I had no idea when we started that with just 625 cases of wine for our first vintage, we would actually have a much harder time with labels, capsules, etc., than if we were one of the big boys.

This week we looked at capsules for our Pinot and Sauvignon Blanc. When we opened up the capsule company's cabinet to look at samples, every imaginable color was there, including clear capsules and one plastered with shooting stars, all branded with a winery's logo. Not the case for us, however.

As it turns out, the minimum order for most companies is 20,000 capsules, or 1666 cases-worth. We hope to produce that many cases about two years from now, so we had to get creative. We would up ordering stock capsules and matching the label color to them. Unfortunately, this means no logo on the top. For the next bottling, we'll start, well, now, to make sure we can find a company who will deal with our small quantities and needs.

Unfortunately, capsules aren't the only item that's tougher for small wineries. Bottles, corks, barrels, and an array of items are way more time-consuming and difficult when you don't order an entire container ship (many corks, bottles, and capsules are imported from Europe) or big rig for your own use. So respect the small producers -- they work HARD to get everything in the bottle and on the tasting bar, looking good.